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Nursing vs. Formula

By: Heather Somaini

mom and her newborn

Isn’t it amazing how these simple subjects are so full of controversy and passionate debate?  Father-Daughter Dances.  Circumcision.  Parenting Styles.  It’s all fascinating.  Everyone wants an answer or opinion that matches theirs so they can blast all the other ones.  It all seems to exert a lot of energy without any end-product.  I’m very end-product-oriented.  I’m not sure what that means about me – maybe I’m simple or have blinders on but it does give focus and allows me to get a substantial amount accomplished.  I’m sure many more blogs will be controversial.  Almost all of these parenting subjects seem to be areas that create a lot of emotion.  Many would prefer it all to be black and white but strangely enough, I see it as very grey.  Without all the context of our lives, how can any of these decisions really be made?

Feeding.  Seems simple enough, right?  Baby cries, you give him what’s best and he eats.  But what is best?  We all know that nursing has loads of advantages…it’s always available, free, protects against infections, contains the right amount of nutrients and digests easily.  It may also protect against allergies and asthma and decrease a baby’s risk of obesity in the future.  Breast milk may even contain some fatty acids that promote brain development and can help new mothers lose weight more easily.  It’s definitely best and we should all try to make that happen for at least a few weeks.  Yes, I know all the doctor groups recommend breastfeeding for at least 6 months but I was recently told by a doctor that all the “good stuff” babies need from nursing is all in the first couple of weeks.  Well now who do we believe?  I think we have to listen to ourselves for a minute and do what’s best for us.  Our situation was exactly that.

We had every expectation of breastfeeding.  My wife, Tere, had high hopes for being a “dairy queen” and exclusively nursing our twins.  But then reality hit.  After a lengthy labor, beginnings of pre-eclampsia, a C-section and an emergency hysterectomy, Tere was pretty out of it for awhile.  She was knocked out for their first feeding so I agreed to give them formula.  At just under 6 lbs. each, they needed to eat.  We didn’t have the luxury of any lost weight and every calorie was valuable.  By the next morning, our son was in the NICU and working so hard to eat, he was exhausted.  They put a feeding tube in his nose all the way to his stomach to feed him directly.  Tere was determined that our babies were going to get the valuable nutrients in breast milk and diligently pumped.  Since Free couldn’t nurse, it was the only way he was going to get any breast milk.  I would arrive in the NICU with that small bottle and the nurses would look at me a little funny when none of us could see much of anything inside.

Nursing our daughter wasn’t much better.  Izzy would latch on for a bit and then stop.  Tere continued to try and was becoming increasingly frustrated.  A number of days in, I started to realize that our intense desire to provide the best nutrients for our newborn babies was tearing away at the limited amount of sanity we had.  We were sleep deprived, the babies had complications, and Tere was struggling to recover.  Add to that the mental and emotional anguish of not being able to do what “every new mother should be able to do” and I was afraid Tere was going to melt down.

One night as Tere tried unsuccessfully once again to nurse Izzy, I had to make an executive decision.  Tere was exhausted and next to tears.  We had to stop.  It was killing her that she couldn’t feed her babies and every day she became a little more broken inside.  I made it very clear that in no way was she letting any of us down by not continuing to try and nurse.  It took a little while but she agreed.  I watched as Tere relaxed, which allowed all of us to breathe a little easier.  It was a small adjustment to our plan but ultimately, it was necessary for our well-being.

Our twins are formula babies.  Don’t get me wrong, Tere kept diligently pumping for over 6 months and about 25% of their supply was breast milk.  Formula allowed our babies to add on precious ounces –and then pounds –as quickly as possible and gave them the extra calories to sleep longer in between feedings.

It was what was best for us.

I hope you make the decision that’s best for you and your baby.


[Photo Credit: Kory Kinder]



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