Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding: The Best Choice isn’t Always the Easiest
Written by Bethany Harold
Breastfeeding. How could something so natural be so…unnatural? I always knew when I had kids I wanted to breastfeed. I knew I didn’t want to use formula, and in my perfect world I was going to exclusively breastfeed via nursing and pumping for the first year of their life.
Wow….was I in for a rude awakening…
When I found out I was pregnant with our first son, I truly thought that I was going to be successful at nursing. I had this feeling that it was going to be easy. I thought I’d easily be able to pump bottles while I was at work, and all would go smoothly. Well, let me be the first to tell you that I was wrong. It was not easy.
While we were successful with him latching right away and my milk coming in by day 3, it was not at all what I had imagined. I had no idea how time consuming nursing a baby was, how much my body would hurt, or how much my mind would be completely consumed by anything and everything breastfeeding. When I tell you that I was constantly thinking about breastfeeding, it was as if that was the only thing my mind could focus on. On top of that, my husband was deployed and my family lived in Iowa while I lived in Tennessee. It was rough.
After a couple of successful months, I noticed my stress going up and supply going down. I didn’t feel like myself mentally or physically. I was completely consumed by worry. That’s when I noticed that the “Baby Blues” were sticking around a lot longer than I had expected, and the emotions started getting stronger. One day my mom was down visiting and she suggested that we just try giving Brooks formula to see how it would go so that I could have a break. I reluctantly agreed (and I felt terrible about it for a long time) but let me tell you, it was life changing. I felt free. I felt relief. I felt the weight lift off my shoulders and knew this was going to help me. So little by little, I stopped nursing and started giving him formula more and more throughout the day.
The best part was that Brooks didn’t care. He transitioned to formula like it was no big deal. If you are like me and have seen the various “perfect” moms on social media, you know that they don’t formula feed. There’s a perception that “formula is bad and breastfeeding is best.” Well for some of us, formula is the best. Formula is what gets us through tough times. Formula is what helps our babies grow strong and healthy. Formula is what saves our mental health.
Fast forward to eight months later and I found out I was pregnant again, and I knew that I wanted to give breastfeeding another try. I wanted to be “more successful” this time around (whatever that means). I did a ton of research on breastmilk and how to be successful with pumping and with nursing. I even began working on a certification to become a Breastfeeding Specialist and a Lactation Consultant. In September of 2020, our second son, Baylor was born and we have had a much easier breastfeeding journey than I did with Brooks, which I attribute this to the pandemic. Being able to have Baylor home with me for the first four months and working from home has made pumping much easier. My husband was also home this time. Even dealing with postpartum depression, I’ve been determined to make it last. Now that we are coming up on six months of exclusively breastfeeding, I am starting feel that pressure again. The pressure to continue nursing, and continuing to pump enough milk throughout the day to give him bottles while he’s at daycare. I’m back in the office full-time, and my husband is also gone again for days/weeks on end. The pressure to figure out why my supply is going down and the pressure to keep Baylor interested in nursing is back. The pressure to be the perfect mom is back.
This time, I am determined things will be different. This time I’m doing what is best for both Baylor and myself. As we continue our breastfeeding journey I’m no longer scared to supplement. Baylor and Brooks don’t need a perfect mom. They need a healthy mom.
Breastfeeding doesn’t make you a perfect mom and formula feeding doesn’t make you a bad mom. Doing what is best for you and your baby makes you a healthy mom and the mom your kids need. I hope you take away from this that whatever choice you choose, whether it be breastfeeding or formula feeding, that is the best decision.
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