For some reason, “Are you breastfeeding?” seems to be one of the first questions people ask when they find out you recently gave birth. This question always comes after asking the gender and name of the baby, and before asking if your newborn is sleeping through the night yet.
I personally find asking someone if they breastfeed to be slightly invasive.
I breastfed my first son, Henry, for three weeks before being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and then I stopped nursing because of the medication I was put on. I felt this overwhelming, intense guilt that I wasn't providing my baby everything he needed—I think I was on the verge of a legitimate breakdown.
Why was my body preventing me from being the nursing mama I read about in books and saw on pamphlets in the doctor’s office? Did I do something wrong? Why wasn’t this the experience I expected?
Every time someone asked me if I was nursing, from a co-worker to a random stranger, I became extremely anxious. I would rattle off all the reasons I wasn't nursing anymore. It was like I needed to prove to them that I was still a good mom. Because I felt ashamed.
And you know what? None of them were the real reason for why I stopped breastfeeding. I was also ashamed of the fact that I had been diagnosed with Postpartum Depression.
No woman should ever be ashamed of her choices to feed her child, no matter what the reason is. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, you are a good mama.
I decided not to nurse my second son, Simon, because of my first experience with Postpartum Depression. I wanted to stay on my medicine after having him so I knew that I would feel good enough mentally and emotionally to care for a new baby and a toddler.
I knew that in order to be the happy, loving mama my baby needed, I had to make the choice to bottle feed instead of breastfeed.
Now when people ask me if I’m nursing, I simply say no. And that's all. If they continue to press I tell them why. Because I'm not ashamed anymore.
Not being able to breastfeed is something that affects many women. And some women don’t want to breastfeed for their own personal reasons. And that’s okay, too.
Maybe the baby won’t latch no matter how many times you have tried.
Maybe you aren’t producing enough milk and are worried that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat.
Maybe you had to go back to work soon after having your baby and your supply dried up.
Maybe you have extreme anxiety because a co-worker walked in on you pumping in your government-mandated pump room at work and you just can’t bring yourself to pump there anymore.
Maybe you have a medical condition that makes it difficult or impossible to breastfeed.
Maybe you were sexually assaulted at some point in your life, and just can’t bring yourself to nurse your baby.
Maybe you just don’t want to breastfeed your child and know that formula also provides the nutrition a baby needs.
Maybe you are on a medication, like me, that does not allow you to nurse.
Maybe your sweet baby was in the NICU and you couldn’t nurse.
No matter what, mama, never feel guilty about the way you are feeding your child. Don’t let people make you feel like less of a mom for not nursing—not strangers, not family members, and definitely not yourself.