Before I start… let me say that I believe this is an area of struggle for “some” moms. I have had friends that this topic doesn’t even phase them & honestly, that is a blessing. For those who do though, like myself, I hope my post is a blessing to you and encourages you. I was asked to share my story…. & so, despite it being personal and some what hard to share. The cause is good & I know that we each grow from each others stories & my sharing it will hopefully bless another.
The Nursing & Bottle Wars need to stop. Lets all read this with a open mind & uplifting spirit.
Before I became a mother, in 2004. I was faced with all those first time mom moments. The moment when you go to the library or a friend hands you a copy of “What to Expect, when Expecting.” You open it week after week, reading up on all the developments in your pregnancy. You register at Babies R’ Us or Target… overwhelmed yet giddy excited about all the adorable baby things you may soon have. You enjoy the nesting period where you pick out nursery themes, colors, organize the diapers, wipes, gifts & other goodies. The packing of your hospital bag… or prepping for that home birth… Then, before you know it, he or she is here.
Prior to my becoming a mother, I knew very little about it. Beyond what I had read in those books given or the advice the nurse at the hospital shared. I was, well. Pretty ignorant to all the mom lingo, routes, methods, whatever you’d call it. I was young. I had my first born son Caleb, 3 weeks after I turned 21. I had very little knowledge about being a mom. I just knew I loved my little guy… I wanted what was best for him but without knowing much, you do the best you can and sometimes “your best” doesn’t always seem to measure up, when bombarded by the pressures of motherhood, that sadly social media places on many today.
I didn’t know ANYTHING about bottle feeding or nursing prior to becoming a mom. I knew what nursing was clearly… I knew my mother had nursed me for 18 months…. But did not nurse my brother. I knew what formula was, maybe not what was in it completely, but I knew babies could be fed it and survive and thrive just fine. What I did not know or expect, was the pains nursing would bring. My lack of being prepared crushed me as I attempted to adjust to motherhood and bond with my sweet little baby boy. I struggled heavily with cracked, bleeding and excruciatingly painful nipples when I attempted to nurse my son… I had no idea what I was doing. I remember sobbing feeding after feeding, dreading the moments I shared with him and wanting it to just be over. This “natural” bond I was suppose to feel, wasn’t there… and after trying to maneuver my 21 year old sleep deprived mind around all the methods of breastfeeding, ways to help aid in the pain, schedules and so forth… I threw in the towel after 3 weeks of agony. My son Caleb grew up to be a healthy strong baby, who topped the charts in weight, height and motor skills… Despite. He grew up on non-organic formula. After all, that in and of itself was a whole other area I had no clue about at the time… and thankfully my son is a healthy 12 year old young man today, with no health issues what so ever.
But… during the midst of motherhood, those early years brought some crushing emotions and hardships. When I got pregnant with my 2nd born son, I lived 13 hours away from my mom & anyone I had ever known. We lived in Northern Ohio & served at a church in a small town. I started blogging while there, as a way to keep family and friends up to date. I had no idea blogging would open so many doors. Some good. Some bad. I got to meet other mothers in similar walks of life… that to this day I keep up with and love. I got hired for one of my biggest photography jobs to date, photographing Boba, landing my photography in Target stores all over the United States & even over seas. I love blogging. Yet, with good, comes bad… and with my blogging, I also began reading more online. A lot more. I began to feel less than. Doubt my decisions as a mother. I read comment threads about how awful formula was… How my child would develop allergies… and even cancer if I used formula. I had doctors telling me one thing, almost pushing formula honestly but blogs and the media telling me another.
I felt conflicted and alone. Overwhelmed and sad all at once. Questioning and worrying about my son who had grown up on this “awful and terrible” formula as many blogs told me… yet faced with the reality I couldn’t turn back time and make it different now. So, with my 2nd born son, I wanted to do it right. Doing it right meant nursing. Making it work. Sacrificing. Telling myself over and over, it had to work. It was natural. It was “best.”
Yet. Here I am, a 33 year old mom of four amazing boys… and I can honestly say, I did not nurse any of them more than a few weeks. Not because of lack or desire… but because some times our stories aren’t all the same & sometimes our best wishes, don’t always work as we’d like.
To save time, I will skip to my 4th born Reed. To tell all the stories about each one of my boys & what transpired, would take way to long… But Reed. Sweet Reed. I got pregnant with Reed at the age of 28. With Reed, I had experienced the inability to nurse before… but despite all of those situations, I still wanted to try. At this point in my journey, I was a more experienced mom. I had a 8 year old, 6 year old and a 3 year old. I had been married almost 10 years. I grew up a lot and educated myself with each child I had… and I felt prepared for Reed. I had the supplements. I had the amazing nursing pillows. I had the nursing covers. The ointments. The latch technique mastered. I had read book after book, watched video after video. I had this. I didn’t even buy a bottle, because I was confident, this would be it.
