After doing much research, I have made a very hard decision. I'm going to formula feed my baby. Actually, I made a second decision too. I'm not going to let anyone make me feel guilty about it. However, I will take this post to explain why I have made my choice. Notice I said explain, not defend.
Reason 1: I have researched how often a baby breastfeeds and for how long. As a single mother with three other children at home and a busy schedule, it just isn't practical. If I had a partner living with me sharing parental duties, it would be a different story. Formula feeding is better for my entire family.
As a single mother, I am solely responsible for taking care of my children. I have to get them up for school, drive them to school (buses are not available), and pick them up from school. Now if I am up every 2 hours and am feeding my daughter for 30 minutes each time, am I really going to be awake enough to get my children up and ready for school? Even more importantly, would it be safe for me to drive them to school with so little sleep? Granted even a formula fed baby might not let me sleep either, but I know myself. I have a better chance of being well-rested formula feeding than I do breastfeeding. Being as well rested as I can be for my other children is important to me. (It's also important for another reason I will address later.)
In the book Breastfeeding for Dummies by Sharon Perkins and Carol Vannais, the authors actually suggest having someone else do the running to and from school for the first month so that you can be available to breastfeed your baby. I don't have that option. In fact, I'm praying that I don't have a c-section simply because of the limitations on driving afterwards. As a single mother, not being able to drive for weeks at a time simply isn't an option.
What is also important to me is continuing to be a mother that is there for them. Now if I had a partner who could be a father for them i.e. help them with their homework, cook dinner, get their laundry done, and all the other hundreds of things a parent needs to do for their kids, I could easily spend 30 minutes every 2 hours feeding the baby. Instead, I have to find as much balance as possible between caring for a newborn and caring for her older siblings. My oldest daughter is 17 years old, so if I bottle feed she could on occasion feed the baby while I tend to the younger children or household duties.
One might argue, well if she could feed the baby why couldn't she do all those other things while you breastfeed? Well because she's not the parent and I flat out refuse to make her be a parent to her siblings. She's already expressed extreme anxiety about me putting her in the role of caregiver and maid while I care for her newborn sister. I don't think breastfeeding would make it harder for her, I know. Doing so could put a huge strain on my relationship with my daughter and potentially cause her extreme stress.
Reason 2: In the last 4 years, I have had two episodes of major depression. This puts me at high risk for developing postpartum depression. I have already discussed taking an antidepressant after the baby is born with my doctor to help me continue to recover from my most recent episode of depression. Because my depression was not severe enough to warrant hospitalization nor did I have suicidal thoughts, she didn't see a reason to put me on medication while I was pregnant. The risk to the baby just wasn't worth it.
So if she wouldn't give it to me while pregnant, why would taking it while breastfeeding be okay? That's just not logical to me. I've done the research and while it turns out Zoloft is the safest antidepressant to take while breastfeeding, there haven't been enough studies to truly know how it affects the baby. Studies show that for some women the drug is in breast milk in small detectable amounts. I am not willing to expose my baby to a drug that I myself am even hesitant to take.
I also researched whether or not breastfeeding truly protects against postpartum depression like some studies claim. It turns out that anxiety about succeeding at breastfeeding and especially failure to succeed at breastfeeding can trigger postpartum depression. In the book Bottled Up by Suzanne Barston, she gives the results of a study by Dr. Alison Stuebe who "found that women who reported trouble breastfeeding in the first weeks after giving birth had a 42 percent risk of developing postpartum depression."
I have discussed at length with my therapist triggers that cause me to feel depressed. Part of my therapy is extreme self care that involves minimizing potential triggers such as stress and anxiety. This also includes getting as much rest as I possibly can. Lack of sleep is also a potential trigger for depression. If I was significantly recovered from my previous episode of depression I might feel differently, but the fact is I still am in recovery. Avoiding any possible triggers is the most important thing I can do for myself, for my newborn, and for my other children.
I know it can be argued that these two reasons are simply Worst Case Scenarios and to decide not to breastfeed on what could potentially go wrong is a cop out. Maybe I could breastfeed successfully and still be a great mother to my other kids and never experience postpartum depression. But I've put my kids through two episodes of severe depression already and knowing that I have some power to prevent a third episode makes me feel like I should do just that. My 17 year old daughter was in tears this past week because of anxiety and pressure about being the oldest sibling.
I know what is best for my mental health and my family. What is best for the good of all trumps the idea that breast milk is best for my baby.
Is that selfish? If you think so than you can kiss my pregnant ass. I have weighed the pros and cons. I have made my decision because I think it's what is best for my entire family and my personal situation. I refuse to feel like I am less of a mother, or less of a woman for that matter. I am doing what is best for my family and I think that makes me a damn good mother.
Since I plan to formula feed, does that also mean I'm not truly practicing attachment parenting? Absolutely not. I will practice the guidelines on bottle feeding as given in The Eight Ideals of Attachment Parenting.
- Avoid clock/calendar parenting. Follow your baby’s cues rather than the clock or calendar. (Feeding on demand)
- If bottle-feeding, use breastfeeding behaviors: 1. Hold your infant when feeding, never prop the bottle. 2. Make good eye contact at those times when your baby is alert and interested. 3. Switch positions from one side to another; this helps strengthen the baby’s eyes. 4. Talk lovingly to your baby at feeding times.
Bottle Nursing Feeding is one of the primary ways a mother can initiate a secure attachment relationship with her baby. Familiarize yourself with breastfeeding behaviors, and model them when bottle feeding:
- Hold the baby when bottle feeding, positioning the bottle alongside the breast
- Maintain eye contact, talk softly and lovingly
- Switch positions from one side to another
- Feed on cue and avoid schedules
- Consider reserving feeding for the mother only
- Pacifiers satisfy a baby's sucking need. Hold the baby or child in the feeding position when he uses the pacifier
- Associate the bottle and pacifier with being held and having undivided attention, so that it doesn't become a transitional object
- Wean from the bottle as one would wean from the breast