As a mom, this is one of the first and (seemingly) most important decisions you will ever make. For many today, breastfeeding is the normal and natural answer. Healthy for baby, good for momma, cost effective, and endorsed (and sometimes forced) by doctors, friends, and family.
I have had the opportunity to nurse most of my children, and even a few I have adopted (I was already nursing a biological child when they were added to our family). I think nursing (when it works) is a wonderful experience and I have enjoyed many quiet moments feeding my babies. But this post is not so much to encourage you to breastfeed (which I would recommend) as it is to give peace to those who choose otherwise.
Let’s just say I am not built like an evenflo bottle. I have never had an easy time getting a baby to latch on. Usually it takes 4-6 weeks of pumping then feeding with a bottle, accompanied by bloody and cracked nipples. If all that actually works, I have been duped with inadequate milk supply and less than optimal caloric milk more than once or twice. That’s with adequate rest and nutritional intake, plenty of water…all the tricks and tips you can imagine. If it sounds like I am justifying myself, I am not, I am simply letting mommies know that sometimes our best intentions for baby do not add up, and we may choose to make a decision in parenting that at the time-seems monumental.
Let me assure you, it is not.
I have 15 children. Some I have nursed not at all, some I have nursed for 18 months. Come over and meet them, and I guarantee, you can’t tell which have been nursed and which have not. You can’t tell by their health records either-in fact-some that have not been nursed at all have been to the doctor the least! Are the breastfed ones more intelligent? Can’t differentiate there either, of course they are all brilliant.
What you feed your child is far less important than HOW you feed them. Do you take time to hold them close and snuggle? Don’t have to breastfeed to do that! Do you look in their wee eyes and speak lovingly? Do you coo and cuddle and get off your feet taking that precious 20 minutes or so to just gaze at the miracle they are? Then whether you breast or bottle feed it makes no difference.
I have had friends with breast augmentations struggle over not being able to produce enough, moms who are going back to work feel guilty about not being able to keep up adequate supply, first time moms who think they are ruining their child’s chances at a good college over what they are fed as a four month old! Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing when it works. When it doesn’t-it can be a terrible guilt laden and painful introduction to parenting. Please don’t make breastfeeding your qualifier of being a good mother. Don’t judge your friends decision to not nurse, you may not have all the facts. Let’s encourage each other as moms and not bash a mommy for her choice in a neutral and non moral decision that has no bearing on anyone but their family.
And if it makes anyone feel any better, I would not even attempt to nurse any newest addition. Guilt free. Pain free. I will enjoy my newborns without all the fear, pain, and trials that breastfeeding has always been for me. Finally, 15 kids and 20 years to realize that it doesn’t always work and THAT IS OK. Anyone else struggle with breastfeeding?