Why Breastfeeding Is Not High On My List of Priorities

Image via Rachel Engel

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. 

{ MORE: When Night Terrors Strike }

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. 

{ MORE: How to Gain Weight While Breastfeeding }

What controversial parenting choices have you made?

What do you think?

Why Breastfeeding Is Not High On My List of Priorities

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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  1. Nichole says:

    There is always the option to Exclusively Pump (EP). There are support groups like Facebook pages of thousands of women that do it (myself included). So the option isn’t just latch or formula. It’s not easy by any means (I’m at the 4 month point and have mini goals every month to get to). Baby only needs 4 ounces of breastmilk a day to get the antibody benefits so even if it’s a breastmilk supplementation to formula, that’s always an option. Breast pumps are free through insurance now. Just wanted to make people aware of this option too

  2. Ramona says:

    I had a difficult time breast feeding with my first three (I could never get a good, pain free latch with any of them) and managed four months with my fourth. When he was eight months I noticed he’d inherited his fathers tongue-tie (why did no doctor notice it) which explained the agony I experienced every feeding and the fact that I could feed him for forever and not drain a boob. When we had our fifth, I immediately noticed the tongue tie and after one feeding mentioned it to the lactation consultant. The lovely lady got me a nipple shield which is amazing. Even with the tongue corrected, he still has a painful latch and so I use it and feel nothing but the gentle tug I was always told I should feel.

    Just today, I found out that a labial tie can often accompany a tongue tie, contributing to breastfeeding difficulties. And they both have it!

    I’d highly recommend going in with a nipple shield if you haven’t already. It’s such a relief. And I’ll be using it as long as I have to, without concerning myself for the people telling me I should be transitioning to boob. If I can’t manage to breast feed without pain, why would I?

  3. Nicki says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have two children and was unable to breast feed with either because my milk never came in. I shed many tears and beat myself up terribly after the first and swore that I would accept what came with the second only to find myself pumping like crazy (with nothing being produced) and crying over the bottle feeding. My husband finally sat me down and told me he wanted his wife back. Our babies are well fed, well taken care of, much loved and healthy as can be. What more could we ask for? Now, number three is on the way and while I will attempt to breast feed one more time, I am prepared to supplement and to bottle feed only if necessary without tears or guilt. I would love to breast feed if it were possible but thank goodness for formula for those of us who can’t. And if you choose to never try to breast feed that should cause no guilt. It’s whatever works for you and baby. Feeding your baby should be bonding time no matter how you are feeding. Not time for guilt.

  4. Maria says:

    Same here I tried like crazy for 4 weeks and those were the most miserable weeks I had since I was not producing, I wondered why my baby cried so much when latching on well to find out it was his frustration of nothing coming out I felt horrible when finding this out as I felt that I was making him starve, i would get less than an ounce at an hour of pumping!! It seems like that is all I would do all day and get nothing instead of enjoying my little one so I to finally said forget this and stoped trying. Mind this is my 4th child, breastfeeding is tough and I applaude the ones who hang in there and succeed but some of us just don’t produce not even after lactation cookies, teas, pills and so on. nothing wrong with formula, feeding time should be bonding time not a time of frustration for both mom and baby

  5. carissa says:

    I went through the same thing! The lactation consultant refused to believe that I wasn’t producing enough, my younger sister kept saying keep trying! You’re just not trying hard enough (what?!). Finally since I was supplementing so much it was more like I was supplementing with breast milk than formula I just decided to go ahead and formula feed. I was not going to let anyone make me feel like a bad mother for feeding my child the only way I could!

  6. Amber says:

    Why do mother’s that formula feed feel the need to justify it? I formula fed my 3 kids, I choose to.

    It doesn’t matter how you feed them! They were fed and happy. Congratulations. You’re doing an AWESOME job, mommy!!!!

  7. Aubrey says:

    To all mommy’s, STOP THE JUDGING! Breastfeed if you can, formula feed if you can, just make sure that baby gets fed! Formula isn’t evil, it saves lives. I’ve run the gammut of breastfeeding issues with my 3 sons. First one was small, had a slight tounge tie, but fed well. My biggest problem was no where to pump when I couldn’t be with him. I pumped (with a manual pump) in my car, in january in South Dakota. Let me tell you, you don’t get much milk out when you are freezing your ass off. Made it 3 months before I dried up. But I was taking classes and working, and even with breastfeeding my son caught everything that came down the line. My second son, he was a piggy, and by 6 months, I couldn’t keep up and had to start supplementing. Again, working all the time, plus a 3yo. With my last son, we breastfed till he was almost 20 months, and I got the “isn’t he too old for that?” and the judgmental stares. With him, I was producing enough ( I lived on mothers milk teas, breastfeeding cookies etc) but he was a light eater, and never did take a bottle (tried 6 different kinds) So instead of letting the haters bother me, I learned to do what was right for my boys. Both breastfeeding and formula feeding worked. I have 3 healthy sons, 13, 10 and 3.

