The Unnatural Art of Breastfeeding

 

When it comes to breastfeeding, we all start out with the same thought: 

I’m a woman.  I have boobies.  How hard could it be?

Enter the irony of breastfeeding.  It seems like breastfeeding should be all so very natural and instinctual and yet it just isn’t.  Breastfeeding takes practice and support and lots and lots of lanolin cream.  My breastfeeding struggles caused many a 3 a.m. nervous breakdown.  They caused many a painful nipple blister.  They caused many a feeling of failure.  With BooBoo, I pressed on, and on, and on like I had something to prove even when nothing but guilt kept me going.  In the end, I was ever so glad I did press on (and on and on) but I’m far from a lactivist.

To the mother who is riddled with crippling guilt and suffering super dramatic breastfeeding breakdowns, just know, it’s OK not to breastfeed.  I wasn’t breastfed and look how well I turned out.  Ooo, maybe not a good example.  Boy Wonder wasn’t breastfed for medical reasons and look how well he turned out (better example).  Baby formula isn’t rat poison.  Choosing to formula feed doesn’t make a bad mother.  You aren’t lazy.  You aren’t uncaring.  You aren’t anything but a mother who made a choice.  

This choice is only the beginning.  You hold the cards.  Yes, you.  The one who feels like she doesn’t know what she’s doing.  The one who wants so desperately to do it right.  The one who will learn in time she can never truly fail so long as her heart is in it. 

I know breastfeeding feels like the end-all/be-all of good mothering and I’m here to proclaim loud and proud that it just isn’t. 

Yes, yes, breast milk is best, let’s say it all together now.  Of course you want the best for your infant but if you’re nothing but a postpartum train wreck on account of breastfeeding and you don’t have the access or energy to seek out the support you need for success, I’m here to give you an out.  Permission even, because sometimes all you need is a random person without medical training to offer permission.  So there you have it.  I probably just lost half my readers but you might as well know how I really feel.

Your mental health as a new mother matters; it matters more than anything - even more than breast vs. bottle.  Your baby has an amazing connection to you and deserves the best you can emotionally offer.  Allow yourself the freedom to protect your fragile postpartum psyche, please.

OK, so the guilt might follow you for a while, I know how that goes but take comfort in knowing your decision was made for a reason, and a good one at that. 

For those deeply committed to breastfeeding success, latch on!  Even the formula mamas of the world applaud you for your decision.   

They’re your boobies, it’s your baby.  Do what makes sense for all three.

Sound off; tell me about your breast vs. bottle decision! 

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Comments

  1. Thanks for posting! I’ve noticed how so many new mothers feel the need to justify how they can’t breastfeed their baby, giving all the reasons and explain hardships, instead of just saying it didn’t work for us, without feeling ashamed. I feel like there is so much pressure and information available to mothers now, that with all this information, there is so much more worry and pressure to do the “right” things to raise your child. People turn to the internet and Google so much, instead of trusting themselves in their instincts, and for me personally, trusting God first.

  2. Mommyfriend says:

    I’m so happy nursing is working for you but I think it was so wise to go into newborn feeding with realistic expectations.  You are one smart cookie.

  3. Mommyfriend says:

    How is nursing going?  I’ve been thinking a lot about you Mama!

  4. Mommyfriend says:

    Wow Kate!  The fact that you pumped for twins for 8 weeks is wonderful!  It sounds like you had a really caring and reasonable pediatrician.  I agree with what you said, a lactation consultant can make a huge difference for those who have the option available to them.  Mine was a wonderful help.

  5. Mommyfriend says:

    That must have been a rough time when it didn’t happen easily with your daughter, I know I wouldn’t have been prepared for that either.  In the end, she is thriving and that is what matters most!

  6. Mommyfriend says:

    Thanks Theta Mom, indeed every situation is different.  Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt!

  7. Mommyfriend says:

    Soula, I completely agree.  The happiness of both of you matters!

  8. Mommyfriend says:

    Oh the dreaded ear infections!  It’s still so wonderful that remained committed to nursing though.

  9. I’m breastfeeding right now, and happened to click on this post. I think the pressure alone can make it extremely hard on mothers to be successful at breastfeeding. Don’t kill me, turns out I’m a natural milk producer. I refused to take breastfeeding classes b4 the babies were born because I didn’t want the pressure of forcing myself to do something that I think should be natural. If it didn’t work out, my husband and I had already decided formula was an option. I’ve had 2 c-sections due to a medical condition w/ my kidney, something I never knew about til I became pregnant. I would have loved to deliver my girls, but it was humanly impossible unless I was willing to die. Our birth plans aren’t always perfect, but we’ve got to roll with the punches and do the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt mothers

  10. I am currently breastfeeding again for the second time. With my first little guy I made it the full year. And it went fairly smooth. *knock on wood* This time I’m not sure. Just 11 days into it but it isn’t going as smooth as last time.

    My whole thought process is to do what is best for both mom and baby. I’ve never had high expectations because I didn’t want to feel like a failure. Things are hard enough as it is, especially the first couple months. I completely agree with your post, Lori!

  11. Momma Kate says:

    I attempted to BF my premie twins. It just wasn’t possible and I chose to pump. It was the hardest 8 weeks of my life. I had a great pediatrician who told me I was crazy for pumping full time for twins (while still working full time) and that he respected me for the effort, but he also told me something similar to what you mentioned before, that the sanity of mom is most important. He was a professional that was telling me that chosing formula was okay. That really relieved so much guilt and I did move to formula shortly after their 2 month well check, and they are now happy and healthy 5 year olds. I did BF my youngest (now 19 months) for 6 straight months (since I am now a SAHM)and then introduced formula while I was introducing solids. Though BFing her was also a challenge, we had to hire a lactation specialist to come to the home for a few weeks to get it down. Lanolin and cabbage leaves were my best friends at that time. But the lactivist was a real life saver and worth every penny spent on her. If one who wishes to BF but is having trouble and can afford it (they charge about $80/ session) an in-home lactation specialist can really make a difference.

