Shaming, judgement, that feeling that you are doing something wrong (but know you aren’t) – this is what we are trying to fight against.
The sadness that comes with not being able to breastfeed, the questions that pop into your mind on whether you should be breastfeeding your child when they are older and nursing in public. These are all things that moms think about and almost wonder if they will be judged for their choices.
These three moms decided to do what’s best for them. There is no shame in that. Moms deciding to do what is right for their family are moms we want to be friends with.
Mom to Finn who is 4 years old and was breastfed for 3 weeks
When Finn was born I was completely dedicated to breastfeeding. I had taken classes and read books and got a top-of-the-line pump. I was aware of the possibility that he could have trouble latching so my backup plan was to pump and bottle feed him breast milk which is what some of my friends had to do. I had no idea that it was possible my body could just not produce milk. But that is what happened. After three weeks of round-the-clock nursing and pumping, my milk had not “come in” as they say. I tried all the drinks, cookies, supplements, etc. I went to see two lactation specialists. Meanwhile, Finn was born at 9 lbs (41 weeks) and was always hungry. He ate way more than they taught us in the breastfeeding class. It was so hard on me to spend half an hour “nursing” only for him to scream and cry because he was hungry.
I say we “supplemented” with formula but honestly he was formula fed from the start because he wasn’t getting anything from me. I’m sad to say that I gave up after three weeks of “nurse, pump, cry, repeat”. In retrospect I look back and say, “What if I had tried for just one more week and my milk came in??” But from what I have read and learned since, that wasn’t likely. Those first weeks were miserable not because he was a newborn, not because of sleep deprivation or postpartum depression… but because I was devastated that my body wasn’t producing milk. Once I let it go I felt like a huge weight was lifted and everything became 100 time easier and in the long run I was happier.
Finn turned 3 in March and I still get sad about it. Every time I see a mom nursing or read about how amazing breast milk is I get a pang of jealousy. I am my own worst critic and think I gave up too easily… but in the end you have to feed your child, keep them safe and healthy, and for me my only option was formula. I will never, ever judge a mother who keeps her child fed in any way she is able.
Mom to Evelyn who is 4 years old and was breastfed for 13 months,
and Lizzie who is 3 years old is still breastfed
I have spent the majority of the past 4.5 years breastfeeding. In fact, I just finished putting my 3 year old daughter to bed and I nursed her to sleep. Breastfeeding is something I’m very passionate about and when I was pregnant with my oldest, I did all of the research. Google was my best friend and I read EVERYTHING. Still nothing really prepared me for those first few months; the cluster feeding, cracked and bleeding nipples, and I never knew what a nipple shield was until then. Though it was challenging at first, my oldest and I found our groove and I loved the bond we shared. At times, it was exhausting because she refused a bottle (she NEVER took one) so I was it for her. When I became pregnant when she was 7.5 months, we had to push food and formula but she still would nurse for comfort. I heard all kinds of comments from people (even my doctor) about nursing while pregnant and felt judged for it. I nursed her until I literally had nothing left and we were both ok with it (13 months was it for her and I and it made me sad that we didn’t make it longer).
When my second was born, breastfeeding was easier for me because I knew what I was doing and what to expect. She was also completely different than my first; she latched right away and we fell into a routine a lot quicker. In my research, I decided again that I would let her self-wean. This is what has been the hardest for me because she turned 3 in MAY and she still wants to nurse before bed and in the morning. We just stopped middle of the night nursing a few months ago. When people (even other moms) find this out, I definitely get judged and it bothers me even though I act like it doesn’t. I’ve heard that I’m doing it for me which is not true. At all. I’ve heard that she’s too old for it especially since she has teeth, can talk, and can ask for it.
Again, I’ve done the research and I know that breast milk is still beneficial for her and that children all over the world sometimes don’t wean until 7. She can spend the night at other peoples houses without me, is smart, independent, and doesn’t “need” it, but I’m her comfort and that’s ok right now. She will only be little once. The bond I have with her because of breastfeeding is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I don’t plan on breastfeeding until she is 7 and I would be ok if she was done with it tomorrow. But until *she* decides she is done, I’ll continue doing what I feel is best despite what society says and despite what our “norm” is.
Mom to Nora who is 1.5 years old and was breastfed for 17 months
While I think of my BF journey as boring, looking back that in itself is encouraging! I never had any issues with acceptance or negativity at work or in public, which was one of those things I braced myself for when I was a new Mom. You read so many stories of women being asked to leave when feeding I think I had it in my mind I needed to be prepared to stand my ground but it never really came up for me.
I think the thing that surprised me most is that I had bought the nursing scarf, a nursing apron, all the “gear” to feed more privately in public but my daughter would never latch when covered; she HATED it! I realized I was a lot more concerned about getting her fed than keeping it under wraps so I went forward mostly nursing without a cover. I would try to be as discreet as possible but I’m sure I’ve startled a passerby in public a time or two! I also used a pump when I couldn’t be with my daughter so I’ve pumped at work, in airports, in bathrooms, and a ton of times in the car. The car adapter and a hands free pump bra were easily two of my top “must have” baby items. And Soothies gel pads, those are key in the early days!!
I was lucky I was able to exclusively BF for 6 months, and then continue feeding as my daughter started solids. Around 11 months we had to supplement my supply with formula at Daycare until she started drinking cow’s milk, but I was able to keep up a bedtime feed until 17 months. I loved that quiet time to bond at the end of the day!