This is a touchy subject for many. Partly because of the weird standards society holds women to, (specifically mothers), and partly because of the weird standards we hold ourselves to. I can only speak from my own experience and journey with feeding my babies, and my hope is that someone out there will find it remotely relatable.
I never gave much thought to whether I would nurse my baby or not; I just sort of assumed I would. I never gave much thought to the idea of bottle-feeding; I just thought babies take bottles, and mine would too. Maybe it was because I was one of the first of my friends to become a mom or maybe I was just naive, but I didn’t know about the obstacles and hardships that could accompany feeding your baby.
Nursing Ayden was a challenge and we both struggled to get it right. I blamed myself for our struggles and was in constant fear that I wasn’t producing properly or that my body wasn’t made right. She struggled to stay awake while feeding. I had nothing to compare it to but the images I saw on social media (where everyone else seemed to have it figured out). I remember one mom I knew, posting about how amazing and special it was to nurse her baby. She said it was her favorite thing. I couldn’t believe it; I swear I thought she was lying, because I was really having a hard time. I didn’t, however, dare admit that. Or maybe I did. To be honest that first several weeks is a blur, as I existed in a strange, sleepless space with a hearty side of Postpartum Anxiety, (good times). But that is for another post; this post is about feeding.
My nursing journey with Ayden continued to be challenging. I ‘quit’ all the time, but then we’d have a good day or two, so I forged on. One day while hanging out with one of my only other mom friends at the time, I noticed her pulling out this multi-colored, compartmentalized stack of small, round containers. They were all attached and the one on top had a nifty little capped dispenser. I watched as she emptied its powdered contents in to a bottle filled with room-temperature water, shook it all up without missing a beat of our conversation, and fed her baby. My mind was seriously blown. This was a far cry from my every-3-hour struggle of trying to nurse a baby who I swear wanted to do it all by herself. This was graceful; I was envious.
I hadn’t even considered trying formula until that moment. If memory serves me correctly, I had Mike run out and grab some that night. I mixed it with breastmilk, and apprehensively fed it to Ayden; she loved it. She didn’t flinch. She just took the bottle and that was the beginning of our ‘supplementing’ journey. It felt amazing to have another way to feed my fiercely independent babe, and it was equally as freeing.
Frankie and I were pros from the start. She latched beautifully and we were fast friends. It was the stuff that instagram posts are made of, and I finally understood why people said they enjoyed nursing. That’s not to say that my feeding journey with Frankie has been all sunshine and rainbows. While we made a great team in this way, I at times struggled big time. For instance, I had to cut dairy from my diet for the first 6 months of her life, because even the slightest trace of it, would upset her tummy. I had a real bitch of a time with pumping as well. I couldn’t seem to pump a substantial amount, which left me always worried that I was losing my supply. When I did bottle feed (sometimes breastmilk, and occasionally formula), I felt the need to explain myself. This was new. This was something I’d picked up between Ayden and Frankie. I am also not really a boob-whipper-outer; it’s just not who I am. Sometimes (with both girls) I felt self-conscious about being self-conscious. Oh and let us not forget to mention that I am certainly not one of the lucky ones who loses all their baby weight simply from nursing. I mean, god bless those ladies (I know a few of them), but that is not in my DNA.
The list goes on, friends.
I think the thing I have been least of all prepared for, though is the emotional rollercoaster that comes with intentionally weaning your babe. See, I never had this experience. This is new. Every baby is different. I decided to wean Frankie at 13 months. She just turned 18 months, and we are 10 days boob-free. The irony of this 5 month window feels like a perfect depiction of motherhood. Anyway, I won’t sugar coat it; it’s been hard. Like really hard. Like crazy, flailing, crying, kicking and punching, temper tantrum-hard. Like bursting into tears of frustration, sadness and hormones-hard. Like second-guessing, anxiety-producing, guilt-filled HARD. But isn’t this just like everything else in motherhood? We make the best possible decision that we know how to for our precious babies, and just hope and pray that we haven’t purchased them a one-way ticket to a therapist’s couch.
So what is the takeaway here? The takeaway is people can only speak from their Own experience, and everyone has a different story to tell. So what I want to tell you, (especially you NEW mamas) is this; your story–your journey is in the making, and everything else is just noise. There is no ONE right way to nourish your baby–seriously, I mean that. Forget ‘Breast is best’, forget “Fed is best’, let’s all agree on ‘LOVED is best.’