This week at the Breastfeeding Blog Hop hosted by The Gnome’s Mom, Happiness Redefined and myself, we are talking about guilt. Guilt over not being able to accomplish your breastfeeding goals as well as guilt over reaching them. As moms we tend to pile all the burden onto ourselves, for better or worse. So let’s hear it. Do you feel guilt over breastfeeding?
I have talked endlessly about my feeling concerning breastfeeding. I am starting to wonder if it’s really guilt I am feeling. Maybe a little. Maybe more anger mixed with sadness. I mean I certainly did everything I could. I have nothing to feel guilty about.
With the twins I had zero milk left by 6 months. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Options were slim back in 2009. There were no networks of moms milk-sharing. Getting breastmilk from a milk bank was costly and difficult. Not really an option at the time. They had to eat though. So we powered through and were happy as clams when they finally hit a year and we could give them whole milk and put it behind us. (When they started solids I made everything from scratch. They never had a spoonful of jarred food because for once I could *make* something and my body’s ability to produce wasn’t going to be a factor.)
But I still hated that it didn’t work. I hated that every single feeding during that time was a struggle. I hated that all of my memories from the first few months were of any combination of the 3 of us crying during yet another stressful feeding. I hated that everyone I talked to told me how wonderful it was and how easy it was and how if I only had X,Y, and Z it would be fine. Well let me tell you. I had X,Y, and Z. What I didn’t have were a pair of breasts that wanted to make milk. There was plenty of demand. There was no supply.
I felt like a failure.
With Judah I kind of knew what I was up against, but I figured it would be better. There was only one mouth to feed this time around. It had to be! Right?
And this time I happened to be on Twitter 24/7. That’s not always the place to find great support for breastfeeding. Some of the things that came across the screen had me in tears. I was already on my knees, I didn’t need someone to kick me while I was down there.
After a few (4?) months of struggling we started to supplement with formula. It was an instant change in the mood of Judah and thus the entire house. He was not screaming all day and night because he was hungry. That bottle to top him off after nursing for hours on end was just what we needed. I was a happier mom. There was less stress, things chilled out.
I didn’t feel guilt about this because it had to be done.
I have felt something though. Mostly because whenever supply issues come up, they are quickly dismissed. It’s so rare, you know. That dismissal pisses me off.
I lived through it 24/7 with 3 kids. You could not find another mom who wanted to breastfeed more than I did. You could not find someone who had more support to do so. But I was still condescended to as if I didn’t know what I was talking about. I must not have been feeding often enough. Or I must have had a pediatrician who wasn’t supportive. Or I must have been too tired one night and just needed an easy way out.
The twins didn’t sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time until they were 14 months old. Being tired isn’t an issue for me.
I did what I had to do.
Do I feel guilty about that? Looking back, I don’t think it’s guilt that I feel.
I think it’s anger. Anger that women in my position get dismissed. Get told they don’t want it enough. Get looked down upon for making a “choice”.
Anger that no matter what I did, no matter how high my hopes, no matter what combination of prescriptions and supplements I swallowed each day, no matter how often I pumped or nursed, it wasn’t working.
And I think it’s sadness. Sadness that no matter what, breastfeeding for me will always be colored by stress.
Stress over not being able to feed my child.
Stress over the decision to use formula.
Stress that I will be judged as not doing everything I could have with one glance at my baby holding a bottle.
I love breastfeeding and everything it represents and I wish every mother could and would do it. But I also know what it’s like to be judged and I try really hard to acknowledge that each of us is walking a different breastfeeding path.