Hey mama. If you are reading this because you are having a difficult time breastfeeding, I am here for you. And I can relate! My breastfeeding journey was very challenging and it gave me so much anxiety, worsened my postpartum depression, and gave me constant mom guilt. I hope that by sharing my experiences, I can help you if you are beating yourself up or losing sleep over breastfeeding.
I want you to know that you are an amazing mom. You are struggling for your baby, and you are a strong, badass woman. Breastfeeding does not come easy for some. My daughter was put on an IV within the first 16 hours of her life and remained on it until she was 6 days old because we could not get her blood sugar levels up. My inability to get her to latch led to terrible jaundice and it was a week of fear, guilt, and frustration with my body. Why could I not feed my child? Lydia would not take to my breast and it broke my heart. Like many moms in this situation, I began exclusive pumping for her and I continued to do that until she was nearly four months old. When my supply started to decrease, I felt guilt like I had never experienced.
Can we talk about mom guilt? Something that you literally cannot understand until you are a mother. When I began to produce less milk, I felt like I was failing my daughter. I was so unbelievably angry with myself and my body. Everyone had always told me what a beautiful and magical experience they had while nursing. I was told nursing was the “best way to bond with baby”. So not only could I not nurse, I feared I was somehow not connecting with my baby the way I was meant to and now I could not even make enough milk for her. I cried to my husband each day as we got closer to the inevitable; I would have to feed my daughter formula.
Let me say that I have no problem with formula feeding, I was exclusively fed formula as an infant and I would never judge a mother for how she chooses to feed her little one. But as someone who romanticized this idea of breastfeeding, to “fail” and turn to formula affected me in a way I never would have expected. I cried so much. I cried every time I prepared a bottle. I cried every time I pumped less and less milk. My husband assured me every day that there was nothing wrong with how we were feeding Lydia, but he just didn’t understand.
Each day as I pumped less and less, I fought to give myself permission to end my breastfeeding journey. and I mean, I literally had to give myself permission. I had to tell myself that it’s okay to stop. And I want you to know that as well. Really, it’s alright. I promise you, it will be okay if you need to supplement or stop breastfeeding altogether.
As we started to introduce formula, Lydia didn’t skip a beat. She gobbled it up just like she did a bottle of my milk. As the days passed, I grew less worried about the amount of breast milk she was being fed. She was so happy, and her belly was full. That is all that matters. She had nearly four months of breast milk and I think that’s pretty amazing. Looking back I am so proud of myself for making it that far.
If you fear that you are failing your baby because of difficulty breastfeeding, you are not. You are an incredible mother for doing everything you can to feed your little one. If you fear that you aren’t going to bond with baby because you aren’t nursing, please know that that is a myth. You will still connect with them when you bottle feed, when you cuddle and kiss them, and when you look into their little face and tell them how much you love them. If you fear you aren’t a good mom because you have an aversion to nursing and maybe you prefer to pump, that is so okay! Not everyone has a perfect, magical breastfeeding experience. If you fear that other moms will judge you for supplementing, for exclusive pumping, for switching entirely to formula, trust me when I say you do not need those people around you. Your friends and family should be lifting you up for creating such a beautiful little baby and being a freaking awesome mom regardless of how you choose to feed!
If you are ready to stop breastfeeding, it is okay. There will be guilt, but it will end when you see how happy your baby is to be fed, and how healthy you will be once you finally give yourself permission to let go. I feel so strongly that fed is best, and a healthy mother is more important than breastfeeding. If you are struggling with your mental health over breastfeeding, then it is time to move on. If you are in a place where you are going to keep trying but add in formula, that’s wonderful. It was the best decision I made for my daughter and I, and I hope you find peace just like I did. ❤️