What in life worth doing is easy? We put ourselves through challenges all the time. And we do it because we think it’s worth it, not because it’s easy.
It’s no secret that breastfeeding can present some challenges for moms, especially at the beginning. Sore nipples, babies who won’t latch, low milk supply, the list goes on. I’ve experienced it all. This natural process, breastfeeding, did not come naturally to me at all. And at the lowest points, I conflated my ability to breastfeed with my ability to be a good mom. Through the searing pain of almost instantly cracked nipples, I struggled to get this new skill down. To hold my tiny fragile baby girl like a football, while reclining, in a cradle hold, in a cross-cradle… nothing worked. I kept thinking about how we’re constantly told that breastfeeding is beautiful and should come easily for us. So why is it so damn hard, then?
As a result of our issues, I began to exclusively pump but the jugs of milk I assumed I’d produce never materialized. Most of the time I’d barely get one bottle’s worth from a 45-minute pumping session. I was pumping whenever I could — first thing in the morning, after she went to bed, in the middle of the night, but it felt impossible to keep it up and one day, it finally was. Almost immediately this switch to formula feeding, while still also pumping a little bit, alleviated my stress and pain. My baby girl was satiated and thriving, and I was released from my endless anxiety over how little milk I produced. By the time she was 7 months old, she was exclusively formula fed, a decision I have yet to regret. Our bond remained close and affectionate, even if we weren’t connected by milk and breasts.
One thing I’ve learned through this is that new-mom guilt seems to be a requirement for women trying to be good moms in our current culture. I’m already someone who wants everyone to think I’m doing a “good job”, but when I gloss over the realities of breastfeeding, I feel like I was unprepared for what it’s really like. So rather than calling breastfeeding easy, we need to think about how we as a society can make breastfeeding easier for mothers. One of the great ways of caring for a baby is to care for their mother. Feed her, love her, support her by taking care of other stuff. And the same goes for supporting women who are bottle feeding.
Breast is best, but mums who can’t, or choose not to breastfeed need support too. Women who breastfeed should not pass judgment against women who decide not to breastfeed. As mothers, we all need to be understanding of each other’s choices and support each other no matter which method of feeding we choose. I believe that what is best for a child includes a mom’s well-being and fulfillment.
PS: Môj príbeh, v ktorom sa podelila o svoje najkrajšie, ale i najťažšie momenty po pôrode, nájdete v novembrovom čísle časopisu EVA.