If you're feeling guilty about not breastfeeding, read this

I planned on breastfeeding Selma until she was one and gave up when she was 4 weeks old. I never expected myself to stop after a month, even though I was told that my expectations for breastfeeding might be pretty unrealistic once I actually started doing it. It was so much harder than I thought it would be, but "hard" didn't feel like a good enough reason to stop. If I really loved my baby, wouldn't I do anything for her?

It didn't feel like a good enough reason that I couldn't stop crying, that I hated it with every ounce of my body, that it took up the time I could be spending asleep while my husband helped out a little bit (making me an even scarier version of a mom-bie.) It didn't feel like a good enough reason that all of my time spent with my baby was time I spent in agony, and the time I spent without her was time spent glued to a pump. I had a great "supply". I was lucky, so I shouldn't have griped about it. I finally opened my mouth to the right person who gave me all the permission in the world to stop, yet I protested:

"But 'Breast is Best', that's what it said on all the posters in the hospital," I explained, dribbling snot as I went on through my hormone-infused tears.

Switching to the bottle felt like a matter of my own emotional survival, but I couldn't let go of the shame of it all. How could I knowingly decide against something that I knew was "better" for my baby? If I gave up that "easily", what next? What did the decision say about my future skills as a parent? I asked everyone and their mother about how they fed their babies and told them about why I felt so guilty about my choice. I tormented myself over it, which is interesting because I wasn't breastfed and most people in my family weren't. I thought I would look back on my decision with so much regret, but now, 7 months in, the only thing I regret is how much I agonized over the decision.

Here I am, watching children all over the world suffer on my newsfeed and I'm so confused as to why this is the conversation we're having. Why are we so obsessed with breast vs. bottle when we should be discussing fed vs. starving? How did we, modern American parents (myself very much included) get so caught up in WHAT we're feeding our children that we've forgotten THAT we're feeding our children? When did we get so frenzied about making this choice that we forgot to remember the fact that we have one?

I look at that bottle so much differently now than I did six months ago. I'm just so grateful it's full, and so much less concerned with what's filling it up. So if you're in the thick of it right now, if you're pulling your hair out in the formula aisle, wiping away tears and wondering if you're a "good" mama, just know that the question has already been answered and it has nothing to do with whether or not you choose Medela or Similac (or in my case, Baby's Only, which I'm pretty obsessed with.) You're a great mama, and when the close-up is too much to take, zoom out, and remember that before "breast" was best, fed was.  Fed is best.

(If you're struggling with breastfeeding or with your decision to use formula, I highly recommend this website, which gave me a bunch of laughs and encouragement when I was going through the switch. Bottom line: you know what's best for you and your baby. And you're more than good enough.)

Laura Max RoseComment