Let’s get real about breastfeeding, shall we?
“Breast is best” is something you would never hear me say, because I honestly think what’s best for mom and baby is what’s best. And of course, that varies for each mom and each baby. And even then, THAT varies every month, growth milestone or second (or so it feels!)
Let me say this: I love my son. I love holding my son. I love feeling his skin on my skin. I am incredibly lucky to have the ability to breastfeed my son, and I have loved breastfeeding. But I’m going to normalize breastfeeding in a way that not many moms do by saying this…sometimes I HATED breastfeeding.
There are so many wonderful benefits to breastfeeding but my goodness, is it ever frustrating sometimes, too! And there’s nothing like cracked and dry nipples to start (and end) your day, right?)
The decision to “switch to formula” came for us around when son was 5 months old and it’s something I thought about and stressed over for weeks. It wasn’t a decision I just made overnight.Breastfeeding is such a miracle, how can I just give it up? Especially when there are mothers out there who would give anything to experience it.
In the beginning, I wanted nothing more than to breastfeed my baby. He was a few hours old and the nurses were trying to keep me awake long enough to feed, and to keep him focused long enough to latch. I remember worrying that my unplanned c-section would mean my milk wasn’t ready for my baby (which it wasn’t) and I remember feeling like I had already failed because he wasn’t even a day old when he had formula for the first time.
(PSA: motherhood is full of guilt, and I’m quickly realizing that there’s really no way around that.) Anyways, the first time he latched properly (about 5 or 6 days after he was born) he started to drink and I cried. I was so happy. We had done it…the big B.
In the weeks that followed, it was still a struggle. – and most of the time, we needed to use the nipple shield to get him to latch. I had thought that once he got it, it would just happen easily every single time – I was wrong. It took a lot of work and patience but when he got it, I was just as happy as in the beginning. And when he didn’t get it, or when my supply was too low and he had to have some formula – I felt the guilt. I felt the pressure.
On like this we went…feeding him every few hours and pumping every few hours to get my supply up – this was our life for the first 3 weeks. Needless to say I was exhausted, (and grew to loathe my breast pump.)
In the months that followed, breastfeeding was both my greatest happiness and my greatest annoyance. I seemed to either be at one extreme or the other. It seemed to go super well or be a total disaster, resulting in both my baby and I in tears the majority of the time. (okay, this may have been that post-partum dip in hormones…) 😉
There are times when breastfeeding has been fun and being able to have experienced that bond with my child is really incredible. But a big part of that journey has been not so incredible, and no one told me that would happen. No one warned me that there would be times I would feed my son and be crying because my nipples hurt or it was 5am and I was trying to keep myself awake.
When my son refused the breast, I would try everything from stretching my breast towards his face or leaning over him and letting him drink from me like a cow! I also have had a huge problem with keeping my milk supply since we started, (and my son has had some serious poo-related issues because of it).
When your kid goes 12+ days without pooping and you are their only source of food – you freak out. A lot.
I wish someone would have told me the WHOLE story when it comes to breastfeeding, so I’m going to tell YOU: the allure and emotional connection that breastfeeding has (or is supposed to have) can fade. Fast. For some, it might not even make an appearance.
It’s not all incredible bonding moments like in those TV commercials you got all choked up watching during your hormonal pregnancy days.
And a bigger announcement I must make to you is that IF YOU DON’T LIKE BREASTFEEDING EVERY TIME YOU DO IT, THIS DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD MOTHER. I do still catch glimpses of my love for breastfeeding – like on our first family road trip, where I got to breastfeed in some truly beautiful places. It was peaceful, and he was eating, and I loved it.
Breastfeeding is something that is truly a testament to the miracle that is the female body. Does that mean we all will enjoy every feeding? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
Does it mean we’re supposed to always look into our babies eyes when they are drinking from our breast and each time, have some profound moment of love? OH GOODNESS, NO.
Does that mean you’re less of a mother if, for some reason, you cant’ or don’t breastfeed your baby? MOMMA, THAT’S CRAZY TALK!
Half the time we are fighting with our baby to sit still, trying to keep them from being distracted, trying to keep our other breast from leaking all over us, and sometimes we’re even checking our cell phones or trying to eat without spilling it on our kid’s head.
Like I said…hardly a sentimental TV commercial.
SO, HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE?
In my case, around my baby’s 3 month birthday, he started to hate when I spoke and and any time anyone else spoke to me, he would stop drinking and start crying. So breastfeeding became a very lonely time for me, because all I could do was sit there in silence while he drank. I couldn’t even really make eye contact or establish a connection with HIM, because he would get too distracted and stop drinking.
Those emotional bonding moments were far and few between, and honestly – in their place was boredom and frustration.
Breastfeeding my son started to feel like something I HAD to do, something I really didn’t like. And because of that, I got frustrated easily. And because babies are sensitive to their mom’s moods, my son also began to get more fussy and easily annoyed while he ate.
Breastfeeding takes patience, and I was losing mine.
HOW TO MAKE A CHANGE THAT IS BEST FOR YOU:
- Stay away from Google. Try forums or talk to other moms you actually know.
When you’re a mother, Google becomes this place that you dread, because it basically is a big list of everything you’re not doing properly for/with your child. There are many different sites, many different resources that all tell you what’s “best” or “healthiest”. And while that kind of information can be useful, it’s also very damaging at 4am when you can’t do anything but read pages and pages of things you should be doing that you’re not or things you are doing that you shouldn’t be.
- Realize that it’s NOT ALL OR NOTHING. You can do both! *
This one took some time for me, and it wasn’t until I started formula that I realized…why am I trying to decide “breastfeeding OR formula feeding” when I can do both. I consulted a midwife I had during my labor and she assured me as long as baby gets on well with both formula and breast milk, then mixing it up is okay. It would take a while for my son to get used to it, but there a lots of moms who do both.
This gave me the stress-free formula feedings I wanted, and when we did decide to breastfeed I was comfortable, relaxed and happy about it.
*Before mixing your baby’s feeding routine, consider talking to a pediatrician or lactation specialist about your options for using both formula and breast milk.
- Go with the flow.
There will be times your baby will not want to drink from a bottle, and there will be times when he refuses your breast. Don’t force it – this will just leave you and baby frustrated and unhappy. Be flexible enough that you can offer breast if he is refusing a bottle, or vice versa.
In our case, once we started to substitute some of the breast feedings for formula feedings, I started to remember the times I loved breastfeeding. We did a weird mixture of formula feeds and breast milk for a long time, but now at almost 7 months, my son is starting to prefer the bottle during the day and my breast first thing in the morning (I love me some morning cuddles!)
Breast or not, bottle or not – you and your baby get to decide the rhythm. You’re a mother, yes. But you’re also a human being who is capable of frustration, anger, sadness and annoyance. And feeling any (or all) of those things in terms of breastfeeding is completely and totally allowed.
We’ve all been there, I promise.
Some nursing/breastfeeding products I love: