Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 1)
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 2)
Before I begin, I wanted to thank everyone for the supportive and helpful comments and advice. It really is encouraging to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice that not one person has stepped in to say, “It’s okay to formula-feed. Not breastfeeding your child does not make you a bad mother.”
Isn’t it funny the tremendous pressure and guilt-trips put on new mothers these days to breastfeed? There is a whole generation of people who were formula-fed, and they seem to be doing fine. I personally know many babies, children, and adults who were formula-fed and they are all perfectly healthy.
I know that breast is best. But at the same time, I don’t think mothers should be made to feel guilty if they choose to give their babies formula instead, nor do I believe a mother should feel forced to breastfeed if it is making her completely miserable.
Everyone, including myself, expected Claire to be a large baby. But even at 39 weeks and 4 days, she was a scrawny little thing with wrinkly skin that had not yet developed enough fat underneath.
She also tested on the borderline for jaundice. A common ailment, for sure, but one that made this new mother ultra-paranoid about providing enough nutrition for her baby.
Coming home from the hospital. Notice how huge the pacifier looks
in relation to her head. She was too small even for the carseat!
My milk did not come in until the fifth day of Claire’s life (for most women, it comes in on the third or fourth day). Until then, my body continued to produce colostrum, but it was not enough to satisfy my hungry baby. She continued to cry and wail at my breast. We really believed that we were doing the right thing by supplementing with formula, and our pediatrician agreed, considering her dropping weight and worsening jaundice.
We ended up supplementing with formula for the first ten days of Claire’s life. In the meantime, I pumped like a maniac, drank about a gallon of water a day, had J run out to buy Mother’s Milk Tea, and ate tons of foods that — according to Eastern medicine — are believed to help a new mother recover and increase her milk supply.
I continued to try to breastfeed, but Claire would have none of it. She was a lazy, inefficient suckler. And by this point I was too tired to keep trying. We decided to focus on bringing up my milk supply first, and feed her pumped milk from a bottle in the meantime.
Because I was pumping every 2-3 hours for at least 30 minutes each session, I was exhausted whenever I was not pumping. My nipples began to protest at their new roles by cracking, bleeding, and developing painful blisters that reappeared with each pumping session. I rubbed breastmilk on them (which is supposed to have healing properties), slathered on Lansinoh Lanolin, tried saline soaks and warm compresses without much relief. More than once I had to throw away pumped breastmilk from the blood that had seeped into them…and all mothers should know how difficult it is to throw away pumped milk, especially during these early stages, as it seems as precious as liquid gold.
I cried after each pumping session because my breasts and nipples hurt so much. I didn’t want anything touching them and remained topless when I was not pumping, which meant that I was confined to my bedroom as my in-laws came over every day to help with the new baby. I couldn’t even hold my own baby because my nipples hurt so much.
I felt like a milking machine. The fact that I hardly saw my baby during the day did not help matters much. I was glad that my in-laws came over to help every day, but I also resented them for taking away my baby and my chance to bond with her.
During the nights, I would try my best to take care of my baby, but still continued to feel disconnected to her. I have never been the type to coo over babies, but I figured that this would change when I have my own kids. I was wrong. I felt silly talking or singing to her. If she didn’t need to be changed, fed, or consoled, I left her in her bassinet. Instead I roamed the house like a topless zombie, stressing over the messy state of my home and even attempted to clean (but usually ended up getting caught and reprimanded by J for not resting).
It would be the tenth day of Claire’s life when my own mother dropped by for a visit that I saw the light…
To be continued…
Read the rest of the series:
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 4)
Motherhood: The Most Difficult Journey Yet (Part 5)
Thanks for posting all of these! I'm not ready to have babies yet, but I find there's SO much pressure to breast feed. I'm pre-emptively worried about PPD and not being able to breast feed. I'm sure Claire will be fine with or without breastmilk. My cousin didn't breastfeed and her girls (2 & 3 now) are totally fine (and pretty smart too if I do say so). Anyway, thanks for always being so candid with us! I appreciate it!
