Breastfeeding is hard.
When it comes to parenting, there are so many decisions to make. Co-sleeping or crib sleeping. Daycare or staying at home. Formula or breastfeeding. Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to can breastfeed. Not everyone wants to, either. And while there are so many confirmed benefits to breastfeeding, there are a few downfalls, too.
Before I was pregnant, even while we were doing fertility treatments, the thought of breastfeeding totally freaked me out. Not only did it seem terribly inconvenient, but the thought of being the sole source of food was overwhelming. Thinking about having a living thing literally attached to me nearly caused a panic attack.
Of course, once I was well into pregnancy, my feelings changed. The reality of motherhood was setting in, and I wanted to do everything I could for my baby. I knew that statistically, her chances of having severe asthma (as I do) were lower if I breastfed for the first few months. I decided to breastfeed if I was able to, and to at least try to for a few months. Of course there was a little bit of outside pressure when it came to this (have you SEEN the moms in those Facebook groups?!), but it was ultimately my decision.
I did not prepare very well to breastfeed. I still had it in my head that if I couldn’t do it, it would be okay. I got my pump ready and a few supplies (totally copied off of other new moms’ registries), but I didn’t really know what I’d be doing — but how much could reading really prepare me, anyway?
Once Charlotte was born, we started off on formula, and after asking to see a lactation consultant, we were set in a schedule of attempting to nurse for 10 minutes on each side, then pumping while Tim gave her formula. You know — every 2-3 hours. It was exhausting. After about a week we were exclusively breastfeeding, with a nipple shield.
But exclusively breastfeeding was hard. If you’ve ever done it, for any amount of time, you know. It felt like a lot of pressure for me. Like I couldn’t ever go anywhere, with or without Charlotte, like I had to be extra prepared in case something happened, like I needed to do everything I could to pump more milk. It was emotionally, mentally, and even physically exhausting. Plus, I was really freaking hungry.
After Charlotte was a few weeks old, I began pumping twice a day so Tim could give her a bottle at night, and it was a huge relief for me. Hallelujah! I could hand her off and run upstairs to shower, pump, and watch TV until I went to sleep. (Bonus: It was easier to feed her more milk via bottle, so I’m pretty sure this helped us in getting her to sleep through the night). On the rare occasion someone had to feed Charlotte a bottle during the day, It was a relief, then, too. I probably would have moved to exclusively pumping if it didn’t mean more work (cleaning breast pump parts ALL DAY).
With Charlotte’s four month appointment coming up, I knew I was done. I was ready to be done. I asked her pediatrician’s advice for switching to formula, and I dropped one feeding per week. It just so happens we were doing this while we were getting ready to move, so when friends came over to help me pack, I could hand them a bottle of formula and I could keep packing. I loved it!
The last time I breastfed Charlotte was the morning of our move, and as much stress as I felt that day, we took our time. I held her close after she was done, but I felt more relief than anything. And now, my sweet girl still smiles and coos at me after she drinks her bottle, she still snuggles up against my shoulder, and I still feel all the love in the world for her.
I don’t know for sure if I’ll breastfeed again if we have more kids. I’ll probably give it a chance, but if it’s not for me then, it will be okay.
Breastfeeding just isn’t for everyone. And sometimes, it’s only for you for a little bit. And all of it’s okay.