I think our responsibility as Mothers to our children, is to provide these core needs, FEED, CLOTHE, PROTECT & NURTURE. That is the foundation of Motherly responsibility. Everything else builds upon that foundation. And, boy, let’s not get into that, there is a lot of “everything else”!!!
I bring this up, because, August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. And, breastfeeding is one way to provide one of our core responsibilities as Mothers, to feed our children. Yes, it is ONE way.
Before I got pregnant, many friends and colleagues were having babies. One of the things that several of these new Moms shared with me was their “failure” at breastfeeding or pumping breast milk. These women took classes before their children were born, prepped to breastfeed, consulted with the lactation nurses, etc. But, they were not able to keep up production, their child would not latch or they were beyond fatigued and exhausted as new Moms to breastfeed exclusively.
Here is the horrifying part, because they could not breastfeed, these women felt like they were not worthy of the title, Mother. They felt depressed and like failures because they could not breastfeed their children.
How difficult it must be to be a new mom with whacked out hormones, a tiny child that does not come with instructions, and to feel like you have failed your first and primary job.
As new Moms we are bombarded with information about breastfeeding. It is supposed to be something our bodies just “do”; but it isn’t as easy for all of us. Lactation nurses are supposed to be there to support and help you as a new Mom. But, often times, in our sensitive postpartum state, we find them to be pushy and difficult with regard to breastfeeding. And that’s not helpful at all.
Once pregnant, I planned to breastfeed. I will not lie, mostly because it was the most financially sound plan! FORMULA IS FREAKIN’ EXPENSIVE!!!!! Plus, I knew the nutrition from my breast milk would be totally appropriate for my child.
However, after hearing the trials and tribulations of other women, I vowed that I would never put excessive pressure on myself to breastfeed exclusively. I intended to give it my best effort; but, under no circumstances would I consider myself a failure if breastfeeding didn’t work out the way I planned.
Of course, a whole heck of a lot more than breastfeeding did not go as I planned! My daughter spent the first four months of her life in three different hospitals!!
When I first tried to nurse, she did not latch on. But, I did not fret. The nurses came and asked me if they could feed her formula in the nursery because her blood sugar was terribly low. I was cool with it. I said, “of course, feed her, whatever it takes”. Because, I knew, deep inside, that “feeding” my baby was the main goal.
As medical issues piled up with our daughter and time in the hospital stretched on and on, I became slightly obsessed with pumping breast milk. Ya know, that thing I swore I would not do!?!?
Of course, to my defense, I felt helpless.
My daughter was in the hospital with a myriad of medical issues and I couldn’t do anything, but, pump. I felt most helpful when I pumped breast milk. It was something I could do that was a “normal” function of motherhood. I wasn’t washing baby clothes. I wasn’t up in the middle of the night warming bottles or drowsily nursing a hungry baby in the comfort of our home. I wasn’t dressing her up and taking her out on the town to show her off. I was pumping and sitting in a hospital room.
This is the most important part to my personal story, I did this because I could. Once the lactation nurse taught me what to do in my hospital room and handed me the pump, I was pumping “liquid gold” pretty darned quick! The nurses joked with me that I was “dairy queen”. Of course, that made me feel good, helpful. So, since I could do it, I made sure that I did it frequently and did not falter. I pumped for 10 months!
I like to think, even in the emotional uproar of having a medically complex, first-born child in the hospital, I would not have been depressed if I wasn’t able to produce milk.
However, I am not entirely sure. Being surrounded by information about the benefits of breastfeeding and having lactation nurses push you to your limits, can get a new Mom down in the dumps if things don’t work out the way they “should”.
All of the breastfeeding information is great, but it’s one-sided. The flyers and posters and lactation nurses only educate Moms on breastfeeding, as though there is no other acceptable way to feed your baby. And, this can do a number on a new Mom’s psyche.
Hospitals and organizations should share and educate moms and families on the various ways to feed their babies. That would be most helpful.
For instance, breastfeeding baby gives Mom and Baby the opportunity for some amazing bonding. But, it is also exhausting for a Mom to be the only one capable of feeding Baby. And, it is often hard on a partner who wants to help but cannot give that one thing Baby needs, breast milk. There is an upside to having a partner feed Baby so Mom can get some time to rejuvenate to be her best version of herself. And it gives your partner time to bond with Baby in a special way too.
I can tell you that my baby got a lot of breast milk, but she also got formula. I was okay with that. I was a slave to the pump for a long time because that was my only “job”. Then, it turned into a habit and it was fairly easy to keep up with even when our daughter finally came home from the hospital.
And, yes, I did feel great about being able to do it! I felt empowered. I even carried around this bag at the hospital that said, “I make milk, what’s your superpower”?
But, the truth is, we Moms all have different superpowers. Some of us make milk, some of us have the patience of saints, some of us have the endurance of a race horse, some of us are great in crisis and some of us mend what others cannot.
Here’s my main point, feeding your baby is the goal. It’s amazing to feed your child breast milk, but you most certainly are not a failure in the motherhood department if you feed your baby formula.
Not feeding your baby is what would make you a failure in the Motherhood department. Not HOW you feed your baby. Take comfort in that and give yourself a break.