My Breastfeeding Journey
You hear so many advocates for ‘Breast is Best,’ and while that may be true, breastfeeding is not always available. No mother should shame another on how she decides to feed her baby. We need to start letting go of breastfeeding guilt.
No one knows the whole story or why the decision not to breastfeed came about. It is a struggle for so many mothers, and the last thing they need is the extra shame from others when they are just trying to do their best. That mother most likely already carries her own breastfeeding guilt or formula feeding guilt.
Mothers are also shamed for breastfeeding too long. So, where does it end? Can we not just do what we feel is right for our own babies and let others do the same?
Sure, give your opinions and advice or experience on what you did or think, but it should stop there. Motherhood is hard enough as it is.
We should be supportive of each other not trying to tear each other down. Let’s put an end to breastfeeding guilt!
A Breastfeeding Experience
From the moment I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I hoped my body would cooperate and allow that to happen.
Did I Breastfeed?
When I had my first baby, my milk came in on time and worked out wonderfully. I was so amazed at what my body could do.
My milk fully came in before I even left the hospital. Good thing I had my nursing shirts packed in my hospital bag. It took a couple of weeks to figure out a good latch. I had to use a nipple shield for a while because it was so painful.
That’s how you know the latch isn’t right; IT HURT’S! But, I stuck with it, being told it would get better and easier. And it did! Coconut oil was great for easing the nipple pain.
We finally got the latch right, and my daughter ate like a champ. I fed on demand, which usually worked out to be every hour and a half. Plus cluster feedings early evenings sometimes.
My daughter ended up gaining back her birth weight within a week, and then by 2 months, she was already in the 90th percentile for everything.
She had those cheeks that you couldn’t wait to squish. She was a great eater.
How long did breastfeeding last?
It was time-consuming, but I was so happy to do it. The bonding time during breastfeeding is incredible. I set a goal to try and breastfeed for a whole year.
At 6 months, I started Baby Led Weaning and was still breastfeeding. I was also pumping so I could get a freezer stash going. I also would bring bottles whenever we would go out because I was uncomfortable nursing in public. More breastfeeding guilt, I was worried about how people would react to breastfeeding in public.
I was able to pump almost 30 oz on top of nursing a few times a day and a couple of times a night. It was amazing. I figured I would be able to do a whole year with no problem.
Come 9 months, and suddenly my supply took a drastic change. I upped the pumping sessions, nursed more often, threw in some power pumping, and tried all the lactation boost tips I could find.
Nothing worked. Within a couple of weeks I went from being able to pump 6-8 oz per breast at a time to barely 2 oz total. I was devastated.
Even as I write this, I’m emotional thinking about it. I felt like I let my baby down. I felt so upset that I could not provide for my child what nature intended. I was feeling some pretty intense feelings of breastfeeding guilt.
Once my freezer stash was gone, I had no choice but to supplement with formula. Enter in formula feeding guilt. Worried my baby wasn’t getting the proper nutrition. Feeling bad that I could no longer provide for her. Spending money on something that I should be able to provide for my baby.
Why did I lose my supply?
A couple of weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. Whether that had anything to do with it, I don’t know.
A decrease in your milk supply can be a sign you’re pregnant, but I also have known mothers who breastfeed throughout their pregnancy. So it’s hard to say.
The why can never really be answered. I tried to do all I could, but in the end, the right thing for my baby was to supplement with formula. I had to find a way to give up the breastfeeding guilt because it was exhausting.
In the last 2 months of the year, I fed formula and introduced different solid foods as well. But, the formula was the main source of nutrition.
I felt like I was explaining to everyone why I was feeding my baby formula. The question seemed to come up a lot. And feeling guilty about it in the first place, it felt natural to explain why.
That should not have been the case. However, I should not have felt guilty for doing what was best for my baby and me.
Once my daughter turned one, I started feeding her solid food meals and giving her whole cow milk.
My Second Breastfeeding Experience
I still felt guilty about having to formula feed during the last few months of my original goal, so for my second baby I was determined to go a full year. Again with the breastfeeding guilt, thinking that was what was normal and that was what I had to do.
Did Breastfeeding work for my second?
When my son was born, my milk came in right away again. And the first time I tried feeding him, he latched right away. I had the same goal of wanting to breastfeed him for a year.
Of course, I felt more confident as a nursing mother, but he was naturally an awesome eater. He ate fast and was super efficient for a newborn.
He loved to eat. He ate more at one sitting but less often, compared to my daughter. Looking back on it, she was more of a grazer, where he loves to eat full meals.
Funny enough this is still true today. They are almost 4 years old and 2.
Since he was not nursing as often, I knew I had to pump to keep my supply up. I started adding in pumping sessions between feedings.
At about 4 months, he started majorly fussing while on the breast. He was not into the leisurely eating and wanted it all now. It wasn’t coming out fast enough for him. I started giving him a bottle, and he loved it right away.
Once he got a bottle, he would not even attempt the breast anymore. So I went to pump exclusively and bottle feeding.
It was EXHAUSTING! I was constantly pumping, power pumping, night pumping, anything to keep up my supply. And I was still just barely getting enough to feed him as much as he wanted. He would eat over 8 oz at a time.
Thankfully, he was sleeping through the night in his crib, but I was still up pumping. I did this for almost 4 months when I couldn’t keep up anymore.
I was constantly pumping. And it was hard to even interact or play with my daughter and my son when I was just attached to a pump.
My husband kept telling me to give him formula, that it was okay. But I still felt like I was failing my son. I couldn’t believe that I was feeling so much guilt for having to formula feed once again.
Once again, though, I knew it was what was best, and I finally gave in. For the next 4 months, I gave him formula. He also had started Baby Led Weaning at 6 months.
When he turned one, I switched him to whole cow milk and solid food meals. He was more than ready for it too. He LOVES food. He will eat pretty much anything I put in front of him.
What did I learn?
Throughout my breastfeeding journey, I have learned that it doesn’t matter what other people think or say. At the end of the day, your baby needs to be fed. Breastfeeding is an experience and a journey, but it is between a mom and her baby. Everyone is different.
How they get fed should not be anyone’s business but your own. As long as your baby is happy, healthy, and loved, it doesn’t matter. Whether you can breastfeed or formula feed, there should be no guilt felt.
You will do what is best for your baby. Others should not shame you for the decisions you make.
Both my kids are happy, thriving, and incredibly loved, even though they were formula-fed for part of their lives.
I am glad I made the choices I did. At the time, it completely devastated me. That was not what I had in mind for my baby.
And now my heart goes out to any mother that feels the way I once felt. The guilt we feel as mothers is no joke, and we should not have to put that on ourselves.
It is a hard decision to make. No one should assume that the decision was taken lightly. There was a reason behind it, and most likely a struggle within the mother’s heart.
Support one another. Motherhood is hard, no matter the path we take.