Parenting

Thank God I Didn't Breastfeed

This isn’t an anti-breastfeeding article. I truly don’t think it matters how you choose to feed and/or bond with your child, as long as they are fed and bonded with in a healthy way. This is simply me looking at a week’s worth of World Breastfeeding Week photos and posts and sighing with relief that I never had to experience that part of motherhood.

It isn’t like I didn’t want to. It isn’t like I didn’t try. But that’s motherhood in a nutshell: Wanting to do all sorts of things, trying your best to achieve them and then cutting your losses. It’s the cutting your losses that’s the hard part. Every time you fail to accomplish something on your want list, especially when you’re a new mom, you believe you are a failure. I’m not into the “comparing myself to others” game on social media, but the truth is that when you can’t, and someone else can, you feel like crap. Not because you have to, not because you should, but because envy and jealousy and all those sordid human emotions exist. You know, the ones we’re commanded not to act on for the sake of our own health and well-being. Tell that to an exhausted, overwhelmed new mom and she might just punch you. Or simply ask for a cup of coffee and start bawling.

A year out with a very well-bonded, very attached toddler now sitting in my lap as I write this, I can confess what no mommy-website thinks I should: I’m happy I didn’t breastfeed. There are many reasons, actually, all of which are unique to my situation, but not necessarily unique to parenting in general. Bonding was never an issue. Neither was nutrition. In fact, my son’s digestive tract infinitely preferred the reliability and consistency of formula over my own diet. My energy levels, on the other hand, were a huge problem. My ability to keep up with a child whose personality and energy levels are radically different from mine required as little physical drain on my body as possible. It was either breastfeed or parent, not both.

My physical health isn’t the only thing that’s been tested by parenting. Becoming a new mother has been an emotional rollercoaster. Folks love to point out that breastfeeding helps to ward off postpartum depression. These folks couldn’t explain why my first panic attack occurred when I was still breastfeeding. They also can’t dig an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) like me out of the hole of misery I’m buried in each time my son gets upset, even when he’s crying it out in his crib so his father and I can finally get a good night’s sleep. If I had to go through the emotional rollercoaster of breastfeeding and weaning I might have just lost it completely. Then what good would I have been to my child?

The bottom line is that every decision you make as a parent is up to you. It isn’t up to statistics, advice, or what you read in a magazine in your OB’s waiting room. The decisions you make need to suit your physical and emotional makeup as much as your baby’s. While, yes, it is all about them, their well-being depends entirely on you. And if you aren’t the best you can be (exhausted and all) then they won’t be at their best, either. So, the next time you’re wrestling to make a decision, just remember: Taking care of mommy is taking care of baby. Yes, you always want to put your child first. But, especially at this stage when so much of what that child needs is up to you, it’s okay to put yourself first, too.