“So, are you breastfeeding this time?”
It’s a question I get often. Sometimes it’s coming from a loved one and sometimes someone I barely know poses the question.
I don’t mind answering, but I always end up wondering why people—especially those I barely know—care so much about what I feed my kid. Why is it really anyone’s business?
With each of my three kids, I’ve had very different breastfeeding experiences.
With my first child, I was determined to breastfeed him for at least one full year. Thankfully it worked out well because his allergies and sensitivities prevented him from drinking milk or soy-based formulas.
When he turned one, I was more than happy to reclaim my breasts. I was thankful that they nourished his body for a year, but I missed having them all to myself.
Two and a half years after he was born, I gave birth to my second child. This time it was a girl and I was ready to give breastfeeding my best shot. Boy was it different than the first time around. My nipples were so raw and cracked; I took painkillers just to deal. And pumping was often discouraging because I couldn’t get much to come out. When she was about 4 months old, I started supplementing. By the time she was 8 months old she was exclusively on formula.
I felt bad. I soon got over it—well, kinda.
Finally, just 4 months ago, I gave birth to my third child. Another girl. This was the toughest of all my breastfeeding experiences. I experienced low milk supply, sore nipples, trouble pumping, and lots of tears. A whole lot of tears.
Yea, this time around was pretty unpleasant, to say the least.
So I beat myself up about it. I did Google searches about breast milk versus formula. I texted my best friend for reassurance. And then, I cried some more. Especially that night I spilled 4 ounces of freshly pumped milk all over my carpet. I was a crying hot mess.
But then I made a decision. I realized that although they say breast is best, especially in those early months, it’s really not best for baby or mom when mom is falling apart. I just don’t see how breast is best when there are tears and fatigue and feelings of doubt and failure just because I just can’t manage this whole breastfeeding thing the way I did the first time around.
So I decided to shut out all of the noise and I made a bottle of formula for my daughter when she was about a month old. One bottle turned into two and the next thing I know she’s getting formula daily to supplement her diet of breast milk.
Did I feel like a failure? For a moment. Did this decision make me a failure? Not for one second.
Now my little girl is 4 months old and she is a happy, healthy baby with lots to say and tons to smile about. Some days she gets more formula than breast milk and sometimes it’s the other way around. It just depends on what my breasts produce that day.
And you know what? I am so glad about the decision I made. It took off the pressure I was putting on myself about breastfeeding and nurturing my kids. I realized that as a mom of three, I wasn’t going to be able to give all three of them my best if my days were spent obsessing about my breasts, milk production, and how I am not providing enough for my kids.
I think breast is best when moms can make it happen without jeopardizing their own mental and physical health.
If you are breastfeeding and it is going well, keep on doing your thing. I can’t sit here and tell you that it’s not great for your baby because it really is. I am proud of the time I spent breastfeeding each of my kids. And if you have given it a fair shot and it’s not working out, that’s totally fine and you are awesome for trying. And if you didn’t even try breastfeeding for personal reasons (that you should not feel obligated to share), keep doing what works for you and your child because you are awesome, too.
How you nurture your child is a personal choice, and I don’t think anyone has the right to make a mom feel bad about a choice that affects her and her child.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest (pun intended), I am going to make my daughter a bottle of formula.
Moms, what have your experiences been with feeding your infants?