Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Breastfeeding Revisited

A while back I posted my initial thoughts on breastfeeding based on my doctor’s recommendations. During a time when many women and doctors are militant and sometimes downright mean about the importance of breastfeeding, I had to work hard to get past the embarrassment and guilt over my choosing to go straight for the can of powder mix. By the time pregnancy was over and I’d weighed my options a million times, I was totally fine with my decision to have a formula fed baby.

Wyatt did fine with Similac in the hospital. The nurses were surprisingly supportive and were happy to feed him during the night so I could sleep. When the subject of breastfeeding came up with any of them, they were quick to tell me the formula was just fine and that I had a medical condition that prevented me from being able to feed him any other way. At first I was impressed by such forward thinking. Maybe doctors and nurses were finally entertaining the idea that spirochetes can transfer through breast milk? Not so much. In fact, I recommend not even discussing milk transmission unless you have to or if you want to be told that your Lyme information in severely outdated.

I soon found out that they were commenting on my upcoming medication switch, which was deemed necessary because my symptoms were so bad. I was so caught up in spirochete transmission through breast milk, I didn’t even consider that I wouldn’t be able to breast feed, because all of the medications that actually work for me wouldn’t work for baby. Something to keep in mind, especially if you have a bunch of allergies and your antibiotic/supplement options are limited: Breastfeeding might not be an option at all, even if you want it to be.

Fast forward to my first week at home. I hadn’t started any not-safe-for-baby meds yet, because I was terrified of a herx on top of C-section pain. Formula feeding was going very well, but my baby blues had started to kick in, and weird things were happening to me emotionally. Mostly, I’d get weepy at feeding time. It had nothing to do with Lyme. Nothing to do with the icky chemical ingredients I read on the back of the formula can. It was purely natural, instinctual, kind of like an animal-- Wyatt would cry for food and I yearned to breastfeed. Like I HAD to. My boobs actually hurt as he sucked on his bottle, and it broke my heart that I had all of this milk to give him, and I felt so unfulfilled measuring out the powder instead.

So I said screw it. I’m going to breastfeed him. The chance of transmission is so rare, and I’m learning more and more that I’ve been panicking for no reason, though I’d have to put off taking different, stronger doses of antibiotics. I talked to the pediatrician, who loved the idea, but I admit that I didn’t tell my LLMD because I’d get an earful. (Sometimes I choose to follow my strong instincts and not the advice of the doctor.)

I spent an hour in a hot shower massaging my breasts, trying to get the milk to come back. I thought I’d lost it, because it had been so long they didn’t even hurt any more. But eventually it came back, and I happily prepared myself for the glorious bonding experience I’d envisioned.

Wow. What a letdown.

Granted, I know breastfeeding takes practice and things would have gone better if I’d learned in the hospital and gave it time, but it was painful, and it was awkward for both of us. Wyatt latched on fine, but I swear, he didn’t like it. He fussed for a long time and then opened one eye up at me, as if to say, “WTF Mom?!”

That pressing need to breastfeed vanished as quickly as it came, and Wyatt was as happy as a clam when I gave him a bottle instead. As if to reassure me that I’d made the right choice, I had a bad symptom night that same evening and knew it was time to start taking my meds. (For the record, I’m feeling awesome now on Minocycline, which is not baby safe.)

Obviously, I can only comment on my own experience. You might try breastfeeding, do well with it, and love it. I just wanted to let you know that if you’re having guilty feelings about choosing not to breast feed (or if you’re unable due to meds), my feeling is that even though it’s the favored choice for babies, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

As for the idea that mother and child bond better when they breastfeed? I disagree. I’ve experienced intense bonding moments while feeding my guy his formula. We have a routine now, I’m understanding his needs, and he’s a very happy baby.

Overall, life is good. I’m happy I tried breast feeding because the need/curiosity would have driven me completely nuts, but I stand by my original decision to play it safe and stick with the bottle. Just do what works best for you and your family and follow your instincts.

Photo from Babble.com


  1. I'm new to your blog, been searching the internet for information on what to do. I was diagnosed with chronic lyme and all the coinfections to boot but that was 5 years ago. I did 3 years of intensive antibiotics and went a year symptom free (aside from chronic fatigue which I believe is just a fact of my life now).

    I'm in my third trimester and I have not been on antibiotics through my pregnancy as I had always planned. But I am torturing myself over the decision to breast feed or not breast feed. I wept reading your post because I just do not know what is best, I don't know what to do. I don't know if my baby already has Lyme or not.

    I wish there was a simple answer.

    1. Hi Rachael. Now that it has been over a year, how did everything turn out?

  2. Thank you for having the courage to share your story!

  3. Hi!

    For accurate and trustworthy information on breastfeeding and medication safety go to Dr. Hale's site:

    Also, he has started a Lyme forum for BFing (prego?) moms here:

    Please pass the information along-Mom's need it!!