Breastfeeding, you guys. It’s such a hot topic and one that typically has pretty passionate people on both sides of it. There are many people that fall in the middle somewhere, those who could care less about how people decide to feed their babies…. And then, of course, you have what I lovingly refer to as the people on both extreme ends of the spectrum: 1) Breastfeeding moms who think formula is legitimately poison and 2) the formula-feeding moms who are grossed out by breastfeeding.
I’m not going to pretend to know where everyone should stand on that scale, but I will give you some insight into my personal thoughts on it.
I breastfed my oldest, Silas, for 14 months. We STRUGGLED, especially in the beginning. He was 2.5 weeks early and had a really difficult time latching which, in turn, caused me so much pain. I mean, it truly felt like my nipples were being singed off by the fires of actual hell. He had hard time gaining weight, and looking back now, I don’t think my supply was providing him with near enough milk. It definitely got easier over time, but he stayed an hour-long nurser and was still nursing 7x a day when we weaned at 14 months. (Again, I’m pretty sure it was because my supply was so low and I just didn’t realize it.)
We finally started supplementing with formula around 10 months in because he was still so tiny. Honestly, in hindsight, part of me feels incredibly guilty that we waited so long. The moment that will forever be etched in my memory is the first time he had a full bottle of formula before bed, near the end of us weaning. Matt and I had always considered Silas to be a light sleeper – he typically flopped around all night long. Well, that first night when we fed him 6 oz of formula, he literally didn’t move a muscle the entire night. I’m pretty sure he had just been hungry all those other nights, which is why he tossed and turned….
That realization broke my heart into a million pieces.
With Verity, our daughter, we went in with our eyes wide open, knowing the struggles that can accompany breastfeeding and feeling a little more prepared for it in general. She was born at 39 weeks 3 days, so basically full-term, and had a great latch. Girlfriend loved to eat and other than those first 10 days of raw nipples, she was nursing like a champ!
I actually had the opposite problem with her – my supply was so strong, she was pretty much drowning in milk. So much so, that she had weeks of projectile vomiting before we figured out that she was just being overfed. I’m talking, exorcist-style, 4 ft radius, gallon-volume of milk, projectile vomiting. It was actually kind of impressive haha.
We finally did a weighted feed and found out that at 6 weeks, she was transferring 3.5oz of milk in 7 minutes on ONE SIDE. I had been feeding her 10-12 min on BOTH sides. #whoops. We switched to block feeding after that and nursing massively improved, for both of us.
At around 4-5 months, Verity went from only nursing for 7-10 minutes on one side to nursing 15 minutes on both sides (she just needed more milk as she grew bigger). However, this is where the cracks started showing. Nursing a baby 6 times a day is hard enough. But nursing a baby 6 times a day, for 30 minutes each time, while also trying to entertain a 2-year-old is damn near impossible. I began getting so frustrated and so overwhelmed every time I nursed her. I was basically immobile, stuck on the couch or chair, while Silas touched everything in the house he wasn’t allowed to touch. 10 minutes? He was fine! 30 minutes? It was pretty much a free-for-all at that point.
I just got angrier and angrier every time I had to feed her.
One night in particular, when she was around 6 months old, I was headed to a friend’s house and sobbing on the phone to my mom.
I don’t want to do this anymore! I HATE IT. I’m dreading feeding her every single time.
My mom said,
Brenae. You know you don’t HAVE to nurse her, right?
Uhh. What do you mean?! I CAN STOP?? I choked out between sobs:
But it’s so much healthier for her.
What my mom said next changed everything:
Honey, it’s actually healthier for everyone for you to be a happy, loving mom. Not angry. Not frustrated. And if that’s what I takes, THEN DO IT! Wean her! There’s nothing wrong with being done.
It was like a 100lb weight was lifted off my chest, hearing those words.
I genuinely had never considered the fact that I COULD stop anytime I wanted. I nursed her for 6 months, I enjoyed most of that time. And I had the choice to stop if it was no longer healthy for me, which it wasn’t. WHAT?!
Up to this point, I had honestly been feeling so resentful of my husband and his freedom, to go anywhere he wanted, whenever. To be gone for 6 hours, golfing, if he so chose to. (I mean, it’s rare he does that, but still! He had options.) I was feeling so claustrophobic, so STUCK, and it was making me such an angry person. My mom was 100% right.. breastmilk might truly be “better,” but my kids having a mom that wasn’t ready to fly off the handle at any given moment? THAT is the best thing, by far.
Having been a breastfeeding mom, I felt incredible guilt at first.
Guilt that I COULD have kept nursing her. My supply hadn’t dropped, she wasn’t having weight issues, there was no physical reason to stop. But as I introduced a bottle to her, as I gained an hour of two of freedom…an afternoon alone…and finally, once she was weaned entirely, the ability to go wherever I wanted for however long I wanted?
I found my sanity.
I was happy again! I was RELIEVED. I can’t even describe how I feel now – it literally changed my entire outlook on this whole season of life. Two kids under 2.5 is hard but man, I am LOVING these days now.
And after talking to so many other mamas and sharing my story, I knew I had to write this post. Because you guys, there are SO MANY MOMS out there that feel this way!! I know because they’ve told me! And they feel guilty and sad and some have even been told by family members that it’s too selfish for them to stop, to basically just suck it up and finish out the year. WHAT?!
I’m so grateful that my husband and my family supported me in this decision and I want to encourage others in that same boat, that IT IS OKAY to stop breastfeeding if it’s not working for yiou. IT’S OKAY!!! Your baby will be fine AND you will be fine. So shove that mom-guilt to the side and BE FREE to make whatever choice you need to.
The best gift you can give your babies is a healthy, whole, HAPPY mama.
The days are long, but the years ARE short, as they say. And there are so many other things to focus your energy and time on mamas.
Honestly, 20 years from now, it won’t matter whether you breastfed or formula fed your kids! Bottom line…just feed your baby. However that looks like. Whatever you choose to do. Breastfeed for 2 years. Formula feed from day 1. Do a mixture of both. My advice? Find what works for you, your babe, your family, your own mental health, and JUST BE FREE.