I suspect that everyone reading this already knows that breastfeeding is best for babies; that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast milk exclusively for the first six months. No disrespect to La Leche League and other organizations who work to raise awareness about the benefits of breast milk, but enough already. I think we got the point.
The pressure to exclusively breastfeed our babies has become so strong, that women who CAN’T breastfeed are shamed into a horrific amount of guilt if they’re unable to lactate. There are hundreds of thousands of new moms worldwide who aren’t able to breastfeed. Adoptive moms, surrogate moms, moms who’ve had medical complications, moms who simply don’t produce enough milk. And then there are regular moms like me…
I found breastfeeding stressful, painful and I struggled with milk supply for many agonizing months. I nursed and pumped night and day. I drank gallons of milk-inducing teas, and spoke with a lactation consultant daily – all to avoid supplementing with formula.
Looking back, I realize the stress and anxiety was my biggest problem. The lactation consultants all wanted to keep me exclusively breastfeeding. I seemed to be the only one in my new moms group who was struggling, and I didn’t know any experienced moms who may have given me permission to relax and give my baby a bottle of formula every now and again, and give myself a break. That’s all I would have needed, and ironically enough, it was a non-mother friend who suggested it when she found me in a puddle of tears.
A friend of mine, after intricate planning for a natural home-birth, ended up with an emergency C-section, followed by a serious infection, two extra hospital weeks with IV antibiotics, followed by mastitis, more antibiotics, etc. The result was a crippling case of postpartum depression and an inability to produce enough milk to feed her baby. Her depression was so crippling, her mom had to take care of her and the baby for six months. With medication, she recovered.
On her first excursion alone with the baby, she was scolded by another mom for feeding her baby a bottle of organic soy formula. The woman smugly said, “Breast milk really IS better for your baby.” Can you imagine?
This kind of righteousness and down-right nastiness amongst mothers is shocking, and it needs to stop. The cultural pressure to exclusively breastfeed is hard enough, and I believe that the increasingly high rates of PPD would drastically decline if we stopped putting so much pressure on moms.
So please ladies, give other moms–and yourselves–a break. A bottle of formula every now and then is not going to kill your baby, and it won’t make your milk dry up. Instead of beating yourself up, maybe you can leave a bottle with your partner and go out for a drink, get a pedicure or simply do something to take care of yourself?
If this resonates with you, read this article, and share your experience with other moms in the comment section below. It’s so helpful to know that we’re not alone.
Hi, I’m Natalie, founder of Mommywise. I’m a Brooklyn mom of two (now) teenagers, PPD survivor, still humbled by the early years of parenting. I started this blog in 2004 as a way to help other parents who felt as dark and lonely as I felt to feel less shame, normalize the feelings of not loving parenthood, and raise awareness about postpartum mood disorders. I’m passionately committed to helping new parents feel more joy, offering sustainable employment for women and mothers, and contributing to positive change in the world.