Okay wow long title BUT important to this post for so many reasons. I recently posted on Instagram about breastfeeding and asked for your stories and am blown away by the response the different experiences, feelings, struggles were all so real and raw and powerful. I remember shortly after Jessamyn was born the nurse coming in and asking me if I wanted to try and feed her. Jessamyn was zero percent interested and I was one hundred percent overwhelmed and confused and completely unsure about what I was doing.... I also remember the hospital and our insurance provider offering tons of support and options but still I felt alone and struggled. About ten days after Jessamyn was born I was sitting on the edge of the bed trying to feed her with tears just pouring down my face because it hurt so bad... like was excruciating, and Jessamyn was so not interested and angry and just not having it AND I remember thinking how the hell is this suppose to be bonding? Because right now we are both just angry and hurt and tired and NOT bonding....
it was at that point that Ben suggested I just pump because it was easier for me and Jessamyn was happier and still getting fed... It took me days to finally decide to make the switch. Long, painful, agonizing days desperately trying to breastfeed and struggling so hard. After we switched to pumping everything was better... pumping wasn't painful, and Jessamyn was happy again because she was no longer starving and actually started to sleep for longer stretches at night. I pumped exclusively for over a year but spent every day of that year feeling guilty for pumping. Anytime someone asked me about how Jessamyn was doing or how breastfeeding was going I felt like I had to justify myself and explain in great detail how it just didn't work and pumping was our solution. I felt like a lesser mom somehow and was even told on many occasions it was just a bad latch or there were different things we could have done... or whatever all things that left me feeling like I didn't try hard enough to take care of my child.
There was often a lot of questions and confusion around me pumping and people wanting reassurance that I wasn't also using formula because somehow that was lower than pumping which was lower than breastfeeding. It felt like there was this invisible hierarchy of worth tied to how you fed your baby and the guilt of it is still something I struggle with.
When I had Ophelia I was prepared to pump again but she latched almost instantly on her own and hasn't quite since. She is a pro breastfeeder and yet still I often feel guilt. Ophelia won't take a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup... she is a purist when it comes to breastfeeding which means I can't leave her with anyone because I am the only one who can feed her. This is SO different from Jessamyn who would take a bottle from just about anyone and as long as I had the pump and milk in the freezer I could go just about anywhere on my own... Okay let me stop right there and say this is NOT a post about me complaining about breastfeeding, I actually do love it and love having been able to feed Ophelia this way (Though I also loved pumping and feeding Jessamyn that way). I also don't think the bonding has been any different based on how I fed either girl... I have found though that because of how easy my breastfeeding journey has been this time around I feel guilty when I complain... I feel like I am being judged because what I have going is considered the best for babies and I shouldn't overlook that or voice my struggles with how time consuming it can be and how tethered to each other we are right now.
I've been thinking a lot about that lately... after reading all of the different stories on my post and the guilt we all seem to so deeply feel around how we feed our babies I think something needs to change. There seems to be this idea around birth and breastfeeding that there is a "normal" way to do it. Honestly though after having two of my own children and hearing all of your stories I am convinced there is no set "normal".... I think we (or at least I) end up feeling guilty because I am afraid I am not giving my child the best or living up to a cultural standard that says what is best for my child and because of that I try to over explain or not voice my own emotions about how I am feeding my child. I think this is creating a whole generation of women who no matter how they feed their child feel guilty about it in some way and I hate that. I hate that I tried to force breastfeeding when it was excruciating and causing nothing but pain to myself and Jessamyn when I could have just pumped and fed her and we both would have been okay. I hate that I don't feel like I am allowed to voice struggles on my current journey because it is "stereo typical" and somehow that makes it normal and better.
I think just like mom shaming in other areas we need to look at baby feeding as an individual journey between mom and baby and something not to be judged on a scale... because the truth is fed really is best no matter how you end up doing it and no one persons baby feeding journey has any more value than anyone else... your story may be difficult, it may be raw, and hard, and involve a lot of painful things OR your story may be quiet, and calm, and seemingly struggle free BUT neither story is better... just different.
Just different... we are all just different and as I continue to breastfeed Ophelia and continue to navigate life with her I am slowly letting go of the guilt... because guys it doesn't matter. At the end of the day you are enough and the way you are raising your babies is enough. No societal norm can change that and no other mothers experience can take that away. So please know whether you breastfeed, pump, bottle feed, tube feed... however you are feeding your baby it is enough and I know I can't change any guilt you feel around that but maybe just maybe together we can start changing the discussion and end this painful culture of guilt surrounding how we feed our babies and maybe even change it to strong.. we are strong women, strong mothers, raising strong babies.