After I had my daughter via cesarean section, I diligently tried to breastfeed. I kept my baby latched as directed, and maintained skin-to-skin contact. But milk was not coming in, and my baby was not happy about it. If she was awake, she was screaming. My husband and I were worried, but the hospital-issued lactation consultants assured us that she was fine. I recalled something from the breastfeeding class we had taken at the hospital while I was pregnant. The lactation consultants told us that even a drop of nutrient-dense colostrum (the substance present in breasts from pregnancy until mature milk comes in) can satisfy a newborn. Not my newborn! Eventually, a pediatrician took notice of our baby’s abnormal weight loss and procured a bottle of formula, against the lactation consultants’ orders.
I was so relieved as our baby sucked down that tiny bottle and finally seemed satisfied! Then I felt crushing guilt that I had allowed her to starve. In my post-op drugged state, I didn’t really feel that I had been offered a choice. The lactation consultants’ orders did not seem to be optional. She lost more than 11 percent of her body weight before that doctor stepped in. Lactation consultants didn’t want us to supplement with formula—even a few ounces—because of “nipple confusion” (when a baby won’t breastfeed because they think of the bottle nipple as normal, or they prefer it due to its faster flow of milk) and interference with breast milk production, resulting in a low supply. But those things never happened. Eventually my milk came in, and from that point, we didn’t need to supplement any more. My daughter was exclusively breastfed with no issues whatsoever despite this brief flirtation with formula.