Among the many controversial — albeit important — topics mothers are subjected to, there’s one that seems to ignite both fury and frenzy like no other: breastfeeding. The decision whether or not to breastfeed is a personal one and no matter which side of the fence you’re on, everyone has an opinion. Many, many sources and studies claim that breastfeeding is very important for your baby’s health, while others say formula is just as beneficial as real deal. For some, it’s not even a question of whether they’ll go the breastfeeding route because it’s a given. But for others, like me, it was less of a formal decision and more trial and error, all leading to my choice not to breastfeed.
As a young, spirited mother in my early 20s, I did my due diligence and studied up on all the books, websites, and usual soon-to-be mom stuff. My (then) boyfriend and I had lengthy conversations and together, we made what we felt to be “non-negotiables” based on our lifestyle and beliefs. In the beginning, there was a clear-cut plan of how we would raise our first born and — until I actually gave birth — we stuck to it.
I gave birth to my daughter, Lilliana Hope, Wednesday, October 11th at 10:16 in the morning, after 3 days of hard labor. The pregnancy had been a difficult one but I didn’t know that it was only the beginning. I clearly remember the first time a nurse brought my baby girl into the room for her feeding and, while hazy and exhausted, I was excited to attempt this event so many labeled the “natural” and “motherly” thing to do.
However, I immediately noticed she wouldn’t latch on. Not only that, but it hurt. A lot.
I was assured all of this was normal and to keep trying. After visits with lactation consultants while nurses hovered to make sure I was doing it right/correcting me, I realized I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to breastfeed. That feeling devastated me.
At the time, I hadn’t yet been officially diagnosed with PPD (postpartum depression) but it would eventually come at a time when nothing I did as a new mother felt right. For the first few weeks, I continued with our original plan, but started to resent it and sometimes, avoided it completely. Instead of bonding with my new baby, I had to deal with other issues. My low milk supply, the pain of breastfeeding, and severe anxiety made it difficult to look forward to those precious times. Those feelings of “I’m not supposed to dread bonding with my baby, am I?” only worsened my PPD, sinking me farther into a hole. Eventually though, for the sake of everyone involved, we decided it best to let go of the breastfeeding dream and instead bottle feed with formula. Sometimes (as often as I could) I’d pump as well. It was freeing and like I’d betrayed my baby all at once, but in the end, things worked out.
When we discovered I was pregnant with our son, we took a different approach. I’d already suffered fertility issues and two miscarriages in between, plus my depression and anxiety had worsened. This pregnancy was way more difficult to manage. Even at the birth, doctors were in awe of the umbilical cord which had nearly ruptured in utero, meaning I would’ve bled out, killing me and my son. Because of all of this, I knew I couldn’t commit to the lifestyle of breastfeeding. I’d already been traumatized and felt strongly bonded to my son, whom we named Sullivan Matthew. He was born exactly five years after my daughter, on October 11th at 5:57 p.m; a miracle in every sense of the word. After looking into his eyes, I knew I didn’t even want to try to breastfeed. What if it didn’t work out again? I’d feel like more of a failure than I already did and couldn’t put wither of us through that stress. So, I let it go and forgave myself for trying my best, despite it not working out the way we’d hoped and planned.
My decision to stop breastfeeding wasn’t an easy one, especially when everyone told me it would work itself out (it never did for me).
Now that my kids are about to turn 10 and 5, who’s to say what’s best for you is best for me? Let’s stop mom-shaming and guilting others into doing things we think best and lend more encouragement and support — no matter their choice. My kids had a little breast milk and a lot of formula and they’re both fantastic.
I salute all those breastfeeding and bottle-feeding because the bottom line is, we’re taking care of your baby and that’s what we should focus on.