Ok, I'll say it. You're not a bad mom if you choose to formula feed. Wasn't the feminist revolution all about giving women the option to do what they want with their bodies? There's some health benefits to breast feeding but who can say what are the physical or psychological reasons that any mother might decide outweigh those benefits? It's not my place to judge.
On the other hand, most people think breast feeding gets much easier and I found it to be a very satisfying and intimate part of motherhood and worth the initial struggle. So I guess I'd recommend not giving up too quickly, but again, I'm not in your shoes.
First time commenter here. I have two babies, a 21 month old and a 3 month old. I really just want to give you a pep talk. I know some people have it easier, but there's no doubt in my mind, for me, that the first three (and sometimes up to six) months of an infants life are extremely difficult. Everyone expects you to be blissed out, but the reality is much more complicated. One's body is a wreck. The sleep deprivation is a killer. The hormones are plummeting. The baby won't stop crying. I talk to a lot of new mothers (it's been my mission since having children to talk to new moms about the reality rather than the expectation) and I think your feelings are pretty normal. It took until my daughter was about six months before I felt like I had a relationship with her. I'm not a coo-er either. I simply talk to her like a normal person. Same with my son. Right now I'm going through the new-mother trauma all over again, but it's even worse because my babies are close together and not on the same schedule, so I can't nap.
It gets better, but it takes a while to get better. And meanwhile, it is really important to talk to a professional and find a support network. Where I live there's a special new mom group that meets each week with either a development specialist or a pediatrician, but it's really the feedback from the other moms that makes it worthwhile and like we're all going through the hardest job of our lives together.
As for the breastfeeding though, I hope if you have a second baby, you'll try again. Only because it sounded like you originally really WANTED to breastfeed. There's nothing in the world wrong with formula, but it sounds as if you were in a position where you were quick to blame yourself. A lot of what you went through is quite normal. Babies DO drop weight for awhile, up to 10%, and are expected to recover their birth weight at the two week mark (I understand the fear about this issue because my first weighed 5 pounds 9 ounces); milk CAN take up to a week to come in. My baby wailed too at the breast, but I learned (with a lot of help from lactation consultants) that both the baby and the mom have to learn how to breastfeed; it's a two-person learning process that can take both work and time. Please don't take this as judgmental, I'm only offering this opinion because I've seen what you went through happen to many women, and if you WANT to breastfeed next time, give it another shot.
Lurker from WB, de-lurking to say, THANK YOU for your honesty in these posts. I am bookmarking them to read after I give birth to my baby in 6 months. I'm hoping your last line about your mother coming and seeing the light means that things got better for you!
It probably doesn't mean a lot coming from a non-mother, but it IS ok to formula feed! My brother and I are formula fed babies (my mom tried for a week with both of us and couldn't do it) and we are perfectly healthy!
Lastly, I love the picture with the pacifier…she is so tiny!
It's okay to formula-feed. Not breastfeeding your child does not make you a bad mother.
There! It's been said.
I feel you on the bonding front. I didn't talk to my baby when she was in utero. She was born (15 days past my due date, after an induction, 24 hours of laboring w/o an epidural, and another 12 with an epidural) via C-section. I got teary-eyed when I hear her first cry, but I do think that the lack of hormone release from the birth hindered my bonding with her.
I took good care of her, nursed (I was lucky- she took to the boob right away), I cuddled and held her plenty- however I didn't feel the bond- the all-encompassing love. By the time she was a month old and starting to smile, things got better rapidly. Having her act more like a person and less like a loud, messy piece of furniture helped me bond with her.
Honestly- I think (at least for me) bonding with my daughter was kind of like developing a habit. Have you ever heard it said that it takes 30 days to make a new behavior a habit? Well, I think it's true. Her first month of life I kind of always felt out of sorts and a little uncomfortable. When I went to bed at night, I didn't feel relief, I felt kind of anxious knowing she'd be crying soon. However, by the time we hit the 4 to 5 week mark, that discomfort and unease dissipated. I was accustomed to my new life. I had developed the habit of mothering my child.
