By Rebecca Godlove, Pediatric Alliance — Chartiers/McMurray
Mommy Problems #1: The Guilt Awakens
Each time I see an article, photo, or comment praising the near-magical wonders of breastfeeding, I cringe. It’s not because I disagree with the science behind its health benefits. It’s not because I subscribe to an archaic philosophy that women should nourish their children in private. Certainly not.
It’s because, despite my desires and my best efforts, I failed to do it.
Without discussing my child’s early health history in too much detail, suffice it to say that my tiny preemie was utterly disinterested in nursing. He usually failed to latch and, when he did, I didn’t produce enough milk to satisfy him. Feedings usually left us both miserable and in tears so; I grew to dread the moment when the baby’s lips would being to pucker with hunger. , after fighting for 8 weeks, my husband and I agreed to switch our son to a formula-only diet. As hard as it was to accept, I realize that it was absolutely the best choice for our family. I didn’t feel like a mother until that point. I felt like a machine – a broken-down dairy pump. Suddenly, I was able to get more rest and actually enjoy my child, other family members were able to help feed him, and – most importantly – my little NICU grad was finally getting a full belly! We were all able to relax more.
Today, no one really asks me what I feed my almost two-year-old (other than my adorable 92-year-old grandmother, who still cannot believe that the “precious little baby” eats “real food”). Yet those pangs of guilt remain. I had desperately wanted to breastfeed. I had read all the articles, new the benefits for mother and child – not to mention, the idea of free food for my kid was appealing, too! But, after weighing our options and seeing how emotionally ravaging my efforts had become, we chose a different path for our family.
I don’t share this to promote formula-feeding or to challenge the AAP’s recommendations on breastfeeding – not at all. I do it to share a parenting lesson that I learned earlier than I expected to: every family is different. What works for one may not work for another, and that is okay. This was a lesson I didn’t expect to learn so quickly and so cruelly. It was a good lesson to learn, though, because it helped me realize, early on, that I need to do what is best for my family. There are parenting responsibilities that are non-negotiable: care for your child’s health, feed him, provide him clothing, send him to school, love him. How we as parents choose to go about meeting these needs will vary, even from child to child in the same family!
I don’t have fond memories of nuzzling my nursing newborn close to me, marveling over his perfect features and soft, steady breathing. What I do have, however, is the support of my husband, family, and close friends so that I can make the parenting choices that are necessary for my child to be raised happy, healthy, and strong. What I do have is a clever, joyful, playful little boy who feels safe and secure with his parents and loved ones. What I do have is a story to tell about finding peace in the midst of failure, and letting go of guilt in order to embrace happiness.
Formula, breastmilk, soy-based, organic… ultimately, once you get to a certain point with your baby, food ends up on the floor or in the pet’s bowl anyway!
(Read more from Rebecca Godlove on The PediaBlog here.)