In theory, breastfeeding is supposed to be straightforward.
In reality, this is not the case.
Healthcare professionals encourage new moms with “Breast is best,” and many new moms enter motherhood with every intention of breastfeeding their baby.
So what happens when breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned?
We have to adjust to our new reality, and provide for our little ones to the best of our abilities. Everyone is different, and moms make different choices regarding breastfeeding. That’s okay. It’s a very personal decision, and I’m here to support you in whatever decision you decide is best for your situation.
I’ve spoken to many a mama who struggled with supply, getting her baby to latch properly, or worrying over what chemical they’re exposing their babies to through their medications. I’ve had my own struggles too! Maybe you are one of those mamas, or maybe you’ve had different struggles of your own.
Personally, I struggled for weeks to get my baby to latch properly. Eventually, I had to call it quits because my baby wasn’t getting what he needed nutritionally from me. However, this didn’t mean that I stopped giving him breast milk. I began to exclusively pump instead of directly breastfeeding. Apparently, my little one didn’t prefer his milk straight from the tap, but rather bottled first.
I didn’t come by this decision easily. It was especially hard to accept because it felt like nothing else in my birth/postpartum plan had gone right, and this was just one more thing that wasn’t going according to plan. Nevertheless, I wanted to provide my baby with breast milk to the best of my ability, because I personally felt he needed the benefits it would provide.
I also had to make the decision whether or not to breastfeed while taking a SNRI (a common type of anti-depression medication). After discussing the issue with both my psychiatrist and my OBGYN, I decided that I would breastfeed my son as research showed that with my medication side effects were minimal, and I wanted him to receive the immunological benefits of breast milk.
I’ve spoken to a mom who chose to formula feed, because she wanted to remain on her psychiatric medications to help her maintain her mental health. She decided that she did not want to expose her baby to these medications, and so formula became the best option for her. She feels no lack of connection with her baby, and her baby receives the added benefits of a mentally healthy and happy mama. Her decision was different than mine, however what was right for me was not necessarily right for this mom.
Another mom successfully breastfed her baby for months before discovering that her little one was allergic to dairy and soy, which was causing her baby terrible gastric distress. This mama cut the offending foods out of her diet, but began to struggle to maintain her weight and developed depressive symptoms. Eventually, she switched to a dairy and soy free formula. Her baby is healthy and thriving, and she is recovering both her weight and her mood.
One mama tried her best to breastfeed her little one, but her milk just never seemed to come in. She realized that her breastfeeding journey was not going to go as planned, and began to formula feed. Her baby needed sustenance, and unfortunately, her body was not able to provide it naturally. Thankfully though, she had science on her side, and her formula fed baby is now a curious and endearing toddler.
This took time for her to accept. She needed a therapist to help her along the way, but she is through the woods and thankful her body was able to support and bring her little one into this world, even if it was unable to produce milk.
Breastfeeding can certainly impact our mental health as moms. It is such an essential part of our postpartum period, and while it can be rewarding for both mom and baby, it can also pose all sorts of challenges.
It is a very individual journey, and every mama will make a different decision based on what they personally feel is best for her and her baby. Whether or not you choose to breastfeed, or even how you choose to breastfeed, is a decision entirely up to you.
As fellow mamas, we should support one another in our decisions, because no one makes this decision lightly. And sometimes, we have to mourn that things did not go as planned. But mama, that is okay! Life has a way of throwing curveballs that change the game, but that doesn’t make you any less successful as a mother. I say it makes you stronger.
However, if you are struggling with your mental health because you are having difficulty in your breastfeeding journey, I am here to help, whether that is through resources or therapy. Please reach out. Sometimes it takes a little extra help to navigate the challenges that come with how you feed your baby.