This mama is seriously sleep deprived, and sleep hunger a desperate woman makes. I "caved" a few nights ago and decided to try giving Norah a small (4 oz) bottle of formula right before bed and then topping her off by nursing to sleep in an attempt to fill that baby belly enough to hold her over for a longer stretch at night. The first night, it seemed to work, and unless I am so ridiculously out of it that I don't remember waking up between 12:30 and 5 AM, my child slept for 4.5 hours without nursing. To anyone used to sleeping all night long, this probably sounds ridiculous. But, for someone accustomed to waking as often as every 45 minutes some nights, this was glorious. Night two, not really so great (up at 2:30 and 5 and up for the day about 6:45) but I have decided to keep trying the formula for a week and see if it makes any difference in breaking some of her less desirable sleeping habits at all. If it doesn't, maybe I'll put it aside and use it later. But for the love, why do I feel so guilty for even using it at all?
The morning after I gave her the first bottle of formula, I couldn't help but feel like I had just given my baby the equivalent of sugar-laden cereal or ice cream before bed or something (not that I haven't regularly had both of those things myself, but that's neither here nor there, right?). I went to one of my trusted breastfeeding resources online, www.kellymom.com for some advice about choosing the best kind of formula if and when one determines that they will supplement, and I'm not kidding the articles on there were SO anti-formula that I truly felt as if I had betrayed my child by letting her have anything but breastmilk, especially when I am not having supply issues or health issues, or any other "issues" related to actually feeding her enough calories for her to thrive. The issues I have are purely selfish - I need more sleep. Now, I understand, that's a kind of selfishness that at this point, 8 months later, that is acceptable to acknowledge and take care of, but when I looked at the ingredient lists on the various types of formulas (and not to mention the price tag on the organic varieties!) I felt nothing but guilt and shame about even considering it.
I know that our society is rightfully putting more emphasis on "breast is best" and the health benefits for both mom and baby from breastfeeding for a minimum of the first year of life. But I also know that there are many reasons why people choose (or need) to use formula and these babies grow and thrive and develop into healthy, smart, well adjusted kids just like kids who were breastfed until they could cut their own meat and learn to read. I have conversations with parents at the hospital almost every week about cutting themselves some slack when their children medically require supplemental feedings in order to grow. Logically, I understand that there is no reason that children who have any amount of formula suffer because of it. But why, oh why, when I stood in the Kroger self-scan checkout did I want to turn the can of Earth's Best Organic Formula around and pretend it was a can of coffee? Not only did I feel publicly ashamed to be buying formula at all (albeit organic, 2x as expensive as run of the mill Similac or Enfamil), but I felt a personal sense of failing my child, even if in the smallest way. Maybe it's just the exhaustion. Maybe it's living in "crunchy" Ann Arbor and reading too many articles like "One Bottle of Formula Won't Hurt; Or Will It?" that has planted the tiny seed of guilt in the back of my mind. But nonetheless, I am struggling with balancing my desire to get just a few more blessed moments of sleep and doing what is best for my child. I guess I'm not really all that different from any other mother in the history of mothers, then, am I?
Time to take this twitching eyelid of mine to bed while the child sleeps through her formula-induced dream cycle, hopefully for the next few hours. Wish us all a quiet night :)