Postpartum Depression and Breastfeeding

I have very strong feelings about breastfeeding. It’s not because I’m anti-breastfeeding or anti-formula. In fact, I’m the opposite…I’m pro- women should choose what works best for them and their mental health and sanity during what might be the biggest transition of their lives…motherhood. And no woman should ever be made to feel like she is a failure or a terrible mother because she chooses formula over breastfeeding or even supplements breast milk with formula.

Now I know there are the people who believe that becoming a parent is all about sacrifice. We sacrifice for the well-being of our children and therefore moms should breastfeed no matter what. Well I’m here to call bullshit…because at the end of the day, giving your baby a happy, healthy mommy is just as if not more important than giving your baby breastmilk at the expense of your well-being. What about women who don’t produce enough milk? What about exclusively breastfed babies who don’t gain enough weight? No mom should ever be made to feel bad about how she nourishes her children.

Social media is filled with celebrities promoting breastfeeding. Celebrities not so subtly telling you that breast is best…the only proper way to feed your baby. And it’s not just celebrities…regular women like you and me love to judge and shame moms who choose not to breastfeed. Doctors and lactation consultants lay the guilt on thick for new moms who struggle with the decision between breast milk and formula. None of this is fair to new mothers. Plenty of studies show breastfeeding to be the better option and the same number of studies claim that these studies have no merit…which brings me back to my main point…choose what works for you…because your baby will be fine… and fuck the haters and everyone else.

Here is my breastfeeding story: It’s not a fairly tale.

When I got pregnant, I decided that I would to try breastfeeding my son when he was born. I had this vision in my head that he would come into this world, perfectly latch onto my boob, we would bond immediately, I would love every minute of breastfeeding, and the baby weight would melt off. Yeah…not so much!

I sort of blame my perfect breastfeeding fantasy on a close friend who was the champion breastfeeder with all of her children. It was never a question for her. She loved it and breastfed her first son for 17 months and her second for a year. This was going to be me too! The funny thing is, if you asked any one of my close friends, they would have told you I was delusional…knowing my me for years and my personality, this fantasy would not become my reality. I was determined to prove them all wrong.

My son was born via C-section late on a Tuesday night. When the nurse asked what I wanted to feed him, I of course said breastmilk. In the recovery room, he latched right away and fed for almost 30 minutes. I knew it! This was going to be easy…my breastfeeding fantasy had come true.

Well my breastfeeding fantasy lasted for those 30 minutes and then poof! It was gone. My son never latched like that again. I tried every position. I tried pumping. I called the lactation consultant every day I was in the hospital. Nothing helped, but I was still determined. I let the nurses supplement with formula when my son was in the nursery. I was okay with this because I was still trying to breastfeed. I was still going to have my breastfeeding fairy tale, even with a little formula mixed in.

Two days after arriving home from the hospital, I would realize I suffered from the beginnings of postpartum depression. I continued to try breastfeeding my son but he always struggled to latch and would just scream and cry. So I switched to pumping because I didn’t want to be a failure but the truth was, I hated it. I was miserable and exhausted and anxious all the time. I could barely manage my postpartum depression induced emotions. Breastfeeding was making me feel worse. It didn’t make me feel closer to my baby. It didn’t bond us at all. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything. I needed others to be able to feed my son because I could barely get out of bed to take care of him or myself.

On my son’s fifth day of life, I decided enough was enough. I already suffered from paralyzing depression and anxiety. I didn’t need the extra frustration breastfeeding was causing me. I had to give up my perfect breastfeeding fantasy. I had to take care of myself and that meant sleeping, giving in to the anxiety, and letting others give my son a bottle of formula.

On that fifth day, My mom took me to meet with a lactation consultant at my son’s pediatrician’s office. When she came into the office, I didn’t ask for help. I had decided on the car ride over that I was done and my son would be raised on formula. I told her the same thing. “I’m done. tell me how to get rid of my milk.” I was scared she would judge and try to convince me to keep breastfeeding. She didn’t. She said it was great that I decided to stop on my own terms and told me how to wean away the milk supply. I ended up stopping cold turkey. There was pain and my boobs were hard as rocks for two days, but then the milk stopped coming. I felt relief.

It took some convincing on the part of friends, family, and my therapist that I did the right thing choosing to exclusively formula feed. This would never have even been an issue if I didn’t feel so much pressure from outside sources to be super breastfeeding mom. I would have just stopped…no guilt, no shame, no feeling like I failed as a mom and failed my child.

If I decided to have more children, I wouldn’t even try to breastfeed them and I don’t care what others or the media think of that. I would do what’s best for my baby and me and that would be putting my mental health first so I can be there to properly love and care for my child.

I know I already said it, but I’m going to say it again. There is no wrong way to feed your baby. Whether you choose breast milk or formula, you are still a wonderful, capable mother. Don’t have too many expectations because there is no way to predict what motherhood will be like for you. Babies don’t care about your plans and fantasies. And if people try to tell you differently, screw them! Women need to support women no matter what. Motherhood is hard enough!

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