While I was pregnant I told myself and anyone who would listen, if I can’t breastfeed – whatever. It is what it is, and I’m not going to make it an emotional burden on myself. I watched so many videos on YouTube with upset moms discussing the emotional struggle they experienced when they were unable to breastfeed their baby. I always wondered, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Side note: If you’re a mom or mom-to-be, you may have been told breast is best. And in addition to this, you may have been told you should power through it, don’t give up, it’s the best thing for your baby etc. I want to clear something up, something my family doctor recently told me: FED IS BEST. And on top this, to other moms who have successfully breast fed their babies…just because you did it, doesn’t mean it’s the best method for everyone else.
When my beautiful son, Huxley, was born, I was eager to try breastfeeding. After getting him to latch, I realized I didn’t love it. This was probably the first sign that breastfeeding wasn’t for me. I feel like there’s a mental component to it. On top of this, the nurse weighed Huxley the day before we were leaving and said he wasn’t gaining enough weight and was essentially using my breast as a pacifier. I was upset. Feelings of rejection were really strong, and everything went downhill from there. My raging hormones had me bawling to my boyfriend and my mom about how I was a failure as a mom. Of course, I wasn’t. I was just SUPER hormonal and SUPER exhausted. But when the lactation nurse came in with a bottle of formula, a feeding tube and a piece of tape, I freaked. I think a lot of us (whether you’re a mom or not) can agree that the mom society can be a judgemental one and has us fearing formula – among a thousand other things. The truth is, formula isn’t bad at all. However, I felt SO pressured into breastfeeding that I agreed with the lactation consultant’s advice on taping a tube to my nipple that would supplement formula while Huxley was feeding from my breast. And if I’m being politely honest, it was f*cking ridiculous. The only way I could leave the hospital without having to stay another night, was to painfully return at 10:00am the next morning as a c-section patient to visit the lactation consultant to see how Huxley was doing. The truth was, neither myself nor Huxley were interested in trying to make it work at this point – and I should have listened to my conscious. After renting a hospital grade Medela pump to perk up my supply, I realized pumping and bottle feeding was a good choice for me. But I only came to this decision after several nights of tears, anxiety and exhaustion from both myself and my son. Bottle feeding was never a suggested option at the hospital, which I later found incredibly annoying when I was mentally able to process everything. I tried SO hard to make breastfeeding directly from the breast work that I emotionally drained myself, and probably Huxley as well. First of all, I did deliver via c-section and I was in pain. Huxley wasn’t comfortable in the position I was comfortable with, and we were both learning the whole breastfeeding thing. At the end of the day – it wasn’t working for us. So finally, I told my boyfriend, Bryon, I want to exclusively pump and feed Huxley from the bottle. To my surprise (because for some reason, I thought he really wanted me to breastfeed from the breast) he said, that’s totally fine, and he 100% understood. The next day, I bought a Medela Freestyle Pump and I felt a lot better.
I sometimes would get judgement from breastfeeding mom’s whenever I explained I was an exclusive pumper. The snide looks and tight lips I got from when I said I was an exclusive pumper or the remarks such as, “Your baby won’t latch if you bottle feed.” The judgemental comments were so out of line and shocking. Obviously, I knew that there was a chance Huxley wouldn’t latch to my breast again – but I honestly had no intention of getting him to. I had already decided that I was going to bottle feed moving forward. What always confused me about the judgement I got toward my decision….was the judgment. My baby was, and still is, gaining weight, he’s super healthy, he is still getting breastmilk (although, if he was getting formula, that wouldn’t be an issue either!) and the number one thing: HE’S HEALTHY.
I think what moms need to understand when it comes to children that aren’t their own, is that whatever a woman decides when it comes to feeding her child is HER choice, and there was also likely an emotional experience attached to her decision. At the end of the day, fed is best. If the baby is healthy and gaining weight, why does it matter to any outsider how he or she is fed? Why do we need to put emotional and societal pressure on another woman who is already going through so much to adapt to a new lifestyle? To any mom or mom-to-be, you’re doing an awesome job. If you are formula feeding – good for you! If you are pumping and bottle feeding, it’s hard – but you got this! And to any mom who is breastfeeding, do it for as long as you feel comfortable! There should never be any pressure or judgement on a woman who is feeding her baby well.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Caitlin Melvin)