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.
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.
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.”