Months before I gave birth, I promised myself (and my baby) to fully breastfeed: it’s free, clean, nutritious, and promotes bonding. In short, it’s the best option for feeding baby.
In fact, at the time, I was convinced that not only was it the best, but it was the ONLY option. Formula just won’t do, and I was prepared: mentally, physically, emotionally to fully breastfeed. How wrong I was!
Everyone on the internet says it’s going to be hard, but doable. And to mix feed your baby just won’t do, and I felt that I was a failure if I didn’t fully breastfeed. If they could do it, why couldn’t I, right?
I write this article not only to celebrate all the mothers who have (through gritted teeth, eyebags, and sore nipples), managed to fully breastfeed their little ones, I am truly at awe at what you have achieved! But I also celebrate all the other mothers: those who have chosen not to fully breastfeed, and those like me, who tried and cried and felt like failures when we realized we couldn’t breastfeed fulltime.
I know I am going to get some backlash when I write this article. I must admit that I feel some shame when people ask and I reveal: “My baby is mix-fed”. I always try to save myself with “but I breastfeed everytime I am home and I pump once while at work”. But at the end of the day, all of us do our best, and give all of ourselves to our babies. And that’s what matters most.
Here are some things that I hope will help you through this roller coaster breastfeeding journey. I am here for and with you!
1. You are going to overprepare
I know you have bookmarked all of the breast pump reviews on the net and asked all of your friends on how they stored their breastmilk. You have nipple cream and breast pads and nursing pillows already. But, not all of these things will be useful to you once you actually breastfeed. To those who can: buy the least number of items (you can actually forego buying any breastfeeding stuff until after you give birth). But for those who cannot help buying ASAP, do not expect to use all of the items after you give birth. If you find that the nursing pillow you bought doesn’t help, don’t feel too bad. And maybe donate it to someone who needs it? Lesson learned: don’t buy too much stuff!
2. That picture-perfect moment
You are excited for the first time baby is going to latch and he’s going to get so much milk and he will love it and you will love it and it will all be happy and rainbows and unicorns and such. This is how you picture breastfeeding. And although all your friends say that they thought that their nipples were going to fall off during the first weeks, you listened politely but at the back of your mind you thought: “it wouldn’t be so bad”, only to regret not believing them a week after your delivery. Manage your expectations. You may not get that picture-perfect breastfeeding moment you always see on posters (and on other people’s instagram) during the first weeks. Cut yourself some slack and accept that you’re new at this, but be willing to learn and persevere. You will get that picture-perfect breastfeeding moment sooner or later. 🙂
3. It’s just me and you, baby!
You will get so many opinions and advice (solicited or not) on breastfeeding not only from your relatives and friends but also from netizens. You may choose to listen to them or not, but equip yourself with the right and updated knowledge, and make a personal decision. Do not be influenced by what other people say. To fully breastfeed, formula feed, or mix feed is one of the millions of decisions you will have to make on your own and for your baby from now on.
4. It’s ok to fail
No one is perfect, and as with all things in motherhood, we need to experience it to learn it. You will fail at times, and feel so much guilt when you give your baby formula during those late nights when you’ve had no sleep and have sore nipples. You will think you are a selfish, irresponsible mother. But you are not! You are a great mother who will try again or try a different approach to feeding your baby.
5. You are important too
Take care of yourself: get some sleep, indulge on food, have your husband feed the baby. A great mother takes care of herself too. Believe me, the breastfeeding journey will take a toll on you. You wouldn’t want to look back at the time you were breastfeeding and remember that it was a sad, frustrating, painful time in your life. Avoid associating negative feelings to the breastfeeding experience. Be good to you, too! And if that entails giving your baby a bottle, then do it!
6. Social media envy
Ever seen a picture on facebook or instagram of the full bottles of freshly pumped breastmilk or stash upon stash of frozen breastmilk posted by other mothers complete with hashtag #liquidgold #4ozperbreast #blessed #fullybreastfeeding? Don’t compare their milk to yours! Every body and situation is different, so avoid the social media envy. Right, #proudmomma?
7. Trust your instincts
If you feel in your gut that your baby is not getting enough, do not brush it off. Get milk where you can: be it formula, or donated/bought breast milk, there is no reason for your baby to go hungry.
8. Be proud of yourself
Whether exclusive breastfeeding did or did not work out for you, you deserve to be congratulated! You researched, prepared, and persevered, no matter what the outcome. You are not any less of a mother than those who have succeeded in exclusively breastfeeding. I am proud of you, mommy! And you should be, too!
Last and not the least:
9. Cut others some slack, too
Don’t judge others who are not exclusively breastfeeding. Choose your words wisely. If your friend says that she feeds her baby formula, don’t go ahead and lecture her on all the benefits of breastmilk and all the studies supporting that breastmilk is the best for babies: she probably already did her research, too. Instead, support her decision. The last thing we need is mother-shaming coming from a fellow mother. Every motherhood journey is different. But all are beautiful and worth it. Congrats to all mommies!