It’s 3AM and the baby starts to stir. First use a few grunts, before you even get out of the bed, it’s full on wailing.
You pick her up and instinctively nuzzle her. Walk with her into the kitchen, pull a bottle out of the fridge
You set it down in the warmer and let it settle while you grab a clean diaper to change her. She’s calmed down since you picked her up and gave her cuddles. You’re both so in love.
The warmer goes off, she’s got a clean diaper and you grab the bottle. You settle down into the chair and she ravenously latches on and begins to drink.
And tears begin to well in your eyes.
You tried so hard to breast feed, but she just wasn’t getting enough, was losing weight rapidly, and needed special care shortly after birth. Being at the breast all day simply wasn’t going to get her any better.
It was midnight in the hospital when she was screaming in hunger. Even though you had just fed her less than twenty minutes ago. Her medical care team had told you that the best way to get better was to have feedings that got her full. A full belly was her road to recovery. That just wasn’t happening. She was still hungry. Still crying. You started crying, it was madness.
You put on your call light reluctantly and inform the nurse you’re going to burst into an emotional tear fest before breaking down and saying:
Can I please give her a bottle of formula? She’s so hungry, She won’t stay latched. She’s exhausted. I’m exhausted. No no one is happy and no one is getting any better.
The nurse looks at you with complete understanding and says “Absolutely you can give your baby a bottle of formula.” Still trying to empower your efforts to feed her breast milk she asks if you would like a pump to try to keep up your supply while you supplement. You just don’t know any more, you tell her and she says you can take a few and decide while I go get her some bottles and get your started.
You grab your baby. Hold on tight and she readily latches on to the bottle. Gulping down formula like she hasn’t been fed properly since her cord was cut. You know she has been, but that’s what it seems like. You burp her and the feeding session continues.
She’s so calm and happy. She lays down afterward, contentedly full, and you both rest. But, you don’t rest well because…
the mom guilt sets in.
She’s happy and you feel a sense of calm and relief that you haven’t felt since she arrived. You feel bad for feeling relieved for not having a baby latched to your breast twenty hours a day. She starts to improve. Your baby is doing well on infant formula.
And you cry.
This is not at all what you pictured. You wanted to exclusively breast feed this baby so badly. You read all the research, knew what to expect, know all the benefits. All over everywhere you see “breast is best”.
Even on the bottles of infant formula.
You try pumping, thinking that at least she will get some of the benefits of pumped milk even if you can’t feed her directly from the breast. Your supply is almost non-existent, but you try. You deprive yourself of sleep, you worry and cry over not being able to breast feed.
None of this is at all like you pictured.
You pictured yourself being like all of those women in the magazines. Happily allowing your baby to latch on and eat what mother nature made you to provide. But, it’s nothing like that. It’s stressful and you’re unhappy and it’s all messed up. This isn’t what you imagined, not even close.
I want to tell you to stop. Stop stressing over it. Stop worrying about what people will think. Stop caring that you’re giving your baby formula and have decided you hate breast feeding. Just stop. Whatever the reason is that you aren’t breast feeding, be it personal or necessary, stop doing this to yourself.
Your baby is fed. That is all that is important. You love and care for her enough to feed her. Regardless of the route the food came from. It doesn’t matter if you exclusively breast feed, exclusively pump, exclusively formula feed or any combination of those. It only matters that your baby is fed.
Fed is best.
Not breast, not bottle, just fed. Don’t let the guilt set in. Stop feeling like you have failed. No matter how much research you did, no matter how much you grieve not being able to do what is supposed to come naturally. The only natural thing is to what to feed your baby. Nourish her no matter the cost.
You haven’t failed. Your baby will be just fine and regardless of whether you put her to your breast ever, you will still bond. If breast feeding is stressing you out to the point you aren’t enjoying your baby or your life, that isn’t the answer either. Those first few weeks are hard and most of the time if you can get over that hurdle, you’ll be fine. But, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t. It’s not the end of the world. Be thankful that we have the ability to formula feed because, lets face it, breast feeding isn’t even possible for everyone.
There is no reason to let all of these emotions eat at you. You did everything you could. You made the decision that works out best for you, your baby, and your situation.
Perhaps if another child is in your future things will be different. Perhaps you’re a mom who successful breast fed her other children.
That’s ok. Every child and every situation is different. There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby.
There’s no shame in feeding your infant. Not one. She just needs fed.
It’s time to let go of all these preconceived notions the you have to feed a certain way. You don’t. You just need to nourish your baby.
I promise, and this is coming from a momma obsessed with all things natural, it’s perfectly ok. It will be alright.
So, drop the mom guilt and enjoy your baby. Stop thinking about whether or not someone is judging your decision to do things differently. They aren’t you, they don’t know your situation. People shouldn’t be so quick to judge or to push things on people and pressure them to do things.
Fed is best. Just remember that and let everything else go.
You’ve got this momma, you’re a rockstar.