My boys don't even drink milk much anymore, and what they do drink now is plain old cow's milk. One won't drink it unless it's on his cereal. The other only has a cup of milk every now and then. My firstborn is 3 1/2; my baby will be 2 years old in a few weeks. Some time has passed since I was caught up in the infant feeding phase. But I remember the anxiety and having everyone in my business. The most frustrating part was assumptions that I made the decisions I did because either: a) I wasn't trying hard enough to breastfeed; b) I was doing something wrong which sabotaged my own milk production; or c) I was mistaken about what my circumstances actually were (i.e. my milk was enough, I just thought my baby needed to eat more than that). Not to mention that, even if all of these were true, it's none of their business anyway. There are vocal minorities on all sides of infant feeding, so much so that there is no decision a family makes in this area will be free from judgement.
I Support You is a movement which says that even though we may choose different methods of infant feeding (or maybe we're in a situation in which we feel we have only one option), we're all doing the best thing for our individual circumstances, and we can support each other.
I Support You post from Fearless Formula Feeder here.
I Support You post from Mama by the Bay here.
I Support You post from I am not the Babysitter here.
Technically, I combo fed my babies. Since they mostly got formula, my experience is more that of a formula feeder. For the I Support You blog hop, I'm interviewing some of my friends who breastfed their babies, Ashlea, Kristen, and Melissa. Their babies are all 2 years old now. Their experiences seem so different from mine on the surface, yet we're not really so different. We all did what was best, and pay attention to their first statements on question 3 especially—that's exactly what I would say about the way I fed my babies.
1) Please share a brief summary of your feeding experience.
A: I breastfed my son 90% of the time for the 1st three months of his life. He did receive some formula in the beginning due to jaundice and occasionally he would get it because I truly did not understand pumping. I went back to work when he was three months and from then until he was about 9 months he got about 50-60% formula and 40-50% breastmilk (pumped or through breast).
K: I breastfed my daughter on demand until she weaned herself at 15 months old. She was exclusively breastfed until 6 months old when we slowly introduced solids, but we rarely used a bottle as I am/was a stay at home mom and found it easier to just use the breast. Our challenge was the fact that my daughter had food allergies to dairy, soy, wheat, and egg which meant I could not eat any foods that contained those items myself.
M: I exclusively breastfed my son for 15 months.2) What was your original plan for feeding your child, and how did that compare to what you ultimately ended up doing?
A: I planned to breastfeed exclusively for three months and then pump exclusively for 9 months after that.
K: I had planned on exclusively breastfeeding. Other than the food limitations, it was just as as I had planned.
M: I had planned to breastfeed for two years. He started eating more food at 13/14 months and nursed less over a long period of time. By the 15th, he was barely nursing so, essentially, he weaned himself. When I stopped offering, I did not engorge or experience pain. I was not disappointed about stopping earlier than planned after it ended so naturally.3) What was the best part about how you fed your child? What was the worst?
A: I loved the bonding with my son during breast feeding. I was sad when he no longer wanted to do so. I hated pumping. Going back to work was stressful and I could not produce a good amount of milk when I pumped.
K: The best was the bond it formed between us, knowing I was giving her the best I could, and as a bonus, I always had her food ready and available without anything to clean up afterwards. The worst part was the fact that I was the sole provider of her food, so if I couldn't have her with me, I had to pump in advance (which wasn't my favorite thing to do).
M: The best is the intimacy and bonding. It also forced me to slow down giving me time to really appreciate him. The worst was that it was harder to have a break since my husband couldn't easily feed him. It was either spend the time to feed him or spend the time pumping. I chose him. It was also difficult to pump when I went back to work. Teachers don't really have a lot of flexibility in the day so that was a struggle.4) What myths about how you fed your child were the most hurtful? What is your truth that counteracts those myths?
A: The myth that if he gets formula or drinks from a bottle, he'll never nurse properly. I was so scared to do either that I exacerbated his jaundice. When I finally did, he was fine and went back to breast feeding with no problem whatsoever.
K: That not only should I have switched to formula because she had food allergies (and was suffering from reflux and digestive issues before they were identified), but it was selfish of me to continue breastfeeding. The fact is that once the allergies are identified and removed from the mothers diet, breast milk is the most beneficial and healing to the food allergic child. Breastfeeding past a year old is gross and mostly for the mother. The fact is that breast milk changes as the child grows and continues to provide the perfect composition of nutrients, antibodies, and immunity.
M: I think breastfeeding is unpopular with people who think it is an outdated trend. This is weird to me because I feel that this is the reason I was given breasts, and they provide the most nutritious and customized food for your baby. It seems like a no brainier for me. I know there is a lot of good formula out there that might come close but I didn't have trouble producing milk so I never felt the need to try it.5) What would have helped you to feel supported/understood by society and/or medical professionals?
A: I think if the nurses were more open-minded about formula, I wouldn't have felt so conflicted.
K: I think the bad stigma that society has regarding breastfeeding in public really puts a damper on the positive experience. It can potentially make breastfeeding mothers feel unnecessarily uncomfortable about leaving their house in the beginning as well as to make it seem that using a nursing cover and finding a spot away from other people is a necessity. It would be nice if all of society saw it as a normal occurrence instead of something sexual or something to hide.
M: I really didn't care what people thought. I was doing what was natural and best for my baby.6) Think ten, twenty years into the future. If you could give your grown child one message about how you chose to feed him/her, what would it be?
A: We did what was best for you. It may be different than what we do for future children, but it worked so well for you and your personality. We learned a lot about you through this experience.
K: Every mother does what they feel is best for their child and family and that is exactly what I did given the knowledge and circumstances that we had. As a mother, you have to trust your instincts and ignore any negativity or outside persuasion. Otherwise, you will always be questioning yourself instead of enjoying those precious first years.
M: I would tell him to support his wife. Do his research. Encourage her and be her cheerleader. It isn't easy or convenient sometimes especially if you lead a fast paced life.7) Is there anything your friends/family could have done to help you feel more supported in your feeding journey?
A: Most of my friends were very supportive. The ones who struggled with nursing mostly stopped and switched to formula. I didn't get many perspectives similar to my experience. My mom could've been more supportive in the beginning. She eventually came around once she saw how well he was doing with supplementing and how well he started nursing from me.
K: I would have appreciated them trusting my decisions more. For instance, some of my family tried to convince me that scheduled feelings were better than nursing on demand, which was something I was just not comfortable with. It would have been nice to not have to defend the decisions that I made while my child was crying for the breast.
M: My grandmother was probably the least supportive although she never told me directly. My mom explained that in her time, people only breastfed if they were poor and couldn't afford formula. That sounds crazy to me. Haha. I appreciated that she never tried to discourage me. No one did. It was nice to find a friend or family member that has been through it that can help provide encouragement and answer questions.To me, the most important thing you can do to support others (both in this area of parenting and other areas fraught with judgement) is just what Kristen said: trust their judgement. Apart from instances of actual abuse, parents are all making decisions based on what is best for their families in their individual circumstances, even if it's not what you did/would do/are doing.
Now, go check out more of the I Support You blog hop.