Let me start this post by saying that this is a very personal look inside a topic that is near and dear to my heart and family. Up until now, I had not planned to share Morgan’s birth story and I still hope to keep nearly all of those details private. But when The Honest Co. reached out to see if I’d be open to sharing my breastfeeding journey, I realized it’s one worth sharing. Please note that I recognize breastfeeding is a very sensitive subject, and every parent has a different experience and story. Here’s mine.
As a first-time mom, I had lists upon lists of baby products, recommendations and resources that I kept organized and handy whenever I had a doctor’s appointment or needed to add something to the baby registry. This isn’t terribly surprising considering my list-making tendencies and OCD-type habits when it comes to keeping everything organized and tidy. So naturally, I had a birth plan. It was pretty basic, wasn’t elaborate or super specific — just a few dos and don’ts that were important to us as we brought our new baby into the world. And now having lived through the experience of childbirth, I see that there’s no rule book. No one has given birth to your baby in that moment under those circumstances every before. So how can you possibly prepare the perfect birth plan?
Everything went right out the window when it came time to deliver. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh goodness, that’s just not part of my birth plan!” But instead, thought solely of birthing our baby, staying strong and calm, listening to my doctor, the nurse and my husband, and putting my faith in the process.
Funny enough though, breastfeeding wasn’t really in my birth plan. I’m not saying I wanted or didn’t want to breastfeed. I simply felt indifferent about it and didn’t have a firm idea of how I wanted to plan (or not plan) for it. Of course, the planner in me had read that the process could be beautiful and easy, could be challenging, could hurt, could be really hard on you physically and emotionally. I knew many women who breastfed their children and loved the experience, others who had a hard time but pushed through it, some who tried and quit, and others who had no interest at all. Every time I thought about it during pregnancy, I decided it was entirely okay not to know; I didn’t want to put any added pressure on myself going into motherhood. For me, it was a toss up and ultimately, a game time decision.
I still can’t adequately put into words how magical the moment was when I first held my son in my arms. I was overcome with more emotion than I ever could have dreamed, while simultaneously being so physically exhausted I could barely see straight. In that moment — after a lengthy labor and so much emotion — I simply couldn’t think about doing anything else besides holding my newborn son, celebrating his arrival and giving myself a chance to rest.
The subject came up a lot during those first few hours. My husband and I talked about it and talked about it, asking ourselves lots of questions and discussing our options with doctors and family members. Should I give it a try? Should I try it for a week and see how it goes? Is there any harm in formula feeding? Maybe we should just do that? The answer wasn’t as clear as I had hoped, and maybe that’s because I didn’t have a strong feeling to begin with. But perhaps that was really my answer all along.
In the end, we decided to formula feed. Meaning yes, I never breastfed my son.
To be honest, the decision seemed natural. He took his first bottle and then his second, and from there on out it all seemed like the right choice. Watching my husband feed our baby for the first time melted me right into a million ooey gooey pieces. Formula feeding allowed us to have a bit of flexibility and freedom to have others feed him besides me. My parents (first-time grandparents) fed him on day two. My sister fed him. My aunt fed him.
As a mother, there’s nothing you want more for your child than to be showered with love and affection. And in this sweet and special way, watching others feed my newborn during those initial hours of his life was more meaningful than I could have imagined.
Our son was formula fed for the first 11 months of his life, a decision I have wholeheartedly stood by since the moment we made it. In my mind and in my heart, I know we made the right decision for our family and for him.
Because to me: a fed baby is a happy baby.
I’ll admit that I felt some guilt and jealousy at times. I felt guilty that I didn’t try. Morgan had severe reflux and it was very hard on him and our family. I wondered if that was my fault. I wondered if things would’ve been different had I breastfed. I wondered if our bond would’ve been greater. And I felt a bit of jealousy for mothers who could simply feed without fuss, no heavy diaper bag or mixing bottles on the go. Yet those were always momentary thoughts.
Because let’s be honest, you don’t have much time to think when you have a newborn.
To some, my decision to formula feed may seem like an overly selfish thing to do. And the truth is, I’m okay with that. Part of the decision was selfish; I wasn’t physically or mentally in a place where I could consider trying and I recognized that the breastfeeding alternative was a safe and healthy one.
There’s a lot of pressure in those first few days to try to breastfeed — heck, a lactation consultant is knocking on your door before some family members have met your baby. And to me it’s all, well, a bit … extreme.
Breastfeeding (or not breastfeeding, for that matter) is an entirely personal choice. The pressure (especially from others who don’t know you) should disappear. As a first-time mom, the last thing I needed was more pressure. Believe me, I was already as anxious and overwhelmed as ever.
My message to all mothers is this: don’t judge each other for your breastfeeding choices. Motherhood is a journey and if there’s anything it has taught me so far it’s that there is no rule book. Every day is filled with decisions that will shape not only the little humans you are raising but also the woman and mother you become. Let’s honestly and openly support each other in these personal choices. Our families, our hearts and our homes deserve more of that.