“Breast is best,” they say. It’s natural, it’s healthy for baby and mom, and it’s definitely the most affordable option. With each one of my four pregnancies, I had grand plans of nursing my babies from birth to at least a year old. The funny thing about making plans is that you’re not always in control of how they turn out.
My first baby was born when I was only 20 years old. Though I had a lot of experience babysitting and helping out with my own sister and brother (who were 8 and 11 years younger than me, respectively) I didn’t really know what I was doing. And it was pretty clear from the beginning as I fumbled through getting to latch, exhausted from the almost 12 hours of labor.
It seemed to be going okay at the hospital, but during our first night home as he was exercising his lungs, we ended up breaking out the sample bottles of formula we were sent home with. After supplementing was recommended by the pediatrician (whom we no longer see), it wasn’t long before he was completely bottle-fed, and I felt completely incompetent.
During my second pregnancy, I did a ton of research. I joined every online group about breastfeeding I could find. I asked questions, I found out where I could find local support, and basically did everything I could to set myself up for success. After a ridiculously fast and easy labor and delivery, he was nursing like a champ. I never let him out of my sight in the hospital, and never gave him a drop of formula. We had a great breastfeeding relationship until he was old enough to drink regular milk, and then he weaned himself. I felt like a pro.
Fast forward a couple of years later and baby number three was on the way. This time around, I felt the most confident of all. Another quick birth, and we were ready to start our breastfeeding journey. It seemed all well and good in the hospital, and he was wetting and soiling plenty of diapers, so they had no problem sending us home. He was a great baby, always content, and he slept a lot. Everything was going wonderfully, except for the fact that he wasn’t growing. At 4 months old (and exclusively breastfed) he had barely doubled his birth weight and was showing physical signs of dehydration. With a heavy heart, I began supplementing with formula. Although it made me sad, I had to tell myself that the important thing was that he was healthy.
Regardless of if you breastfeed for 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or even not at all, it doesn’t change how much you love your children. I spent too many days agonizing over whether or not I was a good mom. I hid in public when I had to feed my baby a bottle, because I felt like I would be judged for using formula. It took a long time for me to accept that my kids were great regardless of what they ate. Any one of them wasn’t healthier or better than the others, and they are all loved the same amount.