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I Really Wanted to Breastfeed, but…

My breastfeeding story is not a fairytale...

I have very strong feelings about mamas feeding their babies.  Do you know what they are? That they feed their babies…however and wherever they choose. And that there be ample support, education, and feeding spaces for both the mom who chooses breastmilk and the one who chooses formula. 

I have tons of mom friends who exclusively breastfed, some for three months, some for three years. Others in my tribe went the exclusively formula route and some of us did both. I have friends who were personally shamed in the hospital after delivery for asking for formula. And the shame isn’t reserved for those of us who chose formula. Plenty of breastfeeding moms get their fare share too. No matter how we each chose to feed our kids, it wasn’t easy for any of us. 

How a mom chooses to feed her baby is such a personal decision. Frankly, I don’t care about her reasons. Her choice really isn’t any of my business. And it’s none of yours either. 

I only care that she is making the best choice for herself and her baby, because she’s the one that knows best, not some stranger who has never met her and probably doesn’t even have kids of her or his own. I only care that I’m here for her with empathy and support, not judgment or personal opinion. There’s plenty of that going around on social media. 

I can’t believe we are still here discussing what shouldn’t be such a controversial topic. A mom breastfeeding her baby is a beautiful, natural thing. And while we don’t need images on social media that glamorize breastfeeding, making it look easy (which it’s not by the way, it’s actually hard AF) because that can set a struggling mom up to feel like a failure, there should be no shame in a mom posting photos of one of the most primal, natural acts between a mother and her child.  

If it bothers you, then don’t look. And certainly don’t blame it on the mother. Or unfollow her account. She doesn’t need your hate. Or maybe you should bow down, because that mama stopping everything to pull over and pump in her car after a long day at work is a badass. So is the one who comes home, mixes up some formula and sits down to give her child a bottle, which he then throws up all over her. 

We need to keep sharing our stories and photos—of breastfeeding, of formula, of supplementing, even of the shame we experience, because our stories are the way all of this becomes normalized. 

Here is my breastfeeding story: It’s not a fairly tale.

When I got pregnant, I decided that I would to try breastfeeding my son when he was born. I had this vision in my head that he would come into this world, perfectly latch onto my boob, we would bond immediately, I would love every minute of breastfeeding, and the baby weight would melt off. Yeah…not so much. And thank you social media for that selling me that version. 

I also sort of blame my perfect breastfeeding fantasy on a close friend who was the champion breastfeeder with all of her children. It was never a question for her. She loved it and breastfed her first son for 17 months and her second for a year. This was going to be me too! She always made it look so easy.

My son was born via C-section late on a Tuesday night. When the nurse asked what I wanted to feed him, I of course said breastmilk. In the recovery room, he latched right away and fed for almost 30 minutes. I knew it! This was going to be easy…my breastfeeding fantasy had come true.

I was wrong. My breastfeeding fantasy lasted for those 30 minutes and then poof! It was gone. My son never latched like that again. I tried every position. I tried pumping. I called the lactation consultant every day I was in the hospital. Nothing helped, but I was still determined. I let the nurses supplement with formula when my son was in the nursery. I was okay with this because I was still trying to breastfeed. I was still going to have my breastfeeding fairy tale, even with a little formula added to the mix.

Two days after arriving home from the hospital, I would realize I suffered from the beginnings of postpartum depression. I continued to try breastfeeding my son but he always struggled to latch and would just scream and cry. So I switched to pumping because I didn’t want to be a failure. 

The truth was, I hated it. I was miserable and exhausted and anxious all the time. I could barely manage my postpartum depression induced emotions. Breastfeeding was making me feel worse. It didn’t make me feel closer to my baby. It didn’t bond us at all. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything. I needed others to be able to feed my son because I could barely get out of bed to take care of him or myself.

On my son’s fifth day of life, I decided enough was enough. I already suffered from paralyzing depression and anxiety. I didn’t need the extra frustration breastfeeding was causing me. I had to give up my perfect breastfeeding fantasy. I had to take care of myself and that meant sleeping, giving in to the anxiety, and letting others give my son a bottle of formula. I also needed to be able to start taking medication and what I needed did not mix with breastmilk. 

On that fifth day, My mom took me to meet with a lactation consultant at my son’s pediatrician’s office. When she came into the office, I didn’t ask for help. I had decided on the car ride over that I was done and my son would be raised on formula. I told her the same thing. “I’m done. Tell me how to get rid of my milk.” I was scared she would judge and try to convince me to keep breastfeeding. She didn’t. She said it was great that I decided to stop on my own terms and told me how to wean my milk supply. There was pain and my boobs were hard as rocks for two days, but then the milk stopped coming. I felt relief.

It took some convincing on the part of friends, family, and my therapist that I did the right thing choosing to exclusively formula feed. This would never have even been an issue if I didn’t feel so much pressure from outside sources to be a super breastfeeding mom. I would have just stopped…no guilt, no shame, no feeling like I failed as a mom and failed my child.

If I decided to have more children, I wouldn’t even try to breastfeed them. I would do what’s best for my baby and me and that would be putting my mental health first so I can be there to properly love and care for my child…because what I’ve learned is, there is no wrong way to feed your baby. 

Whether you choose breast milk or formula, you are still a wonderful, capable mother. Women need to support women no matter what. I support you no matter what. And keep those beautifully, honest breastfeeding pictures coming on my Instagram feed. That might not have been my journey, but I still love watching yours.

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