Why doesn’t anyone tell us how hard breastfeeding can be before you have the baby?
Melissa and I both took prenatal classes pre-baby, and at no point during that course did they tell us how challenging breastfeeding can be. It’s just assumed you will do it, and you’ll figure it out. Then you experience the miracle of birth, with a mass of new hormones in tow, and the fear of God is put on you if you don’t succeed at breastfeeding. If you deliver in a hospital, the minute baby is born they just assume that breastfeeding is how you will feed your baby, and if it’s not, get ready for the guilt.
We are eight years into parenting and have both breastfed, pumped, bottle fed and formula fed, so we know what we’re talking about. We’ve experienced incredible beauty and bonding while breastfeeding our babies, but we’ve also endured excruciating bouts of thrush, cracked bleeding nipples, low supply, oversupply, and a child who was given a diagnosis of ‘failure to thrive” who was exclusively breastfed.
When we first became Moms we truly believed that ‘breast was best’, because that’s what everyone told us we should believe. We’ve also experienced the guilt when transitioning to a bottle. With her first baby, Melissa used to breastfeed in public and hid her bottle feeding out of guilt. I exclusively breastfed my second baby through 8 months of excruciating thrush. I tried everything to get rid of it, changed my diet, took medication, pumped, nothing work. I had so much guilt about ending breastfeeding, that I would cry through many feeds. Finally, one day, we stopped beating ourselves up about trying to just feed our babies, and proudly began feeding whatever way worked for the situation. After everything we’ve been through, we want to celebrate, and say that bottle feeding is also a beautiful way to bond and feed our babes.
In no way are we here trying to debate the quality of breastmilk vs. formula, (we’ll leave that to the scientists) our message to all Moms is that whatever way you choose to feed your babies, because of whatever personal reason, that’s okay. It’s your choice. Not the hospital’s choice, not your mother’s choice, or that Mom who glares at you when you pull out a bottle, or a judgy neighbour—it’s your choice.
You know why, because only you know what is best for you, your baby, and your family. The pressures and guilt that some women have faced because of breastfeeding have literally been lethal, and that’s just not okay in our books. As Moms, we have enough pressure on us from day one, and the added pressure to successfully breastfeed is too much for some.
Some women don’t produce enough milk and their babies are starving, so they need to supplement. Some women have to take medications to live, that aren’t safe while breastfeeding. Some women have severe post-partum issues, and can’t manage breastfeeding. Some women adopt their babies, and don’t get the choice to breastfeed. Some women have to go back to work soon after birth and can’t manage all the pumping, and storing while trying to manage their career, plus the home, plus other children, and some women just don’t want to, and that’s their choice.
If you choose to breastfeed, we hope you’re successful and it’s wonderful. When breastfeeding works it can be glorious, but please don’t judge other Moms for not breastfeeding, because you don’t know their lives. We all just need to stop this judgement we feel we’re somehow entitled to, and start supporting one another.
Isn’t it enough that a baby is loved, fed and cared for? ‘Fed Is Best’ supports all Moms.