This series is dedicated to discussing some of my more challenging experiences in motherhood. In the first installment of this series, I talked about the first of my 3 D’s: [Gender] Disappointment.
The Second D: Drying Up
There are messages you see and hear when you’re pregnant and become a mom. People don’t always say them out loud, but they’re there, in the world, in your head [on your newsfeed…] and in your heart. They make you feel like if you don’t do certain things, feel certain ways, or have certain abilities, you’re a less qualified mother.
One of the loudest of those messages is: “Breast is Best.”
Yes, there are certain things about breast milk that, try as they might, cannot be duplicated into formula. Giving a baby a bottle will never be exactly the same as providing nourishment for your baby from your own body. But that doesn’t mean that bottle feeding makes you a less of a mother. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to nurse both my babies, even just for a little while, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the only option or I’m a better mom than one who can’t or chooses not to nurse their baby.
I’m going to be brutally honest with you: I used to judge moms who didn’t breastfeed.
But like many things, once I became a mom, my preconceptions were proved incredibly wrong.
Breastfeeding is HARD.
It doesn’t always simply come naturally. It’s painful and takes immense effort. One of the most sensitive parts of your entire body gets sucked on multiple times a day and can become cracked and start to bleed. But even when that happens, you still have to allow said body part to be sucked on again and again, only a couple hours later. Oh there’s creams and balms, but those don’t completely take away the pain and discomfort.
Before becoming a mom, I really had no clue about the depth of emotions that run hand in hand with breastfeeding. I also had no clue that your milk supply was something that could just dry up for no fault of your own.
I lost my milk supply when my first born son, Knox, was around 5 months old. And unfortunately, I found out the hard way. Realizing his diaper tabs were overlapping a little bit more than they used to, and that he was starting to get fussy during nursing, I took him to the pediatrician. My sweet, laid back, too-chill-to-show-me-the-signs babe had lost almost a pound, moving from the 90th percentile down to the 5th!
Talk about mom guilt.
My pediatrician was so gracious and understanding with me, affirming me as a mom, reminding that some babies are just really good sleepers, and don’t always show the signs that they’re not getting enough milk. Mix that with being a first time mom and having no idea that my body simply wasn’t the greatest at producing milk, and it was the perfect storm.
That day was such a mixture of emotions for me. Guilt over not realizing my baby was undernourished for so long, relief at finally being able to give him the nutrients he needed through formula, and also sad that my milk supply was basically gone, and nursing my first baby was pretty much over.
So when I had my second son, I was super watchful over my supply. I saw a lactation consultant when Zeke was about a month old, I pumped as often as I could handle it, and I took fenugreek diligently.
But despite my immense effort to keep my supply up, at Zeke’s 4 month appointment, my pediatrician told me that my sweet boy had dropped percentiles. He hadn’t lost weight yet, but the signs of a depleting milk supply were showing up.
Despite all my hard work, my body is just not great at producing milk past the first few months. And I have to accept that.
There are still days when I feel less than, knowing I can’t nurse my baby to a full year or more. But then in the same moment, I’m so thankful that we have such quality formula to give our babies, when bodies such as mine don’t produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed.
So if you’re like me and your body doesn’t produce milk like it’s supposed to, or you decide that nursing just isn’t your cup of tea, or you adopt a baby and don’t even have the choice of breastfeeding, please don’t beat yourself up. Moms have enough to deal with to add unnecessary guilt into the mix.
I saw a new movement in the motherhood world called, “Fed is Best.” And YES, absolutely yes.
Fed. Is. Best.
Let’s stop the mom shaming, and mom judging and that includes shaming and judging ourselves. Your baby will be fed, and that’s what’s most important. Bonding will still take place. Being held in your arms and receiving the nutrients out of a bottle can be just as special as being held in your arms and receiving those nutrients from your breast. The important thing is that your baby will feel loved, cared for, and protected while receiving the nutrients he or she needs.