I recently came back to work after maternity leave with my little boy, Philip, also known as “Sweet P.” (I take all opportunities to be an embarrassing mother.)
I deeply cherished the time I spent with him, but I hit a rough patch when he was about a month old.
The pressure to breastfeed weighed so heavily on me that I began to crumble.
My story starts with my two-year-old daughter, Audrey.
When she was born, she lost weight so quickly that I couldn’t nurse her effectively. I always felt a little bit guilty about that.
So, I was determined to breastfeed my son. With two pumps, multiple parenting books and blog names memorized, I was ready.
Then, when he was about three weeks old, he started crying seemingly non-stop.
It felt like he was either eating, sleeping, or screaming.
He hardly ever seemed satisfied and even when he was full, he was fussy.
Between the stress and the sleep deprivation, I lost my grip on my emotions. I sobbed for no reason and screamed at my husband for the smallest infractions.
The low point came on a cloudy winter day when I looked over at my crying baby lying on the couch.
I knew he needed a diaper change.
I couldn't gather the strength to help him.
I couldn't even convince myself to hold him.
Anger had edged out my compassion for my only son. It was an irrational reaction that terrified me.
That was the moment I realized breastfeeding had wedged itself between me and my child.
That was the day that I stopped.
After a few days the storm that rolled into my mind disappeared. Even in the depths of a gloomy D.C. winter, I could slowly feel the sun again.
Choosing formula was a hard decision because the American Academy of Pediatrics says breastfeeding is so important that it should be considered "a public health issue" and not a "lifestyle choice."
Conversely, a 2011 study showed that women who have a hard time breastfeeding early on are more likely to experience postpartum depression after two months.
I heard all of the reasons I should, but not one doctor told me everything would still be okay if I didn’t.
Physicians should be aware that by pressuring women to breastfeeding, they’re also implying that failing to breastfeed is a failure to parent.
And I wonder -how does this narrative affect adoptive parents?
I’m not advocating for women to stop breastfeeding.
I’m advocating for parents to decide for themselves and take pride in whatever choice they make.
Once I figured out that I knew myself and my son best, I finally became the that parent he needed.