  8. Dawn says:

    I didn’t know breastfeeding was supposed to be enjoyable? Sure, great if you do find it enjoyable but if not, I don’t get why you would stop. We do it for them and not for ourselves despite popular opinion. I don’t like changing diapers or getting up in the middle of the night, does anyone? I don’t enjoy cooking at all but my kids need to eat and more nutritious foods in the better it is for them but we will still do what’s best for their well being….maybe not all the time but we generally try to keep going with it. . I just don’t get this point of view, especially if there’s the usual bumps in the road that occur with breastfeeding. I get when there is truly low supply issues and latching difficulties where a mother stops and I’m not judging mothers that can’t breastfeed, is finding it too difficult because of whatever problem or even the mother who chooses to formula feed because she simply wants to but I just don’t get where we are supposed to enjoy it comes in? There is much to do in parenting that isn’t at enjoyable (discipline, helping with homework, organizing birthday parties, getting them ready for school etc)

    • Amber says:

      I choose to formula feed my 3 kids. It was absolutely fantastic. My babies bonded with their daddy and he would even get up every so often to feed them at night.

      You don’t need to get or have to understand why someone wants or needs or chooses to formula feed.

  9. Betty says:

    I wish I would have heard more stories about moms not being able to breastfeed when I gave birth to all three of my children. I tried everything to try to increase my incredibly low supply, with no success. In fact I spent more money on supplements and lactation appointments than I spent on formula for my kids. It would be a wonderful concept for health care providers to offer up to new moms that sometimes, for whatever reason some moms just can not produce enough milk to solely provide for their children. This would have saved me a lot of emotional guilt and allowed me to truly enjoy this bonding time with my child. Even after having 3 kids, I still have not had any provider tell me, you did nothing wrong, sometimes it just doesn’t work. So thank you to all the moms out there that are speaking up about this sensitive topic.

  10. Lizzie says:

    Sad how no one tells us just how hard bf can be. If health care professionals did this and prepared us a bit better we would have higher success rates. I had a lot of issues initially but knowing breast milk is the ideal I chose to stick it out. I am so happy I never had to feed my little boy formula. It’s a shame to hear bf is not your priority when it is the best for baby.

    • Sari Hays says:

      It’d be ridiculous to make something a priority if you are physically incapable of doing that thing. It’d be like slam dunking a basketball a priority when you can’t do that. Breasfeeding isn’t possible for all moms. If you CAN breastfeed and choose to do so, then great…make it a priority. But there is no shame in formula feeding your baby, especially when your body has decided that a milk supply just isn’t going to happen. As long as a mother is providing sustenance for her little one, you can’t look down upon them.

      • Kayla says:

        The fact that so many women think they physically CANT breastfeed and that they have supply issues is the reason pro breastfeeders get SOOO upset!!! Only 3% of women physically CANT breastfeed because of “low supply”!! These uneducated moms don’t see that they don’t have “low supply” they’re babies are trying to give them their supply by cluster feeding and they instead shove a bottle of formula in the baby’s mouth and cry over NOTHING!! Do some research before you comment.

  11. Carole says:

    Same here, my baby is now 11 weeks and I went thru this trauma, not to mention he was hospitalized twice for five days each time. I am glad to know I am not the only one who is going thru this ordeal. I continue to breast feed and pump with a hospital grade pump and supplement with formula I will try to keep this up until my baby is six months. At first when I Choose to supplement with formula I felt the same shame but now I am more relax and trying to enjoy my little bundle of joy. He is healthy and that’s all that matters.

  12. Diana says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! My daughter is 2 weeks old and we’ve been having a difficult time breast feeding as well. My supply is low and just not enough to keep up with LO. I’ve never cried so much in my life, feeling so helpless and like a failure for not being able to provide for her. Feeding her formula was the last thing I wanted to do but I’m slowly accepting the fact that this is the best way I can provide for her. It is amazing to hear that others out there are struggling as well, especially when breast feeding came so easy to those around me, I can feel their judgement. So once again, thank you so, so much!

