It might seem as though I had it easy when breastfeeding Fuss. After all, we did make it to 15-months-old when Fuss decided to stop nursing. I was, quite honestly, ready to have my body back to myself after that! Haha! But the beginning was NOT easy for us. And having gone through all I did, I can certainly understand why breastfeeding doesn't always work out.
With Fuss being 4 weeks early, she had a hard time learning to latch on. Her mouth was small. I had flat nipples and large (okay...humongous!) breasts that would nearly swallow her whole if I didn't keep them under close supervision. (That is only a slight exaggeration.) I had a C-section which prevented her from nursing for the first 24 hours thanks to my reaction to anesthesia. The odds were stacked quite high against us from the start.
I was lucky to have the hospital provide their double electric pump to get me started, so I pumped for the first time when Fuss was just a little over 24 hours old. Those 80 mL bottles worked fine for the first pumping or so, but by the end of day 1 I was producing WAY over that in 1 session! The nurses were floored and I had to get larger bottles plus still had a bunch in the refrigerator that I took home. However, when we tried to get Fuss to nurse, we couldn't keep her awake long enough to eat. I tried and tried. The nurse on-shift came to help me (the Lactation consultant was at a conference - go figure) and we tried different positions, tickling feet, jiggling, etc. Nothing seemed to work. So I started using pumped milk to get Fuss to eat. Then she ended up with jaundice. I am SO thankful that the nurses on my shift were so supportive! They never once said to stop breastfeeding! Just kept encouraging and said as soon as we were done with our session to put Fuss back under the bili lights.
When I was released from the hospital, I took the same approach. Try to nurse for 10 minutes then pump and feed whatever I pumped. Fuss wasn't gaining, though. I went to the LC to get help. We did a pre-feed weight and post-feed weight and Fuss took in 3 ounces in one sitting from a single breast. Great! *We later found out that her lack of weight gain was due to reflux not to her failure to eat.* The next hurdle I faced was that my supply tanked. I went from pumping around 8 ounces per breast - yes, I had a large supply! - to 3 ounces a side. Back to the LC I went. Since at the time insurance didn't even offer the option of seeing an LC, the hospital LC was willing to help for free as a postpartum service. She measured me for flange size...I was using standard flanges which were 6 mm too small for my nipples causing pressure and not emptying my breasts fully. I ordered the 30 mm flange set for my pump and went back to work. I was literally sleeping MAYBE an hour at a time! Fuss was sleeping around 3 hours around the clock by 2 months, but due to the difficulty feeding, I was up for at least 30 minutes after she fell back to sleep to pump. It was awful! I hardly remember much of that first 2-3 months aside from pumping/nursing/attempting to sleep/spitting up. My mom took Fuss overnight about that time and I slept straight for 12 hours! And I woke up with the WORST case of engorgement EVER!! LOL.
By the time we had Fuss diagnosed with reflux and had her on medication (2 months started, but it didn't work well until around 3 or 4 months), she had gotten more used to bottles. Our pedi thought she was spitting up due to lying down while nursing and thought upright bottle feeds would help. They didn't. And by then we were having issues with latching again. *sigh* Fuss didn't want to latch to bare breast, so back to the LC where I received a nipple shield. I used that damned thing for almost 3 months! The worst part for me was that it collected a pool of milk that would spill all over no matter what I did to prevent it. Hubby was still super supportive through all of this. Even my MIL and SIL were supportive! I had a few people say that I needed to give up, though. My mom said that a few times, but I told her I wasn't giving up. Anytime ANYONE mentioned stopping, I said I was going to work through it. AND I DID!!! By 5 months, I had weaned Fuss from the nipple shield and she had an excellent latch! By 8 months she started refusing bottles...lol. I guess that's a whole 'nother can of worms! I still pumped for quite some time, but mostly at night or when Fuss would eat less first thing in the morning so I could avoid being engorged.
My point is, I persevered through all that and had a successful breastfeeding relationship with Fuss for just over 15 months. However, I don't fault those that have difficulty and decide to switch to formula. I had to prove to myself and all the doubters that I could manage it just because I am stubborn. My aunt exclusively pumped for both of her boys. They were born at 30 & 29 weeks and spent a long time in the NICU. She pumped while driving! I supported her. Blondie tried to breastfeed but said she didn't like it and didn't want to continue, so she switched to formula. I supported her through that as well. And I continue to advocate for breastfeeding, but I will ALWAYS support a woman's right to choose how to feed her baby! We should all be able to provide for our children in the best way we can. I know someone who is on medication for severe allergies and never produces milk at all. Another friend had low supply. It is not my right to belittle ANYONE for feeding their child unless that choice puts their child in danger. And honestly, breast versus bottle is one thing we really need to ask questions and not judge before we know the whole story.