As a mom with chronic Lyme disease, most things in my life look quite a bit different—including my pregnancy.
Before I got pregnant, I researched Lyme disease transmission and pregnancy and came up with a lot of conflicting information. I remember googling the words “Lyme disease and breastfeeding,” and literally squinting my eyes, afraid of what I might see in the search results. Could my disease be transferred through the breastmilk?
After thorough research, I was only left with more questions. Because of the lack of data, my many doctors left it up to me to decide.
I battled with the decision intensely—feeling a pull between wanting to nourish my baby and wanting to protect her.
When I finally made the decision not to breastfeed, it felt like I’d punched myself in the gut. Breastfeeding is such a beautiful thing—a natural system of nourishing and caring for our babies with our own bodies.
Not being able to do this for my child made me feel like a failure from my very first step as a mom.
When my milk came in and I wasn’t able to feed my child, I convinced myself that I was “less than” other mothers and that my daughter would be better off with a different mom. (I was also dealing with postpartum depression at the time, which amplified this emotion).
At the same time, I was afraid of what other moms would think of me, if they knew I wasn’t breastfeeding. Would they think I’m a bad mom too?
Luckily, these feelings lessened each week of my baby’s life. As my daughter grew and my community surrounded me, I came to realize an important truth: I was still able to give my baby everything she needed to thrive, even though I couldn’t breastfeed.
I was still able to bond with her when I bottle fed her. There is something primal about feeding your child and that bond extends to the bottle, too. I honestly didn’t think that feeding my baby with a bottle would provide any sort of emotional bond, but it did. This didn’t happen right away, but in time I felt the connection. Because my baby was bottle fed, my husband was also able to bond with her through the feedings.
I was still able to nourish her body with everything she needed to grow strong and healthy. While breastmilk is certainly the “gold standard” in feeding babies, baby formula provided my baby with everything she needed to grow and develop and she is—to this day—healthy and strong.
I was still able to care for my baby and get some rest, too. Because my baby was bottle fed, I was freed up to care for her and to have time away from her to rest too. This was much needed for my emotional and physical recovery.
I was also able to share the workload with our friends and family. As they each took turns feeding her, my fears about the judgements of others melted away. It truly was a village affair that knit together our community. I still feel the impact of this bond today.
As moms we are our own worst critics. When I had moments of doubt or fears about not breastfeeding, the best thing I did was listen to the advice of my mom, my family and my closest friends. Because they were outside the situation, they could see it clearly. They were able to encourage me that I was “enough” for my baby, and in time, I believed them.
If you aren’t able to breastfeed, I want to encourage you: You aren’t alone.
You are a mother, however your child is fed. You and only you can love your child in a way that no one else can, and nothing and no one can take that away from you.