While I could probably take the blame for what happened, I'll lay it instead on the confusion engendered from conflicting information from various breastfeeding resources. The instructor at our breastfeeding class had recommended waiting until six weeks to introduce a bottle, although she'd conceded that four weeks would be just as good. Other sources said that introducing a bottle by week two or three was fine, pointing out that babies did not suffer "nipple confusion" from pacifiers. Therefore, why would they immediately give up the breast if given a bottle?
A friend who took improv classes with me just had twins who were born prematurely. They both drank from bottles in the PICU but happily moved to breastfeeding upon release. So I had reason to believe that I could start introducing a bottle by the third or fourth week.
The problem was, I was a bit afraid of the pump. I have an electric pump, given to me by my brother's wife, which she had used for my niece. We had sterilized it, and I'd read through the booklet, but I hadn't tried it out. The hospital also gave me a hand pump, which I'd used briefly when I was suffering from engorgement, in order to remove a little milk and make it easier for our Kung Fu Panda to latch on properly.
Don't ask me why, but I waited until this weekend to even try to use the pumps, with very little success. Maybe I was simply too stressed out, but I had virtually nothing saved. There would be no bottle feeding on Monday night.
I fed Kung Fu Panda just before starting the night's assignments, figuring this would buy me at least two hours before I'd have to pause to do another feeding. Boy, was I wrong. Seems that Kung Fu Panda has hit his three-week growth spurt, where babies often get hungry more often. The Gryphon changed his diaper, gave him attention, soothed him, and eventually came into the bedroom (where I was still working from a laptop on the bed). "He seems hungry," The Gryphon told me.
Sure enough, he was, and he fed for about 30 minutes, after which I tried to get back on schedule. At least I'd started on time, I told myself. Maybe I could catch up.
It wasn't to be. Rather than feeding every two hours, he seemed to be on a one-hour or one-and-a-half-hour rotation. Perhaps he hadn't eaten enough during the day, when he tends to be sleepier. Who knows? Ultimately, it didn't matter. My baby needed to eat, and the deadlines flew out the window.
Fortunately, my editor understood. I told him what was happening, and he said that was OK. They'd figured the adjustment period might be difficult for me, and I'm a good employee who typically meets my deadlines. While I'm usually done between 1 and 2 a.m., this time I didn't finish until 3:30 a.m., just in time for Kung Fu Panda's nightly alert time. I nursed him, read to him, and talked quietly to him until he fell asleep near morning.
The next night, I battled with myself over what to do. While I believe strongly in breastfeeding, I also had to face reality. Until I built up enough stored milk, we would be reliving this same situation over and over. Remembering the container of formula given to us by the hospital, I made a difficult choice. I told The Gryphon that Tuesday night, while I was working, I wanted him to give Kung Fu Panda bottles of formula. At the same time, I would take breaks of about 15 to 20 minutes each to pump some milk, hopefully helping to build up the supply. After a week or so of this, I figured, we could be filling his bottles with breast milk instead of formula.
Even though I myself was raised on formula, with no apparent ill effects (except, perhaps, my odd sense of humor), I felt like I was copping out as I sterilized the bottles and resigned myself to our KFP getting powdered sustenance. I reassured myself with the fact that all the breastfeeding sources say that any amount of breast milk is better than none, and that women who have to work in formula should not feel guilty about it.
When The Gryphon came home, he soothed Kung Fu Panda, who was already beginning to get the munchies. After a diaper change and a tight swaddle, Kung Fu Panda quieted but eagerly made the "hunger face," where his tongue curls upwards at the edges and he opens and closes his mouth like a baby bird. The Gryphon took him downstairs to prepare a bottle. The house fell into contented silence.
I walked downstairs on a break to see how it was going. Kung Fu Panda was happily sucking on a bottle, meeting his daddy's eyes with clear, alert interest and, it seemed, adoration. I'm so used to seeing that look of contentment on his face from feedings that I was briefly jealous and then, so overwhelmed with relief and love that I thought I would burst. This moment of contentment, this ability for The Gryphon to feed his son, to satiate his hunger, it was every bit of heaven. I was not a bad mother; far from it. And if a little bit of formula played a role in this halcyon scene, that was fine with me.
My whole body sighed with relief, and as I sat down to pump, the milk flowed into the bottle as freely as my frustrated tears had run down my face in the previous two days. And once more, I had to admit, I had learned something. We are so much more than our fears. We are so much stronger when we allow someone to help.
When expert advice conflicts, choose what works for you.