    • Kayla says:

      You should REALLY do research on supply! At this stage your baby should be nursing VERY frequently to give you your supply. you skip nursing and give your baby a bottle you are hurting your own supply. Only 3% of women have low supply and that is from very rare medical conditions! Unless your baby stops having dirty diapers then your supply is fine. You should give yourself and body more credit! Your milk works on supply/demand. Meaning if your baby is full from formula then there is no demand for breastmilk! The more you put your baby to breast the greater your supply will be! Drink plenty of water and get some healthy foods in your system and most importantly relax and enjoy baby and your breasts will take care of everything else! Good luck

      • Jessica says:

        Well aren’t you a pleasant and helpful person. Seeing you post comments here to other mothers sharing their stories, cloaking it in “helpfulness” when it’s really just pure rudeness. Don’t be that Online Mommy.

  13. Elisabeth says:

    I’m glad you posted. My LO is 5 months old…and I breastfeed. One because it was something I wAnted to do and two because I was able too. I don’t understand why MOTHERS feel the need to judge what another MOTHER chooses to do based on the needs of THEIR children. I’m not against any way…I just wish that those that are Pro-Whatever type of feeding would just be supportive of the fact that we are doing the job of taking care if our little ones. I’m glad you were able to find what worked best for you and your baby…Enjoy the fact that created a miracle…that in itself is something to be SOOO proud of 🙂

  14. Maxine says:

    When I had my baby, I planned to Breast feed, some people made it seem so easy,but it wasn’t for me, I had the same problem, low milk supply. My baby starved for the first week and I got frustrated because my husband wouldn’t let me supplement, he made me feel like giving her formula was poison, I seen a lactation consultant and she told me I had low milk supply, the baby was only getting 1/2 oz each feed and told me that I should supplement. After that visit things got better, The consultant explained to my husband that it was ok to supplement and he finally got off my back! I took fenugreek and it doubled my milk supply to about 2oz each pumping session. My baby is now 12 weeks old, I give her what I can of my milk and the rest formula, I was raised on formula and I came out ok, so I don’t know why people make women who formula feed feel so guilty about not breast feeding. Some are not blessed enough to do it natrually

  15. Shellie says:

    I was nursing my son (now 5 weeks old) and could never satisfy his appetite, and it was very painful. I would spend over an hour nursing, usually in tears, and he would sill be hungry. We finally decided to begin supplementing with formula. I now nurse my son for as long as he wants,then give him formula. I spent a lot of time crying feeling like I had failed as a mother, but I have come to terms with it because he is happy and healthy.

  16. Jen says:

    Hogwash! I have breastfed 6 babies and plan to one more. It is the most natural thing a mother can do!

    • chalize says:

      TO Jen,

      Of course breastfeeding a baby is the most natural thing. I don’t think any of the wonderful mommies on here are trying to say it’s not. That’s wonderful that you have been able to nurse all of your babies. I am sure most of us mom’s would love to do that. BUT… natural does not always mean easy. I think you may have not thought it all the way through when you posted that comment on this article. If you read through all of these mom’s stories you’ll see that most of them tried their hearts out to breastfeed and for various reasons, could not. I personally tried my heart out…. 2 lactation consultants, 2 rented pumps, countless articles, support and hundreds of shed tears later…. I realized I just did not produce enough milk for my child. She was starving, losing weight…. more than was safe, had jaundice etc. I actually was a formula fed baby as well….due to my mom not having enough milk for me. She did the same thing… let people pressure her and I ended up with severe jaundice and having to be hospitalized at 2 weeks old. SO….needless to say with my baby….supplementing and having to go to formula was what I had to do, even though that was not what I would choose. An article like this makes us moms who had to supplement or formula feed all together (due to no lack of trying) feel like we are not alone! It makes us realize other women are going through the same battles and the fact that she was ok sharing her story is brave, encouraging and helpful. For so long after my first daughter was born I felt like a failure and terrible mom when I could not breast feed. It was the worst feeling in the world at the time and I felt like I let everyone down. SO…. Comments like yours above are only going to be negative for a new mom during a time when mom’s need the opposite….to hear the most positive things! Looking back I wish I had given myself a break as a new mom instead of loosing so much joy in those early months due to guilt and feelings of failure. I realize now I did the best thing for my baby by making sure she was fed and making sure I got my confidence back as a mother! This time around…. I’ll sure be trying again….but without the guilt and pressure. If I can, great…. and if not…. well I know that I will have done my very best trying and that my daughter is going to be around a happy mom who is going to truly enjoy every precious moment with her no matter how she has to be fed!

