It wasn’t up for discussion with me-breastfeeding, for at least the first year, wherever necessary, was the only way to go. Although I respected those moms who decided to formula feed, in my soul, I knew they were doing it wrong, as were parents who gave up “early”.
God always has a sense of humor.
It doesn’t matter how large or small your chest is. It doesn’t matter what your diet looks like. Your genetics don’t matter, and rarely does it matter the level of your determination.
Some women just can’t do it.
I know, right? Isn’t it what we were designed for? To be the one stop shop for our babies? Everything they need, from warmth, to exactly balanced nutrition, to antibodies, to literally everything our cuties need…it’s what our bodies are designed for.
But just like infertility, there’s another side that we rarely talk about. And when I came through it, I found out I was far from the only one, even in my little circle of friends.
Breastfeeding is hard. Like, I have a hard time expressing just how hard. The first three months for any parent is a behemoth of a task. It’s not just about the choice – to breastfeed, donor feed, or to formula feed…that is the…question? Reality couldn’t be further from the truth, actually. The women who are able to accomplish it are superheroes in my mind, and those of us who can’t aren’t any less of a woman and don’t let your mind go there. Obviously your mind will go there…but pull it back out! For some women, they can “easily” do it (although the personal investment is incredible, so don’t think for a second that anyone has it ‘easy’). For others, they can do it for a few weeks or a few months, but then they suddenly can’t. Or maybe they get a cold and their supply never recovers. That’s all too common! For others, they could never make it happen, no matter how hard they tried.
I tried it all.
Power-pumping. Basically an entire diet of brewer’s yeast pills and fenugreek until I smelled so strongly of maple syrup it was hitting on embarrassing. I became a pro at hand-expression. I forced myself to take naps and have an amazing diet, while drinking enough water I thought I’d explode. Aggressive pumping schedules. I saw SIX lactation consultants in my 3.5 month journey of tirelessly trying. Like I said, I accepted no other start for a newborn other than breastmilk, and I was relentless in making it happen. Check back for my personal story, I will post the link here after I write it.
If you’re simply looking for a list of tips, I will be publishing all the notes I took during my fight, so check back here to see the link to a complete list of ways to increase supply from countless sources I found through my journey.
To tell you the truth, it’s actually what kept me out of full-fledged post-partum depression. Read more about THAT journey here, where I will soon upload that link after I publish that post.
Ladies, let me be crystal clear. No matter how your child gets happy and healthy, that is enough. You are enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH!! It took me months and several consultants and midwives telling me that I was an inspiration to determination and a supermom, making bottles in secret and feeling so ashamed, and having yet another donor milk opportunity fall through to finally wake up one day and realize: even though my child is formula fed, she is very happy and healthy…and that is more than enough.
My inability to nurse made me feel completely inadequate. The number of times someone commented “do you nurse her too?” or “have you even tried nursing?” or “you know what’s in that, right?”…or the looks I got, or felt like I was getting from my utra-self consciousness…it ripped a hole in my heart that will probably never completely heal. This one thing had the power to make me feel like the scum of mothers – with, or without, someone else’s help.
Us parents – we are so damned hard on ourselves. When outsiders see herculean efforts, we feel so incredibly lame, utter heartbreaken, and complete failure.
God has always had a sense of humor in my life. Whenever I say “nope, never”, I find myself there a few years later. Every.stinkin.time.
There is a lot more than just a choice in this matter, as there is a lot more than one aspect in all matters of parenting. Some parents adopt, others use surrogates, some have unknown genetic issues, other mothers have to be on a medication, and still others struggle with crippling postpartum depression, while others have infants that just aren’t able to do it or have an allergic reaction to it. In addition, the ability for working mothers to pump is often a huge challenge, even though American laws make provision for it, many employers do not understand the necessity, making their supply quickly plummet. Still others battle medications that decrease supply, have a surgery (or have a hard recovery from a cesarean), or they just don’t react well to pumping or supplementing, which in turn makes their supply take a quick nosedive. It’s not the simple choice publications and groups make it out to be. Sometimes, no matter our dedication or commitment, it’s just not in the cards.
Other well-meaning mothers, your own mother, friends, trusted groups…stop the bullying. I made too many shame-filled bottles in the car. Meanwhile, multiple lactation consultants outright told me I was giving it my all and then some, and couldn’t believe the lengths I went to. Present-day, I dare someone to tell me I formula fed my child through a lack of commitment to nursing. I did exactly what I could with what I had – and I know I am far from the only parent who can claim that. I believe, in our own right, most of us can. Why do we, as a society, constantly second-guess parents? Why is that considered acceptable?
Where I had to get to, and if you struggle with this issue as well is – natural nursing, bottle feeding, donor milk feeding, formula feeding…it DOES NOT make or break your child.
You are still an incredible parent. And if you mention it within your circle, I can guarantee you are far from the only one experiencing a gaping guilt hole in your heart as a parent.
With what you have to work with, you are ROCKIN’ this whole parenting thing, and you are exactly what your child needs – that’s a promise.
I would love to hear your journey. Every parent has one!