When I was pregnant with my child, I thought I had done everything to prepare for breastfeeding. I was committed to the exclusively breastfeeding lifestyle and even noted its shorthand: "EBF."
The reality turned out to be quite different from my expectations and so, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t breastfeed as long as I would have liked to. I know for moms in that situation, the feelings of inadequacy, guilt and, at times, regret last long after your child’s infant stage is over.
You find that the world is filled with triggers and reminders—like these:
1. When Moms Post Breastfeeding Pictures ...
... and describe breastfeeding as the best bonding experience ever, complete with the hashtag #feels. This one still tugs at me, honestly. It reminds me that I only experienced it for a short while and that, even while I was breastfeeding, I was so filled with anxiety and sleep deprivation that I was never able to fully enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong, I'm so happy for breastfeeding moms, but I still get slightly jealous that I missed out on something.
Pumping did not work for me, and many of my postpartum memories involve nursing on demand while pumping every hour without much success. Again, I look at my breasts sometimes and I wonder if maybe we could have found a way to make it work for the sake of the baby.
I read later that some of the things I thought I was doing wrong were actually quite normal.
3. Pics of Moms Tandem Nursing Their Toddler and Newborn
I mean, I can’t even make this one about myself. I just have to bow down in awe of their power. That’s amazing.
4. Complaints About Not Having Public Places to Nurse or Pump
You know what? For those weeks that I did it, I didn’t even care who saw me. I would tell everyone about my nursing issues. I was so ready to be "The Change." I’m with moms every step of the way—we need to normalize breastfeeding. I just wish that I could have joined in a public nurse-in—or been more than only a supporter.
5. When Someone Tells You They Had the Easiest Time Nursing
You're like, "Gee, thanks, aren’t you lucky?!" Meanwhile, I nearly lost my sanity doing it or I was physically incapable of it, so thank you for reminding me about how inadequate I was.
6. When Someone Says It's Easier the Second Time
Oh, so it gets easier? Now I have to decide if I want another baby!
Whatever it is, if breastfeeding is something you desire, I urge you to seek support and not give up.
7. When You Learn Something New About Breastfeeding That Could Have Saved You Back Then
I read later that some of the things I thought I was doing wrong were actually quite normal. In my panic to fix things, I might have made things worse. This is after taking two breastfeeding courses, reading books and consulting with many people. My son was a cluster feeder, and so he needed to latch constantly. I had no break for weeks. My doctor told me this meant I probably wasn’t nursing enough, which, in hindsight, may not have been correct.
If breastfeeding is something you desire, I urge you to seek support and not give up. My biggest regret is letting my anxiety get in the way of this special time with my child. Also? If you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, I will tell you that bottle-feeding and formula are totally OK, too.
What’s important is that we embrace and respect each other's decisions.