Before I talk about my struggles with motherhood and postpartum depression I want to say that our daughter is nothing short of perfection. My mental health is not a reflection of my love for her- it’s a reflection of my mental health. It’s also not a result of a poor support system- our family and friends have been incredible. They have shopped for us, made us food, held M while we nap/shower/do a load of laundry. They have offered to come clean or just keep me company on the lonely days. Again, my mental health is because of me- my thoughts, my hormones, my chemicals.
It’s unfair that after battling through delivery mothers are given a scary, new, unpredictable baby. My delivery was not easy & it left me broken and hurt. On the way home from the hospital the “baby blues” hit with a vengeance. I’m not a doctor or expert; I’m just sharing my experience. PPD sucks and feels very lonely- I want to make it a little less lonely for someone else.
I’m breaking this up into two posts because it hit me in two parts in two different ways.
After being home for a day I realized that M’s nursing latch was not right and it was painfully tearing up my chest. Of course, now that the nurses were gone and I was all alone, things were suddenly bad. I powered through as best I could but at her first pediatrician appointment I asked about supplementing with formula.
Fortunately, M was getting enough food and her weight hadn’t dropped too low but our ped was very supportive and gave us samples so I could catch a break. Once we were home I hesitated to give her a formula bottle. I hated that I was “giving up.” I cried and cried about how weak I felt to give in to the pain and not do this thing we women are “made” to do.
*Before she was born I swore that if breastfeeding didn’t work out I was not going to beat myself up over it. We would just make the necessary changes and move on. Well… hormones and guilt and exhaustion all come into play once baby arrives. Knowing when to make a change is tricky and frustrating.
I did eventually give her a few formula bottles. Then I’d switch back and nurse her the next time. I also pumped during the formula feedings and got a little milk for her. (I was also concerned that my milk hadn’t come in fully.) Every single feeding I felt defeated. When I gave her formula I felt like a failure as a mom and selfish for wanting to ease my own pain. When I attempted to nurse I felt nothing but fear and pain and anxiety… and a growing frustration for M. I cried constantly.
We paid $120 for a breastfeeding consultation at a local resource center. Everything went smoothly there and I came home feeling great. And then we nursed at home and M’s latch wasn’t right over and over again. I bawled. I felt like I wasn’t meant to be a mom. I felt the crushing monotony of doing this day in and day out for months. I felt so, so hopeless.
My mom stayed that evening and kept M in the living room. K and I went up to bed alone and, in a moment of clarity and quietness, we made the decision to stop breastfeeding. Making that final, clear, black and white decision felt amazing. In a season of unpredictability and chaos it felt like we’d gain some control over something.
So on M’s one week “birthday” we quit breastfeeding.
Let’s talk about breastfeeding for a second. (I am not a doctor.) The general consensus right now is that “breast is best.” In history, opinions about breastfeeding have gone back and forth but right now I feel like there is a massive amount of pressure to breastfeed. Just about everyone assumed we were going to nurse. I didn’t even consider formula- I put no research or consideration into formula. We registered for all the nursing things- creams, pads, the pump and pillow and storage bags. We took a class at the aforementioned center and we decided we were going to give it a shot.
The night K and I made our final decision was the first night I put thought into our nursing situation. For me, these were the main factors:
- I felt no joy or connection to M when we were nursing. On the contrary, I felt anxiety, fear, pain, and resentment every time she started rooting.
- On the flip side, the few times I’d given her a bottle she was happy and I was pain free. She made eye contact with me and it was a peaceful moment between us.
- I plan to return to work and didn’t want to figure out the logistics of feeding AND pumping enough for caregivers to use.
- I didn’t plan to bf beyond 6 months tops.
- While I respect the HELL out of mamas who feed their babies anywhere, I was not comfortable doing that. Even in my own house, if we had company visiting, I removed myself from the room and went to her nursery to nurse. I couldn’t imagine doing that for months and months.
- She got the colostrum at the beginning of her life (but even if she hadn’t it would’ve been ok).
- I really hated it. I never felt that moment of peacefulness when she latched.
Why am I sharing this? Because I was inundated with the pros and perks and facts of breastfeeding… but no one talked about the pros of formula feeding.
It still feels like a taboo opinion, but I love formula feeding.
I love that she looks me in the eye and holds my finger when I’m giving her a bottle. I love that ANYONE can feed her, including her dad or grandparents or caregiver. I love how easy it is to mix up a bottle and make her happy- whether we’re at home or out and about.
I am surrounded by extremely supportive people. Not one single person has given me flak about formula feeding- even my hardcore breastfeeding friends have cheered us on. And my respect for those who breastfeed is through the roof. It’s a tough path to take- it just wasn’t the right one for us.
A fed, happy, peaceful baby is most important. This post has seemingly focused more on breastfeeding and less on mental health, but having the confidence to make a decision and stick to it and feel good about it was such a boost to my mental health. I imagine it might help out another mom in the same way, too.
The second part of this mental health saga is much more ppd/depression heavy. I wanted to focus on breastfeeding this time, though, because there’s a lot of opinions out there and the pressure is insane- even when it’s pressure we put on ourselves. It was the first major mental hurdle I faced.
I am an open book (& total novice) when it comes to parenting M and surviving early motherhood. Please feel free to ask me anything or reach out if you’re struggling with something- either in the comments or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).