When you were a new mom, how much advice did you receive? Probably a lot and most of it unsolicited. Did you find yourself struggling to decide whether or not to breastfeed or bottle feed? For many that choice is easy, but for the rest of us, it doesn’t go quite as we planned. As first time mothers, we have to adapt and decide what is best for our baby and ourselves when plan A goes out the window. While it might come with a sting of guilt, in the end, all that really matters is that are baby is happy and healthy.
With my first pregnancy, I was set on breastfeeding, and I had of a lot of mothers offer up their own notions about the best way to breastfeed. I remember one friend specifically telling me that “not being able to make enough milk” was a myth, and it just meant “they weren’t trying hard enough”. Surprised by this proclamation, I thought of many mothers I had known that had a hard time breastfeeding. Her statement felt like an insult to the tired, stressed mothers frantically researching ways to produce more milk and pleading with their doctors for some magic trick to breastfeeding. It made me feel like the pressure of motherhood was already bearing down on me and other mothers were ready to judge the moment I made a mistake.
After my son was born premature, my dream of breastfeeding was over before it started. Fed through an IV for the first few days of his life, the doctor insisted that I bottle feed him because they were worried trying to latch would be too stressful. After that, I could never get him to latch, but I tried like crazy and pumped in hopes that he could at least still have my breast milk. From the moment I started, I had trouble. Desperately, I researched ways to make more milk, pumping as much as I could, still trying to get my son to latch and wondering why my body was failing me. Instead of producing more, my supply continued to dwindle. There were a lot of tears, meltdowns and feelings of inadequacy before I finally decided to switch completely to formula.
What should have been a happy time was nothing but stressful and exasperating because I felt like I wasn’t the natural mother I had so hoped to be. In the end, once I switched to bottle feeding, I could spend more time just holding my son and enjoying him, and it made both of us happier. Using a bottle also gave my husband the opportunity to bond with our son during feeding times, and it gave me the chance to get some sleep. It allowed us to share more evenly the responsibilities of new parenthood, and I could focus on just enjoying our son rather than trying to make lactation cookies at 4 am or constantly repacking my bra with ice packs. It also meant my son was fed and growing strong. That was all I wanted. A happy, healthy baby.
Shortly after I decided to stop breast feeding, a co-worker stopped by the office with her newborn and said to me, “I don’t know why everyone doesn’t just breastfeed. It is the easiest most natural thing ever.” I wanted to cry, and all of those guilty feelings returned. I felt like I had failed my son, and as if something was wrong with me. I had to remind myself that what I chose was best for my son and for me. With my second child on the way, I don’t feel the same pressure or feelings of guilt about breastfeeding. This time around, I will take it as it comes and decide what is best for both of us. That is the only advice I have to offer to new mothers. Do what you think is right for your baby and enjoy every moment.
Every child is different, every mother is different, and deep down we know what is best for our families. Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed or supplement, your choice matters. Don’t let anyone else make you feel inadequate or as if you have made the wrong decision. Create your own routine to care for your child and give them the love and attention they need. It is all about what works for your newborn and your family.
How did you deal with the unexpected struggles of motherhood or unwanted advice that made you feel guilty?
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Disclosure: Post sponsored by Mirum but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure.