When I had my first baby, I was almost obsessive about breastfeeding. Desperately wanting to bond right off the bat with my new daughter, I was sure it would be the most simple and natural thing in the world to give birth and then nurse.
And for some women, it may very well be.
Although, I am NOT like those women.
Out of my 16 children, I have breastfed 12 of them. Some for as little as a few days, most for six months, some for as long as 18 months. And when it went well, it was a wonderful bonding experience.
But when it went south, it was really hellish. Seriously. A nightmare.
Some women are built like an evenflo nipple. Not to be crass, but I am not. In fact, I think God put my nipples on backwards…proof that aside from giving a short-tempered woman like myself 16 children, He really does have an incredible sense of humor. This has led to weeks of cracked and bleeding nipples…and over 12 tries at breastfeeding that’s like…an eternity.
Secondly, I have friends that produce enough milk to feed a small country…or power a hydroelectricity plant. I, on the other hand, squeak by one half ounce at a time. I drink gallons of water, eat like a horse, take the tea, get off my feet, try the natural supplements…I even gave in to drinking beer at one point because someone suggested it would help with milk supply…all for naught.
Third, what I do produce anymore looks like grey dishwater. No longer is it the nice buttery yellow milk that is creamy when gazed upon after painstakingly pumping…no…that hasn’t been produced out of this body in over six years. In fact, the last few babies I tried to nurse were having challenges gaining weight because of the inadequate caloric makeup of my milk. I have dear friends that produce loads of what I call “seal milk.” Their little babies are as wide as they are long, rolls and rolls of fat after just a couple of months. Wish I could say I produced such milk…but alas this body only makes skim.
And finally, all those things put together with how completely exhausted and overwhelmed I felt postpartum in large part due to the stress of nursing led me several years ago to just NOT. Just throw in the towel. Just pass that little newborn a bottle and forgetta-about-it.
And you know what? It solved so much for me. It made me able to give baby to daddy the first night after birth so I could sleep. It allowed me to have joy when feeding baby instead of whimpering and crying out in pain as the baby latched on those first few weeks. It gave me the freedom to take a break if necessary without fear of being called home because baby was crying and could be hungry.
The 21-year-old me would have never believed that the 42-year-old me would say these things. But I share them with you in case you struggle with nursing and bottle-feeding guilt has taken any part of your joy. I know there will be moms who read this and contend that they can no longer listen to anything I have to say because they are so serious about breastfeeding. But these aren’t the ladies I’m writing for today. I’m writing to relieve your bottle-feeding guilt no matter why you chose not to breastfeed. My reasons are varied and some you may agree with and others may not be the same reasons for you at all. No worries, mum. Carry on. No guilt or shame allowed. Feed that baby however you have to and move forward in confidence. You can’t look at my family photos and tell me which ones were breastfed and which were bottle-fed!