Mixing It Up // Combination Feeding?

>> Monday, October 31, 2016

I have hesitated to write a post about how breastfeeding is going. We are nearly five months in and -- at least on the surface -- it's working out well. If you dig just a little, though, you'll have me in tears. Because I'm honestly overwhelmed. I didn't necessarily want to write about this topic, but I find so little out there that reads like my experience.

I don't have supply issues.
I don't have pain.
I don't have infections or plugged ducts or anything like that.
Nothing is "wrong".

I am lucky because my body seems to do the job of making milk and delivering it to baby easily. I am lucky because I know so many women struggle with making milk or getting baby to latch and work tirelessly because "breast is best" and everything else we read over and over and over again.

When I breastfed Ada, I didn't love it. But I did it because I truly did feel like what I was doing was so, so, so important. I didn't dare deviate from her cues. I fed on-demand. She took bottles here and there, but I was mostly OK with feeding her. She slept well throughout the night from an early age and wasn't a terribly demanding feeder. She ate quickly and moved on. Yeah, we hit some distracted periods -- but I was also a first-time mom. It was all fascinating to me.

This time around, I don't think I can say I have enjoyed any part of breastfeeding much at all. It started at mild frustration but has snowballed into full-blown feelings of awfulness. I have spoken with my midwife and we agree that I don't have symptoms of PPD. I actually did have a touch of that with Ada, and this is entirely different. My feelings are only tied to breastfeeding, yadda, yadda.

I think I have a few things going against me.

  • First, it's been a long time since I have had a baby. I had a lot of body autonomy and just freedom in general because a 4-year-old is not a baby or toddler. Nope, she's a tiny kid. We would pick up and go and do whatever, whenever, for however long.
  • I spent two years with infertility and recurrent miscarriages. My body was host to three pregnancies before Eloise came along. I bled and cried and generally felt awful for a long time. Then when I did get pregnant, I had tons of those contractions again and spent the nine months worried I'd go into premature labor. Pregnancy is just not my strongest area, obviously.
  • Eloise is a darling. I love her to pieces. But she is a grazer. She loves to linger at the breast for long (and very distracted of late) feedings. She loves to eat in the night, every night, several times a night. She is calmed no other way. Like, seriously. No other thing calms her. We have tried so much.
  • I am alone most days for 11-12 hours and on Saturdays for the bulk of the day until cross-country season is over. I have no family in the area. I work from home. Basically, I have little to no escape.

This is all a long list of excuses to explain that I have been having a hard go with breastfeeding this time around. I'm not asking for permission to feel this way. I am not trying to justify why I feel like this for anyone but myself. But what I can say is that I am having trouble finding support. Like I wrote in my last breastfeeding confessional, it seems you have to either be on the "formula feeling is awesome" or "exclusive breastfeeding is the only way" camp.

I decided the other day that to be a happier person and better mom, I'd like to consider doing combination feeding. In other words: I'd like to consider giving a bottle of formula once a day or so. Mostly to give myself a small break in the afternoon, which is when I tend to see the feedings piling atop of one another. (We are still in a bit of a cluster-feed before bed that never results in longer sleep than 2.5-3 hours at a time.)

Yes, I know I can pump and offer breast milk. To me, this isn't a solution for me. I'll just feel unhappy hooked up to a pump. I brought up this whole mixed feeding business on my personal Facebook and immediately got some "that's cool, do what you want" feedback . . . but also some rather negative feedback from some surprising people in my life. Like a few messages about how formula is poison, why would I ever do this is breastfeeding is going well, "I certainly would never do that," etc.

I'm reaching out today to see if anyone have done combo feeding. What has your experience been? I have been reluctant to try because I can't seem to find a lot of information about how it works. I read so many places that even just one replacement feeding a day will sink my milk supply. I feel tremendous guilt for even thinking of doing mixed feeding. And that's why I'm writing this post today. I don't think I should feel this way. I am trying to do what is best for my baby. Feed her. Be a happier mom. Why should I feel guilty?

Although, this entire thing might be silly to bring up at all because we cannot get our girl to take a bottle, a cup, or anything like that. From anyone. Anywhere. We have tried all the tricks. We have spent a small fortune on cups. I have burned through my freezer supply. Just wasted it without so much as an ounce going to good use. Sigh.

For now, little Eloise will keep getting her favorite meal from the source. Again, I feel fortunate to be able to provide this to her. I would love to continue giving breast milk as her primary food source. I just need something to change, even if it's a small something.

Thanks in advance for any info you can share with me.

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