Friday, November 13, 2009


Last night, I laid in my bed in tears. I’ve mentioned before that I’m fighting allergies, but I don’t know if I really described how severe it is. You know how when you have a really bad cold, your nose gets so stuffed up that your head hurts and your sinuses start screaming at you? It’s like that. Every minute. Every hour. Every day. But in addition to that, my throat feels like it’s closing up, so I can not only not breathe through my nose, but I have difficulty breathing deeply through my mouth as well. I can barely sleep at night because breathing is so difficult, even when I’m propped up on three pillows (which is in turn giving me back and neck aches). I’ve blown my nose so much that I’ve started getting nosebleeds. My eyes are swollen and feel like they’re on fire, even when I use saline eyedrops to try to relieve some of the pain.

And that’s on a good day. I literally cannot be outside for longer than a minute or two or the symptoms instantly grow worse (I’ve actually had to take time off of work because I couldn’t physically cope after having to be outside for a couple of hours the previous night). I can’t step into my yard, can’t play with my dogs outside, can’t go for a walk or a picnic. I live inside a sealed up house, dash to the car to go to work, stay inside a building all day, and then repeat in the opposite order. If my husband opens a window at home to let some of the stale air out, I start gasping within minutes. 

And I still have another 3.5 months to go, as the allergy season for hayfever sufferers in Australia runs from about October to February. It’s going to be a long spring.

This is all worth it, because this is what I need to do to keep these babies healthy. But last night, I woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep because my allergies were so severe. Today, I’m desperately tired. And when I was lying in bed, watching the light from the dawn creeping through the blinds, I realized: I can’t do this again. I just can’t.

My plan was to breastfeed our babies for the first 12 months, as the AAP recommends. I’ve now cut that down to 5-6 months, depending on when my allergies start up next year. Because next year, I want – no, I need – to be able to take strong allergy medication, and I won’t be able to if I’m breastfeeding.

And I feel unbelievably guilty. How many times have I had it drummed into my head that breast is best, that if you don’t breastfeed your child for at least a year, you’re doing them a disservice. I don’t want to be a bad mother! But then I remind myself: there is nothing wrong with formula. Formula is not bad. Formula is not evil. It may not quite be the naturally perfect baby food that breastmilk is, but it’s absolutely the best substitute in the world. Women who are unable to produce enough milk to feed their child - and you never know, I could be one of them and then all of this would be a moot point - are not abusing their children by giving them formula, and I won’t be abusing our children either. I've read that most of the benefits of breastfeeding are in the first 6 months, so hopefully I'll be able to breastfeed for that long - but if not, it won't be the end of the world.

I want to be able to breathe freely and play with my children. I want to be able to get whatever sleep I can, instead of gasping for air at night. I want them to have nice, fresh air in our home. I want to be able to take them out in the stroller for a walk instead of being trapped inside a sealed house for five months. Yes, breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, but so is quality of life – not just for myself, but for my children. I know this decision might open me up to some judgment (especially since I'm making it so far in advance), but I'm OK with that. Because if this is what I have to do to be happy and healthy so I can make our children happy and healthy, then it's the right choice for our family.


  1. Forumla these days is very comparable to breast milk. No one should ever be made to feel bad or guilty if they aren't able to breastfeed for a full year or even at all. Having an unhappy mother who is over tired and stuck in the house all day is a lot worse that getting formula! You are going to be a wonderful mother. The fact that you are worrying about this is proof! Million of children have grown up stong and healthy and never had a drop of breastmilk. Studies show that their is no difference between breastfed children and forumla fed children in the long run. Anyone who makes you feel like a bad mother because you are choosing to give your babies a healthy mother should be ashamed of themselves!!

  2. I am so sorry you're suffering. It really sounds like your allergies may be causing a sinus infection. I had that for many years until I got on a routine of my sinuses twice a day with a neti pot. Before then it was rounds of antihistamines, nasal sprays, antibiotics and steroids when it was really bad (like the pain you're describing). Also, can you find some locally produced honey? Having a tablespoon or two a day really helps stave of the allergic reactions from pollen, etc.

    Hang in there and stay positive. Right now you need to feel better. You can worry about breastfeeding, etc. later down the road. Even if you only breastfeed them for first 4-6 weeks they will have some great benefits.

    As you know I am a twin and was a preemie. My mom managed to breastfeed us for 2 months and then had to switch to formula because her supply couldn't keep up with our demand. Have no worries...your babies will be healthy and happy whether they are breastfed or formula fed...and you'll be a wonderful mother to them. Have no doubt.

  3. Diva, I have yet to try the neti pot, but I have tried the local honey trick several times - it does nothing for me, presumably because the plants that I'm most allergic to (grasses and poplar trees) aren't gathered much by bees. :-(

  4. "Anyone who makes you feel like a bad mother because you are choosing to give your babies a healthy mother should be ashamed of themselves!!"
    Ditto you previous anon!

    A happy, healthy mommy is orders of magnitude more important than breast vs. bottle.

  5. I am so sorry that your allergies are so severe. I applaud you for making the best decision for your family - your health and your babies come first!

  6. I have rather severe grass allergies and was taking all kinds of prescription medications for them each year without it really helping that much...luckily this year before getting pregnant I decided to try to fix it! So I found an accupuncturist and seriously, I was able to completely stop taking everything. I had allergy induced asthma and was able to stop using my inhaler as well... Acupuncture is definitely something you can do while pregnant too..