It seems like all around you, from the time you find out you’re pregnant, to the time the baby is born, to every single day after…you hear it: “Breast is best!” From the overly cheerful lactation consultant in the maternity ward who tricks you into thinking that every moment spent breastfeeding will be a rainbow-and-unicorn-level magical moment…to all the blog posts you read when you’re up trying to nurse your newborn at 3:00 am.You hear it from family members, TV shows, and even the very first sentence on baby formula packaging. Breast is best….until it isn’t. Sometimes…breast isn’t actually best.
I made it a goal to breastfeed Max until at least his first birthday. And let me tell you…
It was a ROUGH start.
For starters, I didn’t even get to hold him until 7 hours after he was born via emergency C-section because of my severe pre-eclampsia and his breathing troubles. I was devastated and convinced myself that our bonding would be permanently damaged. The first thing I told the doctor when I woke up in the recovery room was, “Do not give him a bottle. I don’t want there to be nipple confusion.” I was bound and determined from the start to only breastfeed him. And we pushed through the lightning pain and constant discomfort at the beginning, and ended up doing okay.
Max did pretty good until about two months when he got thrush, which caused him to not want to latch properly (more like scream bloody murder like I was torturing him). I started exclusively pumping (which was incredibly time consuming, and tons of work)…but still I wasn’t having to supplement with formula. I was proud of myself because I was building up quite the stock in the freezer. I was convinced it would last me to his second birthday.
Around four months, Max decided he would breastfeed again, so I nursed him at home, and pumped at work. We started using my freezer stock for him when I was at work, and it wasn’t long before my chunky little guy had depleted that. Things kept getting harder from there. By seven months, I had to start supplementing. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to give my baby enough of what he needed. By eight months, there wasn’t even a question anymore…
My time was up…we had to switch to formula.
I was devastated. I wondered if I hadn’t done enough…if I could have drank more water…taken more supplements…eaten more lactation cookies….if anything would have fixed it. On the day that I finally decided to stop breastfeeding, I wrote:
“We made it 255 days. We were 110 days short of my goal, and I’ve been struggling feeling like I’m letting Max down. But while “breast is best” for babies… So is making sure they’re getting enough to eat. I’ve been searching for signs to give myself permission to stop… Literally looking everywhere from television shows to conversations with friends and family to reading ingredient labels on formula like a mad woman. It’s crazy how much guilt can come with a decision like this.”
I was also devastated because I was relieved.
I was relieved.
How could I be relieved that I wasn’t producing enough milk for my baby anymore? Well…because I really didn’t enjoy breastfeeding. I was exhausted, drained, and in pain. I was lonely at work, spending my lunches alone on my classroom floor behind my desk. I was glad I had an excuse to switch to formula because Max had just gotten his first couple of teeth, and BOY! Do those suckers hurt! I felt relieved that when people saw me feeding my baby a bottle, I could give them the acceptable excuse, “I wasn’t producing enough milk for him anymore…we HAD to switch to formula.”
It’s been a month now.
Max has been exclusively formula fed for one whole month and guess what guys…he’s still alive! Not only is he alive, but he’s thriving! He’s happy, healthy, and honestly will be walking any day now.
Switching to formula has made it easier for Bryce to step in and help with feedings. And Max’s eyes light up when he sees one of us shaking his favorite Comotomo bottle and singing “shake your milk” to the tune of “Shake Your Booty” (literally…EVERY SINGLE FEED, guys. Seriously…it’s my favorite thing now).
I don’t feel stressed anymore. I always know there is going to be enough food for him now. I see him growing. We still find new ways to bond every day. And I know that even more than breast is best…a happy, healthy, baby is best. A fed baby is best.
Breast isn’t always best.
If mom isn’t making enough milk, or even if mom doesn’t feel like breastfeeding…there is NOTHING wrong with the alternative. No woman should be made to feel guilty for her choice on how to feed her baby.