Happy World Breastfeeding Week, everyone!
Breastfeeding is such a huge part of motherhood, why wouldn’t we take a week and celebrate it? Shout out to all the moms there breastfeeding and kicking butt doing so!
I’m celebrating this week by taking the time to reflect on my own breastfeeding journey that lasted all of two weeks…if that. I tried. I really did. Elizabeth just wasn’t having it. She wasn’t a great latcher from day one, and it didn’t improve after leaving the hospital. Every time I would try to feed her, she couldn’t get a latch and then would get so frustrated she would be inconsolable, so I supplemented with formula. She has been supplemented with formula since she was in the hospital.
I took not being able to breastfeed really hard. Really, really hard. Every time I would try to feed Elizabeth, she and I would both wind up in tears. Elizabeth because she was hungry, me because I couldn’t even do the most basic, motherly thing of all; feed my baby. I tried everything, lactation consultants, La Leche League, suggestions from my pediatrician, nipple shields, football hold, cradle hold, crossover hold, warrior pose (just kidding)…you name it, I tried it. No luck.
I still tried to breastfeed once or twice a day, in addition to giving her formula, because I refused to throw in the towel. But, every attempt ended in frustration for both of us. I was starting hate the whole process. I didn’t feel the joy and bond that everyone said I would feel, even in those few precious moments when Elizabeth would latch. I didn’t love it. I didn’t feel like we bonded any more than we did when we were simply just spending time together. It wasn’t special for me. I didn’t feel any sense of pride in breastfeeding her. It just felt like something I knew I had to do, and something I knew I should do.
I also started to despise that pesky pump. Within a week of Elizabeth being born, I just decided that I would exclusively pump. At least she would be getting that “liquid gold” everyone told me was so important for her (side note, the term “liquid gold” bothers me. Can’t tell you why, it just does). I couldn’t even do that right! My pediatrician warned me that if I pumped, I would be doing so like crazy since I wasn’t feeding her and regulating my supply that way. Wrong. After two or three days of pumping every two to three hours, I went from being able to fill the bottle to getting maybe an ounce each time. I power pumped. I drank disgusting supply boosting shakes. I took fenugreek supplements and post natal vitamins. I choked down oatmeal (I dislike oatmeal so much) and tried supply boosting cookies. For a solid month my Pinterest suggestions all had to do with “How to Boost Your Supply in X Days.” Nothing worked. Instead of producing more than I could handle, I was now barely getting half an ounce after 30 minutes of pumping. Within the first month of Elizabeth being born, my supply vanished on it’s own. No amount of supplements or power pumping could resurrect it. That was the nail in the coffin for my breastfeeding journey. Even if I really, truly wanted to, I couldn’t physically do so anymore.
Even though it’s 2017 and “fed is best” has become the go to phrase when it comes to how we feed our children, I still don’t think we talk much about our choices not to breastfeed for the fear of the stigma it brings. Are we not concerned with our child’s health? Do we not want what is best for them? Do we like spending crazy amounts of money on formula?! Of course, the answer is yes, yes and NO! But still, “breast is best” is what we are told from the get go and what society as a whole sees as the right choice. For every wonderful, supportive friend and family member who told me that it doesn’t matter where Elizabeth got her food from, there were twice as many people shaming me and judging me for giving her formula. It’s taken some time, but I can admit, even if Elizabeth had gotten the hang of breastfeeding, I still would have gone the route of formula. It works for us. Anyone can feed her formula from a bottle and I don’t have to worry about pumping at work, especially with the travel that I do. That may sound selfish, but it’s the truth. I just didn’t find joy in the process. I might have grit my teeth and kept going because of the health benefits (and hey, free food!) but I know I would not have enjoyed it. As hard as it was for me to accept my breastfeeding plight, Elizabeth is happy, healthy and hitting or exceeding all of her developmental milestones. She’s fed. That’s all that matters.
So, keep doing you momma. Whether that be breastfeeding or formula. Whatever works and whatever gets that babies belly full and happy. You’re doing great, and your little munchkin loves you no matter how you choose to feed them.