I had my first child almost 7 years ago. These years sure fly by. I remember the excitement that came with being pregnant for the first time. I remember the anxiety I felt when a heartbeat wasn’t detected during my first ultrasound. I remember the relief we experienced when it was detected at the next appointment. I can vividly recall the day I found out I needed to have surgery at 16 weeks to remove a growing cyst. And I can’t forget the prayers we said when that surgery was successful, our baby was unharmed, and we met him months later.
During my entire pregnancy, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my son. Based on everything I read, it was a personal decision I made. When my son was born, he had trouble latching on. The nurses at the hospital suggested formula, and as a new mom, I agreed. I figured the kid was hungry and my breasts weren’t doing the trick yet. Some argue that giving him formula wasn’t necessary, but if felt right at the time and I did it. I have no regrets.
Two days later, my milk came in, he latched on, and the rest is history. I successfully breastfed my son until his first birthday. Thankfully, producing milk wasn’t an issue and once he finally latched on, he didn’t want to let go. It was also a huge blessing because my son had multiple food allergies (including milk protein) as well as a sensitivity to soy. Cow’s milk and soy-based formulas were not an option. I was so grateful that I was able to give him what he needed for a year.
After he switched to soy milk (his sensitivity was gone by the time he turned 1), I was grateful for what my body did and also very grateful to have my breasts back. It was a long year and I was exhausted!
Two and a half years after his birth, I gave birth to an adorable little girl. I was prepared to give breastfeeding a shot again because it went pretty well the first time. I was also nervous because I was able to stay home with my son that entire first year of his life, and I knew that would not happen this time. With my daughter, I would have to return to work after 4 months. I wasn’t that thrilled about this whole “pumping at work” thing, but I knew tons of women who did it every day. It was my turn to take a stab at it.
My daughter latched on right away, so there was no formula needed those first few days of life. But whether she latched on correctly is up for debate. Although she was well-fed and growing, I was in pain! My nipples were crack and the soreness was awful. At one point I took a week-long break from breastfeeding her so my nipples could heal. I keep them moisturized and I pumped multiple times a day so she could get her milk.
After returning to work, pumping daily was fine. I didn’t love it, but that didn’t matter. My girl had what she needed and my body was supplying it. At about 6 months, I started to supplement my breastmilk with formula. I wasn’t producing enough milk for my hungry girl. By 8-9 months she was exclusively on formula and my breasts were done with producing milk.
Did I feel guilty?
I honestly did for a split second. I felt like I was coming up short. But then I came to my senses. I realized that I did my best. I realized that I didn’t love my girl any less than her brother or any less than kids who are breastfed exclusively for 1-2 years. She was fed. She was growing. And most importantly, she was happy. I was a good mom.
So what will I do with this new baby joining us in April? I will try my best to breastfeed her. But let’s be clear: I plan to show myself plenty of grace.
I am now seven years older, and the body changes in seven years. I also have two other kids to keep up with, a sick mom who depends on my for a lot, and a business I am trying run. I won’t feel guilty for one sec if I can’t breastfeed for that long. I will simply do my best, knowing that I love her just as much as I love my other children, no matter how long I breastfeed her.
And to be honest, if I wanted to feed her formula from day one, I don’t see why anyone should have the right to make me feel bad about that. As mothers, we have the right to love and nourish our children in ways that feel good to us. To feel guilt or shame because you aren’t doing exactly what everyone else seems to be doing is just ridiculous.
All moms need to ask themselves are these questions:
Do you love your child?
Do you want to see your child thrive?
Are you doing your best?
If you answered yes to those three questions, you are on track. The decision about how to feed your child is a deeply personal one, and aside from consulting with your doctor and your child’s pediatrician, no one really needs to offer up an opinion (unless you specifically ask for one, of course).
To all my breastfeeding moms, more power to you. I know it’s not always easy so I commend you for doing what you can. To my formula feeding mom, more power to you too because you are also doing your best.
And to anyone who feels like they have the right to weigh in on how moms nourish their children, please don’t. You don’t have that right. You only have the right to weigh in on how your own children are fed.
We each have our own personal stories. We are all doing the best that we can with what we have. The last thing any mom needs is for someone else to make her feel like her best isn’t good enough.
Moms, please know that you are not coming up short. Your best is enough.
When a child grows up, she won’t be concerned about whether or not she was breastfed. She will be concerned about whether or not she was loved.
That’s all that truly matters.