When I found out I was pregnant I remember telling myself all I wanted to do was breastfeed. I wanted to do this for my child. I would find a way to accomplish this goal, but of course I’d keep an open mind in case anything happened. Fast forward nine months and I give birth to this beautiful human being. He has the perfect latch the second he is born and from there I begin not only the journey of motherhood but also the journey I so desperately wanted to succeed in: the journey of breastfeeding. For hours I listened to my baby scream the first few nights, no one having previously explained just what cluster feeding was in the first few days and what it would entail. I remember looking at my newborn and asking myself what I had done, thinking that I’d never be a good parent as I was failing him already. I gave him a bottle of formula and watched my six hour long screaming baby drift into a deep sleep. I cried for hours thinking I’d starved him, failed him, and would not succeed on this journey of being what he needed for nourishment. A week after I brought him home he had his check up and was back to birth weight on breastmilk with the occasional supplementation, then two days later after a jaundice scare, he’d gained an ounce and his pediatrician told me he wasn’t gaining well and that my milk was fine in fluid but not calories. I needed to give formula only and stop breastfeeding. I cried for hours and that deep, heartbreaking feeling of being a failure crept into my mind again. I contacted a lactation consultant and after a weighted feed we realized he was just a baby that needed to be fed often. I persevered. He began gaining even more weight at a very quick pace. I then got mastitis, my baby had #reflux, then #colic, then I got thrush from the antibiotics, he had thrush also, and now a possible dairy intolerance. I’ve wanted to give up on so many occasions. I’ve cried myself to sleep on so many occasions when he wouldn’t stop crying from the pain of his relfux. I’ve called myself a failure on more than one occasion. I’ve come to realize not only that fed is best, but also that I cannot control everything as a parent. There will be days he will cry and I will not know why. There will be days I will go to bed asking myself if I could have done more. In the eight weeks that I have known this little human I have realized that what he needs for me is to be there for him. He needs to have a mommy that tries not to question her actions as much as she does because she is doing everything in her power to make sure that he is getting what he needs.
Being bipolar with a few other mental illnesses thrown in there, the toll of breastfeeding became so overwhelming at one point that all I could do was cry. I’d sit there with my child feeding in tears because it hurt so bad and I did not understand how; I’d always been told breastfeeding doesn’t hurt. There was so much pressure put on me to breastfeed from the nurses at the hospital, from society, that I did not know that I had any other choice that I would not be shamed for. I felt so shameful for having the difficulties I had had, and really that was the only shame. I should not have felt shame for doing my best to make sure my son was fed under any circumstances. I should not have felt shamed for having a hard time people do not like to admit is actually hard. Breastfeeding is hard. I’m sorry to burst the bubble but it is. It is time consuming and painful in the beginning, and even more painful if you do in fact develop what I had in the first eight weeks of doing so. I love my son, and yes I do still breastfeed, but I no longer will feel shamed if I need to supplement, or if one day I switch to formula all together. Formula is not the devil that so many want to make others feel like it is, and women should not feel shamed for choosing to formula feed. My mental illness took a backseat to what I thought was best for my son, but really looking back I feel I was being so selfish. He didn’t have a stable mommy during the period of me refusing to admit that I needed help in the feeding department. And that’s what my son needs. That is what a baby needs. He needs a stable parent more than my need to feel like an accomplished mother through breastfeeding.
So momma’s never feel ashamed of the way you choose to feed your baby. Breast, formula, supplementation; as long as baby is fed then you are doing EVERYTHING right. We need to stop tarnishing one another one our choices as mothers. This job is hard enough and we need one another to build ourselves up, not tear one another down because they didn’t do things the way you did. As long as baby is happy and healthy then a mothers job is being done correctly, and she should never feel ashamed for her choices she found best for her child.