Mom confession: I hate breastfeeding, and I can’t wait for the day that it’s over.
When my first baby was born, I didn’t cry with joy like I’d expected. Everyone else did, but I was just relieved that birth was over. I really wanted to take a nap.
The first time that I cried with joy over becoming a new mom was when I produced a few drops of the ever-sacred colostrum. I was so happy over my first positive sign of a good breastfeeding experience, I cried.
Three months later, I cried again – this time, because I hated breastfeeding so much.
I knew that breastfeeding wasn’t easy for a lot of women. While still pregnant, I had attended a lactation support group hosted by my hospital. I’d wanted to meet other moms and hear their tips before I became a mom myself.
I came out of most meetings shocked at how many women had cried while discussing their new life as a mom.
So, I knew that breastfeeding could be challenging, but I was determined to succeed. I believed the often-repeated mantra of, “If you truly want to breastfeed, then you will breastfeed.” Anyone can breastfeed, it just takes more work for some to achieve it.
Well, I’m now four months into things, and I don’t truly want to breastfeed.
In fact, I don’t want to breastfeed at all.
My breastfeeding journey got off to a rocky start since I had my baby 48 hours before Hurricane Irma hit Central Florida.
Killian was born on a Friday afternoon and the hospital was going into hurricane lock down the following day, so I checked out Saturday evening and Hurricane Irma hit us on Sunday.
By Monday morning, we lost power.
During the day, Killian and I stripped down for each feeding, with each of us in nothing but our respective diapers (thank you, vaginal delivery). With no air conditioning in the house and 90-degree temperatures outside, we would sweat and be miserable together as we struggled to figure out breastfeeding.
At night, we got back down to our diapers, and practiced breastfeeding throughout the night with nothing but candlelight and flashlights to help us. I kept thinking to myself, “I hate this; I hate breastfeeding.” But I assumed that it would get better.
We only struggled through that one night without power because we went to stay with my in-laws the following day, and our power was restored the third day. But the breastfeeding battles continued.
Over the course of four months, my breastfeeding journey involved nipple shields (Killian would hit them with his hands, soak us both in breast milk, and cry hysterically), nursing on my one ‘successful’ side and pumping on the other, finally nursing on both sides, and then watching it all slip away as Killian again refused to nurse.
It also involved visiting the lactation support group and reviewing my technique with the consultant, spending hours doing research via sites like Kelly Mom and La Leche League International, and always telling myself that this next idea would finally be the trick to see us to successful breastfeeding. I kept thinking, “I hate breastfeeding,” but I knew that I just wasn’t working hard enough. As a mom, I was supposed to want to give everything that I could in order to do the best thing for my baby. That was my purpose; that my value to the world now. “I hate breastfeeding” simply wasn’t a consideration.
But I’m done now.
Killian is four months old, he’s on a diet that’s primarily formula with only about two bottles of breast milk a day.
And his mom is the happiest that she has been since he was born.
I’m no longer dreading the battle that used to come every three hours of the day. I know that my baby will eat without either of us crying, and we can finally use feedings as a time to bond.
I know that Killian won’t stop nursing in frustration after only a few minutes, leaving me to spend the next 40 minutes coaxing him back to a breast that he doesn’t want.
I know that I will wake up everyday with a happy, fed baby….and I know that I will be a better mom to my little boy because of it all.
There’s an incredible amount of pressure placed on moms today to breastfeed their babies – and for an understandable reason. The benefits of breastfeeding involve a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), elevated rates of immunity to common illnesses, benefits to the mother like the release of the hormone oxytocin, and more.
No one is saying that formula is better than breast milk, because if we’re looking at the two in a vacuum, breast milk is far and away the more beneficial option for a baby.
But at a certain point, the mother deserves consideration. Her well-being matters, too.
And when the breast milk comes at the emotional and mental cost of the mom – when the miracle of motherhood becomes an overwhelming experience of disappointment, confusion, and a sense that you ‘just aren’t trying hard enough’ – we need to ask ourselves if we’re willing to sacrifice the well-being of the mom in exchange for her breast milk.
Because breast milk might be better, but that doesn’t make formula bad.
I’m now proud to say that I feed my baby formula. I no longer try to explain myself and justify the decision when people ask if Killian is still breastfed. This was the best decision for both my baby and myself.
And I’m only 4 months into motherhood, so I know that this is just the first of many times where I’ll need to figure out an understanding of what works for most moms versus what works for me.
But for all moms, regardless of your decision: I’m in your corner.
Whether your baby is breastfed through direct nursing, breastfed through pumping, supplementing with formula, or entirely on formula: you’re all working hard to give your babies the best life that you possibly can, and I salute you for that.
No baby is the same, no woman is the same, and no motherhood journey is the same. Whether you love or hate breastfeeding, we’re all in this together.