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Breastfeeding: What’s the Best Decision?

Breastfeeding is something that I knew I wanted to do when I found out I was pregnant. Honestly, years before I had my son I knew this was something I wanted to do because it has always been touted, at least in the circles I frequented and interacted with, as the best possible choice for your baby. Since I kept hearing this sentiment so frequently, it reinforced my own ideals of how being a good mother looked. Now there is a healthy way to view certain topics and an unhealthy way to view them and I was definitely the latter. Now it was great that I wanted to provide for my baby but I let it overtake the importance of my mental well-being. I did all the things I was supposed to do like taking a breastfeeding class, ordering my pump as soon as I could, and getting my nipple balm like I was advised, so to me, these things were kind of like insurance, to ensure that things would go well. It did not go well. At least not initially.

When my son was first born, I tried to get him to latch as soon as he could, and he did so successfully. There was an issue though, with his jaundice, he was very weak, so the latch did not last very long, especially with thick colostrum. I tried a couple times after while at the hospital and it was the same case over and over.We had to supplement with formula to make up the difference. The lactation consultant helped me set up my pump and gave me some freebies to help start my breastfeeding journey, and then we were off. When we got home, I wanted to seriously improve breastfeeding because of course this is necessary to be good mom, or so my brain kept telling me. My son’s jaundice didn’t go away completely until he was about two months old. We struggled with the bare minimum of keeping him awake, let alone trying to breastfeed. It was just not working out. He would breastfeed for a couple seconds but then pull away and cry. I was worried I wasn’t producing enough, but when I pumped I got several ounces. I came to the conclusion I had an overproduction and with him still fighting jaundice, it was very difficult for him to figure out how to effectively breastfeed. We were supplementing with formula but I still felt like it wasn’t enough, or rather I felt like I wasn’t enough. One time, we had a breastfeeding session so difficult, he cried and cried and latched and unlatched until he just put himself to sleep. I was so ready to be done after that. I felt like a terrible, incable, incompetent mom. To make matters worse, I was about to go back to work, which I am certain affected my supply due to the stress of the situation.

Right before my return my milk production tanked. When I got to work it was even worse even though I managed to carve out time to pump there as well. It all got to be too much and through a lot of conversation and planning, my husband and I decided to become a one income household. I resigned from my position and it took about a solid month but slowly but surely, breastfeeding improved. He was successfully breastfeeding without crying and he had a proper latch. My supply stabilized as well as my mental health.

When I look back at my breastfeeding journey, I see the road I could have taken. If I am being honest, either option would have been fine. I could have accepted that supplementing with formula was my son’s normal, or he could have been exclusively formula feed. Yes, breastfeeding is great for a baby's immune system , but do you know what’s essential to a healthy baby?  A healthy mom. I think it is a terrible trade off to put yourself at risk to achieve some perceived greatness of what you think you should be. It’s also important to note that even though my son successfully breastfeeds, he still gets a couple formula bottles here and there. Breastfeeding being successful doesn’t mean the other option doesn’t work.Yes, eventually it worked out for me, but sometimes I look back and wonder maybe I should have stopped earlier. My mental health was in shambles postpartum and this struggle definitely added to it. If you're having trouble deciding what is right for you and your family, please take everything into account. Sometimes your own thoughts can be your worst enemy, so try to take a step back and think of yourself and your baby. Formula feeding comes with its own challenges. It took us a while to find one that really worked for our son, but everything we did was all worth it in the end. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby.

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