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.
Means, who runs the site Her View From Home from Nebraska, posted a photo of her freshly expressed breast milk to show the clear difference in volume between the two bottles and the daily struggle moms may face in trying to produce enough milk for baby.
"Could I have tried and tried and eaten better things, and visited more lactation people and spent more time to get lefty to work? Probably," she wrote.
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.
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."
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."