While I was pregnant and someone would ask if I was planning to breastfeed, I’d say, “I’m fine with supplementing if I need to, but I’m going to try breastfeeding.” Since I wanted to save on the cost of formula and there are plenty of health benefits for mom and baby, I desperately wanted to breastfeed and be able to feed my baby myself. I wanted to be part of this club of warrior breastfeeding mamas and earn the breastfeeding badge on my motherhood sash. I was willing to put in the effort despite how many times I was told, “it’s so hard.” I admit I’m stubborn and not achieving goals doesn’t sit well with my workaholic and obsessive tendencies. My personality isn’t one to give up easily and I figured if I could make it through the first month I’d be able to make it work.
From the beginning, my baby was taking almost 2oz in the hospital. His hangry little self needed more than what I could give him. So I’d try the breast first, then the bottle, and then pump to get my supply up. Then the baby lost some weight and our pediatrician said I needed to feed him every 2 hours. After breastfeeding, I’d give him a bottle and then pump. By the time I washed my pump parts, it was time to do it all over again. On top of physically recovering from childbirth with raging hormones and trying to figure out how to take care of a new human, I was in this tortuous groundhog day cycle of feeding. By supplementing with formula, my baby gained back the weight and then some. He was healthy and doing great with formula but I wanted to get him back to mainly breast milk.
I kept telling myself to keep going – add in one more pump session, try drinking more water. But my supply never increased. I tried going to breastfeeding support groups and a lactation consultant. I tried power pumping, supplements, ate oatmeal and drank oat milk. I cut caffeine and chugged as much water as I could. When my baby was finally sleeping through the night, I’d be awake pumping at 3 am. I tried it all and it still didn’t work.
At times, I felt like a crazy ex who wouldn’t accept that I’d been dumped. I would do anything to still be part of the breastfeeding club and chase that shiny badge. Around 10 weeks, he stopped latching because I didn’t have enough to give him and I decided I would just keep pumping and give him 1-2 bottles of breastmilk a day. Then a few weeks later my supply dropped again and steadily decreased to maybe 5-10ml per pump session. My baby was taking 4oz+ per feeding and I would need to pump multiple days just to give him half of one feeding. It was not worth it anymore and I decided it was time to let go. I needed to remind myself of the big picture. There’s so much more ahead of me in my motherhood path, I can’t get fixated on this one easily solvable thing. Formula was invented to help babies and moms. As long as your family is healthy and happy, that’s all that truly matters.
My breastfeeding mom friends and formula feeding mom friends supported me equally when I decided it was time to call it quits. My friends without kids encouraged me to do what made me happy. My husband supported me all along through the tears about spilled milk, low supply, and when my son stopped latching. It’s hard to accept what we can’t control and we’re all going to experience peaks and valleys of different kinds – that is life. Focus on what makes you happy and make sure you cheer for others during their peaks and valleys, no matter what part of the mountain you are on.
No one is counting the badges on your motherhood sash except yourself. So what if I don’t have the breastfeeding badge? I have other ones I’m proud of; I love my baby badge, he is growing strong badge, my kid didn’t have a blowout today badge. You have to celebrate all your wins and acknowledge your losses.
My baby just turned 3 months old and with my last pump session behind me, I’m giving him the last breastmilk he’ll get. After packing up my pump, I realized I am a warrior mama because I am HIS mama. We all are warriors for our kids. This test of breastfeeding showed me I’m willing to do anything for that little boy. In the months and years to come, I will continue to do anything for him, just like you would do anything for your kids.