When I was pregnant, I knew there was a very strong chance that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, due to a surgical procedure I underwent 8 years prior. So I found a good organic formula to keep tucked away in the cupboard, and I tried to search for donor milk without much luck, as I come from a family riddled with dairy and gluten allergies, we were advised to steer clear of donor milk from donors who consumed these ingredients. As a student, I am obsessed with preparation and research!
My son Bodhi was born at home in our birth pool when I was approx. 42 weeks pregnant. He latched on straight away and I felt a small thrill at seeing him suckle from me as I lay on the couch. The feeling of it shocked me but it was so natural and primal, and I cried tears of joy.
By day 3, things were starting to hurt. Lets face it; breastfeeding is tricky to get the hang of. I suspected a tongue-tie, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was normal to have such severe pain. My midwife assured me it was normal and that I simply had to toughen up. By the end of one week, I was sobbing and shaking as my son latched on and suckled, especially from the left breast. No one ever warned me that I would almost pass out from the pain, severe back labour was a breeze compared to this! I trusted in my midwife, and she told us that it was all normal, that I had to try different positions.
At this stage, Bodhi was not getting enough milk from me. The supply was there – but due to the surgery, it couldn’t make its way out. The mere trickle I supplied was barely satisfying him. This meant that Bodhi was always on my breast. I never had a chance to rest my nipples, and I was bed ridden. I began to hallucinate at night, and the worst stage came when I looked down and didn’t recognize my son as my baby. I began to slide into a depression, the pain was so bad and one of my nipples was beginning to detach from my breast. Bodhi was unhappy, crying and super unsettled. The midwife said it wasn’t my supply and after attempting to settle him, admitted I wasn’t giving him enough. After days of me enquiring, she agreed I should be taking fenugreek on top of the herbal tonic for breastfeeding I was already on. This made no difference. At my insistence that it wasn’t working, we then moved to motillium. I ended up on the maximum dosage, and whilst my supply increased, it again, was unable to get out. At this stage, I developed nipple thrush as my nipples were always moist and never got a chance to heal. I am a very stubborn and dedicated person, I desperately wanted to provide breast milk, but I was beginning to wonder, at what cost and would it ever be enough?
My family was deeply concerned. They urged me to start supplementing with formula, in order to have a baby who would sleep, and so that I could lay down. I wasn’t bonding with my child, I was dreading when he wanted to latch on (every 10 mins after a brief break) and my husband didn’t want to go back to work. I turned to my midwife for support, who told me it isn’t about me, that my son needs breast milk. We compromised and she let me try nipple shields, which made minimal difference. The bleeding didn’t stop, I couldn’t get on top of the thrush and the nipple continued to detach.
After a difficult day and evening, I broke down on the floor in tears and gave him the organic formula from Germany. Things started to turn around for us. I was feeding him via a supplemental nursing system to stimulate my breasts and for the bonding, but the pain was still incredibly revolting and my nipples were a mess, even with a shield.
I went against my midwife and took my son to see a lactation consultant. He was diagnosed with a stage 4 tongue and lip tie. Having them fixed did help to a certain degree with the pain, but it was still intolerable. I was pumping non stop, and nothing was coming out. My breasts went down to pre pregnancy size, my son couldn’t latch on anymore and I couldn’t hand express anything out. It was official, although my postnatal care wouldn’t listen – my milk had dried up even though I was taking the maximum dosage of herbs and drugs to keep it going.
The midwife insisted that it wasn’t my supply, and that the reason my child was so unsettled and drinking every 20 mins was due to a craniosacral issue. We saw two therapists who told us it was fine, but he was then diagnosed with silent reflux due to a lactose intolerance. In all my research preparing for the inability to breast feed, I forgot about the dairy allergies in the family when it came to the formula. I was distressed. By supplementing he was getting fed and gaining weight, but the formula created a whole new problem. I knew I couldn’t provide his sole dietary needs with breast milk, and I knew how quickly formula experimenting can spiral.
By this stage, I was breaking down. I felt like such a failure. We tried a different organic formula, no luck. I ordered a lactose free from the states that’s organic, no luck. We went to an off the shelf lactose free from coles, no luck. The reflux was horrific, Bodhi was covered in eczema, hardly passing stools, unable to be laid down to sleep or change a nappy. 6 weeks into motherhood, I was losing it.
After a visit to my Dr, who told me what no one had the guts to “You’re unable to breastfeed, your nipples are unable to lengthen due to the surgery, this isn’t ever going to happen. Be grateful you gave him colostrum!”.
After that visit, my husband and I decided to not let the midwife call the shots. We felt betrayed, and like I had gone through hell and she hadn’t provided us with proper care. Looking at my nipples and telling me to toughen up didn’t cut it.
Now that I was fully formula feeding which I couldn’t stand, I knew it was time to return to my desires of having a healthy and happy baby. I settled down to research. As a nutritionist student and an avid fan of nutritional medicine, I addressed his issues via herbal medicine and using a homemade formula. It was scary. Not everyone in our life understood it. But all I cared about was that I was finally feeding my son something made from real ingredients, and that my Dr loved it. With my research and knowledge, combined with a skilled Dr and naturopath, we created a healing protocol to heal all of Bodhi’s conditions.
The difference in my child is astounding. All eczema cleared up. He passes stools twice a day and they’re not offensive. He isn’t constipated. He sleeps every 2 hours. He sleeps 12 hours a night (broken for feeds). He smiles, laughs and is now able to lie on his tummy. I can take him outside and he enjoys interacting with nature and our animals. Most importantly, we have bonded. It took 8 weeks for us to find peace. It took 12 for things to settle, and for me to begin being happy. The PPD diagnosis frightened me, but now that things are good and we know that he is getting enough, and is actually content on it, all symptoms have gone.
Breast is absolutely best. Nothing can even come close to replacing it. I assure myself that I have found the next best in line, and Bodhi has a dedicated team of healthcare professionals to help guide us. He is on the best ingredients I could find, herbal medicine for immunity, kefir and probiotic powders for gut health and other remedies to give him what breast milk would.
As a formula feeder, I don’t fit in with breast feeding mums. I understand why they feel the way they do. They don’t know our story. But I also don’t fit in with the formula feeding crowd. I have been told that by making a home made formula and heavily supplementing with immune boosting ingredients, that I am judging other FF mothers. At present, I just long to be accepted as just another mother, doing the best she can.
A mother’s instinct is seldom wrong. If you believe something isn’t right, listen to that voice. Seek multiple opinions. Healing can and will take place, if you believe in yourself.