Breastfeeding is a Relationship
By Guest Editor Dr. Amna Husain, Pediatrician, Lactation Consultant & Mother
“Breast is best.”
“Fed is best.”
“If you don’t breastfeed, you’re a bad mom.”
“I don’t know...breastfeeding just feels weird.”
So many thoughts!
As a pediatrician and lactation consultant, I’m always asked about my thoughts on breastfeeding. Simply said, breastfeeding is a natural way to provide nutrition to your infant but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally to everyone!
A poor latch, oversupply/under supply, reverse cycling…these are just a handful of the struggles many mothers face. When breast-feeding becomes an obstacle to a mother’s mental well-being, then I propose taking a step back. Rather than jump straight to formula, I ask my mothers: “What are your breast-feeding goals?”
Is it to nurse for the first 12 months of life?
Is it exclusively pump due to latch issues?
Are you ok with triple feeds to boost supply?
I advocate supplementing with donor breast milk if possible, but in many states, it’s very difficult to get access to a milk bank unless your infant is a special case (for example, premature).
But know this: it is OK to provide or supplement your baby with formula.
It really is OK, and it doesn’t make you a “bad mom.” We are all doing our best as mothers, and your pediatrician should support you in any decision, not sway you to one side or another. Your infant can pick up on negative cues, like your body’s stress and anxiety, so do what you need to do as a mother to limit those feelings.
Breastfeeding is a personal decision...It can be one of the most confusing, beautiful, heart wrenching, or anxiety-provoking experiences of your life.
Breastfeeding is a personal decision, and I am always supportive of any choice my patients’ families make, provided it is not harmful to the infant. It can be one of the most confusing, beautiful, heart wrenching, or anxiety-provoking experiences of your life. One woman’s experience does not shape another woman’s. And pregnancy and the process of lactation can even vary from child to child for a woman.
One of the biggest tips I can give mothers regarding breastfeeding is view it as a relationship - not as a verb, not as a noun, not as a duty. It’s a relationship between you and your baby, and that relationship can look however you want it to look.
There are two people involved: you and your child. So, if something isn’t working out smoothly, don’t be the first to blame yourself!
There are two people involved: you and your child. So, if something isn’t working out smoothly, don’t be the first to blame yourself! As mothers, we take on a lot of guilt as our hearts suddenly swell with love and sacrifice for this new little human we’ve created. Don’t be hard on yourself.
Instead of pointing out you breastfed for “only” X amount of time, be proud of your accomplishments! Less of shaming and more of encouragement to make your own choices as a mother, because no matter how prepared you think you are, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed.
Remember, mom—You are enough. You may never be rid of mom guilt; it will ebb and flow. But know that your child will grow and thrive with your love, whether you breastfeed, pump, spoon or syringe feed, use donor breast milk, or bottle feed with formula. There is no shame or additional mom guilt you need to bring into your life or allow others to pile on.
I promise you: your infant can grow and thrive with breast milk AND/OR formula. In most cases, it’s just as ok to do a combination of both as it is to do one or another.