This experience is all about choice. It is our choice. We don’t make infant feeding decisions in a vacuum we make them according to the sum of our previous experiences and where we find ourselves at the time, and that’s exactly as it should be.
“My child would be fed, My child would be loved. My child would flourish. And that’s all I wanted.”
You can’t say fairer than that.
The only way I was brave enough to face having another baby was by knowing that formula is there.
With my oldest daughter I drove myself insane trying to make breastfeeding work. It took me a long time to get over the guilt and all the other associated feelings that came with her first 6 weeks. My husband and I had originally planned on a 2 year gap between our kids but when it came time to face the music (so to speak) I just couldn’t do it. The thought of trying to feed another baby filled me with dread. Not the pregnancy, not the labour, not those first bone crushingly exhausting weeks and not even the thought of trying to cope with two kids. All my fears and anxiety could be rooted back to feeding. Breastfeeding to be exact. I won’t rehash my story but to be short I hated my daughters first couple of months and it took me a long time to come to terms with what happened, to accept that it wasn’t my fault, and to find the courage to face it again. And the only way I could do that was with an incredibly supportive husband and the knowledge that formula would give me the exact same results as breastmilk i.e. happy, healthy mom and baby.
When my daughter was 2(ish) I finally felt ready to face everything again and was genuinely happy when I saw that second line on the test. Now I wish I could say that my pregnancy went smoothly but it didn’t. I had a lot of fears about what those first few weeks would be like. I had nightmares about breastfeeding and other random stuff. On top of that I had some additional health worries with the pregnancy and the usual working mom of one struggles. And perhaps you’ll think that with all of this on me I should have just said “I will formula feed from the start” but I know myself and I knew that if I didn’t at least try breastfeeding I would be forever plagued by ‘what if’. I decided that I would combo feed. Breastfeed until I could take it no more or needed a break and then give formula.
I set newborn goals that were slightly different from the norm and wildly different from the goals I set with my first. I didn’t plan to exclusively breastfeed for X months or anything like that. I made one simple goal: I want to enjoy my baby’s newborn days. Sounds silly, I mean isn’t that a given? But sadly it’s not. I can remember saying quite firmly to the midwife who cared for me with my oldest that I hated the newborn stage. And I did. I only really started to enjoy parenting when she was about year old. Don’t get me wrong, I love my oldest and she’s brought a great deal of love, light and happiness to my life. But with her arrival I went through one of the hardest periods of my life and it had definitely coloured things for me.
I also made sure that my loved ones knew about my goal. They were given the task of reminding me that it was OK to stop breastfeeding. That my family needed me happy and healthy more than my baby needed breastmilk. That I didn’t have to cry and bite down on screams through every feeding or pump around the clock until I start imaging that pump sound is saying something to me. Sadly, I didn’t know if I would have the courage to stop if I needed to. And I made sure that my family knew that they could get me that formula and tell me to stop breastfeeding.
My youngest daughter’s arrival was smooth (if somewhat late!). Her first ten days were amazing and the next few months were good too as I learnt to juggle two kids. It’s hard to tell what can be attributed to her personality or to my attitude but I can say that she was and is one of the happiest and most chilled kids you’re likely to meet. I followed my heart and listened to my gut. I was kind to myself and ‘allowed’ myself to sleep while her amazing dad gave her formula, or gave a bottle to give my nipples a rest, or when he took my oldest daughter to a party knowing that I didn’t have to stress about pumping or supply. I felt that exact same rush of love for my little ball of squish when I was breastfeeding that I felt when I was giving her a bottle. And the courage to listen to my heart didn’t stop with just feeding! She’s a total snuggle bunny and loved nothing more than sleeping in arms and I indulged her because I could.
Much to my surprise we had none of the feeding trouble I had with my first. No latching issues, no supply issues, no intolerances and no breast issues. Sounds perfect, right? Except for me. It set my anxiety to high. I was always waiting something to happen, it was too good to be true and something was bound to go wrong. I was panicking at every twinge or sneeze. Jumping and assuming the worst, snapping at my oldest for the smallest things.
That was when I had to sit down and have a good conversation with myself. Breastfeeding was not worth it if the cost was going to be my sanity and my relationship with my children (and my husband). I know people will say that you can breastfeed and take meds but again, my anxiety wouldn’t allow me to do that with a clear mind. There was a part of me that was hoping if I stopped breastfeeding my hormones would relax enough for me to get through things without meds (it wasn’t to be). So, we started to move to exclusive formula feeding, but this time I did it with a light heart.
My child would be fed. My child would be loved. My child would flourish. And that’s all I wanted.