We have all heard the debate between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Which is best? Well I am sure people will be more than willing to tell you their opinions and their facts as to why one is better than the other. I want to just tell you my experience with both and also include my opinion on this debate.
Before I had Lillian, I had the expectation that I would breastfeed her exclusively. I didn’t want to give her formula because I wanted to be as natural as possible for her because I honestly thought that was best for her. She came a month early and spent that first month in the NICU. In the NICU they had her do two fortified feedings a day where they added a little bit of formula to my breast milk to help her grow since she was a preemie. I was fine with that because it was still mostly my breast milk, and I wanted her to get to a healthy place in order for us to be able to bring her home.
Within my first month with Lillian home from the NICU, I had gotten mastitis twice. For those of you lucky enough to not know what that is, mastitis is where you get a plugged milk duct and it gets infected. It is also accompanied with flu-like symptoms. It can decrease your milk supply, which happened to me. Mastitis was horrible, and I was so stressed about milk supply because I had been told that since I was such a small person that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed Lillian past six months. That really hurt me, but I tried to ignore that comment.
I tried my best to exclusively breastfeed Lillian (we stopped doing the fortified feedings twice a day for a few months to try out exclusively breastfeeding). It was hard though. I had been using a nipple shield for the first three months because she had a hard time latching at first. Her feedings took at least an hour, and by four to five months we were only down to half an hour. She would eat at least every two hours up until five months. I was so stressed about her weight, but her home health nurse said she was doing fine because she was always gaining each week.
When we took Lillian in for her four-month checkup (at five months—we were off, I know), Lillian’s weight wasn’t even on the charts. She was doing fine when we took her in at three months, small but still in a good place on the charts. It was shocking for us. I felt embarrassed and ashamed that my daughter was so underweight. I felt like I was a failure for not being able to give her the nutrients that she needed through breastfeeding. It was discouraging to realize my breast milk didn’t have enough calories to help her gain the weight she needed. But I didn’t want to stop breastfeeding because I knew that she needed those health benefits, especially being a preemie.
Lillian’s pediatrician was so great and told me that we could still breastfeed and just add formula for her as well. He encouraged that we did both because she still needed those antibodies from my breast milk, and breastfeeding is a great bonding experience. He said that I could definitely breastfeed her up to a year if I wanted, and my weight wasn’t an actual determining factor of that.
That day we made the change. Our plan of action was that I would breastfeed Lillian for the first ten minutes and then give her a bottle. We instantly saw improvements with her. It made me sad that we didn’t realize what she needed sooner. It was really hard to drop my pride and accept that I couldn’t do it all by myself, but I am so glad that Lillian started gaining the weight she needed.
I was able to bottle feed AND breastfeed Lillian up to about 13 months. Toward the end, I would only breastfeed Lillian in the morning and at bedtime, but I am so SO glad I stuck with it. It was hard and it took a lot of time, but I am so glad I was able to give Lillian the best of both.
My opinion on breastfeeding and bottle feeding completely changed because of my experience. I used to not understand how you can’t produce enough milk or your milk didn’t have enough calories, but now I know because I experienced it for myself. Moms, no one can understand your personal breastfeeding experience. They just can’t. It is so different for every mom out there.
My take on it all is that there are benefits to both. You have to find what works for you and your baby. It is a PERSONAL choice. Moms shouldn’t be shaming other moms; we are all trying our best here and could use all the support we can get. A healthy, fed baby is what we all want.