It’s 2021 and everyone has an opinion about how I feed my kids. No matter what I’m feeding my baby!
“Breast is best,”
“Formula will make him more full.”
“He’s small because he’s breastfed.”
“He’ll sleep better with formula.”
“He’d really benefit from the antibodies.”
“He’s probably fussy because he’s still hungry.”
Having two kids, with two very different feeding journeys, I can’t help but feel like society is setting mothers up to feel bad about whatever path we take. As my two boys grow into adorable, curious humans, I can’t help but think the “right path” is different for everyone.
Feeding My First Baby
My oldest was rushed to the NICU before I ever got to see him. A week late, a complicated birth, and a long labor led to a whopping 9 lb 14oz baby with a serious infection that needed to be monitored. With my own complications, and recovery, I wasn’t allowed to meet him for eight excruciating hours. He had received formula and a pacifier before I could even hold his hand or recognize his cry. The wonderful nurses took me under their wing and helped me to breastfeed, but when I was discharged from the hospital without my sweet baby boy, we quickly saw that exclusively breastfeeding wasn’t realistic. We were doing everything we were told to do, but it wasn’t enough and feeding my baby made me feel like I was experiencing my first failure as a parent.
My oldest and I never quite got our nursing down: I didn’t know how to support him correctly, he couldn’t figure out how to latch. We tried our best, but most feedings ended in tears. Like most new mothers, I was constantly concerned I wasn’t giving him enough and started supplementing his feedings with formula when he was one month old. When he went to daycare at eight weeks old, he decided a bottle was his drink of choice. Desperate to keep up with what he was eating daily, I felt like I was attached to the wall, and my pump permanently.
My mental health started to deteriorate and at six months due to the pressure I felt around feeding my baby. I decided to start weaning him for my own sake, a decision that made me feel selfish. As he burned through my freezer stash in less than a month, his bottles slowly became exclusively formula. I was full of emotions, sad I couldn’t give my baby what he needed, and happy because I finally felt like I could breathe.
After months of a silent battle with myself, I finally started enjoying my happy, healthy baby and stopped focusing on the different path I took through my journey into motherhood. I realized that my first “failures” as a mother were not actually failures, but the first time I was forced to acknowledge not only my child’s needs, but my own. I was feeding my baby and NOT a failure.
My Second Baby’s Feeding Journey
Fast forward to almost two years later, as I was preparing for my second son to enter the world, I decided I would attempt to breastfeed again. The difference was that this time, I promised myself that I would not let the way I was feeding my baby get in the way of enjoying motherhood. When James entered the world, it was a much calmer, more timely experience than his brother’s birth. He was this perfect tiny baby that we felt so much more prepared for.
My breastfeeding journey was completely different this time around. Latching just seemed to come easier to this baby, and I was much more confident in my role as his mother. Feeding my baby took on new meaning. I finally began to understand the connection nursing could foster between a mother and child, but it wasn’t any better than bottle feeding, it was just different. Just like my boys.