There’s No Shame in Your Feeding Game

bottle feeding

Early August 2017: Tess at 2 months old enjoying a bottle after another failed attempt to latch.

I don’t want to write this post. Every month when I sit down to write a post, this topic comes straight to my mind. But instead of writing it, I keep racking my brain for topics I’m more comfortable sharing. However, the me of summer and fall 2017 needed this badly. I can only assume there are some other moms who need this:

There is no shame in how you feed your baby. Your worth as a mom is not tied to how long your breastfeeding game, or journey, lasts. You may not continue as long as you anticipated. The journey is yours alone, and you don’t need to justify why you stopped, or maybe didn’t even start, breastfeeding to anyone.

Preparing for the Journey

Prior to having my daughter Tess, I took all the offered classes through a local hospital, including one dedicated to breastfeeding. I remember sitting in that class feeling confident. Of course I would breastfeed for a year like my mom, mother-in-law, and so many other women I knew. I excitedly shared my takeaways with my husband, who missed the class. I reviewed my notes again days before Tess was born and was excited for all the bonding that would happen during breastfeeding.

Failure to Latch

I became only slightly concerned when Tess had no interest in latching during the “golden hour” after being born. As the day progressed, and she still didn’t seem comfortable or interested in latching, a small doubt started to form in my mind that something may be wrong. I asked nurse after nurse and finally the lactation consultant to help me troubleshoot. I wanted to believe it may be an easy fix that this first time mom didn’t know about. Because I left the hospital with an individual follow-up lactation appointment for three days later, I had increased resolve that things would improve.

Rude Awakening

pumping mom

I hated being an exclusive pumper for almost the first 3 months after my daughter was born. I found it anxiety provoking to pump every 3 hours and see how much/how little I was producing each session.

Little did I know that would be just the beginning of our breastfeeding challenges. Over the next several months, we would try a nipple shield, seek help at many lactation appointments and support groups, have my daughter’s tongue and lip revised by a local dentist, engage in physical therapy appointments, and have her tongue tie re-lasered. She finally started consistently latching when she was around three months old, but the blisters and vasospasms continued for me.

breastfeeding

Late August 2017: Documenting our first time breastfeeding in pubic (and not quite using the cover correctly).

Each month when I took her monthly photo, I told myself it would be better by the next month. By six months, my hope was shrinking, and I was being more open with my husband, mom, and some friends. I was dreading her feedings and wishing the next six months away (to when she would be one, and we had reached the finish line I had set for myself). I knew without a doubt this was not how I wanted to feel multiple times a day during her first year of life.

Fed is Best

When Tess was six and a half months old, we stopped breastfeeding. Once I worked through my guilt and shame, I allowed myself to celebrate all the hurdles we overcame to breastfeed at all. I felt a great deal of relief and happiness that I chose to do what was best for my mental health because Tess needed a joyful and peaceful momma more than she needed breast milk. We still cuddled during feedings, and I cannot express how absolutely thrilled I was to put the pump away. 

My Parting Advice

If you’re struggling and feeling like you have to keep breastfeeding just because you’ll feel ashamed for stopping, may I encourage you to pause and trust yourself. I found it crucial to remove myself from online “support” groups that made me feel worse about myself as a mom. As a mom who felt self-conscious for both breastfeeding and for giving a bottle in public, I can bet now that nobody is going to ask me how Tess was fed in her first year. 

Over six months have passed since we stopped, and we are both thriving, proud members of the ‘Fed is Best’ campaign. We hope moms and babies everywhere find freedom in their feeding choices while claiming the power of Amy Poehler’s saying: “Good for her! Not for me.”

happy mom and baby on a beach

May 2018 (Evidence of us thriving): Tess and I enjoying her first beach vacation to Sanibel, Florida.

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3 Responses to There’s No Shame in Your Feeding Game

  1. Bailey Streicher July 18, 2018 at 11:03 am #

    This is great, Ashley! I am also a PROUD member of the #fedisbest campaign. 🙂 Bottom line, we have to be the best momma we can be for our babies. Both of my breastfeeding/formula feeding stories are unique and both of my babies are happy and and healthy and beautiful! In fact, they’re both screaming, running, tantruming toddlers now. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Ashley Magers July 19, 2018 at 9:06 pm #

    Thanks for commenting, Bailey! I love hearing a little of your experiences and knowing that you’re a fellow #fedisbest momma! You’ll have to share your insights on the toddler phase as I’m not quite there yet 😉

  3. Tanya Magers July 20, 2018 at 9:42 am #

    I tried breastfeeding with both my babies and had to give it up both times. The first time was due to a breast infection and the second time due to the strain of his wanting to eat every two hours. I consulted the pediatrician who assured me that bottle fed babies can be just as healthy as breastfed babies! Although I felt very sad at “failing,” it was a joy to relax while feeding my babies! And it was wonderful to see my husband feed our babies and bonding! Thank you, Ashley, for writing about your experience as I’m certain it is helpful to new mothers!

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