The “breast is best” topic and campaign is a big discussion point for me. I am a mom of four who tried whole heartedly, every single birth, to breast-feed each child. I one hundred percent agree that breast-feeding is natural and is nature's intended way of feeding our babies. But, as so many other areas in life, nature’s plan doesn’t always go as expected. My longest run of breast-feeding was with my very first and I dried up after about 2 months. I felt like a failure. I had women telling me I should’ve tried harder, I should’ve drank more water, or that I should have slept more. The advice and comments, the could have, would haves and should haves just kept rolling in, and I know they were trying to help, but it only made my feelings of inadequacy worse.
(my second oldest, trying to "feed" his new baby sister)
I continued to feel a bit of sadness and guilt with each continued birth, because it just wouldn't work for me. I couldn’t figure out why I struggled to produce milk. I never felt guilty about the fact that I bottle-fed my children only that I couldn’t get my body to function “correctly”.
When I had my fourth baby, she had to spend a few days in the NICU. My stress went through the roof not only because I worried about her in general but, but my feelings of worry were heightened by the fear of missing my feedings with her. I knew how hard I struggled to produce milk and I knew if I missed feedings, it was going to be that much harder.
I remember the feeling of panic I had when I woke up and realized I had slept through one of her feedings. It was the middle of the night and I had my husband help me waddle down to the NICU so I could feed her. As we entered the room the nurse had informed me with a big grin that she had just got done with her feeding and asked if I wanted to burp her. I just started to cry....not an ugly cry, just a soft sad cry. The nurse was truly an angel in this moment. In a brief conversation I explained why I was crying. I had expressed the heartache and guilt of not being able to breast-feed easily. Her response was exactly what I had needed. Now this is not word for word what she said but it went a little something like this.....
“Not all women can breast-feed. Just like not all women can carry their own children. These factors do not diminish who we are as a mother. It doesn’t lessen the bond that we have with our child. Thank God for living in a time that allows us to still feed our babies and to still become mothers even when our bodies are not able to. Love your baby. Hold your baby. That’s the “best” for your baby.”
I’m grateful our NICU nurse reminded me of this truth. Whether you breast-feed for two months, six months, 18 months, five years or you bottle-feed out of necessity, lifestyle or comfort......you are doing it right.
Let’s stop being so hard on ourselves and each other. Motherhood is already hard enough.
Breast or Bottle, as long as you’re feeding your baby with LOVE, you are being the best mother for your baby. #motheryourway