I’d like to think that most parents begin their journey with the hopes of doing most things right. Couple those desires with a Type-A, perfectionist personality and a recipe for disaster is possible, at least in my case it was. Having studied Dietetics in college and volunteered countless hours at the WIC Department (Women, Infants & Children), I entered motherhood knowing I would make every attempt to breastfeed. Prior to my little guy’s arrival, I baked all the lactation snacks, stocked the refrigerator with coconut waters and had all my things organized, ready to go. What I naively did not know until the week prior to birth was that newborns not only feed every 2-3hours during the day, but at night as well. I quickly learned with the arrival of my son, that sleep deprivation for me was my Achilles heel.

When my son was born, he immediately latched, and my milk came in with no problem; something I would later learn is rarer than I knew. I was amazed by how many compliments I received from the hospital lactation consultants and felt validated in requests to not supplement while we were there. Upon discharge, one of the consultants left me with the advice that if my baby cried, I was his lifeline and would need to keep feeding him. The first night home, my son cried every thirty minutes and so I proceeded to feed him every time until the sun came up. Those first two weeks were hard. I was afraid to break the “rules” of implementing a pacifier or bottle and became way too much of a rule follower, which lead to my mental health spiraling. The spiral furthered as the weeks continued. Usually a social and spontaneous individual, my life began revolving around pumping or feeding schedules. I could not sit still or be present in gatherings because my mind was constantly calculating when I’d have to adhere to a next breastfeeding task. I also quickly learned that I had an oversupply that came with its own painful and demanding challenges. I felt like I couldn’t share this struggle with others because I should just feel grateful to have the opportunity to provide for my son, but when he started sleeping longer stretches and I couldn’t make it more than a few hours, I became miserable and resentful.

At five weeks, I decided to ignore the need to pump through the night and landed myself in Urgent Care with mastitis. I was in so much pain, sleep deprived, and not in a good place. I had started to cry daily and desperately wanted to be done with my breastfeeding journey, but the amount of guilt weighed so heavy. I had doctors and lactation consultants encouraging me to quit for my mental health, but pride wouldn’t allow, and I was genuinely afraid that formula would kill my baby. I searched the internet desperate for permission from a fellow overproducer to quit, but it only left me feeling worse because all I could find was women giving everything they could to develop a supply while I was here complaining about too much.

When I finally decided to start supplementing formula, I made my husband feed our son the first ounces and watched in terror, truly believing he would implode. Happy to report, he did not, and he continued to thrive. His pediatrician extended grace letting me know she barely made it to two months because life was too busy, and she just didn’t feel like keeping up. Her nonchalant demeanor grabbed my attention. She had been fine choosing herself and career and assured me both of her children were healthy, successful and knew they were loved. Her grace provided me the courage to finally choose my wellness and trust that my son would continue to thrive as we did a taper wean.

Through this journey, I realized the root of my guilt relied in comparison. I felt guilt because I had more than others, I felt guilt because I saw others working so hard to keep breastfeeding going and were making it longer than me, I felt guilt because I was afraid formula would harm my baby, and guilt because I felt selfish. When I started peeling back the fears, I was able to answer the truths. What an incredible blessing it is to live in a country with clean water and hundreds of formulas to choose from. What a blessing it was to have a son sleeping and finally being able to sleep as well, which resulted in less anxiety and fewer tears. I was able to give praise that I could actually hold him with a bottle instead of propping him up while I was attached to a pump. Instead of feeling shame, I began to feel pride for what I had accomplished. In hindsight, I wish I would have supplemented sooner to give myself more grace and wish I would have provided myself with permission to take the pressure off. I share my journey in hopes to extend the same olive branch my pediatrician gave me. At the end of the day, there is no one right way to feed your baby and I’m here to report that we are almost to a year and both thriving on formula! Do not be afraid to ask yourself, what are your motives and what are your fears. Do not hesitate to reach out to those close to you and know that you are not alone in this journey!