As she became more like a person and I became more like a mother, I realized, one day, that I had bonded with her! I loved her, I'd kill for her, I'd give my life for her kind of love.
So, if you don't feel that yet, hang in there. Get in the habit of being a mom. It will happen.
And as for the breast feeding- I do mean what I said above. Breastfed kids do just fine. If you do think you want to try to breast feed a FUTURE child, here's my advice: Take a class ahead of time- J MUST go with you- and keep your expectations low.
Two of my cousins had a REALLY hard time breast feeding (one cousin managed to breast feed her first child, but her second just WOULD NOT BREASTFEED- so it's not all the mom's fault here!). They both warned me ahead of time. For me, that wasn't discouraging, it was useful. I kept my expectations for how things would go REALLY low. My husband and I took a breastfeeding class together. We learned what to expect, saw demonstrations with a disembodied demo-boob, etc. When my daughter was born and I finally got a chance to nurse her, I was so out of it that my husband and the nurse basically did everything for me. (That's why it's important for J to go with you!) Thankfully, I was lucky, and my almost 10 pound- 2 weeks overdue baby latched right on. I was also lucky that my nipples didn't get raw and chapped- as happens to most women. So if you want to try again- keep your expectations- of both and your baby- low. It's a new skill that both of you have to learn and it will take time.
Congrats on Claire. You'll find your groove. You will continue to be a great mom!
@MP and @Courtney — I actually have not given up breastfeeding…I'm still trying! I'm sorry if I gave you that impression.
this is heartbreaking to read. i truly feel for you. i think if i was in that much pain, i would have given up already. then again, i'm not in that situation yet. looking forward to the next installment when things seem to be looking up.
I always feel like it's inappropriate for me to tell individuals that breastfeeding isn't the be all-end all definition of being a good mother, or doing all you can for your child, because after all, I don't have children, what could I possibly know?
But the truth of the matter is that breast feeding ISN'T what is most important. Sure, it has benefits, but what is most important is for a child to be raised in a loving home with a parent who truly wants him or her. Okay, so maybe your child will get a few more colds early on in life because she was bottle fed. I'm pretty sure that's not the definition of being a bad parent — she has a safe home, parents who love her, parents who will help nurture her to reach the best of her potential… those are all far more important than the breast/bottle debate.
My mother was unable to breastfeed. She took all the same crap, people saying I would be so sickly, that I wouldn't be as intelligent, etc… not true! Not one of my current health problems could possibly have been cured or lessened by breast milk. I was always at the top of my class.
Stop beating yourself up over it… Claire will thrive and flourish because of your love, not because of what she consumed the first year of her life!
Keep up the good work. You are doing everything you can! Please don't feel bad for using formula. Your baby needs to eat.
My personal experience with my friend's exclusively formula-fed babies is that they are sicker and all have food allergies. My own family has a series of health issues (cancer, digestive disease). That is why I am so determined to breastfeed. My son is now 15 months and we're still going. I've often bungled things (i.e. letting my supply get too low) and have had to suppliment with formula or goat milk. But all of that hard work and determination pays off. My husband is my best cheerleader. It sounds like you have great cheerleaders too. But best of all we have a really healthy babies!
If I read that your milk supply is low and you still aren't supplementing, it would immediately raise a red flag. I would have to report you to child protective services or something!! Jenny :*( You're such a great blogger and not to sound like a pervert or anything but my nipples hurt for you!! :*( this is some scary S(*^$!(& but I thank you for your honesty. NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU THESE THINGS!!!
