I remember 10 years ago finding out I was pregnant with my oldest child, Andrew. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I think I had known we were expecting for about a week when all of the questions started hitting me…and the one that hit me hardest was:
‘Are you going to breastfeed or bottle feed?’
If you haven’t noticed, moms tend to have very strong opinions on this particular topic. You often hear “breast is best” and of course- it is scientifically proven that breast milk is the most perfect food available for your baby. But what do you do if the perfect food just won’t work? Breast may be best but that doesn’t mean it’s always the right choice. And believe me, I had to learn this the hard way.
Andrew is my first child so when I was pregnant with him I remember trying to do everything perfectly. If the books said it, that’s what I was going to do. I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital and read everything I could on the subject to become an “expert”. In my mind, breastfeeding was natural…it was going to be easy and intuitive! Then Andrew was born… and things couldn’t have been more challenging. No matter what I did, what I tried, what the doctor suggested, I struggled to breastfeed and he was not gaining weight. Cue the emotions. And the frustration. And feeling like a failure because I could not provide something for him that, by design, I was supposed to. So I fought to continue breastfeeding because in my mind there was no other option, but we were both miserable.
The entire feeding time was frustration and tears for both of us. Eventually his doctor encouraged me to try formula, and for us, it was a miracle worker. Feeding time turned into bonding instead of tears and frustration and he was gaining weight (!). He was a happy baby after that because he wasn’t hungry. And just like that, I surrendered my need and society’s pressure to breastfeed- breast wasn’t best for Andrew.
Skip ahead 17 months, and Jacob was born. After my experience with nursing Andrew, I just had the attitude that I would try but was doubtful it could actually work for me. Well wouldn’t you know my boy who is a perfectionist was born the perfect nurser! Literally, the moment the nurse handed him to me he was eating perfectly. From then on, we never had any issues. Breast was best.
My last baby, a precious baby girl named Aubrey, was born 4 weeks early. She nursed well in the hospital, but when I took her in for her weight check, she was losing weight. Because Aubrey was so little, while she was a good eater, she had to work too hard to nurse and burned too many calories, causing her to lose weight. My lactation consultant was so wonderful- she made me feel that whatever I chose to do was okay. Because of my her advice, I pumped and we fed her with a syringe. Those were some long but special nights that my husband and I will always cherish, but I was exhausted. The process was never ending but this was my last baby and my mommy heart just didn’t want to give up on nursing this beautiful girl. So we decided to pump and syringe/bottle feed her. And eventually, we were able to teach Aubrey to nurse, despite being bottle fed…this was another challenge, but I was stubborn and it was worth it!
I shared my experience because I want you to know that first, every baby is SO different. Some, like my Jacob, will be born perfect eaters and you will think breastfeeding is the easiest thing you’ve ever done. Others will be more challenging to breastfeed, like Aubrey. And sometimes the BEST decision for you and baby is formula, like my Andrew. While each situation is different, you are their mama and you know best. You know what your child needs and you have to make the best decision for your family, even if it means giving up a dream of nursing, or pumping around the clock, or simply being sympathetic to other mamas who haven’t had perfect eaters like your child.
I hope you feel empowered to make that choice. Because no one else on earth is more equipped to do so- not your mom, your girlfriends, or mommy bloggers. Just remember at the end of the day, breastmilk may be awesome but fed is best.