Being a mother may seem like the most basic thing a woman can do. Because women’s bodies are designed to be able to carry a human life, it may seem like nourishing them would be easy and natural. The assumption is that breastfeeding is easy, and that it’s possible for everyone.
Well, that’s just not true.
Some women can’t get pregnant, or can’t carry a child. Some women have very difficult pregnancies. And the same is true for breastfeeding. It’s not always for every mother and child.
Now, the generally understood medical opinion is that “breast is best” and hippie mamas everywhere will shout it from the mountaintops. However, there are many factors that I urge you to think through before you feel pushed—and dare I say it, shamed—into feeling like nursing is the only option.
I myself am a mama who has done it all. I have nursed. I have pumped. I have bottle-fed, formula-fed, exclusively pumped, and done any and all combinations of these. Between my three (remarkably well-fed, big and strong) children, I can say I have survived every single combination of feeding a baby that you can imagine, including feeding my child breastmilk from another mother. It’s possible that your baby can be nourished (and flourish!) with any of these methods.
Now that I’ve proclaimed that from personal experience, I will say this: be freed right now (right now!) from the thought that there is “one perfect way” for you and your baby. Shame off you, I say! Whatever way your baby is fed is the perfect way for you. Nursing ’til he’s three? Go, you! Formula-fed from day one? I bet she’s perfect! Exclusively pumping, with a little formula at night? He is certainly a sweet little guy! I know countless moms who have fallen under these and other categories, and guess what? They all have healthy babies, and are great moms.
Now, there are definitely pros and cons to each situation. First of all, nursing isn’t comfortable or natural for every woman. Sometimes, you can get past that initial weirdness and discomfort. Some moms don’t, and that’s okay. Second, formula is expensive. Sometimes you can pay for it, or get coupons, or qualify for WIC. That’s extremely helpful, and gets you the formula you need. Third, if you’re going back to work, you know you’ll either need to pump, or supplement, or both. That’s hard. And it’s okay if you give it a shot and it works, or if you do, and it doesn’t. Breast pumps are a gift and also a nuisance, that’s for sure. Tip: contact your insurance company to see if they will provide a free breast pump—many do! This is a huge benefit as they can be pricey. Bottle-feeding is nice when you’re out in public, and don’t want to dress in a way that is nursing-friendly, or if you’re on the go and don’t have time for your slow nurser to take an hour to eat. Nursing is awesome because you don’t have to pack a bottle every time you leave the house. See? Something for everyone.
The biggest suggestion I have for new moms is to not feel pressure in one way or the other. Should you try to breastfeed for at least a little while? Absolutely yes. Should you feel bad if there’s a medical reason (or otherwise) that you just can’t make it work? No way. No guilt. Don’t succumb to the guilt that you’re not doing a good job because it didn’t work out the way you planned. Remember this—there are plenty of ways for you to nourish that perfect bundle of joy.
So take a deep breath, give yourself time and grace to figure it out, and enjoy that sweet baby.
You’ll also like Real Life as a New Mom, You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be a Great Mom, Clichés to Cling to for Moms, 10 Tips for Soon-to-Be Moms, and Why I Don’t Have Just One Parenting Style