i have to agree with the pp that said bfing is hard but worth it if you can continue to try..BFing came easy to me as far as A latching but i truly HATED it b/c it hurt,i never slept (she ate every 1 and a half the first few weeks home) and like you stated i felt like a milk machine..I started to resent Jin b/c i felt like he couldn't truly help with the baby..I stuck w/it b/c it was very important to my husband that our baby be bfed … i have come to thank him for giving me that extra push when i wanted to throw in the towel…I cherish BFing now and actually enjoy my time alone with A! .I wanted to let you know that you do NOT have to throw out blood stained milk..It broke my heart to read that you did..(my Mom threw away milk once and i flipped on her b/c she has no idea how hard it is to pump)..It is perfectly fine for Claire to eat and even to freeze..I read it n an article somewhere after A was born
With that said, FF is perfectly fine too! I was FF as well as my siblings…Many of my friends FF their children are just fine..It doesn't make you less of a women or a Mother..The only person who can make you feel that way is YOU so don't do it! You are like every other mother in this world trying to do the best you can for your child..parenting is a learning experience and we don't have it all figured out just b/c we are now parents
I have to tell you how relieved i am to hear you say you resented your ILs when they came..I had/have similar experiences with that but being that we are family i will leave it at that and not go into detail…I am just glad i am not the ONLY one!
When A came home i felt like i was in a fog for the first 2 months! I went into survival mode but like many have said it does get soo much easier when they get more independent! (although i would be lying if i didn't admit that i really miss my tiny baby from time to time)
I'll second the others who have already said it, but it's OK to formula feed. There's NOTHING wrong with it, except the intense outside, social pressure that you might receive because you are doing so.
I didn't say it yesterday because I was waiting to see how it all turned out for you. Sorry!
I have two kids – my daughter is 8 years old and my newborn son turns 3 months next week. I can speak from both sides of this argument, I think, as my daughter was exclusively formula-fed and my son has been breastfed. I know, I know, I did it backwards…you're supposed to BF the first one and FF the second one…oh well. I've never been one to follow tradition!
With my daughter, I literally had NO desire to BF. I know that sounds wrong to say, and I was beaten up on every front by family, friends and strangers who disagreed with my decision. I took their words to heart, and some of them truly hurt me, but I stuck to my guns. I didn't want to BF, and that was it. My daughter turned out fine. It took about a month to figure out which formula worked best for her, but once that was done, she was and IS a healthy, happy child. I've known several family members and friends' kids who have had more health problems in the past 8 years than my daughter has had, so there's nothing wrong with formula feeding. Nothing at all.
With my son, I wondered if I had made the decision not to BF too hastily and worried that I would regret not trying it. I have been lucky enough to be able to BF him up until about two weeks ago. He's decided to wean himself (those bottles are SO much easier!) now that he's in day care and I'm back at work full time and I'm SO sad. But I know that it's ok to move him to formula since I had such a good experience with it before. I'm still pumping right now, but my supply decreases daily and pretty soon (within the week) I'm not sure that there will be enough to still pump. I've worried alot…"have I done enough to keep this up?"…"he's screaming at my breast, should I give him a bottle?"…the list could go on and on, and this isn't what you really want to hear anyway.
I can't wait to read the rest of your story…it sounds like it's taking a turn for the positive…and I hope that it has for your sake. Claire's health is what matters most…not if it comes in the form of breastmilk or formula.
I LOVE your posts and your honesty about those first few days at home with the baby. Most mothers either forget or just gloss over it. This is all helping me mentally prepare for things to come!
My son is a healthy 13 year old boy and he only breastfed a couple times. He didn't like it, it hurt me like hell and it was too much work for him. I certainly felt the stigma (they make you wear a different colored gown in the hospital if you aren't breastfeeding), but my baby was healthy, didn't get sick very often, and no worse for wear. And now he's almost as tall as I am.
I'm not a mother but the notion that a formula fed baby is inferior has always infuriated me!! I was formula fed as a baby and I seemed to turn out okay. I had good grades in school, run my own business and haven't committed any felonies. My parents had to do what they had to when they found out I was allergic to milk (breastmilk too I guess). Ironically my brother was breastfed and he's the one that ended up with all the issues of the two of us.
My SIL was the same way as you – her milk never completely came in and when it did it wasn't enough to sustain the baby. She started supplementing with formula and then finally threw in the towel and said that it wasn't meant to be. She tried for about 2 weeks if I remember but it never got better (and her breasts got to be a mess too). Her daughter is a year and a half and is a total cutie and healthy as can be!
