There is a poster in the gynecologist’s office that says, “Breast is best.”
Initially, it was a sweet and endearing poster, one with healthy child staring adoringly at his mother. I still remembering thinking to myself that this was a moment that I could not wait to experience for myself.
As my due date grew closer, I took a class on breastfeeding. I still remember how accomplished and prepared I felt when it was over.
On the birth of my baby, there were nurses all around me. My husband was somewhere in the distance trying to remember which spelling we finally settled on for my son’s name (which is still incorrect on his Health Card). Some of the nurses were cleaning me up, others were cleaning my baby and one who came up right beside me and told me that I would soon have to feed my child.
“I took a class,” I told her proudly.
When my baby was handed to me, the nurse helped me with my gown and showed me how to support the baby’s head as he latched on.
It was awkward and painful and incredibly confusing. We tried feeding my baby every two hours. Every round a nurse would come in and ask me about breastfeeding and if the baby was latching. I was doing everything I possibly could, but nothing was working. Every time they weighed my baby, he was losing more and more weight and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how to hold him and how to feed him.
After that, each day was terrorizing. I would sit in front of the clock, counting down to the moment when my child would be hungry and I would have to breastfeed him. It didn’t help that everyone around me was expecting this to be a seamless transition and wanted a healthy, growing baby. But none of that was happening.
Instead, I was sobbing out of guilt and worry that I was failing my child, everyone around me and that I was not a good mother to him.
Every time I would reach for the formula, I could feel the judgement weighing down on me. People asking me questions, wondering why I was choosing to feed my baby formula when breastmilk was best? Had I not heard about the benefits and the absolute need of it for my child’s healthy development?
I cried for many months and I hid from people, afraid that they were going to inquire about the baby bottle and the substance inside of it. Instead of sleeping at night I was be on google, searching up remedies and reading the success stories of moms who were finally able to breastfeed their child, despite their initial failures.
I never managed that success. My firstborn was fed breastmilk and formula for the first 3 months and then, he was entirely on formula for the rest of the year. At the moment, it was the most difficult decision for me, but now, when I look back, formula saved me.
So, if you are that mother who thinks she is failing her child or if the pressure on you is unbearable, I understand. I was like you. In many ways, I am still like you because my child hates eating and still struggles with his weight. The key is to remember that you are there is no one else in this world who can take care of your baby like you can.
Especially not the bullies judging from the sidelines.