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).
26 Comments Add yours
I am so proud of you for speaking out about this. I know so many people who feel guilty about not being able to breastfeed for whatever reason because of all the “breast is best” campaigning and it makes me angry. The only thing that is “best” is the decision that is right for YOU and your family. M is clearly loved and not starving/malnourished so where she gets her milk from is literally nobody’s business but yours and K’s.
Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement, Bev. I think you’re so right. Breastfeeding really wasn’t working for us and I’m grateful it’s something we came to terms with. ❤
My circumstances with support and labor/delivery were different than yours but the breastfeeding part is verrrry similar.
I remember thinking the nurses/LCs caused me to fall into a PP depression (though I was never diagnosed because I was “functioning too well”).
But yes, our now 18 month old spent 12 months on formula and I never regretted that. In fact, I remember thinking I would go STRAIGHT TO FORMULA from day one in the hospital next time, just so the doctors/nurses/LCs would leave me alone.
When we were admitted they asked if we were going to breastfeed and since I said yes, they never addressed or discussed any other way. And things were actually ok at the hospital! My nurses were really, really helpful. It just wasn’t something we could figure out on our own. And it wasn’t enjoyable AT ALL. I never got that feeling of euphoria. But I love giving her a bottle and looking at her and holding her little hand ❤
Thank you for sharing your experience Audrey! I know this will be so helpful to other moms. I wish there wasn’t so much judgement around motherhood and all of the decisions that go into that. Fed is best after all! You are rocking this and I know your little one would agree with me. =]
Thanks, Kristen ❤ I put more pressure on myself than anyone else did, but I think a large part of that was because there isn't much out there on NOT breastfeeding. Regardless, I'm glad we figured out the right path for us.
Proud of you. You’re doing amazing.
Thank you, friend ❤
I think it’s awesome that you’re sharing your story, and I think it really will help people, whether it’s something they need right now or further down the line. I hate how women think they should police what other moms do – breastfed, formula, whatever you want that works for you! It sounds like formula is the right way for you and I’m glad you were able to make that decision fairly early on, though I’m sorry you still had that week of feeling guilty and like you were failing M- which, you are most definitely NOT. I’m glad people in your life are supportive of you. I know a lot of my friends with kids breastfed, but it doesn’t work for everyone. And some people don’t even try because they don’t WANT to and that’s totally valid. Feed your kid, that’s all you need to do. They’ll be okay.
You’re doing great!! I can’t imagine any of this is easy, but I’m glad you have a great support system and are able to see when things need to change, even if it’s tough.
Thank you, Lauren! Motherhood has been quite a journey of trial and error. I’m glad we’re over thus hump… it was definitely difficult both emotionally and physically. Your friends are lucky to have a supportive friend like you!
I have always appreciated about you your honesty & love it even more in these ‘hot topics’ – which shouldn’t even be luke-warm topics. How you raise your baby shouldn’t have any pressure associated… but yet, 2020 & the age of social media & all things THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY. Nope – your way is the right way when its YOUR baby. & you are exactly right – a happy, healthy, full belly baby is the best baby there is & proof you’re doing it right for you.
Ugh… it’s very easy to fall into the social media comparison trap… But M has a happy fully tummy and you’re right- that’s what matters! I think she’s quite happy to drink a bottle. She hasn’t complained yet 😉
Proud of you for ding what is best for your family and knowing that a fed baby is best. I’m glad you found the solution that works for your life. Sweet M has such strong parents!
Thank you so much, Sarah!
It is affirming that you feel confident enough to talk about this on your blog. Kudos to you for seeking the support you need.
Thank you, Amanda. I appreciate the kind words!
I am so sorry that you are dealing with PDD but I am so glad that you are being so honest and open about it too. PDD is so normal but we make it so taboo and it hurts women (and men too) who are already hurting. While I am not a Mom, I believe very firmly that you know what’s best for you and your baby. If breastfeeding is going well and feels awesome for you – fantastic. If not, that’s more than okay too. I agree wholeheartedly that there is so pressure on Moms to do things “certain” ways. Well, who the hell chooses the right way? There is no universal right way to feed a baby. I am adopted so guess what – my mom did not breastfeed me and I’m normal. Okay, normalish but pretty sure my weirdness has nothing to do with formula. 😀 I’m so glad you’ve got such a great support team and we’re all here cheering you on as well.
Thank you so much, Tanya. I’d heard of ppd and knew what it entailed… but I didn’t know how it’d feel. It’s definitely a rush of strong, crushing emotions and feelings. And society’s pressure doesn’t help one bit. I think you’re perfectly normal 🙂 A loved baby is a happy baby.
I am so so proud of you for writing about this, and for making this decision. I think that this post will help a lot of people who are going through what you went through. Breastfeeding is SO HARD and I really don’t think that our culture supports breastfeeding (or new moms). There is all of this pressure but so many hurdles. M needs a happy mom, a well rested mom, way more than she needed breastmilk. You’re already a great mom by doing what is best for her.
Breastfeeding is so so hard. I have such respect for all mamas who do it (& the ones who decide not to, too). I feel super lucky to have a wonderful, healthy baby and super supportive non-mom and mom friends- including you! ❤
Oh Audrey. I have tears in my eyes reading this. It’s like my own story. I had a horrendous recovery from delivery and raging PPD. Breastfeeding was a nightmare. I screamed and cried every single time I had to feed her two months. The latch issues were never ending. I am SO proud of you for using formula. I wish I would’ve. I was so deep in my depression and anxiety that I couldn’t get past feeling like a failure, and it wrecked me for months. You are doing great.
I’m so sorry 😦 Breastfeeding is so hard & I wasn’t prepared for it at all- let alone the struggle compounded on ppd. The first week was hell… I cried constantly. I can’t imagine going through that for 2 months. You’re a badass. You’re such a fantastic mom & baby #2 will definitely benefit from all you learned in round one.
had a very similar breast feeding experience and COMPLETELY agree with your formula points. YOU know what’s best for you and your baby, the end.
I’m grateful that we both enjoy formula feeding so much. I love giving her a bottle and making eye contact and holding her little hand. It brings me WAY more joy than anything breastfeeding-related did in the first week.
This was my exact experience with Caleb. I had no interest in it, but you feel pressured to do it. Got all the supplies, pillows, etc. and it HURT SO BAD from the start. So then I pumped, because again… GUILT. Then finally, after about 2 weeks or so of pumping and supplementing with formula, I threw in the towel and he went exclusively to formula. I felt so guilty, but feeding time had been miserable. I would get so anxious anytime he cried and wanted to eat, and I was in pain the ENTIRE time. I knew feeding him wasn’t supposed to be like this. Also, formula made going back to work easier. As soon as we switched to formula, a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. We went straight to formula for Holden. I told them from the get go that we would not be breastfeeding, and my doctor was very supportive.
The guilt is crazy. And I really put it all on myself. Everyone around me was so so supportive. But society makes you feel like breastfeeding is something you’re SUPPOSED to do, not matter how painful or hard or damaging it is to you. I’m glad you were able to eventually make that decision for Caleb and you went straight to formula for Holden!