2 am and 4 am and 6 am racked with guilt and frustration over feeding your baby. You, my friend, are not alone.
First off, let's get one thing straight, I am not anti-breastfeeding and would never encourage or discourage a mother from breastfeeding, pumping, or formula feeding. I am 100% in favor of supporting moms by advising them to do what they feel is best for their baby/family. I am no expert in any of these things and only know what is best for me.
I feel all kinds of emotions writing this because this topic brings me so much anxiety and guilt. I was on Instagram today and saw that it is National Breastfeeding Week. So many pictures of happy mothers breastfeeding their little babies and toddlers alike. Waves of guilt washing over me as I scrolled through these pictures. I know that's not the intention of these posts as they are meant to support struggling breastfeeders and serve to advocate "Breast is Best" but I can't help but feel unsupported in my own personal journey.
Many of these posts were filled with commenters who "didn't understand why women wouldn't want what's best for their babies" and who think "mom's who don't breastfeed are selfish." There are full on comment wars about this. I even saw one war where a mom admitted that breastfeeding felt animalistic to her and how she couldn't bring herself to do it. She was bashed by other mothers who called her a selfish person and a bad mother. Later the mother further admitted that she was sexually abused and she didn't see her breasts as being a source of nourishment for her child but rather a source of mental and physical pain. How horrible!! How horrible that she was made to feel so guilty for her personal decision.
Later on Instagram I saw another hashtag that took me down a rabbit hole of positivity. #stopmomwars #stopmommywars
All these mothers vowing not to judge other mothers. All these mothers who are proud breastfeeders, pumpers, and formula feeders that vow all their support to all moms, regardless of how they chose to feed their babes. All these mothers who want to be uplifting to other moms instead of slamming them down. What a breath of fresh air. I am not alone after all.
I am sitting her next to my one month old daughter trying to stand firm in my decision to quit pumping and switch entirely to formula, but it just is't that easy. When she was born, I was hopeful that breastfeeding would go so much more smoothly than the first time, but it wasn't. By the second night in the hospital, my nipples were so raw that all the nurses kept questioning my daughter's latch and my hold. They kept a close eye on my feedings and saw that my daughter was latching properly and my hold was fine but they couldn't figure out why I was being torn up so badly. Finally, the lactation consultant came and immediately saw that I had "ultra-sensitive" nipples coupled with a baby that was a powerful sucker. I was writhing in pain before, during, and after every feeding. I cried every time my baby cried because I didn't want to feed her. It was just too painful. The LC said she could see how this was hurting me both mentally and physically and quickly ordered me a pump and recommended that I pump until my nipples healed. I was told to pump every 2 hours, even at night to keep up with the feedings. Although this felt better, I hated being attached to the pump every 2 hours. All I wanted was to hold my baby and enjoy her, something that I didn't do for months with my son because of this same struggle. I was in my head too much and that made me feel so guilty, so selfish, so so guilty. This shouldn't be about ME! It was happening again....the anxiety.... the depression.
When we got home, we were supplementing a little bit but I was mostly pumping. And that's what it felt like... my day was mostly pumping. Visitors came and I excused myself every 2 hours to pump. They all enjoyed my baby while I was sitting with my whirling milk machine. At night I woke up to my silent Fitbit alarm and pumped while everyone slept soundly. Instead of playing with my toddler or holding my daughter, I was pumping and washing parts and pumping. I wished so badly I could cut out the middle man (aka my pump) and just let her latch and hold her and bond with her and believe me, I kept trying to breastfeed, but my damn sensitive nipples just yelled at me to stop so I would pump again and again and again. I just couldn't do it anymore. I gave up. I wanted my sanity back.
Giving up brought me no solace. It only brought me more guilt and more anxiety of being judged. Dammit, Joanna! What the hell do you want to do then? I'm still trying to figure it all out. One thing is for sure, I just want to enjoy my family. This is the only glimmer of confidence I have in my decision to formula feed. I could just make a bottle, hold my little girl in my arms, hold her tightly in hopes she thinks that nipple is mine, and move on with my life and enjoy my family. Formula feeding released me from my physical pain and my pump and allowed me to go out for more than 2 hours at a time and enjoy spending time with my family. It allowed my husband to wake up for nighttime feedings while I catch up on sleep. It allowed a family member to feed her while I played Legos with my son. It allowed me to be a better mom.
Hopefully one day I will feel completely confident with my decision to formula feed. Until then, I hope that no one asks me about it and I will pray that no one will judge me harshly for what I decided and most importantly... I will try my best to stop giving a flying f*ck about what others think about what's best for me and my family.