When my daughter was born I had no idea the pressure I would feel to breastfeed her and the intense guilt and shame that would come when it didn’t work out.
To be honest I had always felt a little weird about the idea of breastfeeding and often wondered throughout my pregnancy how it would all work out. But amidst all my inhibitions about breastfeeding, I knew I wanted to do it and give my baby the best possible start to her life. However, things didn’t go as planned and my daughter lost weight in the hospital right after she was born because my milk wasn’t supplying the calories she needed. The doctors said she needed some formula, so at only a couple days of age she got her first taste of the bottle and the fast flow of milk and from that moment on she wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding.
Life after we came home from the hospital were filled with days of me desperately trying to breastfeed my screaming baby and a new mom who felt like she had let herself and her daughter down.
Not being able to breastfeed my baby consumed me and filled me with so much guilt.
Over the next six weeks, I tried a mix of pumping and giving her formula. Pumping was my desperate attempt at giving my daughter some breastmilk but my supply quickly dropped and I began hardly producing anything. After each pumping session, I would look in horror at how little was in the bottles. So, while my daughter would sleep I would furiously google tips and tricks for getting a baby to breastfeed and I tried different supplements to get my milk supply to flow. Everything I tried didn’t work and I was devastated. For some reason the “fed is best” statement just didn’t make me feel better about having to give my daughter formula.
Finally, after several months of holding onto hope that breastfeeding might somehow start working, I gave up on the idea and began giving my daughter solely formula. At this point, the decision to stop trying to breastfed and pumping gave me some relief and allowed me to start letting go of my guilt.
Instead, I began to change my outlook on formula and became grateful that formula exists and that it contains so many nutrients and vitamins my daughter needed to grow. I began to find joy in watching my husband, family members, and friends feed my daughter.
Fast forward three years and my daughter is a healthy and happy toddler despite my worry somehow she wouldn’t be since she was formula fed.
I often look back on those days and feel sad that I allowed my guilt over not being able to breastfeed overshadow those precious first months as a mom. But at the time and to this day I feel that there is such pressure on women to breastfeed. Don’t get me wrong I think breastfeeding is amazing but I know that it doesn’t work for everyone. When the hospital you give birth at is labeled as a breastfeeding hospital and the pediatrician you see tells you that he supports breastfeeding first to the numerous articles you read by formula shamers out there, I realized how easy it is for a woman to feel inadequate when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. I remember seeing beautiful pictures online of women in fields of flowers breastfeeding their babies but never saw any pictures of women bottle feeding their babies. I hope one day this stigma changes and we will start celebrating feeding our babies no matter how we do it.
I wrote this article for the women out there like myself who were filled with such guilt and shame when breastfeeding didn’t work out. I hope by reading this it will bring them comfort in knowing someone else felt the same way.