This post legitimately needs to begin with an apology.
I personally apologize for all the (wrong) opinions I had about about any mom who didn’t end up breastfeeding their baby/babies. Pre-baby Hollie had lots of opinions about a lot of different things that I knew nothing about. I pre-judged and made assumptions. I had no clue what I was talking about and now can’t even fathom why I felt I deserved an opinion at the time.
I thought moms that didn’t breastfeed (deep breath)…. just didn’t try hard enough and quit too easily. I thought that in order to succeed at breastfeeding all you had to do was buckle down, put your mind to it – yeah sure it’ll be uncomfortable but it’s what’s BEST for your baby. I mean am I right or am I right that the “breast is best” line is drilled into your brain so deeply that anything outside of that is seen as shameful? I can remember on the maternity floor after I delivered had this huge wall mounted photo that was legitimately the height of the wall and it was essentially a chart indicating all of the nutritional benefits of breastmilk on one side and on the other was the comparison with formula. Of course there was a dramatic difference, which was the point of the poster and it ultimately just validated all of the preconceived (ha, literally) ideas I had.
Fast-forward to the days following my delivery when I had babies in the NICU, a non-existent supply and my journey towards getting kicked in the face by reality had begun. When you don’t get your milk supply right away it is intensely stressful, more stressful than I could have ever imagined. I was pumping all the time and legitimately getting nothing. They started bottle feeding the babies formula in the meantime which I was strangely ok with because I was so nervous that I wasn’t able to feed them myself. I worked with a lactation consultant who then told me it was probably not going to be easy for me to breastfeed two babies – at this point I was still super cocky about the fact that because breastfeeding was my plan I would obviously be able to do it.
Long story short I went three months bouncing between tandem feeding (which as luck would have it my babies did just fine, they had great latches – I just had a brutal supply), pumping and formula feeding. I took so much Fenugreek it leaked out of every pore. If you research Fenugreek it might tell you you’ll smell like maple syrup – I smelled like dirty gym socks. I took prescriptions, I drank an absurd amount of water & absolutely nothing worked. I struggled, my mental health struggled, it was a rough few months. On top of just having these new babies and not knowing at all what to do with them, to also have to deal with not being able to nourish them like I was “supposed to be able to” was crushing and intensely difficult to accept.
The day came, when my supply was so weak that when I was pumping I was getting maybe 2oz total per session (and just visually it’s so deflating to pump for 30-45 minutes and have absolutely nothing to show for it). I decided that enough was enough. I packed up the hospital grade pump I had rented and gave up. I had failed at something I was biologically programmed to be able to do (or at least that was my mindset). Had I not tried hard enough? Had I not been dedicated enough? Were my children going to suffer because I couldn’t give them breastmilk and instead they had to have the drastically inferior (what I was made to believe) formula. Well, they’re fine. They’re doing absolutely excellent, are in healthy weight percentiles – shockingly are not weirdly enormous babies (another thing I was made to believe about formula-fed babies) and are perfectly healthy.
Of course, I understand that breastmilk just from a biological standpoint is the best thing you can give your babies – I get it, we get it, all the bottle feeding moms get it. That said, there isn’t shame in not being able to breastfeed and needing to formula feed. I’m thankful everyday for formula because probably in a time not that long ago my babies wouldn’t have survived without it. I may have failed at breastfeeding but my babies have thrived without it and ultimately that’s really all that matters.