I realize in my last post, I may have sounded like a mother has to breastfeed to be a good mother. I never, ever want to make a mother feel like that. Breastfeeding is not always best. All of the difficulties we had nursing were a huge factor in what sent me over the edge into panic attacks. Jimmy could barely stand to watch me try at the breast anymore since Mae would just scream and scream, and I would end up crying. This was repeated every two hours for weeks. Jimmy and I both dreaded feeding time, which was all the time. Breastfeeding traumatized me. Seriously. I don’t know if I ever want to try it again. The thought alone of a baby at my breast makes me anxious.
As of right now, I am pumping and Mae gets half breast milk and half formula. It was a difficult decision to switch from the breast to the bottle, but it wasn’t really a choice since Mae couldn’t latch on to the breast due to her tongue tie issues. Looking back, I wish I’d made the switch sooner. Once I started pumping, Jimmy could help with feedings and I started sleeping some. The bottle took some of the pressure off me, and it is a huge amount of pressure to be solely responsible for the source of food. Switching to the bottle ended up being a huge factor in what saved my sanity.
You hear contradictory information about breastfeeding: it hurts; it shouldn’t hurt; you need to do it for a full year; six months is enough; let your child self-wean. Breastfeeding is like everything else when it comes to motherhood–do what is best for you and your child, and sometimes that means NOT breastfeeding.
From six weeks to 3.5 months, I was exclusively pumping. This means that I had to pump every 2-4 hours and also feed Mae every 2 hours and also try to get her to sleep, which meant holding her all the time. What this also means is I hardly had time to eat or use the bathroom and Mae was having to spend her awake time in the Mamaroo while I pumped. I’m proud of how hard I worked to do this, but I kind of wish I’d started doing half and half earlier. Now I have more time to spend with Mae, and I sometimes even sit down, by myself, and eat lunch. We can also get out of the house more.
I guess what I’m saying is the nutritional value of breast milk isn’t the only factor to consider.
As someone who has exclusively breastfed for six weeks, exclusively pumped for two months, and now pumps and does formula, I can say that none of these options are easy. They all take work because your baby, if he/she is like mine, is eating all the time.
Before having Mae, I’m ashamed to admit that I judged women who I saw shaking up their bottles of formula at restaurants. Now I have my bottle and I want to wear a sign that says “This is half breast milk!” But isn’t that ridiculous? That’s how intense the pressure is to be perfect. I shouldn’t care what a stranger thinks about what I’m feeding my baby, but I see them looking, just like I was .
At the support group I attend for new moms, every single woman has some amount of guilt about what her child eats. Some switched to formula due to the need to take medication and they feel guilty. Some just didn’t have enough milk and they feel like their body failed them. Some have been breastfeeding for 14 months and they feel like this didn’t allow the child to bond with his or her father.
La Leche League will make you think breastfeeding is the most natural act in the world and that any problem you run into can be fixed. This just isn’t true. And I know LLL provides a lot of support for a lot of women, and I’m thankful for that, but I also think they can be fairly extreme when it comes to exclusively breastfeeding. A happy mommy is more important, in my opinion, that a baby getting 100% breast milk for 12 months.