Pregnancy and labor was hard enough without having to worry about breastfeeding.  But unfortunately, for many of us, breastfeeding poses a considerable learning curve and places incredible stress on the first several months postpartum.  No one tells you that breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally.  It takes a considerable amount of knowledge to learn, and the support of not only other women who can teach you, but also of your spouse.

In our case, we tried very hard to breastfeed only to realize it wasn’t in the cards.  I had done extensive research during pregnancy on breastfeeding, attended classes, read everything I could on “latching” the baby and how to log the days milk intake.  I bought 4 pumps, two manual and two electric, just in case one or the other didn’t work well.  I had a stock-pile of Medela breastmilk storage bags, Lanosinh breast pads, and about a half dozen nipple creams of all varieties.  In fact, an entire shelf of the baby closest was dedicated only to her breastfeeding.  I was ready for my baby to pop out and attach to me.

But it didn’t happen that way.  At birth our baby was so tired, she didn’t even care to suckle.   Her weak attempt, lasting only about 10 seconds, met the midwives’ requirement, but certainly wasn’t enough for me or the baby to create the right connection.

After a 6 hour nap coming home from the birth center, we all awoke to our new reality: me in tears, realizing my life had just changed dramatically, my baby in a bewildered stunned state, and my husband in problem-solving mode.  As our first day turned to night, baby started getting hungry.  We hadn’t figured out yet how to get this “collostrum” out of my inverted nipples (not something they explained very well during the breastfeeding classes), and my real milk was days away.  My friend and La Leche leader called to assist, while my husband ran out to get the first formula he could find.

After 5 days, my breasts finally engorged and began filling with milk.  Now it was flowing, I could express it easily…but baby couldn’t figure out how to latch!  We hired a lactation consultant and spent an hour in her office to find out she couldn’t latch the baby either.  She said, “I haven’t seen a baby this disorganized in a long time.”  Baby wanted it, but kept moving around as if it wasn’t there.

I proceeded to buy the $300 Medela breast pump, sign up for the breastfeeding support group, and ordered a nipple shield.  I thought to myself, even if it wasn’t possible now, my baby was going to do it sooner or later, right?

But as weeks turned into months, with me pumping between each feeding and barely having time to do anything else, I started becoming miserable.  I wasn’t enjoying my baby.  I was caught up in feelings of guilt about not breastfeeding her, listening to the commentary on how bad formula is for the baby. I thought, “Will she know that I’m her mother? Will we still be able to bond closely? Will formula make her sick or increase her risk of obesity/diabetes/leaky gut?”  It was a catch 22.  I’d try to latch the baby every other day, only to feel horrible as she’d start crying….

In the shower one evening, exhausted and wondering how this would continue, I realized I just simply couldn’t pump anymore.  It was the pumping that was making me miserable, really.  It took so much time out of my time with the baby.  I was going to stop.  To keep my milk up, I could just express by hand, at least for a while.

I look back now on those first few months and think of how nice it would have been to know that there are alternatives out there to Enfamil and Similac available to moms.  Something about her puke green diapers, her painful gas, and her acid reflux didn’t work for me.  I tried switching to the non-lactose formula, which didn’t work either, and I wasn’t going to keep switching without really finding something I was comfortable with.

There are some great sites out there about mixing your own baby formula (the Weston Price website is probably the best go-to for recipes), but for me, I needed something a lot easier.   After doing some online research and coming across a great research article on choosing the right formula, I ended up putting my baby girl on HiPP’s Organic Infant Milk–and have been happy every since.

I’m amazed at how few moms know about the two excellent organic baby formula brands from Europe that are readily available to them, HiPP from the UK and Holle from Germany.  They have the highest quality ingredients, and don’t contanin any of the additives we can’t get away from on the American shelves. They are both not only excellent alternatives to the additive ladden formulas you buy here, but are well-studied, abundantly used overseas, and not any more costly than the standard can of Enfamil.  The most convincing evidence for me was how it turned my baby’s poop from green to yellow, just like a breastfed baby!

I highly recommend any mom who struggles with breastfeeding to try one of these formulas.  It put my mind completely at ease, allowed me to stop the breastfeeding obsession, and is giving my little girl all the nutrition she needs without my worry about the ingredients of the product. Holle has been around for 70 years in Europe and several people swear by it.  Personally, I ended up going with HiPP’s Organic formula for several reasons:  it is the easiest on my baby’s tummy and can be conveniently ordered online on Ebay often from USA sellers, and at Amazon direct from Europe (you’ll have to wait several weeks to get it direct from the UK–or pay for the expedited shipping).

I’m so happy many women are able to breastfeed their babies and have that experience.  But if you can’t, don’t despair! There are other alternatives out there.  And just remember, most of the baby boomers were raised exclusively on formula back in the 50s and 60s.  It is not the end of the world not to breastfeed.  Enjoying your baby and cherishing these moments comes before anything else.

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