I had every intention of breastfeeding my daughter for at least 6 months. Didn’t most of us grow up hearing “Breast is Best”? I don’t know about you, but I internalized the message that my baby would only thrive if she got that “liquid gold”. Cue the mom guilt switching from breastmilk to formula at 5 weeks.
I would never tell a mom not to feel guilty about stopping breastfeeding…because we’re human! We naturally feel all sorts of complicated emotions when we think we fall short. And it’s OK. The important thing is how we cope with those feelings.
I had rough go at breastfeeding (read below). But I emerged from it with an understanding that my baby’s ability thrive is due to the love and care I shower her with, not whether or not she is fed breastmilk. I hope my transparency helps other moms who feel or have felt mom guilt switching from breastmilk to formula.
That’s why I want to normalize this experience. I also want to give some hope, by sharing things that helped me overcome the very normal and understandable grief that comes with not being able to do something you so deeply wanted to for your child.
***Things that contributed to me feeling mom guilt switching from breastmilk to formula:
1. Lack of exposure to full range of experiences and options – I had no idea that my experiences were common…that is until I started reading Reddit (LOL) and talking to other moms. I also had no idea that combo feeding and exclusively pumping were options. I think this is a failure of our society and our healthcare system. I felt like a failure. My thought process was that I had one thing to do as a mom, breastfeed, and I could not. Of course, this is so wrong.
2. I’m human! – We want what’s best for our loved ones. When we feel that we can not provide that, of course if causes us some suffering.
***Things that helped me feel less mom guilt switching from breastmilk to formula:
1. Reaching out to other people for support – other moms, my pediatrician, my lactation consultant, my husband, and my parents; all of whom were incredibly supportive by validating my concerns and why the choice was the best for me and my daughter. This also helped me to realize that I am not alone.
2. Realizing all the people who were formula fed and turned out OK – like my husband, my brother (who is just the best person ever), my closest friends, and all the moms on Reddit sharing how their kids turned out fine LOL
3. Reading this book: Cribsheet by Emily Oster – It helped me to separate myself from the emotion of it all and think about the facts of what really matters when it comes to a child’s development. I recommend it to every new parent.
4. I could actually enjoy my time w my daughter and my husband since I did not have the constant stress and exhaustion of killing myself trying to breastfeed in a way that was not sustainable for me, or my daughter.
5. Time – it’s easy to get caught up in the what if’s, should have’s, and could have’s before you take the step of making the switch to formula. It took me many conversations with my support system (see above) before I decided to make the switch. But when I did, I immediately felt a sense of relief. Over the next few days, yes, I still felt sad and grief. However, each day I settled in more and more and became increasingly confident in my decision.
6. Trusting myself and that I know what is best for me and my baby! There is so much advice out there, but my mantra is do what works!
The acceptance I mentioned above came only after many tears and so much anxiety as I considered and ultimately made the decision to switch to full formula. I did this for a few reasons:
1.) My baby continued to be fussy after feedings on the breast. My husband and I started to use a pacifier to help soothe her. It wasn’t until we incorporated formula, and the fussiness was reduced to almost ZERO that we realized she was actually still hungry after being on my breast.
2.) Hence, the realization that I was not producing enough. This was after weeks of nursing, then pumping, then supplementing w bottled breast milk or formula. My supply never seemed to increase significantly. My average yield from a pump session was low, even when I had not nursed.
3.) Doing the aforementioned routine every 2 hours was driving me nuts. It was not sustainable. On top of that, it didn’t make sense to me to make my daughter miserable as well. I thought about continuing to pump and giving her whatever I got, but the trade off in terms of time and mental health was not worth the little that I pumped.
I cried many times: in the shower, with my husband, to my lactation consultant, to my parents. And the process of drying my breast milk up was a whole ‘nother grieving process.
But, 2 weeks later, I can see the sunshine. My family and I are so much better after making this switch.
I had no idea how difficult breastfeeding would be. And because I was the first person in my friend group to have a baby, I didn’t really have anyone to turn to.
Did you find this helpful or relatable? What has your experience been with breastfeeding or formula feeding?