Awhile back I posted about the comparison game that all of us moms tend to play. It’s so easy to get caught in the trap of comparing ourselves to each other rather than embracing who we are as unique and individual mothers. Today I want to share a personal experience that caused me to really have to confront this topic head on. Today I want to share about my experience with breast feeding.
I only breastfed my daughter for 2 months. There, I said it. I can hear the thoughts running through your heads now…
“Doesn’t she know that breast milk is best for her baby?”
“Did she even really try?”
“She must have given up way too quickly.”
Before you make these assumptions (as we are all prone to do) let me share with you my story.
When I was pregnant with Nora I fully intended to breastfeed. There was never any doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be able to or that I would struggle with supply. I just assumed that all would go smoothly in that department. Boy was I wrong.
I had a very smooth pregnancy and amazing natural delivery, and as I adjusted to life as a mom I began to try and figure out this whole breastfeeding thing. Immediately Nora had trouble latching properly due to my size (I’ve always had a larger bust size, but as all you mommas know, they were MUCH larger after giving birth!). The nurses worked with myself and Nora trying to get her to latch but we were really struggling. By the time we left the hospital she had lost some weight, but no one was too concerned yet as this is common.
My pediatrics office also had lactation consultants in their office, so I saw her a few times and she introduced me to the nipple shield. This helped Nora to latch, but what I didn’t know was that it also can decrease supply because of lack of stimulation. They also asked me to start supplementing her with formula because she had dropped even more weight. I really hadn’t done much research when it came to breastfeeding because I assumed all would go smoothly. I really didn’t know what options were out there so I just listened to and trusted my doctors.
Well by the end of week two my little girl went from 9lbs. 2oz. at birth to 7lbs. 15oz. I just wasn’t producing anywhere near enough to sustain her. When I would pump I was lucky if I could get 2 ounces. I increased her formula intake and began trying different herbs and any natural recommendations I could get my hands on.
At around 2 months, Nora began to refuse to breastfeed in favor of the bottle. This left me relying completely on pumping and this caused my supply to decrease even further. I was lucky if I got an ounce after a long pumping session.
I was completely overwhelmed and defeated. I felt like my life revolved around breastfeeding. I was either pumping, feeding, or researching on how to increase my milk supply. To put it bluntly, I was an emotional mess. I felt like I couldn’t do the one thing I was supposed to be able to do as a mother, feed and nourish my child. I knew that breastfeeding was best for my child and I wanted to do everything I could to give her the very best, but I was failing.
I found that I wasn’t even really enjoying my little girl as I should be because I was constantly stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted. I can’t even tell you how many tears I cried as I struggled with my identity. Was I still a good mother?
Through many tears, conversations with my amazingly patient and gracious hubby, and dear friends who were able to speak truth to me, I came to the realization that breastfeeding did not and does not define me as a mother.
Let me make this clear…breastfeeding DOES NOT define you as a mother. I know that that can be a controversial statement, especially in a state like VT, but being a good mother is not defined by whether you breastfeed, co-sleep, do or don’t let your child cry it out, have a natural birth or c-section, etc. What matters is the love and affection that you give your child.
So many people were supportive of my decision to transition fully to formula. They continually reminded me that I was still a good mother in those moments where I felt condemnation and doubt. But there were others who were quick to judge. Complete strangers who knew nothing of my story and nothing of the intense struggle I went through would make flippant remarks about how I didn’t try hard enough or comments like, “Don’t you know that breastfeeding is best for your baby?” Those comments and judgements hit raw nerves as I continued to struggle with my emotions and feelings.
I had to fight back jealousy of moms who talked about overproducing, leaking, and breastfeeding with ease. I had to fight not to compare myself and play the what-if game.
There were days that all I wanted to do was throw myself a giant pity party and whine and complain about how I couldn’t do what most woman could. But then someone would give me a strong dose of reality; the truth was I had an amazingly beautiful and healthy little girl who I loved and adored more than I ever thought imaginable. I am truly blessed, whether I could breastfeed her or not!
Looking back, are there things I wish I would have done differently? Yes! Do I still plan on trying again with my second little girl due in May? Of course! There is so much more that I know this time around after having experienced so much difficulty the first time. But even if breastfeeding goes exactly the same the second time around, I now know that it does not define me as a mother.
So what do I hope my story communicates to all of you mommas out there?
*Breastfeeding DOES NOT define you as a momma.
*That we all should be slow to make assumptions and quick to encourage rather than pass judgement on each other as mommas.
*That each mother’s story and journey is an individual one full of joys and frustrations; things that went easily and things that were difficult. We should strive to rejoice with each other in the easy things and encourage and fight for one another in the difficulties.