  12. I breastfed my first child and it was super easy, he latched on well right away and I never had any of the discomfort or pain that I’d read can happen. He even weaned himself at 14 months. Unfortunately, he was so easy that when my daughter was born and had problems latching on I wasn’t prepared. She was clearly not getting enough nourishment. Why couldn’t we get it? Anyway, a couple days after giving birth I started hemorrhaging and had to be hospitalized for blood transfusions. While I was in the hospital, my daughter had formula and was thriving on it. When I was released I could have tried to get her back on the breast, but I just didn’t have the energy. Looking back I feel guilty about it, but she’s a happy, healthy kindergartener now and I try not to second guess the choice I made.

  13. Such a hot button topic but I love that you ended it with a CHOICE. It IS our choice and EVERY situation is different.Thanks mama!

  14. Never heard truer words said about the challenge and pressure to BF. I did 3 months and my son was constantly feeding. I was constantly guilt ridden about wanting to switch to formula and just wanted one dr or hv to say it was OK. They didn’t. When i finally did (tearfully stop), he started sleeping better and seemed much happier. They insist everyone can BF if they persevere but I don’t believe this. Id try a second time but will feel no guilt switching to formula if my gut tells me it’s not working. Only you can decide that.

  15. wow – good for you for sticking with it – that would be hard! I BF both my boys as well (each for a full year) and they both ended up with tubes in their ears due to so many infections. I think that type of thing can be genetic.will guarantee that won’t happen

  16. Thanks for this post!

  17. Mommyfriend says:

    It’s wonderful that you made the choice to breastfeed, I’m only sorry your family wasn’t more supportive!  Good for you remaining steadfast in your decision!

  18. Mommyfriend says:

    Thank you Jim.  How thoughtful for you to share your experience as a father on this matter.  I couldn’t agree with you mom, sometimes the process does just that, break down.  We need to be prepared in the event of such breakdown and never be made to feel like less of a parent as a result.

  19. Mommyfriend says:

    Irene, I remember when you struggled with this.  My heart broke for you as a mom who has been there.  Your beautiful daughter is thriving, and THAT is what really matters!

  20. Mommyfriend says:

    Deesha, it’s such a shame that new mothers are made to feel like failures on account of choosing to bottle feed.  Honestly, it’s nothing short of tragic in my mind.

  21. Mommyfriend says:

    First, yay!  Someone from France actually read my site!  I’m dying to visit!!!

    It’s really unfortunate that your choice is viewed that way!  I completely agree with your sentiment.  Nurse on Mummy!

  22. Mommyfriend says:

    LaRee, nothing wrong with your choice either.  Happy mommy = Happy baby!  Here, here!

  23. Mommyfriend says:

    Natalie, so true!  Breastfeeding education is critical!

  24. Mommyfriend says:

    Mary, 
    Thank you for mentioning this, very informative for new mothers.

  25. Well said! As an OB nurse and breastfeeding mother I have experienced both sides of breastfeeding troubles. Some babies just won’t breastfeed, I’ve seen it, and I feel bad for the momma’s who have their heart set on breastfeeding because they feel guilty about giving the baby a bottle. As long as they are growing, who cares what they eat!

  26. We also need to fix the system so that exhausted new moms aren’t put in the position of having to seek out good help when they have issues. We need to have good breastfeeding education be part of prenatal care, we need to have medical professionals who actually have up to date information and know what they’re talking about, and we need to stop booby trapping moms with lousy info and support… so they actually can make a decision, instead of feeling trapped into one and having to deal with the guilt of feeling like it’s their fault they didn’t reach their goals.

  27. You took on a very controversial subject! And, did it so well! Love it! I’m from the school that a little bit of breast milk AND a little bit of formula makes a happy baby & momma.

  28. This is so true! I choose to breastfeed and its not been easy at all – I find in France that I am viewed to be strange, and have even been called “abnormal” for breastfeeding past 3 months. I don’t care how anyone feeds their baby as long as their baby is fed!

    No mother should be made to feel like they are doing the wrong thing.

    Happy Mummy = Happy Baby!

  29. I have 3 kids – breastfed my first one for 4 months with lots of breakdowns, pain and guilt. The other 2, were nightmares: infections, breakdowns, more guilt, etc. etc. etc. In the end, I pumped for a while, but it just wasn’t working for me or my family.

    Well said, Lori. I totally agree.

  30. Couldn’t agree more!

  31. Wow almost a year later of not being able to breastfeed and this blog brought me to tears. This is a great read and now if only all mommy friends had this same outlook, the world would be a much nicer place, at least a nice, non-judgemental place!

  32. This line should be printed and handed out at every hospital:”Your mental health as a new mother matters; it matters more than anything – even more than breast vs. bottle.”A week after our 1st daughter’s birth, my wife was a wreck and hadn’t gotten 3 straight hours of sleep. At 11 p.m., without her knowledge, I gave our girl a bottle. And thus began a nightly routine that drew both parents immensely closer to that little girl. Breast may be best — but you’re not evil if the process breaks down.

  33. I breastfed both of my daughters. I made the decision before I had children. My mother and other women in my family were not supportive. They thought it was disgusting and believe it or not unnatural. It wasn’t easy the first time my husband and mother were upset and wanted me to stop trying. My daughter finally latched on and we did well after only a few days. It was a difficult time at first but I’m glad I didn’t listen to the negative comments. My daughters were very healthy babies and never had an ear infection.

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