… and then, he was here. I had a natural birth with Reed. Did skin to skin. Nursed on demand, with a perfect latch (as my lactation specialist said while observed). Yet. Something was wrong. Weeks after Reed was born, I didn’t have a happy content newborn. I had a screaming… Unsettled… Wouldn’t sleep more than 30 minutes, very tiny baby, that I knew, in my gut, needed to be seen. He wasn’t having wet diapers… something was wrong. I went to the hospital to speak to a lactation nurse on duty… She listened to my concerns, checked Reed over… and then weighed him. He was down to 5lbs 9oz. She then asked me to nurse him. I nursed him on both sides for 30 minutes. She told me he had a perfect latch. Nothing looked incorrect. So we waited & then weighed him. He gained nothing. Not a single ounce… I could read concern all over this nurses face… The nurse then had my try a pump, to see if anything would come out… While I was hooked up to the pump, she consoled and comforted Reed, who was clearly starving. That pump sat on me for almost 20 minutes and not a single drop came out. I just broke down in tears. Completely heart broken & confused… Despite doing everything right, something clearly wasn’t right. The nurse gave Reed an ounce of formula, to settle him. For the first time in days, I saw my baby become calm… relaxed and he fell asleep moments after that small ounce. Moments later Reed had a bowel movement and passed Meconium… a type of bowel movement that should have been done and over with by this point… and yet, he still had it in his system. My sweet baby had been getting NOTHING in his system… I went home that day defeated and sad… I continued to try and nurse, despite what had happened and what the nurse advised me to do. Weeks later, I found myself on the floor of my bedroom, unable to move. Unable to tend to my other 3 children. Completely defeated and depressed… so down on myself, because I couldn’t do this for my baby… and just a wreck. I thankfully had a wonderful support system surrounding me. I was encouraged to see a Doctor about my depression… and was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. During my consult with this Doctor… who was amazing by the way. He explained to me how sometimes a womans body will not allow for her milk to let down. That he saw this often.. And there truly was no easy answer. I know that circumstances during that season came into play as well. My husband was in the Police Academy in Atlanta… and all of this was new to us. Instead of Preaching in a church, he was strapping a bullet proof vest on. Instead of being home with his family during normal hours, he was off patrolling the streets and had the most awful shift work schedule. I was drowning & needed help. I was put on an antidepressant for just shy of a year. I use to be completely against meds, not fully understanding depression and what it was like to live it. I have a completely different perspective now and no one should feel shame for needing help. That year was hard for me. I wrestled with regret & doubt constantly! Wondering if I did right by giving Reed a bottle and not sticking it through with nursing… I told my husband after Reed turned 1, that I didn’t want any more children because I wasn’t sure my heart could take the sadness of not being able to nurse again. Why, oh why… would I allow it to consume me so much?!
Reed just celebrated his 4th birthday. My other boys are 12, 9 & 6. Oh how I wish I had savored those baby years more and worried less. It didn’t matter what they grew up on. Formula is not the enemy… and a mothers worth is far greater than her ability to nurse.
I grew A LOT during those years. Struggle brings growth and I am thankful for what the years have taught me. These blogs that preach “breast is best” and devalue the worth of a mother who use formula, should truly be ashamed of themselves. There is nothing wrong with writing about the benefits of breastfeeding. There is nothing wrong with informing mothers of proper techniques, tips and helping to encourage it. The mommy wars and constant hatred I see spewed towards formula feeding families though, need to stop.
Motherhood should not be filled with devaluing. It should not be filled with anxiety brought on by feeling less than when compared to another mother. Motherhood should be preciously bliss… while hard, adored. I hate that many of my memories of those newborn years are filled with such sadness, all because of the pressure I placed on myself to do things a certain way.
My boys are loved, regardless if I nursed them or not.
They have no allergies. No health problems. They have experienced “none” of the things blogs would speak about, that I was putting them at risk for, all because I used a bottle instead of a breast. I allowed worry to consume me, for nothing.
Let us never place pressure on our lives as mother, when the pressure should never be there. Our stories will all look differently. You may be the mom who says “give me the drugs please!” or you may be that mom who says “I don’t want any.” You might be that mom packing organic snacks for your kids. Or the mom rushing through the McDonalds line as you rush to get your tot home for naps. You might be that mom who gives her baby a bottle, or the mom who nurses her child til he or she can do the monkey bars, haha… each of us are different. Yet, we all love.
Let us encourage mothers. Not judge.
Will I have more babies? I might. We have really thought a lot about a 5th. After all, we have four boys. We got to try for that girl, right? :) One thing I do know that will be different, is know where to place my worth. My worth and my precious time spent with my baby, wont be crippled by the pressures others place. I will cherish and soak it up, regardless of how my baby is fed.
I pray my story blesses and encourages another mom out there, who may be where I was those many years ago. <3