Why Breastfeeding Is Not High On My List of Priorities
When people asked if I planned on breastfeeding when I was pregnant with my first, my response was, “Of course!” I mean, why wouldn't I? Have the baby, introduce them to breast, and bam — free food. What mother wouldn't opt for that?
Insert reality check.
Between my little one having low blood sugar, jaundice, and a particularly difficult tongue tie, and my body apparently not receiving the memo that I had just produced a human and needed my milk to come in, the first eight weeks of my daughter's life were anything but pleasant. I agonized over the fact that I wasn't producing, to the point where I would feed my daughter formula in tears at 3 a.m.
We attempted to breastfeed at every meal, and in between, while she hung out in the swing or took a nap, I used a rented hospital-grade breast pump in an attempt to coax my supply out. I felt like my breasts were betraying me, and as a mother — particularly one who was feeling vulnerable in dealing with first-time parenthood while her husband was at war overseas — my tolerance for the judgment that comes with this certain parenting choice was quite low.
When I was in public and my daughter needed to eat, I would reluctantly pull out a bottle of formula and feed it to her, all while trying to ignore the glares and disapproving glances of those around me, huddled in a corner with my shame (a feeling I know that breastfeeding mothers share, as the public can be just as cruel and disapproving to them!).
Finally, eight weeks into my journey, after feeling like a defective dairy cow for so long and shedding far too many tears over the process, my mother sat me down and said it was detrimental to my health to let breastfeeding my daughter cause me such turmoil. She reminded me how much I had to deal with emotionally and that choosing to formula-feed did not, in any way, make me a bad mother.
It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Once I made the decision and returned the rented pump, I was actually able to enjoy my new daughter. During feedings, I was able to look into her eyes and bond with her, instead of agonizing over the fact that, once again, I had failed.
I hadn't failed. I had never failed. The very fact that I cared so much about my daughter and her well-being, as well as my sanity for her sake, proved how successful a parent I truly was.
There are benefits to breastfeeding — that fact absolutely cannot be denied — but the opposite of that is not that formula is poison. It is a viable alternative for mothers who, for whatever reason, cannot provide breast milk to their baby.
In less than four weeks, I will be holding my second baby for the first time and, like my first, my plan is to attempt breastfeeding. I am older, have researched my options, and know the support available to me in our area in regards to lactation consultants. I hope that this time around, even if the process is just as hard, it will be more successful.
However, this time, I refuse to beat myself up. I refuse to be ashamed of a parenting choice I made, especially one that was made with a great deal of thought and internal debate. I care about my children and want the absolute best for them, and that means a mother who is completely focused on their entire care, not obsessing over one aspect.
What controversial parenting choices have you made?