When my 8-year-old was born, I really wanted to breastfeed but I just couldn’t. I tried. I really did.
I’d heard all of the benefits of breastfeeding your baby, and I wanted those things. I wanted what was best for him. But continuing to breastfeed would have meant sacrificing so much.
He was never satisfied. We suffered through two hour-long breastfeeding sessions only for him to still be hungry when they were through.
I listened to my friends’ advice and asked for a lactation consultant right away while we were in the hospital. When we got home, I called the lactation hotline for more guidance.
I tried everything they recommended. I made an appointment with another lactation consultant in the hospital’s outpatient office. They gave me a nipple shield and it helped a little.
But my baby still wasn’t satisfied.
He couldn’t latch. I had plenty of milk and I was in pain because there was no release. But I would have endured all the pain in the world if he was getting the nutrients that he needed.
The bonding experience that they say you get from breastfeeding wasn’t there. I was so stressed and resented every feeding session. I was in tears and my husband felt helpless because there was nothing he could do to help.
We Tried Everything
I finally decided to pump exclusively. Then not only did I have to pump for 30 minutes every 3 hours, but I still had to feed my baby. On top of that, I had to clean and sterilize the 50 tiny little plastic parts that the pump required to work. Oh, and we had the bottles that came in 5 different parts, which also had to be cleaned and sterilized after each feeding.
By the time I was done, it would be time for another feeding session. Plus because he wasn’t getting enough to eat, my baby didn’t nap either. As a newborn, he was only taking one or two 20 minute naps a day. I really felt like I couldn’t do anything right!
I think we lasted about 4 months. When I went back to work part-time the only place that I could pump was my boss’s office.
I worked intake at a psych hospital, and there was nowhere else private enough to go. I was constantly worried that my boss would forget I was in there and barge in. Plus I worried that the sound of the pump would bother people in the next room. Needless to say, that didn’t last long.
At my postpartum check-up, my doctor said I had inverted nipples. She asked if it was something that I’d always had, but of course, I couldn’t remember. It could be a sign of cancer, it could be from all of the pumping, or it could be something I was born with.
I had to go to a specialist and have a biopsy to rule out cancer. Everything came back clear, but I still have to go back for yearly ultrasounds.
When I became pregnant again a few years later, my husband said, “I don’t think you should put yourself through all of that stress again! Why not just feed him formula?”
“Why Not Just Feed Him Formula?”
Was he crazy? I mean, I knew I didn’t want to go through all of that again, but what would happen if he didn’t get all of those nutrients that breastmilk provides?
There are even claims that breastfeeding makes your babies smarter! How could a mom deprive her child of that opportunity!
So I started doing research and not only did I find out that my husband wasn’t breastfed, but I also found out that formula is really ok!
The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend breastfeeding as the best nutritional source for your baby. I’m not trying to tell anyone they shouldn’t do it.
But Harvard MD Claire McCarthy says we shouldn’t demoralize formula feeding. She points out that since such a strong emphasis is put on breastfeeding, it makes it seem like it has to be all or nothing. Then more moms give up trying because they think they’re failing anyway and they might as well not try.
Mom Shaming Carries On
But people still shame moms for choosing not to breastfeed. Hospitals don’t even offer formula as an option until you ask, and even then they might try to convince you to try breastfeeding.
I can’t remember how many nurses I had to tell when we were in the hospital with our 2nd that I was going to feed him formula. I think the question was asked at every feeding. And EVERY time it was like a stab in the gut to me.
I still feel guilty when I’m with my mom friends and they start talking about breastfeeding like it’s the only option.
I now know that breastfeeding is hard, and it’s probably not easy for anyone. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try or that you should give up easily.
What’s Important Is Feeding Your Baby
But what I’m saying is that it’s ok if you do give up. It’s even ok if you don’t even try. Feeding your baby formula doesn’t make you any less of a mom. It definitely doesn’t make you a bad mom. If you decide to feed your baby with formula, you are still FEEDING your baby.
Actually, according to the CDC in 2018, less than 50% of infants are exclusively breastfed through 3 months and about 25% are exclusively breastfed through 6 months. You are not alone if you decide to choose formula.
We all have to stop judging each other and start being more supportive. Everyone has the right to decide how they want to parent their children!
Being a mom is hard enough without all the judgment!
So if you have a friend who is struggling to breastfeed, please please please don’t make her feel judged. The best thing you can do is support whatever decision she makes! It’s hers to decide.
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