When I was pregnant with my daughter, I got asked constantly if I was going to breastfeed. My answer? I planned to try. To be honest, it wasn’t something I was super passionate about. I knew all of the benefits, and I hoped to pass those onto my little one. Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, though… So today I’m going to share why we chose to formula feed—and had no regrets about it.
After an easy labor, I was excited to breastfeed her. I tried to put her to my breast while doing skin to skin, but she would not have it. Once bathed and back in our room, she finally seemed hungry, so I tried again. Holy mackerel—it hurt. I knew something wasn’t right. So I sought advice from my L&D nurse, which helped alleviate the pain. I noticed that she cried and arched her back when I tried putting her to my breast. Instead of calming her down, trying to get her to eat seemed to upset her more. I received counsel from one of the hospital’s lactation consultants before we went home. My time with her was an emotional blur. She insinuated that the problems we were having with breastfeeding stemmed from my epidural and my prolonged time pushing. Immediately, I felt like I had failed my daughter. My emotions were picking up, threatening to boil over the lid I tried to keep on them. She prescribed us a breast pump and a special needs feeder and then sent us on our way.
I made it several days pumping and giving my daughter the tiny amount of milk I produced via a syringe and the special needs feeder. However, I found myself becoming increasingly emotional, withdrawn and anxious. I dreaded pumping. Each time, I would sit in our bedroom and cry. I didn’t want to feed my daughter or even hold her most of the time. I felt like I was failing her again. Then, I would cry some more.
The night we made the choice to switch to formula is still so clear in my mind. I finally had the huge emotional breakdown that had been threatening to come for the past four days. I still wasn’t producing much milk. My husband and I noticed that her lips were peeling—as if she was getting dehydrated. I lost it. Sobs. My body was failing her. I was failing her, again. I couldn’t even do the one thing I was supposed to do for her. What kind of mother was I?!
After several minutes of my hysterical crying and shaking, my husband went to the kitchen and fixed the baby a bottle with some formula we got as a sample. That was all she wrote. We switched to formula and never looked back.Of course, now looking back I realize that I could have kept pumping and trying to breastfeed while supplementing with formula. But I was in such a fragile mental and emotional state that, at that time, it honestly never occurred to me.
Personally, I have struggled with depression in the past and have watched my mom struggle most of my life. I know myself well enough to recognize the warning signs. Avoidance is a huge one for me. It was starting to happen with feeding my daughter. I had to force myself to pump, each time inching longer and longer in between pumping sessions. Then, as I previously mentioned, I didn’t even want to feed her after pumping or even really hold her. That wasn’t acceptable to me. After seeing my own mother battle mental illness, I didn’t want my daughter to come into this world with a mother who was suffering when the cause was something simple that could be changed. It was as simple as that. That is the very reason why I do not regret our decision to formula feed.
In our case, the benefits of breastfeeding were not enough to outweigh the mental and emotional toll it was taking on me. I felt that our daughter deserved a healthy and emotionally stable mom. Formula was the right choice for our family, but I understand that it isn’t for everyone. And you know what? That’s OK! Every mom deserves the right to choose what is best for herself and her child without the fear of judgement from others. As they say, everyone is fighting a battle, whether or not it’s one that is easily seen.