It’s National Breastfeeding Week, and I wanted to give an update breastfeeding and my final thoughts on my experience. I wanted to revisit this because I recently talked with someone who was having some initial breastfeeding struggles and she wanted to hear about what has worked for me. After our talk she told me my story has given her hope that she can continue breastfeeding. I’ll insert the disclaimer here that of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing what’s best for you. I’m not advocating for or against breastfeeding, just sharing my experience.
Adelina is now almost 16 months old and her diet consists mostly of solid foods and almondmilk. As of this week she has weaned down to just one nursing session when she wakes up, but it isn’t that long anymore. It seems like each day we get closer to stopping. She’s even gone an entire day without nursing at all, and it was an emotional one for me. My therapist had said that sometimes stopping breastfeeding can cause emotional issues for many women, but that it’s usually more so if you stop when the baby is younger. I wasn’t sure if anything would come up for me because she’s older now and doesn’t really rely on me for nutrition anymore. I worried that my postpartum emotions would resurface, but beyond being a little sad that she’s growing so quickly, I’ve been OK emotionally.
Breastfeeding Week reminds me that there’s a lot of focus and interest in how a mother feeds her baby. Some people shame moms for “giving up” or not trying breastfeeding at all, and some wonder why you are trying so hard to breastfeed at all (and stressing about it) when you can just use formula. Some don’t understand the emotions that happen when you want to make nursing work and can’t, whether because of lack of supply, lack of support or things like tongue ties. Others don’t understand why a mom would go through the struggle of exclusively pumping, especially for months or even a year. The truth is you don’t need to understand. A mom (or both parents) should make her own choice about how to feed her child. Sometimes a mom can’t continue with her inital choice and plans change. For me, a mix of breastfeeding, pumping and bottlefeeding my breastmilk, and formula worked best. At about 11 months, I stopped pumping altogether, but I am still breastfeeding simply because Addi and I both want to do it. It’s really no one’s business, though I share it because I want to reiterate that it’s OK to do what works best for your family even if it doesn’t look like what others around you are doing or advising.
I immediately noticed that there’s not much support for breastfeeding in public. By that I mean you sometimes struggle to find a place to nurse or pump. While some would say you should just breastfeed wherever you need to, and I agree, it was always difficult for me. I wasn’t comfortable breastfeeding anywhere. I wanted to be, but I wasn’t. When Adelina was only a few weeks old we were at a racetrack and I needed to feed her. I had a bottle of formula with me because we were supplementing, but I needed to get my supply up, so I always nursed first and then bottle fed if needed. I struggled with my nursing cover, and I overheard someone behind me comment on why I wasn’t just giving her the bottle. I wish I had said something, but I was emotional enough as it was, so I didn’t. But I wish I would have told them to mind their own damn business — and more.
Overall, though, I’d say we’ve had a positive experience with breastfeeding and I’m so glad I chose to try it. Before having a baby I didn’t think I would want to do it at all and there would have been nothing wrong with that. But on the day she was born, something told me to give it a shot and I’m glad I did, even if those first weeks were difficult. Some of my favorite moments in the past 16 months have been those quiet moments while nursing Addi before bedtime.
I hope what you take from this to be more understanding of a parent’s choices. If a mom needs help finding a nursing or pumping spot, help her — and please don’t suggest a bathroom. If a mom needs to prepare her baby’s formula, offer to entertain the baby. All of these are more helpful actions than questioning her decisions for her family.