As you may already know, I am the mommy of two beautiful girls. My first daughter, Myra, is two years old. My second daughter, Vivian, is almost 6 months old. It is tons of fun having kids so close in age! At first, it was a bit overwhelming, but I have started to figure it all out. I am so thankful for these two girls in my life!
I want to share with you my experience with breastfeeding my firstborn. I am currently still nursing Vivian and will share about that sometime in the future. But, since my experiences were night-and-day different, I wanted to tell you about it and what I learned from the experience. I am not here to give any kind of medical advice and you can take it or leave it. But I do hope to encourage any breastfeeding or soon-to-be breastfeeding moms out there with my journey.
Before Myra was born, I read a lot. Mostly, I scoured the internet for any and every bit of advice on each aspect of having a baby. Every moment of my free time was spent looking up birthing stories, infant after-care, and breastfeeding tips. To be honest, I had a very prideful attitude about it all (I hate admitting that, but it is true). When people told me they didn’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, I thought they were terrible. I would say things like, “Why would someone deprive their child of the best?” I decided I was going to be better than that and nurse my child for at least 6 months, but hopefully closer to a year.
I was humbled very quickly.
When my baby was first placed in my arms, I held her. I kissed her. I talked to her. But I never once thought to feed her. Finally, a nurse came in and asked if the baby had eaten. I was like, “Huh?” Honestly, I was waiting for someone to tell me what to do! I stumbled through my first nursing session, still over-confident. I continued to painfully feed Myra throughout my time in the hospital. I was sure I had this thing down!
After the first, long, sleepless night at home, my milk finally came in. I was engorged right away. I fed Myra every time she was hungry, but she would fall right to sleep. This may sound silly, but I just assumed she was full! Everything I read said to feed them until they fall asleep! So I did!
Well, it turns out, she was just a sleepy baby. I tried to keep her awake, but there was no hope. She slept so well that I just assumed she was eating enough. After 3 weeks and countless doctor visits, she lost more weight. She was 5 pounds 12 ounces. I was told that I had to start giving her formula.
I was heartbroken.
This wasn’t my plan! I wanted to pride myself in exclusively breastfeeding my baby for at least 6 months! Not 3 weeks! I refused to feed her the first bottle. I sobbed while my husband fed her and I watched her desperately scarf it all down. She was starving! I felt like such a failure but I wouldn’t allow myself to quit.
Over the next few days, I selfishly tried to get her to breastfeed. I would nurse her for hours at a time, hoping to be enough for my baby. I denied her formula because I was convinced I had given her enough. She continued to starve until I finally put my baby’s needs before my desires. I cried as I gave her a bottle. I would hold her and tell her how sorry I was that I wasn’t enough for her. That I couldn’t be everything she needed. That I had failed as a mom.
The doctor told me the only possibility I would ever be able to exclusively breastfeed was if I nursed Myra, gave her a bottle, and pumped for at least 20 minutes…8 TIMES EVERY DAY! I wanted this so badly, so I tried. I fed Myra, put her down, pumped a few drops, and then started all over again. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and I finally decided enough is enough.
I had gone an entire day without being able to sit and stare in my new baby’s eyes. I never got to just sit, snuggle, and sing to her without being rushed to the next thing. I felt like I was pumping my life away…and that is something I didn’t want to do. So I chose time with my baby, who would grow quicker than a blink of an eye, over being able to call myself a breastfeeding mom.
When I put it all into perspective, the decision became easy.
But it didn’t stop people from sharing their opinions. I had people tell me to pump all day because “what else are you going to do?” Others informed me that my child would most likely be obese and have a hard time losing weight because of the formula.
After I heard these things, I would question my decision. I would try to get her to nurse, but it just didn’t work. Even though I was happy to have a healthy, growing baby, I still felt shame when others saw me give her a bottle. Before bed, I would cry in my husband’s arms, telling him how judged I felt and how terrible of a mom I was.
Thankfully, though, I have the most incredible, loving husband. He listened. He wiped away my tears. He held me. But when I was all done with my rant, he gently told me all of the good things I was doing for my daughter—how I sang to her, how I changed her diapers, how I took her on walks, how I loved her with all of my being. Even now, I have tears in my eyes remembering how much he encouraged me in those moments.
No, I didn’t get to give my baby the “best food” but I had done my best. And I gave her everything I could.
I truly believe that God wanted to humble my proud heart.
In the end, I nursed as much as I could until Myra was two months old. Finally, I realized that there was nothing left and I had given it my all. So, I let it go.
I share this with you because I want to be real. I want to share this experience that started out to be one of the hardest, most painful things…but turned into one of the most beautiful growing times in my life. With this experience, I hope that you will never let someone feel bad for a decision that has to do with breastfeeding. You will never know the extent of what someone is going through or why they made the decision they made. And that is okay. Breastfeeding doesn’t make any mom better than any other. Yes, God gave moms the ability and yes, breastmilk is great for babies! But there are other great options as well.
Now that my daughter is two and over a year away from drinking formula, I still stand behind my decision. There is not one ounce of me that feels bad for giving her formula. Ya know why? Because that is what she needed. And guess what? She is the most beautiful, caring, tall, active, and smart girl I know! And she is skinny too! (take that, obesity comment!)
So, please encourage and build up other mommas. Breastfeeding is hard and doesn’t work for everyone.
Jumping to now, I am still breastfeeding my 6 month old! Before she was born, I was terrified of this happening again. I changed some things from the beginning and worked really hard. Now, I have my success story that I will share with you someday!
What about you? Was your breastfeeding journey easy? Or did you struggle?