It'll all work out and I"m sure that when/if my time comes for kiddos that I'll be religiously reading your posts 🙂
Thank you for being honest. As someone who wants a child soon, and also from someone that knows right now that I won't be breastfeeding, I will tell you that formula is a-ok. To each their own and to what works for them.
My mom stopped BF'ing me when I was just a few weeks old. From her own mouth she has told me similar stories to what I read here and how she had to make a choice. Does she continue to try to make something work and worry, fret, lose sleep, get cranky about it, or does she feed me formula and everyone is happier? She chose the latter.
While I'm sure that I am in the minority here, and honestly I'm ok with that, I don't think that stresses yourself and the baby out just to breasfeed is worth it. Being a new mom is tough enough and I can't imagine spending 30 minutes ever 2 hours trying something that just wasn't working for me or the baby.
That being said, I applaud you for continuing to try something that you feel is best for you!
As for the IL, tell them to shove it. I have no love lost with mine and I would tell them just where they could go if they were making me mad. As for our own mommy's…aren't they sometimes GREAT?!?!?
My sister tried to breast feed her first born because of all the pressures you've experienced and became stressed that it was so difficult for her. This not only stressed her but little Mark too who wouldn't sleep and seemed upset a lot.
On her second child she didn't even try. Aoife slept the night right from the start, rarely cried and is healthy as a horse.
The kids are now 5 and 2 respectively and my sister advised me when I have children if I'm in any doubt to bottle feed.
Do what feels right. You're in charge now, not the nurses, the so-called gurus or your mother.
The boss is you.
Good luck and congratulations.
I don't have kids, so I have NO idea what all of this is really like. I'm hoping that when we do have kids that breast feeding works out for us, but honestly, I'm hoping it works largely for selfish reasons. Yes, I know that breast is best and that the body makes milk specifically for the child at different stages. But I also know that it's a great way to lose weight (you can burn up to 500 calories a day breastfeeding, from what I hear) and it's cheaper than formula. Those are the two things that make me think "ohhhhh yeah that's good stuff." But if it isn't happening for you, it's not happening. I think it's AWESOME that you're trying though. A friend of mine decided that breast feeding "just wasn't going to work for her" after her baby boy was only a day or two old, so she just stopped. She's a SAHM so it's not like it didn't work with her work schedule… and she really could have benefited from the calorie loss (she was quite a big gal before her son was born). Maybe that sounds totally and completely mean, but I WAS judgy and I did think, "Seriously? You won't try for more than a day?" It was strange to me.
Kudos to you for trying though; from what I hear it's a really emotionally difficult thing to deal with, on TOP of just having a baby and your body going haywire. Fingers crossed for you and prayers lifted up.
Oh I totally forgot to say this. The other reason I'm for at least trying breastfeeding is that my mom only breast fed me for 3 months and then I was fussy or something, I forgot, and she supplemented with formula. After that I didn't want the breast, just the bottle, and her milk dried up in three days. My brother was breast fed until he was at least a year and a half, and I have TERRIBLE allergies (including food allergies) and my brother only has occasional problems with seasonal allergies, and they don't require meds. I really do believe (even if it's not all scientific) that I wouldn't have as many allergy problems if I was breast fed longer; technically it was my own fault though for not loving the boobies.
You are definitely not a bad mother if you decide to formula feed. I got the same run-around from people about breastfeeding when I was pregnant with my son. But when he was born, one: he wouldn't latch on very well and when he did, it was only for a couple minutes and two: I just felt really uncomfortable having someone using me as a food source, it just wasn't me. Then when my son was just 5 days old, I came down with a 103 degree temperature and could barely move. My dad took me to the hospital where I was diagnosed with double mastitis (an infection in the milk ducts). So after a 2 day hospital stay full of separation anxiety, guilt, and fear and after talking to the 3rd lactation specialist about technique (and failing every time), I decided to go to formula. The formulas these days are more healthy than ever and with the addition of DHA and AHA, it's almost breast milk anyway. My son just turned 6 and he's totally fine. And now I am pregnant with a girl and I don't have any qualms saying that I will not be breastfeeding for many reasons (mostly I'm terrified of getting that sick again), so I've decided to formula feed her as well. I don't feel guilty at all, and I could care less what other people say about breastfeeding because I have a healthy, smart and loving son who I feel just as bonded with as a breastfed baby would be with his mother.
