Few days ago, I came across an article about a new celebrity mom and how she had a hard time admitting that she isn’t breastfeeding her baby. No judgement here, tbh. After all, there are new moms who are unable to produce gallons of breastmilk or there are some who simply don’t like to.
According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is crucial to ensure the baby’s health and survival. This is because breastmilk contains antibodies that could protect the baby against common childhood illnesses. Breastfed kids are less likely to be overweight or obese and could perform better in school. Unfortunately, almost two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfeed for at least the first six months (1).
Then, there’s the pressure to breastfeed.
For my first pregnancy, people in the hospital were telling me to breastfeed. I was a young, first time mom who went through major body changes. Plus, I gave birth via CS so yeah, it was really painful when the anesthesia wore off. As much as I want to breastfeed, my body wasn’t cooperating. I gave a go signal to the nurses in the nursery to formula-feed my daughter.
As soon as we got home, formula feeding prevailed. Unfortunately, exhaustion and PPD won over the need to breastfeed my child. I wasn’t at my best state during that time because I was also dealing with major adjustments in my life – new house, building a family, new baby. There was also uncertainty with law school, which added to the pressure and stress, and it clouded my mindset.
I still tried and succeeded several times but I just didn’t like it. I just wasn’t comfortable. It was painful. There wasn’t enough milk coming out to satisfy my daughter. Back then, there weren’t lactation treats so I heavily relied on malunggay and increasing fluid intake. After almost four months, I gave up on breastfeeding.
Some would say I was selfish for not trying harder or for not caring more about my daughter’s welfare. I know how important breastfeeding is and yet, I chose not to. During that time, I wasn’t ready and I told myself that it’s okay. I find comfort in the fact that being a mother isn’t confined to meeting what people expect me to do and be.
Thankfully, the husband didn’t pressure me as well because for him, what’s more important is that she won’t be hungry and grow up healthy. She was hitting all developmental milestones and was a big eater, so I felt good. That’s good enough, right?
Then came my second daughter. This time around, I know better and I know what to do. My body cooperated and milk was overflowing. YAY! She wasn’t exclusively breastfed but she wasn’t dependent on formula milk as well. In fact, the only time she will be fed with formula is when I have to go somewhere. I was able to breastfeed her for almost two years, which is considered as a win, right? Plus, it was easier for me to lose weight so yay again.
Still, you don’t need anyone’s validation to make you feel that you are a great mom.
I understand the need to breastfeed and the benefits that come with it. But this doesn’t mean we should crucify a mother for choosing to formula feed her child due to a range of factors. This doesn’t mean moms should feel ashamed of themselves if they weren’t able to exclusively breastfeed their kids, at least for the first six months. Moms should not feel guilty if they are unable to continue breastfeeding up to two years or beyond. More importantly, never let a mom feel that they are not worthy just because of the choices she made.
After all, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
People asked me why I didn’t breastfeed long enough or why I stopped when I have enough supply to feed my child. When I try to explain my choices, the questions never end. So I just stopped explaining. After all, we all have our own takes when it comes to parenting and I don’t expect my style and my choices to be aligned with other people.
Then, when people found out that I am still breastfeeding my one year old, they asked, “until when will you breastfeed?” or “she’s getting bigger. Doesn’t it hurt?” Hmm. Ano ba talaga?
Momma, breastfeeding doesn’t equate to being the best mom out there.
It’s not the case. There are so many ways we can show our love and care for our kids and breastfeeding is just one of them. If a mom cannot because of her choice not to or simple because her body isn’t cooperating, then that’s fine. We should still applaud her for feeding her child and making sure that her child is healthy, happy, and full.
What’s my point?
The standards set by the society on women can be too much and exhausting for some. But hey, must you abide by those standards? What matters most are these:
- Listen to your body. Your body will send signals telling you that you need to rest and take it easy. Listen and pay attention to those signals. If you feel tired or exhausted, then take a rest. Your body needs it. Forcing yourself to do something, which is breastfeeding in the case, won’t help.
- Don’t give in to pressure. Yes, breast is best, which sadly, adds to more pressure. This can be too much for a new mom and instead of feeling good about breastfeeding and enjoying the bond between you and your baby, you’ll end of forcing yourself to produce more milk and experience exhaustion during the process. Every experience is different for every mother. Don’t let others make you feel bad just because you’re not doing what they’re doing. More importantly, do not conform if it means sacrificing your wellbeing, too.
- Prioritize your baby’s health. More than anything, your baby’s health and wellbeing are the main stars in this journey. Even if you cannot breastfeed, it doesn’t mean you won’t feed, right? There are many ways to ensure that our baby will still be healthy and breastfeeding is just one of them.
No, I am not demonizing breastfeeding. I am FOR IT. As a parent, I always believe that we have a choice to make when it comes to our baby. Breastfeeding or not, we will do whatever it takes to ensure our baby’s wellbeing, yes? So mommas, don’t feel bad if you gave your baby formula milk. They will still be fine. You will be fine and surely, you will do a great job.
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Ayi is a stay-at-home mom of two. When her kids are in their best state, she keeps up with chores, work, and ensuring that her sanity is intact. Join her as she navigates through this rollercoaster ride called motherhood.