Breastfeeding Does Not Equal Success in Motherhood

bottleIt’s 6PM on a Monday.
I’m wheeling my shrieking baby across the store. We power-walk to the very back aisle – looking over my shoulder the entire time.
Had any employee been around, they probably would have suspected shoplifting. So be it.
We finally make it to the right aisle. I cautiously look around once more and enter quickly.
Relief. I didn’t run into anyone I know. I select my item off the shelf and quickly hide it behind the baby’s car seat in the cart. So far so good.

Now at this point, you’re left thinking…
1.) I am, in fact, shoplifting as the imaginary employee suspects.
2.) I’m buying home pregnancy tests for my mom.
Just a hint: both are false. (Side note: she is expecting now.)
So what am I doing?
Well, friends, I am purchasing formula for my really hungry baby.
On our quick trip to the checkout counter, I continue to survey the area, ready to duck out of the way should a familiar face appear.

Halfway over, I stop right where I am. Wait a dang second. What am I doing?
My baby is hungry, and I’m buying him some food to fill his empty tummy. Why should I be ashamed of that?
I grab the container from its hiding place and put it in the seat of the cart.
My head held high, I slam the container down near the register and confidently swipe my card. I thank the cashier and proudly walk to my car, screaming baby and all.
We make the two-minute drive home and I give him a bottle.
As he lays in my arms sucking away (happy as can be), I think the whole thing over.

Why do I feel so much shame for giving my baby a bottle?
I believe there are more than a few contributing factors. In the circles I grew up in, breastfeeding was it. I knew moms who exclusively nursed their babies until they were two or three years old. While I support mothers in their right to choose, there seemed to be an unspoken judgement on anyone who didn’t follow their example.
“So how long do you plan on breastfeeding?” they ask, as if bottle feeding hasn’t crossed their mind a day in their life.

When I lost my milk supply  back in April, the few people who knew about it pushed me to do every possible thing to bring it back. While I appreciated their encouragement in my decision to breastfeed from day one, it became a little less like support and a little more like pressure.
Pump as often as you can.
Eat oatmeal with every meal.
Get more sleep.
(Ha, as if.)

Breast is best, that’s what they all say.

I became consumed with getting my milk to come back in. I felt like such a terrible mother for being unable to give him “organic”, straight-from-the-source nourishment. I beat myself up for letting stress and postpartum depression take this opportunity away from me. I left a few “crunchy” Facebook groups because I was worried what criticism and hate would be thrown my way if they somehow found out. Hell hath no fury like when those women find out a member is bottle feeding. (I probably should’ve never joined in the first place, honestly.)
We have a few precious pictures of my husband feeding our son that I never posted only because of the condemnation I worried people would cast upon us.
Looking back, I realize all of this was absolutely ridiculous.
Yes, breastfeeding does have many benefits, both emotional and physical. But if I’m so focused on trying to force it that it takes away the beauty of what I’m doing (nourishing a baby human), then I need to stop. I need to stop trying to make it happen, because one day my baby will be grown up and I will never have this chance again. And I’ll regret it. I’ll regret spending so much time trying to make nursing work for us that I didn’t take time to relax and bond with my baby properly. Right now, we’re doing a mish-mash of breastfeeding and bottle feeding. We do what we can. And that’s okay.

Bottle-feeding will not cause my baby to struggle with bonding.
It will not make my baby sick, nor make him feel loved any less.
If his belly is full, I am a good mother.
Repeat that out loud. If his belly is full, I am a good mother.

Losing your milk supply from postpartum depression does not make you a bad mother.
Being unable to breastfeed because of a medical condition or necessary medication does not make you a bad mother.
Bottle feeding because your baby can’t latch properly does not make you a bad mother.

Breastfeeding does not always equal success in motherhood.

Breastfeeding Doesn't

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Absolutely LOVE this post.
    I just had this discussion with my other half this morning.
    There’s so much pressure on women these days to get it all perfect, and when you can’t do something that’s supposed to be so natural, you feel like a complete failure, which is SO wrong!
    FED is best.


  2. Nellisa says:

    I can relate!! When my babies were in the NICU and I could hardly pump anything and they were pushing and upping the feeds like crazy, I went crazy, sleep deprived pumping every 2-3 hours only to glean very little milk and very sore nipples. Wish I would have lightened up on myself!! So stressful and exhausting!!


  3. Melissa says:

    You go girl! The same exact situation happened to me. It was 24 years ago and my kids are grown and healthy! They are 24 and 21 and we have a great relationship.


  4. TeeShares says:

    Ooh, I could never judge a mum for giving formula. Breastfeeding is hard – not sure why I ever thought it’d be easy (guess it’s seeing those mums doing it for years that gave me an impression it was easy). But go you doing what’s best for your child. I breastfed but I know how hard it was in the beginning and like i said, I’d never judge a mama for formula feeding.


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