what if you can’t breastfeed?

The pressure to be a perfect mom begins before baby even arrives. Right from the time that the pee stick reads positive, you are worrying about keeping that nugget alive and healthy. What to eat, what not to eat. What exercise to do and what books to read. All the way to what kind of birth experience you want for the baby. But that’s a whole other post. Probably the most stressful mom experience I have had since Butterball arrived red-faced and screamimg, is whether or not to breastfeed.

The American Pediatric Association has declared it best that babies are fully breastfed for the first six months of their lives. Well, sure, why not? Doesn’t seem like a big deal – thought the oh-so-naive mom-to-be (moi). Oh, ho-ho. First of all, I apologize to any mom out there whom I’ve ever given the slightest hint of disapproval to (raised eyebrow, a hmm …) when they said they didn’t breastfeed. So ridiculously judge-y. Pre-motherhood, I didn’t doubt that I was going to breastfeed. I bought the baby sling that supposedly supported breastfeeding positions, got the breastfeeding cover, nursing bras and pads, and went for breastfeeding class with Mumbles. Then I had the C-section I never planned to have after an excruciating overnight labor that failed to progress. Which meant I couldn’t bond with baby when she first came out, and my milk took days to arrive. Even then, it came out in pathetic little drops. Try as I might for weeks, baby wouldn’t latch on one breast, and fell asleep on the other one.

In pain, exhausted, and miserable (remember you are dealing with all that along with the massive hormonal changes post-partum that can make you c-razy), I already felt like I failed in my first job as a mom. Every ‘helpful’ suggestion on how to improve milk flow from every website or book didn’t yield and were, quite frankly, total let-downs. What made the most difference was the encouraging words from Mumbles, my friends, and family.

Don’t worry about breastfeeding, You are not a cow, It’s your body, Just give what you can, So-and-s0 wasn’t breastfed and look how well they turned out.

As a matter of fact, I too wasn’t breastfed, and I’d like to think that all things considered, I turned out pretty ok. One of my closest friends, *Zee, could pump enough in one sitting to satisfy baby for at least two meals, would theoretically make me want to jump off a tall building, but ironically, gave me some of the best advice — I know it seems like a big deal now, and I understand how it’s difficult to see it in your current position, but two to three years from now, you are going to realize that what’s more important is spending time enjoying your baby and not stressing about how much milk you are producing. It passes by so fast.

One of the truly good things about being a mature mom (I was 37 when I had Butterball) was all the sage advice I got from all my mom friends who have truly been there, done that. Another old friend told me not to worry about breastfeeding. She had complications post-delivery that left her paralyzed from the legs down for half a year. Breastfeeding was the furthest thing from her mind at the time. Today, her kid is of school-going age and healthy as a horse, and she loves being a mom to him. Other wise mom friends with less traumatic experiences, who breastfed or didn’t, or did a little bit of both, gave the same advice not to fret over breast milk.

I’m doing a bit of both. Mostly formula, but giving Butterball whatever breast milk I can produce in a day to her (I stopped breastfeeding after the first month and started exclusively pumping). And this would probably not have been possible if Mumbles didn’t have the flexible hours he does and is such a hands-on dad (I love him).

Anyhow, Butterball is totally un-bothered, and is by all accounts, a thriving, happy baby (knock on wood). I plan to stop a week after Butterball has her second set of vaccinations.

I still have angst about it from time to time due to my own previous self-imposed ideas about breastfeeding — I am constantly struggling to let that go. But my advice to any moms out there who are going through the same thing, by all means try your best in that first month to establish milk flow, but if you can’t, don’t beat yourself up about it. We all want the best for our child and I believe your child will benefit a lot more from a happy, relaxed, and loving parent, than one who is stressed, tired out, and depressed.

And a note to mommies out there who are breastfeeding like champions, bear in mind that not everyone is as lucky. Tips on boosting milk flow are always welcome, but pressure and judgement are not.

2 thoughts on “what if you can’t breastfeed?

  1. Your best friend gave you such great advice. Every person’s body is different and the truth of the matter is that babies will grow regardless of what we feed them. I am one of the lucky moms who was able to breastfeed, but it took a lot of work, and I ended up feeding my first son formula for a whole year until he was 2! I didn’t even figure things out until I had my 2nd child! Don’t feel bad and enjoy your precious time with your little one. I enjoyed reading your post.

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