What I Feed My Baby Doesn't Define Me As A Mother
Since the day my daughter, Mia, was born, breastfeeding has come naturally to her. Her latch was perfect from the get-go and aside from the multiple bouts of the thrush monster we’ve had to battle, our nursing relationship has gone very smoothly. I have been exclusively breastfeeding her for 18 months now.
With my oldest child, Mikey, it didn’t come as naturally.
Mikey was born a week and a half earlier than Mia at 38 weeks + 6 days. Both beautiful and completely healthy babies. The only difference was that Mikey couldn’t latch properly.
No matter how many lactation consultants intervened to show me how to nurse and what positions to use, Mikey would constantly fall asleep after just a few suckles.
I was then sent home with an ill-fitting nipple shield that ended up diminishing my milk supply. Though I was pumping and continued to pump for the following 3 months, my supply was slowly dwindling. I know one of the reasons was because I started to supplement with formula.
About a week after being home, I started to worry that Mikey wasn’t getting enough to eat.
One night he was especially fussy and would only sleep for 30 minutes at a time. When I realized that he might need more milk than what I had pumped for him, I frantically reached for the formula the hospital sent me home with.
He gulped it down, slept for a few hours and seemed much more content afterwards. I was so relieved and grateful that I didn’t hesitate to give him the formula.
But then, like a ton of bricks, the guilt hit me. The guilt that I felt for not being able to breastfeed Mikey consumed me. I felt like a failure.
How was it so difficult to feed my baby with my bare breasts, the way nature had intended? I wanted to give him the best. He deserved nothing but the best.
So with that, I went on the search to find (what I deemed to be) the healthiest brand of formula.
After searching high and low, I settled on an organic brand. It smelled like coffee creamer and Mikey drank every last drop of his first bottle. I was so happy to have found something that Mikey loved and also made me feel better about switching to formula. However, the guilt remained.
It didn’t help that whenever I’d go searching online for some semblance of comfort, all I would come across were “Breast Is Best” articles and comments adamantly touting the benefits of breast milk over formula.
After weeks of struggling with immense guilt, I came to the conclusion that the reason I switched to formula was because I refused to be selfish by letting Mikey go hungry while forcing something that obviously wasn’t working.
My insecurities and the pressure from society will always take a back seat to the well-being of my child. It was the beginning of always putting my kids first, no matter what.
When I came to that realization, the guilt just washed away.
Feeding my baby breast milk or formula doesn’t define me as a mother; doing what is best for us does.
Whenever I think of Mikey’s birth, I remember that feeling of being in heaven. I had just given birth to my first child and was hopelessly in love with him. I was in the land of tiny onesies, endless cuddles and inhaling that intoxicating newborn scent. I was in new-mama bliss.
It felt like nothing could ever go wrong again with my whole world in my arms. I only wish I had stayed in that heavenly space without allowing guilt to intrude.
Now that sweet little boy is almost four years old, and like his sister, perfect in every way. He was primarily formula-fed and has only been mildly sick twice in his life. Our bond is also just as strong as my bond with my breastfed daughter.
I haven’t found a single difference between them regarding their health, intelligence or their bond with me due to what they drank as babies.
Whether you breastfeed, pump, combination-feed or formula-feed, know that you are doing an incredible job no matter what your insecurities and the outside world tells you.
Whether you’ve breastfed for one week or six months.
Whether you chose not to breastfeed from the beginning or you weren’t able to…
Let that guilt go. Doing what’s best for you is also doing what’s best for your baby.
Every mama has their own unique story and experience that should be honored and respected. If you’ve been shamed by other mothers for not breastfeeding, I know the feeling, and I’m so sorry you had to go through that — especially if you were newly postpartum at the time and dealing with the myriad of changes and fluctuating hormones.
I hope that one day soon formula will be normalized and seen for what it truly is: an amazing and nutritious substitute to breast milk.
No matter what anyone says, I know that both of my kids who were fed differently are equally obsessed with mama and the happiest and brightest kids I know.
It has everything to do with who they are and how I love them unconditionally, and nothing to do with how I fed them as babies.
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