Since becoming a mother, breastfeeding has become one of the most stressful aspects of my new life. With my first-born, I was determined to be the “perfect” mother. I wanted everything to be just-so for my little boy, including the way I breastfed. I knew I was going to rock it. I read all the books, watched videos, and mentally told myself that I had no choice but to be great at this. Not only would it save us money, but I wanted that connection with my son. I’d read about many supermoms being able to breastfeed for 6 months, to a year, to even 2 years. I figured, “this will be naturally easy. I got this.”
Boy, was I wrong.
After 6 weeks of tears, clogged ducts, and extreme postpartum depression, I gave up. My baby was crying because I refused to feed him formula, even though I wasn’t providing enough milk due to stress. My husband had no clue what to do, since this was the first time he was dealing with a new wife, new son, and the idea of breastfeeding. He didn’t want to offend me by suggesting formula, but hated to see me in such a difficult state. Those were dark days, and the months after were no different. Every time we spent money on formula, I resented the whole situation. I felt like a failure. I never wanted to feel that way again.
With my daughter, I went into breastfeeding with trepidation. This time, I reached out to others for help. I confided in a military spouse blogger who’d had success with breastfeeding her daughter, and even headed up the La Leche League in her area. She lived across the country, but still seemed like she was willing to help me by fielding my questions once our daughter was born. I got lucky with the Duchess: she latched on quite well, and was a great eater. But, again, I started to stress. I didn’t think she was getting enough milk and that my milk wasn’t enough sustenance for her. I expressed my feelings to my cross-country friend, along with another blogger.
They laughed at me. No, really. They were pretty mean about it. I was mostly nervous to go back to work at my base, and wanted advice on how to pump for my girl while keeping my supply up during my time away. For some reason, they thought that because they’ve never had that problem, they could look down on me. I wasn’t a military spouse with the ample amount of support they offered to one another. I was a silly female service member with a problem they didn’t care about. Again, I felt like a failure. After 2 months of breastfeeding, I started the little girl on formula. I cried for weeks.
Now, we’re on baby number 3. I’m petrified and stuck in a shame spiral over my breastfeeding fears. While I know that if we have to use formula it won’t be that big of a deal, I still want to produce milk for my new son. I would love for him to get all of his nutrients from me and only me. My issues with postpartum depression and anxiety aren’t helping with my mindset right now. I visualize him successfully feeding from me, but I also see flashes of anger, heartbreak, and tears from him and me. I don’t want history to repeat itself. I just want to do right this time. While this rite of motherly passage seems so simple, it’s oh so complex, especially in my mind.