  17. Angie says:

    I nursed my son for 8 weeks. Fed him everytime he was hungry, every hour to 3 hours. He was not gaining weight. Worked with lactation consultants. Had a beautiful latch. Had lots of tests done in me, no red flags. Took fenugreek til I smelled like it. Seank tons of water and ate extra calories. He would nurse for an hour, weighed before and after didn’t gain an ounce. I pumped 5 min. Before, nursed both sides 20 minutes, pumped 20 minutes, at the advice of lactation consultants. I never pumped more then half an ounce. I never leaked of felt let down or full. My son the first two weeks was starving, not gaining weight, because I was mortified to give him formula because of all of the hype on breast feeding is best, formula is evil. After 8 weeks I couldn’t take it anymore, I wasn’t bonding or spending quality time, it was stressed time worrying about how many ounces or was not getting. I had a healthy pregnancy and am so tired of people not talking about some women milk is not enough! My doctor’s, pediatrician, and lactation consultants said feed your baby formula!

  18. Bushka14 says:

    You know what? The same thing happened to me. I delivered my daughter a month early due to pre eclampsia and my milk never came in. I rented a breast pump for about 2 months and all I was ever able to pump was 2 ozs. My daughter was constantly hunger and losing weight. I thought I lived attached to that horrible device. I felt horrible I couldn’t produce enough for her and got some ridicule from others that I had failed to give my daughter the proper immunity, but in the end I too said enough was enough and returned the pump and moved on. It happens. I also have PCOS, so I imagine that with the pre eclampsia triggered my body not to produce. But in the end it turned out ok. My daughter now at 15 months is 23 lbs and 32 inches. I say WHATEVER!!!!!

  19. Brandi says:

    OMG!! I needed this story today! It’s nearly identical to what I’ve been through the last few days (my daughter is only 6 days old!). I didn’t realize I wasn’t producing enough milk until a couple nights ago after 4 hours of nonstop crying, 1 1/2 hours of breastfeeding in 3 hours and she still seemed hungry. Thank goodness we had some formula samples mailed to us that I didn’t toss, tried one and she was gulping it down!! Tried to pump for the first time the next day and realized I was barely producing! I was starving my little girl!! So I said screw all the lactation people and drs that make it sound like formula feeding is the ultimate sin! My daughter is hungry – she is getting formula with intermixed bottles of whatever milk I can produce each day. If and when my milk comes in enough to cut back the formula, that’s what we will do. They say bottle fed babies don’t bond as well with their moms – I think that’s a load of crud too!! I snuggle with her and appreciate the time when she is happily being bottle fed and I can see her face more than in the awkward positions trying to teach her to latch while I sit in agonizing pain because she is trying to chew my nipple off!!

    • Jessica says:

      I am typing as a nurse my 4 month old son (who just had 3 oz of formula right before that). I had no supply problems with 5 babies- nursed each one fully till they were at least 1 yr old and most till 20-24 months. My 6th baby, a boy was born no different than the rest, and seemed to latch just fine. He seemed ok until he was weighed and wasn’t gaining and he was hardly wetting/dirtying diapers in his first week. After trying everything for 6 weeks, we came to realize it was my supply that was the problem. I started supplementing and he has grown so well since then. At first I felt like a failure. I couldn’t understand why this was happening, especially since I didn’t have any other supply problems with my 5 other babies. I felt guilty each time I’d pull the bottle out, especially in public (where I also always felt being judged when I was breastfeeding too). I felt like I had to justify my actions to everyone. Soon after, my 2 yr old daughter was very sick and almost died. She spent 10 days in the PICU and it was a hard and stressful situation. I am glad that I had introduced formula by then so I was actually prepared for this in a way because my baby was not allowed in the PICU so I had to leave him with whoever was available to take care of him while I visited my daughter. I am so glad that I realize that it is not as important WHAT you feed, but THAT you feed your baby. Yes, breastmilk is the most ideal, but sometimes it isn’t feasable and we all need to be more supportive of each other. I nurse my baby as much as I can now and give him the rest in formula, and I am so glad that we have that available to us. He is healthy&happy now and we’re doing what we need to and what’s best for us.

    • kayla says:

      honey what you are describing here is called “cluster feeding”. all babies go through this several times in the first few months… i assure you your baby is not starving. when your baby goes though these cluster feeding stages just simply let them nurse as much as they want. thats the magic of BF, its a supply and demand basis. meaning the more your baby nurses today the more milk you will have tomorrow. this is a common mistake many new mothers make and why so many fail at breastfeeding. If you want to successfully breast feed then dont give up! dont offer formula in fear that your baby is starving…offer the breast every time!

