After a month and a half of breastfeeding, I quit. And it has taken me two months to come to terms with the fact that THIS IS OKAY.
My experience with breastfeeding and moving to formula mirrors a lot of my feelings with addiction and alcohol—and self-worth. I looked for validation and measured myself in ounces.
As I headed into the last month of my pregnancy, I knew postpartum depression was right around the corner. I thought “by knowing” it was coming that I could get in front of it. Get on top of it.
But alongside winter season depression and Christmas season anxiety, I was facing the 5-year anniversary of my heart attack. Memories of my near-death experience hit me the very same day I brought my son home from the hospital. All of these heavy thoughts and hospital memories got pushed off to the side as I discovered quickly that there wouldn't be much time for myself to "deal with" the feelings I had been taught to work through. There wasn’t any room for it.
New moms are led to breastfeeding within the first hour of delivery. I didn’t question this. It was my plan all along. I immediately felt the magic the first time we connected over nursing. Every failure over my 42 young years dissipated as my son sucked successfully.
What I thought was easy in those first 24 hours wasn’t easy in the next. Trying to establish a routine, I was fighting with my body.
At first, I cherished our quiet moments together. The 1:1, heart-to-heart connection. I didn't take it for granted when my milk came in, because I know that's not always the case for new moms. I told myself I was committed to six months, because that was "normal." Expected.
But I started to resent feeding time.
What happened to that pregnancy glow? I was filled with love and gratitude that should have been pouring out, glistening through every pore. But instead, I felt dirty, sweaty, bloated – weighed down. I was too busy, too tired, and too stressed for any sort of self-care. With my shirt hanging around my neck, my life was suddenly not mine.
I stopped wearing a bra or really getting dressed at all. I pumped milk for bottles so that others could help with feeding and the relief was enormous. The help allowed me to breathe. I hated pumping. I felt like a cow wishing the minutes would pass more quickly. My emotions were 100% tied to how much milk I produced. Too little made me feel irritable and defeated, while "a good amount" made me feel like "a good mom."
But what was I feeding him? I was skipping meals, overwhelmed and tired. Was my baby getting the nutrition he needed? Ashton was born early and small. I started thinking that my milk wasn't good enough. And so I made the justification to supplement with formula. Just a little, here and there.
Formula was only supposed to be a back-up on the days I was extremely tired. An emergency bottle when we were out at a restaurant. The "just-in-case" I didn't pump enough bottles. But those events became more and more frequent until suddenly, formula outweighed breastmilk.
I guess it ties back to my old drinking habits and why it was so hard to quit. When I tried to moderate my drinking, there was always a reason to break the rules. A birthday. A work event. A win. A loss.
I quit breastfeeding because I wasn't showing up as the strongest version of myself. Sometimes quitting makes us winners.
Take care of yourself, mamas. They're only good when you're good.
Today I am 35 months alcohol-free, and my son is healthy and loved. Feeding my son and cuddling up with the bottle is now one of my favorite things to do.
It takes a village!
Join ours. Before we were parents, we were people. Sign up for tips and stories from parents who get it.