Embracing a ‘Fed is Best’ Mentality

Embracing a 'Fed is Best' Mentality | Kansas City Moms Blog
My first daughter was a late term preemie, born just shy of 36 weeks, eager to meet the world and then sleep for the first month of her life. I wrote candidly about our experience with breastfeeding, combo feeding, and ultimately formula feeding when all of those thoughts and raw feelings were still fresh on my mind. The first month of her life was one of the hardest in my own as I grappled with the reality that I wasn’t going to be able to exclusively breastfeed because my body was not going to produce the amount of milk necessary to do so. Underlying issues of IGT (insufficient glandular tissue) and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) combined with her sleepy preemie habits threw up roadblocks that were impossible to surmount without supplementing. 

As we prepared for the birth of our second daughter and I considered how I would approach feeding her, I realized that I had the knowledge and fortitude to tackle the feeding challenges thrown my way. I reflected on my experience with my first daughter and made a mental checklist of what I was willing to do the second time around: take herbal supplements, feed on demand, lots of skin to skin and supplement with formula as soon as necessary. I knew what I would not put myself through again: pumping eight times a day only to yield an ounce of milk or push myself to the brink of sanity in pursuit of exclusive breastfeeding. Ultimately, I knew I was prepared to do what would work for my unique baby and our unique family, and that we would all be happy and bond as a family of four by embracing the mentality that “fed is best.”

The Fearless Formula Feeder and her book Bottled Up were my lifeline back in 2012/2013. I didn’t know where to go with my questions and my feelings and eventually I wrote this guide for other combo and formula feeding moms to try to share some of what I’d learned. The resources and support I desperately needed as a first time mom are easier to find now. The tide has definitely turned in the infant feeding world and more doctors, lactation consultants and voices in the world of motherhood are leaving the often polarizing phrase “breast is best” behind. You can find support from breastfeeding advocates like Jessica at The Leaky Boob. The Fed is Best Foundation and The Momivist are publishing powerful stories and important research regarding infant feeding practices. 

Embracing a 'Fed is Best' Mentality | Kansas City Moms Blog

photo credit Darbi G Photography

When Cora Ann made her speedy appearance (full term unlike her sister), I came to the hospital prepared. I brought my brest-friend pillow, nursing tanks and a bottle of Motherlove Special Blend supplements. And a pacifier, because I now know how rare nipple confusion is and that a pacifier can be your best friend! Cora latched and ate every 3 hours on the dot.

When her blood sugar levels were dropping and she was losing a bit of weight, we reached for the formula and supplemented without any doubt or shame. We were so happy to find out that the lactation consultant at our hospital was not the same one that had been rude and unsupportive four years ago. This LC listened to my story, respected my decision not to pump and affirmed our feeding decisions. There was no pressure to exclusively breastfeed, and she encouraged us as we embraced combo-feeding.  

Embracing a 'Fed is Best' Mentality | Kansas City Moms Blog

photo credit Darbi G Photography

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, we realized that my milk had already come in! At home we quickly settled into our combo-feeding routine: breastfeed for as long as baby liked, then supplement with formula. There was no dramatic weight loss, no jaundice, no struggle to get her back up to her birthweight by the 2-week mark, and only minor frustrations regarding keeping the baby fed and happy. Weighed feedings showed that Cora was getting more than her sister got from the breast, but still nowhere near enough to stop supplementing. This time I didn’t leave the breastfeeding support groups with angry tears streaming down my face. I celebrated the milk she was getting and shunned any negative self-talk. 

When our friend and photographer Darbi came to our home to do newborn photos, I asked her to capture pictures of me feeding Cora, both by breast and by bottle. I treasure these photos as well as the numerous candid pictures we took during the weeks she was breastfed. Because of my experience with my first daughter I knew the signs that combo-feeding was coming to an end. Refusing the breast at several feedings in row, a big growth spurt and screaming at the boob because the milk just wasn’t enough to satisfy (a phase I like to call “screamy boob”). So after a few days, I sat down with the baby, handed my husband the phone, and asked him to take this picture. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing it was the last time I would breastfeed her. This time it was mostly sweet though, because I knew for 9 weeks and 6 days we’d fed our baby the best way we could, and that be it breastmilk or formula, we’d fed her with love and could continue to do so. She is loved, nourished, and cared for, and that is the best any parent can do.  

Embracing a 'Fed is Best' Mentality | Kansas City Moms Blog

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7 Responses to Embracing a ‘Fed is Best’ Mentality

  1. Helen February 21, 2017 at 11:50 am #

    Good job, mom!

  2. Shea
    Shea February 22, 2017 at 10:58 am #

    Screamy boob! Yes, that is what both of my kiddos went through and I admit it made me so frustrated. I love your attitude through this. I didn’t have any luck breastfeeding my son, and I went in more prepared with my daughter and hoped for the best. I told myself that I would have the “fed is best” mentality and that I would be okay with not breastfeeding. Despite that, I still really had a hard time when it ultimately didn’t work out this time around either. I’m pumping, but I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up. Reading this was really encouraging, thanks for sharing your story Julia!!

    • Julia Willhite
      Julia Willhite February 25, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

      I’m glad you found this encouraging! You are doing an awesome job feeding Violet!

  3. Tanya February 24, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    This is just fantastic! When I was pregnant with my first I was mislead to believe the only challenge was latching, so when I my first daughter latched on right away with no problems I thought I was in the clear. I had no idea that production could be an issue. I combo fed with all three of my children for about three months before exclusively bottle/formula feeding. I produced more with each child-the more you know, the better you do I guess. And yes, the bittersweetness of the last feed. I’m glad you captured yours in a beautiful photo. I don’t think I consciously made the decision that it was the last time with any of mine, but I wish I had! Fed is best:).

    • Julia Willhite
      Julia Willhite February 25, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

      Thanks for reading and sharing Tanya!

  4. Lauren March 8, 2017 at 10:35 pm #

    Wow. This is exactly what I needed to read. I have PCOS and IGT too, and it has been a painful battle. While I wouldn’t wish the heartbreak and disappointment on anyone in the world, it is so nice to know that someone else truly has been there. I really hope this will help me continue to put my feelings of guilt and shame to rest.