I Choose Breastfeeding, and I Choose Me

There have been pictures of mamas breastfeeding their babies popping up on all my social media feeds in celebration of world breastfeeding week (August 1-7). Breastfeeding is a personal choice, and many health professionals are very pro breastfeeding. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “breast is best.”

With my first daughter, I really believed that “breast is best” and therefore thought that formula was poison. What kind of mother would I be if I wanted a break and decided to give her formula? If I was physically capable, how dare I not be available to feed her? If I had to be away, then I must pump to prevent a drop of formula from entering her body, or so I thought. On the day I became a mommy, I was met with a tiny human who was five pounds and two ounces. She wouldn’t latch and was taken to the NICU so nurses could watch her more carefully.

I was pumping like crazy. I set an alarm for every three hours around the clock and pumped for 40 minutes each time because that was what I was told I had to do. I was producing way more than my little five pound baby could drink. It was a frustrating start because the nurses kept saying that we were doing everything right, but she just wouldn’t latch. Breastfeeding was something I really wanted to experience, so we kept at it. Finally at four weeks old, we got the hang of it. Overall it was a positive experience until she weaned herself at 15 months.

This time around I have a little leech. Right out of the womb K’s latch was strong, and she has been at me non-stop since then. She sucks me dry and there are no leftovers for pumping or storing. I’ve made the choice to breastfeed again, but if I can be honest, I’m not loving it as much. Feeding on demand means that I actually have to answer to her demands, and last night her demand was every hour from 1:00am to 8:00am. EVERY HOUR.

For the most part I enjoy breastfeeding, but sometimes I feel like I miss out because of it. If we’re out, sometimes I have to feed in the car while my husband and older daughter start shopping or whatever it is we’ve planned to do. I’ve missed some drop-off and pick-ups with my older daughter for her programs because I needed to breastfeed. I’ve had to schedule many appointments around the baby’s schedule because she refused to take a bottle. I’ve lost a lot of freedom because of breastfeeding. One thing that health providers neglect to tell you is not only are you sharing your body during pregnancy, but your body is not your own until you are completely finished breastfeeding. Aside from the touchy-feely, sucky-slappy, pinchy-kicky moments, hormones don’t return to normal until breastfeeding is finished.

That is a long time to share your body.

We finally got K to take a bottle and I seriously cried tears of joy when she took it! She usually gets her bottle at night with hubs so I can get some sleep. This also frees me up so I’m not panicking to return home from an appointment. Turns out that formula isn’t poison and has been my saving grace this time around.

While health professionals strongly encourage breastfeeding for the first two years of a baby’s life, this time around I choose breastfeeding and I choose me! I know in order to be the best mom I can be, I need to give myself permission to let go of the ideologies of motherhood.

I choose breastfeeding. I choose bottle-feeding. I choose formula. I choose to honour the limits of my mental health. Keeping a baby alive is hard work! I choose to give myself permission to make that easier in anyway I can. I’ve accepted the words of professionals as guidelines and not as mothering musts. Mommying is hard enough without outside advice and all the “you should” comments. I’m slowly learning to let go of external pressures and mommy the way that keeps us all happy.

I choose breastfeeding, and I choose me.

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