Before I had my daughter, I was 100% sure I was going to exclusively breast feed her for at least a year. What is the point of formula anyways? I had no idea. I figured a baby here and there needed formula if mom couldn’t produce enough milk, but that doesn’t happen to anyone really… right?
The #1 thing I wish people had prepared me for in having a child is how freaking difficult breastfeeding is. No one had ever told me this would be the hardest thing I have done in my entire life. No one told me it is possible to starve your baby if they have a bad latch and aren’t getting enough milk. I thought boobies were these miracle melons that you just hooked your baby up to and they ate to their heart’s content then they peacefully fell asleep after with a fully belly. I have never heard of a ‘bad latch’, engorgement, or mastitis. I just was so NOT ready for this part of the mom journey.
We got to a bad start with breastfeeding right off the bat. I had a C-Section and it took about 4 days for my milk to come in. I had no idea that was possible, to give birth and not have milk in your boobs to feed your child. So my baby was basically eating nothing while the doctor told me to just keep trying until it came in. For 4 days I was 90% pacifier and 10% nutrition.
Once my milk came in, it was wayyyy too much. I had size F boobs before getting pregnant, so after having a baby and stuffing them with about 10oz of milk each…. I don’t even want to think about it or do the math. Whatever size my boobs ended at, it was definitely too big for a tiny brand new baby to fit in their mouth. I was so engorged and in SO MUCH PAIN and the doctor kept telling me to just keep trying. My baby could not latch and just tried to eat ALL DAY without much success. Common sense told me to give her a bottle, but the doctor said no.
Well about a month in, I couldn’t take it anymore and common sense won. I started exclusively pumping and bottle feeding my daughter breast milk instead of continuing this pointless and stressful struggle, and things got a lot better. My husband could now help with feedings, she was finally starting to gain weight, and I found relief from the pain. I was able to stash TONS of milk in my freezer for when I went back to work in addition to feeding her enough, and it felt like things were finally going the right direction.
And they were until about 5 months when my milk began to dry up. I went back to work and it was our busy season – I started missing my scheduled pumping times since a customer would pin me in an appointment for hours. This made my production tank. Plus I was outside ALL THE TIME and became relatively dehydrated, no matter how much water I tried to drink. All the milk cookies and other gimmicks in the world could not save my milk production, and I had to start supplementing.
I cried. EVERY DAY. I cried because I wasn’t producing enough to feed her. Because “what would people think?”. Because I was afraid without my breast milk she wouldn’t have a chance at being smart or healthy, and all the other $hit ideas we put in women’s heads.
My husband liked to take pictures of my daughter drinking her bottles when we were out and about. He thought it was cute and would post them on social media – like “look at little baby Vivienne enjoying her lunch at the beach” or “Viv having a snack at a Mariner’s Game”. I was MORTIFIED! I would get upset and tell him to take the pictures down because I didn’t want people to know I couldn’t breastfeed anymore. I didn’t want to have to explain to people what had happened and how I had failed.
At a certain point my pumping became so pointless that it more just stressed me out than produced food, and I told my husband it was time for me to stop. The milk was gone.
So we fully switched to formula, and I braced myself for the bad things to come. But guess what? Life stayed exactly the same. Except I got to spend more time with my family instead of pumping. And I wasn’t in any pain. And I could focus at work 100% without having to take breaks to pump. Oh, and my daughter slept through the night because she was full. She did not get sick any more than she ever had in the past. When we traveled I didn’t have to worry about forgetting parts to my pump and things were much easier. So I guess life even may have gotten a little better!
That is when I had a very serious thought about why I spent all this time crying about bottle feeding. Why did I listen to those crazy “breast is best” moms who preach about breastfeeding their kids until they are 8 years old?? Why was I ashamed that I made sure my daughter is getting proper nutrition? Why did I care that there was an Instagram picture of my daughter drinking a bottle??
My conclusion is that it’s time to stop the bottle shaming. You don’t know what life is like in anyone’s shoes until you have walked in them.
There are hundreds of reasons why a child might need to take a bottle, and not a single one of them are anyone’s damn business!
Do you want to preach at me that my child would be smarter if she was exclusively breastfed – go ahead because her language skills are a full year ahead of where they should be. She is perfectly smart, happy, and healthy and I am convinced that she is turning out to be a great person because we parent her with love… nothing to do with breast milk.
This post is for the new moms out there struggling with breastfeeding. Who went to see the lactation consultant ten times and things still aren’t going well. To the ones thinking about exclusively pumping, or switching to formula because it is the right thing for them and their family. Be strong, know many others have gone through this same thing, and DON’T LET ANYONE BOTTLE SHAME YOU!
Keep up the good work mommas 🙂