When I pull out a bottle of formula, I feel eyes on me from other parents. When I see all those cute pictures of breastfeeding babies, I get a little bit jealous (and a large amount of guilt). Both of the older girls were bottle fed with breast milk, at least for 3 months before we introduced formula and Opal is still breastfeeding (and hates bottles). But we moved to formula and chances are we will again.
There are lots of people who will stand up for formula fed infants and there are plenty of stories about mom’s who don’t produce, or babies who refuse to latch. This wasn’t me. I produced a lot, especially early on. Alice latched perfectly from day one. Breastfeeding just wasn’t for me.
My secret is, I hate breastfeeding. It wasn’t magical, or amazing for me. It was awkward, and uncomfortable. I dreaded feeding time. And feeding time for my babies was a lot (I mean have you seen Alice? she is the size of a 4 year old at 2).
So, I quickly moved to pumping. When Tempest was little, this was a necessity. She didn’t have a good latch and was losing weight fast. She finally got the hang of feeding (with a shield) just in time for us to end up in the hospital with pertussis. Not only was breastfeeding next to impossible with all the alarms and wires hooked up to her, but they wanted to keep track of exactly how much she was eating. So, I pumped. And honestly, I was happy with that. Once released from the hospital we just never went back. I continued to pump for 3 more months until throwing in the towel, and about 3 weeks later we had to buy formula because my freezer supply was gone. All on all, she was on breast milk for 6 months. I still felt like a failure. I still felt like if I tried a little harder, or stuck with a better pumping schedule, or put in more power pumping sessions, that it would have been better. But honestly, I was done. I was exhausted. I, and my husband, were sick of me flinching every time he touched me because I was so over it. I was tired of waking up to pump and finding time to excuse myself, and stop playing with baby. Life became nothing more than feeding and producing food. I wasn’t my own person, or a mom. I was a walking refrigerator. I was on edge all the time.
A mom who is on edge all the time, is no good or baby.
By the time I had Alice I hadn’t gotten over the guilt and we started the whole process over again. We tried breast feeding for about a week before I started also pumping. Tim had taken over much of the baby care, because Tempest, at 1 1/2, needed a lot of attention and playing. Before Alice was a month old we moved to exclusively pumping again. It works for my family. But in all honesty, I am not very dedicated to pumping. By the time work started back up, a month later, we also had the Renaissance festival start up. And if I thought pumping on a college campus was hard, try pumping at a Renaissance festival, where your days are 14 hours long and your in the open. I was lucky to pump once a day. By September, I was done. And we moved to formula.
This time I don’t have the guilt. I knew I wanted to start at least for a week or so with breastfeeding. But figure we would move pretty fast to pumping and then to formula once again. I’m happy playing it by ear and when we are done I will be proud of myself for every day that she was breastfed. I won’t beat myself up or let myself feel like a failure. Because I’m not a failure. Yes, I could have pushed myself, but losing myself isn’t worth whatever benefits breastmilk has. My children are served better with a mom that is relaxed and happy (or at least not as stressed out).
Oddly enough breastfeeding this time is totally different, maybe because I am different. I don’t mind it as much, and I am not nearly as shy as I was. Before I would bottle feed in public because I didn’t want to offend people, and maybe I was a little embarrassed. This time I will happily breastfeed wherever I am. Opal is much cuddlier than the other two. My other children are old enough to play together so I have time for baby. Life this time is easier, so breastfeeding is easier. But also Opal has a horrible gag reflex which has made bottle feeding pretty impossible so far. But really, I don’t mind. We are a month in and still going. But when I decide to stop, I will be happy. My family will be happy.
Fed is best.