When I first found out I was pregnant, my husband and I had a lot of choices to make and a lot of things we needed to talk about. One of them was to breastfeed or to formula feed. Without much debate, we both decided it was best for everyone if I breastfed. It was cheaper than formula and certainly better for the baby. It was one of the most asked questions I received when people found out I was pregnant.
“Are you going to breastfeed?”
I work in a customer service job and even complete strangers asked me this question. Whatever my decision, it was a personal decision and I never understood why people felt the need to ask as it certainly wasn’t their business. But, I knew their opinion of me would change depending on the answer. I would answer their questions saying I was going to breastfeed but was nervous about it. That would perk everyone up and they would tell me their stories or their wives’ stories about their own breastfeeding journey.
“Stick at it.”
“It’s really hard but well worth it.”
“I breastfed and don’t understand what’s so hard about it.”
Everyone had something to say. As my due date got closer, I asked a lot of questions to my mom friends and co workers. 3 of my coworkers had a baby this year and all were breastfeeding and one of my closest friends was breastfeeding her son as well. They all said it was so hard but worth it and to stick with it. It sucked in the beginning but it gets easier.
When I gave birth to Brayden, the first thing the nurse did was place him on my chest. My OB and hospital promoted skin to skin for baby’s health and to help breastfeed. He latched about an hour into laying on me and everyone said he was a champ and had a great latch and would do really well. During our stay in the hospital, I had a lot of questions for the nurses on how much he was getting. I knew my body wasn’t really making milk yet but Brayden would be latched for hours and still scream because he was hungry. I was told he was cluster feeding and it would be fine. One nurse, after I broke down in tears at 2 am, offered formula and I declined. I was so determined to breastfeed and all the things everyone told me about it being so difficult rang in my head. I didn’t want to be deemed a failure right away.
By the time we got home, I was so frustrated. I had not slept at all since my water broke, my nipples were so sore and cracked, and Brayden screamed constantly. I would nurse him for hours at a time and every time he latched, I would cry. The pain was almost worse than labor. The night before his first doctor’s appointment, my husband and I were completely exhausted. Brayden was not sleeping and was screaming unless he was latched on me and that made me cry because it was so unbearably painful. It was 3 in the morning and we looked at each other in desperation not knowing what to do. I finally asked if we should go get formula and my husband said yes but he was afraid to ask me. Unfortunately, no one around us was open and we just had to stick it out until our appointment.
Brayden was born 8 lbs 4 oz and at our doctors appointment, 4 days after he was born, he was 7 lbs 4 oz. The doctor was concerned about the weight loss and asked how we felt about supplementing. My husband looked at me and with tears in my eyes I told her I would do anything at this point because he just seemed so hungry.
When we got home, we made him a bottle and after eating, he instantly fell asleep. He finally had a full belly. I cried, feeling like a failure because I couldn’t do one of the things my body was supposed to do. I felt guilty for giving him formula, and guilty because I couldn’t make enough milk for him. 4 days later we went back to the doctor and he gained 7 oz. We were really happy with the weight gain so that week, I nursed a lot and we still supplemented with formula. When we went back to the doctor the following week, he only gained half an ounce and the doctor suggested increasing the amount of formula we were giving him. I felt really defeated. I told a few people that we were struggling and everyone said it was fine and it will get better.
It wasn’t getting better and we were still increasing the amount of formula we were giving him. I was trying everything to boost my supply. Lactation cookies, supplements, pumping, continuous nursing and still, nothing was helping. I used the nipple shield to help heal and after a few days was finally starting to feel better. But, no matter how hard I tried and how long I nursed, I still was not making enough to keep up with how much he was eating and every time I pumped I got discouraged as only drops would come out. At one appointment, his pediatrician looked at me and said if you decide you don’t want to breastfeed anymore, I will support you. You need to be happy and enjoy these moments while he is little. You shouldn’t be stressing about it.
That really stuck with me and my husband agreed with her that he just wanted Brayden and I to be happy. But, I wasn’t ready to totally give up yet because I still felt that little sting of guilt. Every time I saw a mom post her chunky exclusively breastfed baby, I felt terrible. They would boast about how their baby was so big all thanks to the milk they were making and I wanted to feel that same amount of pride.
2 months later, I finally thought I was okay with my decision to give him formula. He loves eating and gets so excited when he sees his bottle. He is 12 lbs 6 oz and he’s grown 4 inches since birth and smiles all the time. I was starting to not stress about if I should nurse and how much was coming out. But, I still felt uncomfortable anytime anyone asked if I was breastfeeding. I was slightly embarrassed pulling bottles of formula out of our diaper bag while other mamas were just able to feed their baby. I felt judged and like people were looking down at my decision without even knowing the reason behind it.
My husband has told me multiple times that it’s my decision and he will support me whatever I decide but no matter what, I need to be happy and Brayden needs to be happy. I can’t be my best self if I’m miserable and stressed and therefore, won’t be able to be the best mom I can be if I’m not taking care of myself. Worrying about breastfeeding all the time was not making me happy and now I can finally say I’m so happy. I enjoy my days with Brayden and it’s great that my husband can wake up with B in the morning and feed him so I have the chance to have a moment to myself before we start the day. I no longer have to stress about pumping just to get the few drops that I make out and it’s made more time for me to spend with my family.
This decision was best for me and my family and although it’s definitely not going in the direction I thought it would, I’m happy that I chose to stop breastfeeding. If we have another baby I will try and hope it works out but, I’ll definitely have formula on hand just in case. I just wish we would stop judging moms whether they breast or bottle feed. We should all be supporting and empowering each other to be the best we can be and whatever decisions you make, it has to be the one that is best for you regardless of what others may think. Being a mom is so hard already and now it seems there’s nothing you can do without being ripped apart by another mom. If you breastfeed your baby, that’s great! I’m so happy for you and so glad you were able to do it. If you formula feed your baby, way to go mom! You’re all doing amazing and guess what, all those babies are still being fed.