Well, like the actual label "Failure."
It's the phrase every mother dreads to hear. "Failure to thrive." At first it was "He's just not gaining weight at a rate we would like. Try increasing your caloric intake and we'll see how he does in a month." Then at the next appointment, they tell you that he's in the 3rd percentile for weight, and if he continues as he is, he'll become an outlier on the average growth chart. In a bad way. As in, not growing hardly at all.
Let me give you some background about me and my babies. I haven't had the best track record with breastfeeding. With my first and third, I quit relatively early for several different personal reasons, but with both it was my choice. With my second and fourth, it was not my choice at all. I had gone back to work and was pumping all day with my second, and also had started dieting at about 6 weeks. By 12 weeks, I was getting MAYBE 2 oz. every 5 hours. I figured it was because of pumping and dieting. I was supplementing anyway, so we just switched over completely. With my last little guy (#4) - I wanted so badly to exclusively breastfeed for the whole year. I powered through the painful nursing at the beginning, and got to a great groove - or so I thought. He seemed contented, albeit a bit sleepy, but he nursed. I had no idea how much milk I was making - I stay home so I really didn't have any reason to pump.
After the first weight check and the doctor's recommendation to eat more, I obliged with gusto. At the next appointment, I was convinced that it would be better - I mean, I had done everything she said to, and gained some weight in the process myself. But when she said those three little words - "Failure to thrive," my heart practically sank out of my chest and it took everything in me not to burst into tears right there in the office. It was like she was saying "You, Mom. You're a failure." The word was right there. "Failure." Hovering over my head the entire way home. "Failure."
I cried on and off for a few days because I knew that I wasn't enough for him. This job that my body was supposed to do, well, it just - didn't do it. I got pregnant almost too easily, carried him well, but feeding him - apparently that's where my body drew the line. And based on my track record, it would appear that my body doesn't make milk past about 12 weeks or so.
We did both formula and nursing for a while - more for me than anything. But eventually, he got tired of it, where he had to work too hard to get too little. I didn't blame him. So we switched exclusively to formula. He gained a pound and a half in less than a week. No joke. At that moment, I realized that breastfeeding is great, but it's not always what's best for a baby or family. He was growing and he was healthy, and that was absolutely all that mattered to me. Ultimately, I know I was not a "failure," but maybe - just maybe, doctors should think about changing that phrase to something a little less demoralizing. Thoughts?? I'd love to hear them!