I can hardly count the amount of times I’ve been left feeling ashamed and burdened to explain my breastfeeding vs. formula stance to someone (usually not even someone I’m particularly close to).
Of course breastfeeding was something I had wanted and planned to do. By wanted and planned I mean more that I was absolutely hellbent on it and did everything in my power to be prepared. I took multiple live classes, completed a three hour online class TWICE, talked to people, read up on articles, practiced the various holds with stuffed animals, etc. My whole life I imagined I’d breastfeed. My parents have embarrassing pictures of me as a three year old pretending to nurse my baby doll. It was a deep expectation and even conviction I held, until I actually had to do it.
So here’s why I quit….
From latching problems, to horribly low supply, to repeated bouts of mastitis, and a little one with food intolerances, literally everything in my breastfeeding journey was a nightmare (details for another time). The amount of anxiety and even depression that nursing caused me was ridiculous. Pumping, which included two power sessions a day and round the clock every 2 hours to get about a third of what my Lo needed, practically turned me into a nut job. I managed it for the first three months and nearly killed myself in the process until my husband, who is absolutely never demanding, did demand that I stop— stop, at least pray about it, and ask myself why I was doing this.
That was when I realized, I had been trying to do it for me. It was an expectation I had and that I felt like society had for me that I had to meet. It wasn’t an expectation I had felt God had truly placed on my heart. It wasn’t something my husband asked me to do. At this point, I wasn’t even sure if it was really about it being the best thing for my baby, who needed a special gentle formula to combat tummy trouble (which I couldn’t figure out with my diet) anyway.
Then the Breastfeeding Vs. Formula Battle took way….
Letting it go and making the decision to switch exclusively to formula yielded a freedom and healing in my life I didn’t even believe was possible postpartum. I felt like myself again and actually started to enjoy my baby and my life as a mother….
Until the comments rolled in. One of the darkest moments my heart experienced was when I posted on a Facebook group about the first time my little guy was sick. I was just seeking some friendly advice and the first comment was, “nurse, nurse, nurse” and then a long rant about how the best thing to get a little one on the mend fast is your antibodies, etc. etc. etc… which by the way may very well be great advice except that by that point my milk had long dried up and I felt so lost and inadequate, all I could do upon reading it, was cry.
My baby is now almost one and I still get asked things all the time like, “are you still nursing?,” “Is he able to go to sleep without nursing?” , “Are you making plans to ween him?” (Remember Momparison?)
All well meaning questions. All questions that inevitably cause me to revisit the horror of our 4th trimester and remember why it is I don’t have a response to them. All questions that imply there is only one possible option for me and my baby. All questions that used to make me feel like a failure… thankfully I’m well past that now.
Again before I actually had to breastfeed, I thought moms who quite were probably just lazy or didn’t care. Oh I can be really judgmental sometimes. I didn’t believe things like latching issues or low supply were real. I’m here to tell you they definitely are and more women than our society realizes are affected by them. So please, next time you want to start a well meaning conversation with a mom, I beg you not to assume she breastfeeds. She may have a dark journey behind that questions… or she may not because she’s free enough to just say no to something she didn’t really want to do. Either way you know what they say about assuming…..