What happens when breastfeeding isn’t as easy as you thought it would be?
I wasn’t planning on bottle-feeding my daughter before she was born.
I had actually read and researched a lot of information about breastfeeding when I became pregnant. I even paid to take a breastfeeding class while I was expecting because I really wanted to do so after my daughter’s birth.
However, after a complicated birth and recovery from a c-section it was very difficult to get my daughter to latch. So my husband and I decided that giving her formula at least for the first hours would be best, so I could get some rest.
Throughout our stay at the hospital, as I recovered, I continually tried my hardest to breastfeed my baby. We had nurses and a lactation consultant help me with little success. She did latch on for a couple of seconds, but it always ended with her screaming at my chest unable to eat. This continued as we arrived home. After a few weeks of failed feedings I didn’t know if to continue or stop.
Stopping made me feel guilty that I couldn’t do something I thought should have been natural.
But after trying and trying to get my daughter to latch naturally, my husband and I decided to give pumping a try, and see if that would solve our problem. And It did for a little while. However, we continued to run into the problem that if I hadn’t pumped enough, we again had an unsatisfied screaming baby at my arms. And it seemed as though my pumped milk was never enough for her.
So after much talk (and some tears) with my husband we decided to bottle-feed her formula.
Once we made this decision known to other people we received encouragement and understanding from some, but surprisingly a lot of judgement and comments from most. I did feel guilty about not breastfeeding, and at times I even felt like I was failing her as a mother for not doing so.
However, with the support of my husband and my family and seeing my baby grow healthy and strong, the feelings slowly started to fade away. And with time I felt stronger and more secure when telling people we had chosen to bottle-feed.
Now 8 months after her birth, I can confidently say I don’t regret making the decision to formula feed my daughter. With my complicated birth experience I was already emotionally unstable and adding yet another pressure on myself for not being able to breastfeed even after weeks of effort would have really affected my well-being.
As a first time mom, it was relieving and encouraging for me to see my daughter growing healthy and happy through her formula feedings.
Though difficult to make at first, this experience taught me that there will be times where I will have to make some tough choices and though some may not agree I will have to trust my gut and make the best decisions I see fit for myself and my family.
Here’s what I want new mamas to know: Not being able to breastfeed doesn’t make you a failure. And it says nothing about how good of a mom you are and will be. Just the fact that you care about wanting to do what is best for your child shows how incredible you already are as a mom.
If you are still wanting and trying to breastfeed—seek help. The shame of feeling like I had failed kept me from seeking help. As a first-time mom I didn’t know how much help is available to women who wish to breastfeed.
There are breastfeeding support groups at hospitals, schools, and even churches. There are plenty of lactation consultants and even volunteering mothers that have helped plenty of women to successfully breastfeed. Ask other moms for help. Local mothers are full of information and resources that can lead you to the right person.
For my future babies I still would like to try to breastfeed. But next time I will go into my journey with a lot more knowledge that breastfeeding, like motherhood, is not always easy and I cannot do it alone.
And I’ll feel more comfortable standing my ground on the tough decisions.
Becoming a mom has taught me to be fearless and confident in the decisions I make, and I hope you can feel that way also.
Whatever choice you make—You’ve got this, mama.