This blog doesn’t serve to diminish breastfeeding but rather to share other options out there because when it comes to our children, fed is best.
Two years ago, I gave birth to my first child, Henley. It also happened to be World Breastfeeding Week. During that first week, I struggled to breastfeed and found myself crying over breastfeeding photos shared by others in celebration. It was something I wanted to be celebrating as well, but couldn’t. So how did I get there?
A little background, my mom breastfed me and during pregnancy, I prepared only for the possibility I would breastfeed. I put blinders on as I snatched up a Boppy, lanolin, as well as nursing gowns and bras. When the day came, I strolled into that hospital as cool as can be. My contractions were close, my water broke an hour prior, and it was time for baby. What felt like a gazillion hours later there Hen was on my chest rooting and a magical golden hour it was.
Things quickly shifted. Hen wouldn’t latch and my milk was taking its sweet time. Each nurse shoved her onto my breast and told me that’s what I had to do. Each medical professional I saw advised me to stay away from pacifiers, bottles, and formula. We asked about her weight loss and if she was actually eating. The hospital reassured us again and again that all was good and to keep at breastfeeding.
With that, I left the hospital. At home, I would get into position and my husband would attempt to force Hen to latch like the nurses showed us. She cried, we cried. But, most of the time she slept. There were moments I thought, “This parenting thing isn’t so tough.”
The fourth morning, we had our first outing to the pediatrician. They asked a lot of questions, took a lot of measurements. Then, her doctor told me she’d lost 18% of her weight since birth. So not good. Her sleepiness was due to the fact she was too hungry to cry. And then the doctor hit me with it, “Don’t glorify breastfeeding so much that you don’t feed your child.” I cried, my feelings were hurt, but like who cares? My daughter was STARVING.
We got two options: do a feeding tube or give her formula with regular weight check-ins starting the next day. We went with the latter. My sweet Hen guzzled that formula. I got to work pumping. She gained the weight, opened her bright blue eyes, and it was then that I truly met my child.
At first, I blamed myself. I so wanted to be sharing a breastfeeding selfie with #WorldBreastfeedingWeek, #BreastIsBest that I almost starved my child. Then I got angry at the hospital, and then my newborn class. Then I came right back around to myself. I so wanted to breastfeed I only educated myself about that option. I only picked providers focused on that option including a pro-breastfeeding hospital and ignored all my instincts.
And despite all my plans, I became a mom that pumped at the kitchen counter while using my foot to push my daughter in her stroller. I became a mom that stayed calm and present while bottle-feeding. I became a mom that slept through 3 a.m. feedings because my husband was already on it. Even though we were making it work, there was still this nagging ache in my heart. I felt like a failure.
Of course, I did. I almost let my daughter starve when I was in possession of a free breastfeeding pump, bottles, and money for formula. What was I thinking?
I was thinking that breast is best, it’s natural, it’s bonding, and it’s hard. That’s exactly what friends, family, medical professionals, strangers told me. Even after I made the decision to exclusively pump, I was scolded for not breastfeeding, I was scolding for not trying hard enough, I was scolded for listening to her pediatrician and giving her a bottle. And when I finally shared my story, I was scolded for holding back the breastfeeding movement that had come so far.
None of those comments were helpful. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s breastfeeding journey, I’m sure it’s hard. My journey was hard too. As mothers, we should be better at supporting each other and our children. It doesn’t matter if it’s formula, breastmilk in a bottle or from a boob, what matters is that you feed your child. Fed is best.
So breastfeeding mamas, share those photos this week with your hashtags. But formula mamas and pumping mamas, if you’re like me — don’t be discouraged this week. You’ve chosen a different path and that’s okay. You’re doing what’s best for your family and what truly matters is that you’re feeding your child. Your baby being fed is best.