      • Kayla says:

        THANK YOU!!!! Drives me CRAZY when people blame not breastfeeding on low supply!!! It doesn’t matter how expensive the pump it still can NOT tell you how much your producing! Nothing is a better pump than your baby! If someone wants to quit because they want to quit than FINE but them thinking they have to because they can’t see that their l baby is trying to up their supply makes me CRAZY!!! Ok rant over!

      • Betty says:

        Just so you know, this is not always cluster feeding. I breastfed and pumped, I did this habitually and worked with lactation consultants and it really could be that you really are starving your baby. All three of my children lost too much weight that the doctors and lactation consultants told me to stop exclusively trying to bf and supplement. I was only producuing about an oz per feeding. Clearly this is not enough. I tried my best not to beat myself up over this, feeling like I was to blame, but none the less there were many tears at my being able to be exclusive. I found for myself that I would offer the breast until they showed to me I was empty and then would supplement. I just would ask that people be cautious about the advise that you choose to give to new moms who are really trying to bf, but struggling. We all are dealing with a lot of emotions and when you are unable to produce and satisfy your child naturally, it can be a very devasting experience. Once we started supplementing and I watched my kids truly being satisfied and gulp down their bottle, I was very sad, but relieved at the same time.

  20. sweet says:

    I’m still breast feeding my 13 months old and pplanning to wean him off but donno how
    It’s not a simple thing breast feeding is painful to start as well as to end
    Now my little ones not accepting any other milk or formula
    I’m worried if I stop bf what happens to the nutrition thing…
    I think I’ll go with formula feeding the next time . May be .

  21. Alexis says:

    I get tired of people telling me all the negatives to formula feeding babies. I had a “friend” who criticized me and always sent me articles about the benefits to breast feeding and the downside to bottle feeding. This person had an easy time breast feeding, me not so much. I tried, and just like the author I was devastated when my daughter stopped. But then I realized that I was bottle fed and I turned out alright. All the things she said that made breast feeding better (breast fed babies are healthier, skinnier, and smarter than bottle fed babies) aren’t necessarily true. I am not dumb, I have never gotten sick (besides seasonal cold) and yeah I’m over weight but that’s because lazy and didn’t try to loose the baby weight after my first. I am currently 34 weeks pregnant and I’m going to try and breast feed again but if it doesn’t work…. Well then, oh well. My daughter is five and she is perfectly healthy, not overweight and damn is she smart. So thank you to the writer of this article. I’m glad that I’m not the only one who isn’t worried about breast feeding. I get tired of all the breast is best stuff and the criticism women who bottle feed get. You don’t know why a mother is or isn’t breast feeding so don’t judge.

  22. Lindsey says:

    This resonated so strongly with me. Especially the part about being ashamed to pull out a bottle in public for feedings. I’m over that now and me and my healthy 4 month old are happier. 🙂 I shared this article on FB and was amazed at how many of my friends have had the same experience. It’s time to lose the guilt. Feed your baby. Love your baby. Period.

  23. chalize says:

    cont… from below…

    supplement and eventually formula feed all together. I felt like I failed and was letting everyone around me… and most importantly my baby down. Looking back now, I realize I had the wrong viewpoint! I did the very best I could and I have a beautiful and healthy baby girl now. I refuse this time around to let any negative, judging (yet supposed well meaning) comments effect me. Being a new mom is hard enough without that…we all need positive support instead! Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us!

  24. chalize says:

    Big thank you to the writer of this article! I am any moment away from my second baby girl arriving and this is just what I needed to hear! This is very similar to what happened to me and her description of the guilt, pressure, tears and judgements matches my what I went through. Looking back I missed out on so much of the joyful part of having a newborn and small baby as I stressed with the nursing and when I did have to s

  25. Elizabeth says:

    You know the thing that bothers me the most is that if these accounts had been about men struggling with the breastfeeding/bottle feeding delimma no one would have batted an eye. They would never stare at a man feeding his child demanding to know what was in the bottle. Only smile and nod encouragingly. Why can we not give the same support to women? Because it is expected of women. Very rarely does a lady get a nod for carrying around, feeding, cleaning, or playing with her youngins. But you can bet when a man walks by doing the same the whole world stops to stare in wonder and awe. Stop the needless judgement of self, you were not made by God to be a breastfeeding machine along with every other expectation the world has of mothers, you were created to be you. Enjoy who you are, enjoy your baby. We feed and care for our children because we love them, not because it is expected of us. You can do it!!!


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