Remember the most important things are a happy and healthy mama and baby, so whatever you need to do that works best for you and your family. If it gives you further peace of mind, my husband was formula fed and I was breastfed and he's healthier than I am.
I hope your mom fixes everything. 🙂 Mommys can do that.
I don't think there's anything wrong with going straight for the formula either. And if your baby's hungry, definitely supplement. My mom never breastfed. She was given injections to dry up her milk soon after giving birth. At the time giving your babies formula was the thing to do. If you loved your child (and your perky boobs) you would go spend your money and run out and buy formula. American formula (we lived in Taiwan at the time). And how times have changed…
I'm glad women are encouraged to breastfeed because of benefits to both mother and child. However, the pressure to do so is way too intense. You're a great mother for even trying as hard as you have — that last part was quoted from a pep talk I got during a nervous breakdown 3 weeks into motherhood and sucky bf-ing.
I weaned when my son was 3 months old. but for his life so far he was already on half formula and half bm. i didn't know that when you froze your milk it made it taste funny (something about lipase…) he ended up hating breastmilk, so i just gave him formula from that time on.
formula babies tend to be bigger…so he was pretty huge till he started walking.
i saw some previous commenters saying formula = food allergies. in our case, that hasn't been true. he can eat pretty much anything. he did get a rash w/ peanut butter so i'm watching nuts for now. we also don't have many cases of food allergies in our family.
he did get sick a whole lot his first year, but i blame it on daycare. and i got sick every time he got sick. but i guess i was a formula baby too! ha…)
good luck. have a beer. guiness and hoppy beers up supplyl!)
Nothing is wrong with formula-feeding – it's the route we chose. I wish I would have tried harder at breastfeeding, but good lord – there are far more important things to worry about. And actually (I'm going to get backlash for this) if you actually read the studies yourselves (especially most recent ones) – breastfeeding really isn't… that big of a deal. I mean, it varies in different studies on whether or not it even helps allergies & asthma, etc. People act like it's some act of God and really it's just like… a natural process that you can choose to do or not to do (or sometimes can't do).
The real act of God is raising a child to be happy, healthy, and a well-rounded little person.
Wow. Life stinks sometimes. There you were, desperate for milk. There I was 3 months ago, having just delivered a stillborn 21 week old baby and exploding with milk. Both sides are horrible. My breasts were about the size of cannonballs and the pressure and heat inside was so painful that I would rather have been dead than alive, and not just because I wanted to meet my baby. I was trying not to pump because I needed the milk to go away sooner rather than later, and you were pumping so much your nipples were bleeding.
Long time lurker, first time commenting. Congratulations on growing and getting out that adorable little human! Well done also on your honesty and willingness to share the difficult and dark stuff that goes with procreating.
My milk didn't come in for 10 days after the birth of my first son. The realities/indignity of motherhood kicked in quite sharply at hospital when I was in the nursery with a nurse on each breast trying to hand expressing any tiny bit of milk they could out of me and into syringes that would be then fed to my hungry son. WTF didn't quite cover it. I pumped, cup fed and supplemented and all that for a while and eventually we both got the hang of it but I wasn't gonna torture him or me indefinitely. I always used to think of babies in the world with nothing to eat and that put the whole breast versus bottle thing into a little perceptive.
