After pumping at least four ounces of milk from her right boob but only half an ounce from her left, Leslie Means took to Facebook, not to vent her frustration but to inspire other formula-feeding moms to trust their gut.
"I NEED you to hear me. I NEED you to understand something. Whatever you are doing for that precious baby is exactly right. Do you understand me?" the 35-year-old mom of three wrote on Facebook last week.
Dear sweet exhausted Mama, I NEED you to hear me. I NEED you to understand something. Whatever you are doing for that precious baby is exactly right. Do you understand me? What YOU ARE DOING IS...
But Means chose to keep her sanity instead and ditch the mom guilt. Her post rang true for many moms who felt immense pressure to breastfeed everywhere they turned, from health experts and fellow moms. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the six months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age. The growing list of breastfeeding benefits for mom and baby are also hard to ignore.
But, what if you're a working mom, hooked up to a breast pump whenever you can spare a moment, but still not producing enough for her baby? Or a single mom with no support or time to make breastfeeding work? Or maybe you're on antibiotics or chemotherapy, don't have easy access to a lactation consultant or you're incredibly stressed out and not in a good place emotionally and mentally?
The point is, there are many reasons that drive moms to decide how they feed their babies, and to Means, breastfeeding doesn't have to be the only way.
Though breastfeeding rates have been rising, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 82 percent of newborn infants in the U.S. 2014 started to breastfeed, but only 55 percent were
breastfeeding at six months and 34 percent at 12 months.
So fresh and so clean clean. ❤️️🛀 #month6 #babykeithan #oleblueeyes
Means isn't worried about her 5-month-old son, Keithan, who gets a combination of breast milk and formula. The mom said she gave the same combo to his two older sisters, and she herself had formula back in 1981.
"I think I turned out pretty great … even with powdered milk," she wrote. "I share this with you because I want you to believe in yourself. I WANT you to know that what you’re doing is perfectly right. Listen. You love your baby, right? You’re doing everything in your power to give him/her the best possible life, aren’t you? Great. Then you’re perfect."
I read something yesterday. Something that made my heart ache and my soul shrivel. It made me feel like a bad mom. For about an hour, I believed the lie. And then, I stopped myself. See, even though I tell mamas (ALL THE TIME) to know their value, to understand their awesomeness, to believe their worth, there are days I don't follow those rules for myself. And I hate that. I hate that even for a moment I believe the lie. But last night as I was rocking this dude (isn't he getting big!?) I remembered. I remembered that my babies know I love them. I remembered that even though I screw up (daily), I spend too much time working, make too many chicken nuggets, forget to wash sheets or scrub floors or clean toilets, sip wine before 5, throw away craft projects, fail to make school lunches... (and on and on and on) even through ALL of that (and all the ways I'll mess up in the future) - I know this. Guys, I'm a freakin' awesome mom. I am. No one loves these babies like I do. (Except their dad, of course) No one knows our bedtime talks or our early morning hugs. No one knows the love we share. But I do. And they do. And that's good enough. Don't let anyone - ANYONE - let you think for one minute that you aren't a good enough mother. Because I'm here to tell you, friends - you're an amazing mom. You are. Believe that and know that your kids believe that too. xo - Leslie
Her letter is to all the moms who have ever second-guess themselves, to moms who are afraid that their decisions, whether it's formula-feeding or homeschooling or hiring a house cleaner, will somehow mess up their child.
"Don’t let your friend, or your friend's friend, or your mom, or your church leader or your neighbor or anyone else in the entire universe tell you otherwise," Means said. Instead, trust your instincts. "Trust in that. Believe in that. And know that you are raising your babies perfectly."