When Breast Isn’t Best

When you find out you’re pregnant you start to imagine what your life is going to be like.     For me, I pictured taking my little guy to the zoo, going on a family vacation, and breastfeeding.

After you give birth one of the first things you do is try to breastfeed (if that’s what you’re  choosing to do). Fortunately for me, and with a little help from two nurses and a lactation consultant, my little guy latched right on. I thought we were in the clear.

You see I was worried about breastfeeding because of the two medications I take to manage bipolar disorder. I was reassured by the pediatrician and lactation consultant in the hospital that my medications were safe for my baby, plus my psychiatrist had made sure to put me on safe medications before I got pregnant. I thought everything was fine. I had read that one of the medications I take caused low milk supply, but he was eating so maybe I was one of the lucky ones who wasn’t affected by this side effect.

Wrong.

At our first pediatrician appointment we learned our little guy had lost more than 10% of his body weight and our pediatrician was concerned. He told me to breastfeed every two hours, even at night. But no matter how much I fed him he never seemed satisfied. Frustrated and scared we called the pediatrician and he told us what I dreaded to hear – buy formula.

After seeing a lactation consultant (which wasn’t cheap), trying every herb, and pumping we learned that I don’t produce breast milk. The side effect I had thought wouldn’t happen me had come true. Even though pumping produced only a few drops and breastfeeding seemed to frustrate the little guy, I kept trying. Finally, after only a few weeks I decided formula was the way to go for us.

There is so much pressure for mothers to breastfeed. We all hear “breast is best” and some of us kill ourselves to do it. But what if you can’t? And what if trying is destroying your mental health?

One of the doctors are my OB practice knew low milk supply was possible for me and told me that a happy, healthy mother is more important than breastfeeding. It took a while, but I finally agree with him.  I need my medications to function. I wish that wasn’t true but it is. As I write this tears are streaming down my face because I wanted to be the mother I saw myself being. I desperately wanted to breastfeed. But I can’t. And that’s ok. I use formula and now I have a happy, healthy baby and a happy, healthy mama. I needed to put my mental health first because without it I can’t take care of my child. Without my medications I could face depression, mania, or even hospitalization and lose this precious time with my son. And all because I didn’t want to use formula? I don’t think so.

My little guy is asleep on my chest (motherhood is all about juggling I’ve come to learn) with a nice full tummy. I’m still sad I can’t breastfeed but I’m happier that this guy is thriving. I dread the looks I’ll get when I pull a bottle out instead of a boob, but I know I can’t produce milk, I know I tried, and I also know that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. We’re happy and healthy and that’s really all that matters.

So to all the other mamas that can’t breastfeed their babies, you’re not alone even though it feels like it. You’re still a great mom, whether you breastfeed or bottle feed. As long as you’re doing the best thing for you and your babe you’re doing just fine.