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Can we talk for a few minutes about breastfeeding? More specifically the pressure that is put on moms when it comes to breastfeeding? We’ve all heard the phrase that breast is best, except that’s not always the case.
It’s been a little over 3 years since we stopped feeding breast milk to our son and I did not have an easy go with it. I’m sure every “breastfeeding expert” will come along and tell me how I could have done it differently.
Let me be 100% real with the “breastfeeding experts” out there, shut up. I don’t care how I could have done it because I can’t change anything now. Furthermore, I’ll be damned if I’m shamed into not feeding my child the way others believed I should have.
The Pressure To Breastfeed Starts Immediately
We all know the super healthy benefits of our babies getting breast milk. We all know that experts now believe that breast milk is better for our small growing infants. The pressure for mothers to breastfeed though is absolutely insane.
First thing first. We have just spent 36-42 exhausting weeks pregnant. Outside of the physical changes you can see there are loads of changes that happen to your body that you can’t see.
One of the biggest changes is the hormones that run through your body for 9 months and then suddenly a whole different configuration of hormones rushes through you after giving birth. These hormones completely mess with you.
You spend several hours in labor, push your newborn baby from your hoohah, and life is grand, for like 2 seconds. Then the nurses and doctors start pushing on your stomach and adding stitches to places you desperately hoped would never need stitches.
To follow this up a nurse comes in to “teach” you how to breastfeed about 20 minutes after you just got finished with 12 hours of labor. They pull at your boobs give you completely uncomfortable positions to try to feed in and so begins the stage of feeling like a cow.
Feelings may vary from mother to mother but breastfeeding was not working for me from the beginning. However, breast is best so if I don’t breastfeed I am failing my child right? Not in the slightest.
My Breastfeeding Story
I’ve had a lot of time to review my thoughts on breastfeeding since doing it myself. If I had to do it all over again. I would have made the switch to formula pretty quickly and without hesitation.
I was having a hard time breastfeeding Lucas from the beginning. While I produced like a champ I unfortunately was producing so much that I’m pretty sure one boob weighed the same as my newborn child.
Lucas was having a hard time latching, while some feedings seemed to go really great others did not. Plus I couldn’t determine if he was getting enough food.
I started pumping after feedings so I could try to build a backup of supply. The first time I pumped after feeding I managed to pump an additional 9 oz of breast milk. This trend continued for the three days I tried to exclusively breastfeed.
The worry set in and I pulled the plug on exclusively breastfeeding and started exclusive pumping. Now I knew how much he was eating and I was pumping away several times a day. All was good, he was getting the best food and I knew how much he was getting.
Feeling Like a Cow
I am not the mother that looks at breastfeeding as some magical bonding moment between Mother and child. I had 9 months of exclusive bonding and loads of other opportunities to bond with my child. Feedings were just another way, regardless of how the feeding happened.
If you are a mom who sees breastfeeding as a way to bond with your child that’s fantastic, but it doesn’t have to be your breast the child is feeding from to bond with you. There is just as much bonding going on when you feed with a bottle.
At about the 3 month mark when my milk supply suddenly dropped. I spent two days pumping every two hours to try to increase my supply. I made lactation cookies and drank special tea. I tried everything I could to increase my supply and it wasn’t working.
Formula To The Rescue
I already felt like a complete failure because I couldn’t exclusively breastfeed and needed to pump. Now I felt like a failure because I wasn’t producing enough milk. This only made my postpartum depression worse.
My husband looked at me after two days of pumping every two hours and convinced me I was a good mom. He told me it was ok that even if we supplemented with formula our son would be fed. That was the important part.
I reluctantly agreed because I cared more about my child being fed. For several months we supplemented with formula. Around the time he turned 7 months old my breast milk completely dried up and we made the complete switch to formula and solid foods.
My Depression Eased Finally
With the complete switch to formula and stopping the insane pumping schedule my depression started to ease. I soon started to feel better about formula feeding especially as my son was thriving on it.
I’m not saying breastfeeding caused my depression. I’m saying that the pressure of feeding my child only breast milk because it was the best thing for him and not being able to do so made my depression worse.
If You Can – Do, If You Can’t – Don’t Worry
Is it really necessary to put pressure on women to breastfeed? We all know the benefits of breast milk over formula. Honestly though, be it formula or breast milk your child is still being fed.
For the moms who can and successfully breastfeed for long periods of time, you are amazing superhero women. For the moms who can’t breastfeed or pump for long periods of time, you are amazing superhero women.
To the medical professional community, I love you but please do us all a favor and just give us the facts. Tell us breast is best, pumping is great, formula is good.
For the thousands of women who can’t breastfeed it’s ok. Feeding through a bottle is still a bonding experience and your child will thrive on formula too.
For the thousands of women who have to return to work, can’t produce, or struggle with it, we need to know we are still doing a great job.
Finally, for the thousands of women who exclusively breastfeed, leave them alone. Let them do what their body intends wherever the hell they feel comfortable doing it and for however long they want to.
Child is fed and happy and that is all that matters in the end.
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