The Begrudgingly Breastfeeding Mom

In response to my post on “Breastfeeding or formula-feeding, why do we care?!”  I have a follow-up post with a guest writer!  Emily has a very different experience breastfeeding than me because she has been nursing her daughter for over 9 months, but she does not like nursing.  She is begrudgingly breastfeeding.  I asked Emily to share her thoughts here.

Emily Gelman says…

I read the NY times article while I was doing my nightly pumping and I thought to myself, “Everyone has such a different breastfeeding journey and process.” Some woman might think I am crazy for pumping because I am a stay at home mom; I am literally with my baby 24/7. However, like a lot of moms, breastfeeding did not come naturally for me. We had latching issues, severely damaged nipples, a distracted baby etc. We started a bedtime bottle because I briefly went back to work and needed to introduce a bottle. We continued it because my daughter seemed to like it better, it was her cue for bedtime and it ensured me she was getting a full belly which I was never sure of because nursing was a struggle. Now at 9 months, we still nurse several times a day and give a bottle of pumped breast milk at bedtime.

My relationship with nursing was similar to a lot of moms I talk with. I believed it would be this blissful, seamlessly natural process.

It doesn't always look like this!
It doesn’t always look like this!

Before experiencing it first-hand, I thought women who chose formula just preferred to formula bottle feed. I never imagined it was sometimes the result of sleepless nights, stress over baby weight gain, and/or physical pain, amongst a many other issues. I didn’t realize what some women go through before switching to formula. I am very happy I reached out to my community, friends, family and the internet when I was struggling with nursing because I found it so challenging; I needed every available tool and resource to help me continue. I was experiencing so much pain and dreading every time I nursed, so I needed to know I was doing it for a reason. I needed reassurance it was the best thing for my baby and I could sacrifice some of my comforts to make it happen. It felt great to have all the support and information.

With all this being said, I can understand how information about the pros of breastfeeding can feel overwhelming.  And if you choose formula, you may feel like a “quitter or ashamed” because of how breastfeeding is often promoted. I went home after my first breastfeeding support group and told my husband, “Some of those women are INTENSE about breastfeeding.” I loved all the women I met, but I did think I really hope I stick with breastfeeding because I like those women and want to continue to go to group. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I know for a fact these “crazy breastfeeding warriors” would pour, fill and shake my formula for me if that is what I decided I needed to do – all while giving me hugs and maybe a glass of wine too!

Side note: Michelle asked Emily if she was one of those intense nursing mamas she met at the first meeting.  Emily said, “Of course you were one of the crazy breast feeding warriors – you should wear the title proudly! You have helped a lot of mommas with your dedication so keep it up!”

In our over-informed, social media generation it is so easy to spew your opinion everywhere. You have to be your own filter. It is up to you how you process all this information and totally up to what you decide to do about it. Part of me wants to tell the author of this article this is not about breastfeeding shaming this is about what you are reading and how you are interpreting it. For example, there is an equal or greater amount of information available on eating a healthy diet and the value of exercise. I don’t see anyone writing articles on being “health shamed” and demanding it is their choice if they want to eat bon-bons on the couch all day. Being healthy and exercising is in your face EVERY DAY – and we see Fitbit worn everywhere but this doesn’t seem to get negative attention.

I understand filtering information is hard and I see how easy it can be to get wrapped up in thinking you have to do something because it is better for your baby. There is a lot of positive pressure to breastfeed because, like diet and exercise, it is a good thing. I relate this to the fact I usually don’t use baby organic foods. Talk about “social pressure,” if I believed everything I read and took it literally, then apparently I am feeding my baby poison in the form of carrots and sweet potatoes. You have to weed through the information out there, and you can’t take every article you read as a personal attack if you choose to do something different. Sometimes I feed my baby organically and sometimes I don’t. It is my choice and I stand behind my choice. Some of my dearest friends only do organic baby foods and if I was the author of this article I would cringe with shame when I take out my conventional food pouches around my organic friends. I don’t cringe though, and I am pretty positive my friends still think I am a great mom.

I believe my friends would label me as free spirited and were not surprised when I attempted nursing in the first place. Why do I continue to breastfeed even when I don’t love it? Two reasons – friends would also label me as determined, competitive and I never would want to quit a good thing just because it made me uncomfortable. Motherhood comes with sacrifice and I was willing to accept it. The other reason is my daughter. I do believe nursing is best and I want to continue for her. I also sought support when I realized the nursing struggle is real. I discovered a lot of moms were dealing with the same issues and A LOT more challenges than me. How could I not persevere, when so many other women are dealing with so much and somehow managed to figure it out? So I continue on my breastfeeding journey.  The other nursing moms I met were my motivating factor to keep going even when I was ready to quit a million times and I still cringe every time I have to pull out a boob. Also, my mom was also a big cheerleader for me. Breastfeeding has been one of the hardest things I have done.  I am super glad there is a ton of evidence, encouragement, and education out there to support my breastfeeding and it helped keep me motivated.

Breastfeeding has changed me in many ways (which are probably too involved to discuss here). As I write this I am realizing what an advocate of breastfeeding I have become. I do think all woman need to be educated on why they are being asked to do something so selfless and challenging. They need to feel they are not alone and realize a lot of women struggle with it. I think it is important for all women, if they are physically and mentally able, to try breastfeeding. I also think, as in my case, some woman might need a kick in the butt to stay with it if they are wavering a little bit. In the same breath, I think it is a choice and if a woman chooses formula to feed their baby that is awesome too. I call my sister-in-law weekly for parenting advice.  She is the mom of two formula-fed children and obviously I think she is a great mom and I am not better than her for nursing. Bottom line: I believe all moms just want to do right for their babies and families. Nursing or formula – they are making a decision that works best for the family and their decision is always the right one.

Many thanks to Emily for her candidness!  She shares a unique perspective I could never communicate as elegantly.  Guest writers offer a point of view I find refreshing and exciting.  You can read the very first guest writing post here:

READ: …And friendship is a two-way street
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