This is not me trying to convince you to give up on breastfeeding! If you’re looking for breastfeeding tips, though, here is mine: be kind to yourself!
UPDATE (2/9/2016): It’s been over two years since I wrote this, and as I read it over I’m floored at how guilty I felt about being unable to breastfeed. At the time, that one thing felt like some kind of world-ending failure on my part as a mother. Three years later, Darrol amazes me every day. He’s happy, healthy, and kind. He’s a pretty adventurous eater for a toddler, and I’m pretty sure I scarred him more that time I told him that I don’t like watching Daniel Tiger than during his first year, when he was exclusively bottle-fed. If you’re struggling with this now, I hope that my story is comforting to you!
I swore up and down through my whole pregnancy that I wouldn’t be a mommy blogger. That was before this squishy baby boy stole my heart. I think about him all the time, and it almost began feeling dishonest to avoid talking about the struggles and rewards of parenting this guy.
That doesn’t mean that it’s going to be all momming, all the time around here. The focus of this site is still vegan recipes, but I needed somewhere to file life updates, and life updates so often mean news about Darrol Henry.
The article below on breastfeeding tips is one that I wrote for Eat Drink Better back when I first had Darrol. A traumatic birth followed by trouble producing milk for my baby had me incredibly down, and I know that I’m not the only mom to struggle with this issue.
My hope when I wrote this and in sharing it here is that moms looking for breastfeeding tips will forgive themselves and their bodies. I am by no means advocating formula or saying that you shouldn’t try to breastfeed. All that I’m saying here is that if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you, don’t beat yourself up like I did. You can only do your best as a parent, and the story below was the first time I had to really face that.
Breast is Best, But Guilt is the Worst
“Breast is best” is ingrained in our culture, and for many new moms who aren’t able to nurse for any number of reasons, there’s a heavy weight that comes along with realizing that you’ll have to feed your child formula.
Chances are, you already know that breastfeeding is the best way to nourish an infant, and it has a slough of health and emotional benefits for both mom and baby. If breastfeeding was your plan and it gets derailed, it can be heartbreaking, and it doesn’t help that people seem to be very judgmental when you are feeding formula to your little one.
I was at Target picking up bottles of formula for my son when I heard another woman asking an employee there if they carried pumping bras. I had just seen these on a shelf nearby, so I told them where they were, and that’s when the employee looked into my basket and said, “I like it when moms breastfeed their kids. That’s the best thing to do.” I almost had a breakdown right there in the store.
When I was pregnant there was no question in my mind that I would nurse my baby. Breast milk is free, it’s healthier, and I don’t like the way the formula companies do business. Breastfeeding felt like a natural choice, and I couldn’t wait to meet this baby and nourish him through my breast milk with all of the healthy things I was eating. Unfortunately, that dream may not happen for me, and I hope that by sharing a bit of my story I can help other moms in a similar situation know that they’re not alone.
When Breastfeeding Plans go Awry
There are tons of issues that can come between a mother and breastfeeding. For me, it was an incredibly traumatic birth – which I’m not going to get into here – that culminated in a somewhat botched cesarean. During my recovery in the hospital, my baby and I were separated a lot, mostly while I was wheeled around for tests and procedures. The stress and the separation delayed my milk coming in, and in the meantime my sweet baby boy got used to the formula that the nurses were feeding him.
When we got home from the hospital, I spent the next weeks working closely with an amazing lactation consultant. I pumped every hour. We gave him lots of opportunities to nurse. I bought all kinds of tools to help me teach him to get back to the breast. We were making slow progress, but in the meantime I was getting even more stressed out, my son was stressed, and I wasn’t really getting the chance to enjoy our precious bundle of baby.
What’s Best for Your Family is Best
I haven’t completely given up on breastfeeding, but what I have finally realized is that if it doesn’t happen, then it just doesn’t happen, and people like that woman at Target can take their judgment and shove it – they have no idea what my situation is. Maybe I’ll be able to supplement my son’s formula with the small amount of milk that I pump, and maybe he’ll latch occasionally and get some breast milk that way. What’s important is that now I’m able to spend time with him and not feel so guilty about something that I can’t fully control.
We talk a lot around here about food and health, and I guess my point is thatthings aren’t always as cut and dry as we’d like them to be. Formula feeding might not have been my plan, but I think it’s important to weigh every factor and decide what’s best for you and your growing family. For me, my baby, and my husband, that stress began to outweigh the benefits of the constant pumping.
Since backing off of my pumping schedule, I’ve noticed that I don’t get as much milk when I do pump, but for me it’s worth that sacrifice to have more time with my son and have that time feel more relaxed. What’s most important to me is that my baby grows up knowing that I love him and that I will do whatever I can to keep him happy and safe, and I can do that whether I feed him from my breast or from a bottle.
I know I’m not the only new mom that’s dealt with breastfeeding challenges, and I know it’s kind of a personal topic. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share my story like this, but if I can help other moms having similar struggles feel a little bit less guilty about what they’re going through, it’s worth it to put this out there.