I am so excited to introduce a new author to our blog… Jillian Hasner! One of our fabulous Postpartum Doulas here at Happy Family After. Let’s give her a big round of applause and look forward to a lot more from her!
This weekend, I watched a great documentary called Breastmilk. Along with telling the stories of moms who successfully breastfed for over a year without major issues, it also spoke to those women who were NOT able to feed their babies breastmilk exclusively. As I watched, I felt the memories of my own journey come back. Those stories were my stories, those emotions my emotions, and I felt connected to those women the instant I finished the movie.
I was lucky enough to stay home with both my girls for their first six months. I was breastfeeding for those wonderful months, with only the occasional supplement. The first month or so was hard, as it usually is for new moms, but we eventually figured it out.
Then the harsh reality…I had to go back to work. As I broke out the breast pump (which I referred to as “the devil”), I shuddered. The pump and I were not friends. I loved breastfeeding. Snuggling up, feeling the warm tingle of letdown and the wave of good feeling oxytocin flow over me. It was great. But pumping…wasn’t so great. It felt so unnatural to me, being hooked up to a machine, the cold pump whining and whistling as it sucked out my milk – the polar opposite of my lovely nursing experience. In the first couple of weeks after returning to work, I was not producing as much as I needed. My body knew this machine wasn’t a baby, and even with all the tips and tricks, nothing seem to make it better. I was sad – heartbroken! I had seen and heard of lots of women who could pump 8oz in 10 minutes, but that wasn’t me. I was barely pumping enough to feed my baby for the next day, with no extra milk. I would get up in the morning and breastfeed on one side, and pump on the other. That combined with yesterday’s two pumping sessions would feed her that day. I had no “freezer stash” and was very stressed. It was making me crazy! All I could think about was pumping, and parts, and ounces, and fenugreek capsules, and domperidone pills, and oatmeal, and brewers yeast and… AHHHHH! I literally couldn’t focus on much else. I vividly remember watching an episode of “”Bringing Home Baby” where one woman produced so much milk, she had an entire chest freezer full. I cried for an hour.
The tipping point for me was one Friday when I forgot to put my milk in the fridge. Tired from a long day of work and family, I left the bag on the dining room table. I remembered Saturday evening, long after it had spoiled. I cried and cried. Now what was I going to do? I didn’t have any extra! So, after a much needed cry-fest, I sat down and had a talk with my husband. I just couldn’t do it anymore. My work and family were suffering, and my emotional state was in the toilet. It just wasn’t worth the stress. So the next day we started weaning to formula. I felt like a failure, embarrassed and ashamed. Did I not try hard enough?
Eventually, it got better. The pressure that I was putting on myself was so immense, I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I relieved myself of it. Work got better, my family was happier, and I was starting to feel like myself again. I was able to focus on being a great mom and wife. I could enjoy the moments I had with my family and I could even enjoy my job again. Sure, I got judgment for switching, and sometimes all these years later, I still feel that sadness. But having a foot on both sides of the breastfeeding vs formula feeding debate has given me an amazing perspective. I got looked at when I nursed in public and I got looked at when I formula-fed in public, by different types of mothers with different kinds of judgments.
The bottom line is, the way you feed your baby doesn’t define you. You aren’t a better mother for breastfeeding or formula feeding. You shouldn’t have to be ashamed to bring out a bottle or breast when your baby is hungry, and there’s no explanation needed. Being mothers, we face so much judgment we often forget that the only person we need to answer to is ourselves. We all love our children so incredibly and fiercely, but we need to remember to love ourselves that way as well. You are the only mom your baby has, according your them, you ARE the best mom in the world!