Basically I have found motherhood to be the most boring, mundane, fun, exhilarating thing I have ever done. The early years are brutal no two ways about it. My godson is about to turn 1 and his mum, my best friend, was contemplating his birthday party. She read somewhere that if you want the child to enjoy it you should make it small and manageable. I said "Screw that! The kid is not gonna remember it good or bad. The first birthday is about you! Celebrate surviving the first year…you made it out relatively unscathed…he's older and you're a bit wiser. Invite who ever you like and get has many high fives as you can."
I try not to give advice to new parents, unless they ask for it but one thing I do say is say burn every pregnancy and child rearing book EXCEPT
Up the Duff (http://www.penguin.com.au/uptheduff/default.cfm) and
Kiddy Wrangling (http://www.penguin.com.au/kidwrangling/)
by Kaz Cooke
Baby Love (http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Love-Everything-about-Babys/dp/0871319853) and
The Mighty Toddler (http://www.amazon.com/Mighty-Toddler-Essential-Guide-Years/dp/0871319861)
by Robyn Baker
These books are amazingly non judgemental, FUNNY, truthful and useful. They're Australian so specific info on services won't be relevant to anyone outside Oz but don't let that put you off as the main content is so relevant and so helpful that on more that one occasion I have kissed and hugged these books with thanks and love.
Didn't mean to go on so much. Just take things one poopy/sleepy deprived/bewildering day at a time.
First time commenter and I've taken a course on life cycle nutrition since I was a student studying nutrition and food studies. I've learned that every baby is different and some don't take to the nipple. As well, not every women can breastfeed, which isn't your fault. Different factors come into play and it definitely doesn't make you a bad mother. Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt or be uncomfortable, and if it is, it's best to stop and find an alternative that works for you. As another commenter said, do what's best for you and it seems like you're trying your best, which nobody can/should fault you for.
I reckon that – short of abuse and neglect, of course – there are very few "wrong" things to do as a mama. Whose business is it where you choose to have your baby, what meds you choose to have, or whether you breastfeed/use disposable diapers/put the crib in your room/etc. etc. etc.? I'd do it one way, and you'd do it another. Who cares, so long as both love their child and do everything in their power to nurture that child?
And for what it's worth – I was a formula baby all the way, and it didn't hurt me one bit. I'd want to TRY to breastfeed my own, but if it wasn't working out I wouldn't allow others to make me feel guilty about that, and I wouldn't worry about ill effects.
I don't know if you have inverted nipples like I do but it's a common Asian thing (here's to sharing too much information on the internet with random people-Hi random people!). The only thing that let me breastfeed my daughter was the Medela nipple shields. It gave her enough of a nipple to latch on until we both got the hang of it and my nipples stopped hiding. I wish I had found them when I had my son because I pumped for 11 months straight!
Some advice from a mom who has pumped extensively!
1) Lanolin makes your nipples hurt MORE while pumping. Use Nipple Cream by Motherlove instead. http://www.amazon.com/Motherlove-Herbal-Company-1001-Nipple/dp/B0007CQ726
2) The horns that come with the pumping machines are ridiculous. They make you sit upright which is very uncomfortable. Pumpin Pal shields are much better! http://www.pumpinpal.com/
3) For hands free pumping, use this handy dandy bra http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Expression-Bustier-Hands-free-Pumping/dp/B000Y1RQ0C
Well I'm glad you haven't given up! Keep trying. We had to give our daughter supplemental formula in the hospital for low blood sugar and we were still able to breast feed successfully (9 months and going strong). And since I've been back to work (from the time she was 3 months old) she's been getting the bottle while I'm at working and nursing when I'm home.
Since the pumps aren't as efficient as the baby at getting the milk from the breast, we keep those single shot packs of formula on hand and supplement as needed when I haven't pumped enough or she's particularly hungry.
In the hospital, she took the bottle with no problem. Then after a few months of only breast, it was a huge ordeal to get her to take the bottle again. Since then, though, she's gone back and forth with no problem.
It is possible to do both. Try really hard to stick with it until you know for sure that it's time to throw in the towel. At least that way, you will know you tried!
Have you contacted a lactation consultant? They do home visits. Remember that both you and Claire are learning!