Sifting Through the Noise of Baby Feeding Methods
BY VALERIE ROBINSON
Whether newly entering the parenting realm or veterans to it, those of us have all heard the phrase “breastfed is best.” Although a largely well-intentioned piece of advice, it can hold an unnecessary amount of weight that can induce some anxiety into caregivers (as if parenting wasn’t hard enough). Now, there’s absolutely no denying the benefits of breastfeeding. Baby gets all the necessary nutrients, antibodies, and arguably the perfect amount of milk they need. Breastfeeding allows you to have a very special bonding moment with your baby and provides them with security and comfort. But what happens when the stars don’t align and breastfeeding becomes something that you dread or can no longer do?
When Samuel was about eight months old, I got pregnant with our daughter and stopped producing breastmilk. I felt TERRIBLE. I had every intention of breastfeeding until he was at least a year old, longer (admittedly much longer) if possible. Then all of a sudden, this special thing we had going on was no more. It was a long couple of months of food management after that. He refused every type of bottle imaginable and turned his nose at formula. We had to totally revamp his solid food diet to be age-appropriate and have enough calories to help him grow. It was SO stressful. At first, I tried to keep breastfeeding what little I could, but it was just frustrating for us both. It was becoming painful for me and disappointing for him.
In retrospect, that experience was harder on me than it was on him. All he wanted was to eat. I am thankful that he’s never really been a picky eater. He transitioned well into his peanut butter toast, scrambled eggs, and sweet potato hash (just a few examples). But for me, a chapter that felt like it defined a large part of who I’d become was over. Emotionally, there was so much more to overcome, and facing the fact that my breastfeeding journey with Samuel was over was much harder than I was prepared for. That’s just my experience, though.
I’m lucky to have a large mom tribe. And with that, I have heard all sorts of different baby feeding journeys. What it always comes back to, however, is the underlining pressure to have a perfect breastfeeding journey (it parallels the pressure to have a perfect “natural” birth experience). It’s unfairly unrealistic to put that pressure on a new mom. There are moms whose milk never came in, while other moms had babies that couldn’t latch correctly (major OUCH). There are even moms who found out their babies had a milk intolerance! And nearly every mom I’ve talked to has mentioned that they tried making breastfeeding work much longer than they should’ve, and it came with a price: a very hungry, fussy baby and a decline in mental health.
I want you to know that no matter what baby feeding journey you’re on, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with how you’re doing it. Exclusive breastfeeding, exclusive pumping and bottle feeding, exclusive formula feeding, or some combination – they are all completely valid ways of feeding your baby. You need to do what’s best for you and your baby. Because at the end of the day, what really matters is… “well fed is best”.
It’s so important that you feel supported during your parenting journey, especially during these times that can feel particularly isolating and can be difficult to get together with “your tribe”. With that being said, I want to include some parenting pages to follow that I have found particularly helpful and I hope you do too!