After one week of breastfeeding my newborn son, I decided to switch to formula. Even though breast milk is better, formula is a perfectly healthy alternative, so you would think this decision would be simple enough. I wasn’t producing enough milk, we were having to supplement with formula anyway, why not make everyone’s lives easier and just switch to formula-only? I was formula-fed, as was my husband, and I knew breastfeeding didn’t work out for everyone. Before my son was born, when people asked if we would be breastfeeding or formula feeding, I always said we would give breastfeeding a shot, but there was no pressure to stick to it if it wasn’t working.
Fast forward to my son’s one-week doctor’s appointment. I am trying to ask the doctor if I’ll start producing more milk soon, if there’s anything I can do, and I can’t help it — I burst into tears. While I was deeply embarrassed to be crying in front of our child’s doctor, the tears were nothing new. I spent all day, every day (and night) either feeding my baby or pumping to try to produce more milk to feed my baby, and I was at my breaking point. I was exhausted, I had no time to do anything other than try and fail to produce milk, and it had only been one week. I knew there was no way I could keep this up once my husband went back to work, but giving up on breastfeeding after one week seemed lazy. Irresponsible, even. After all, I’d taken the breastfeeding education class, and they’d made it seem like any obstacle could be overcome, but here I was, just giving up.
The truth is, the breastfeeding education class that my husband and I attended gave us a very unrealistic perspective on breastfeeding. At the time, it felt incredibly informative and we felt prepared for whatever breastfeeding challenges would come our way. Even though I was open to formula-feeding, I was sure breastfeeding would work out. When it didn’t, it felt like I was doing something wrong and my baby was the one paying the price. It felt horrible. But it shouldn’t have.
Here’s the truth about breastfeeding: it’s hard. Even when it works, it’s hard. It’s hard to get your milk supply to come in, it’s hard to keep it coming, it’s hard to juggle feeding with being a human being, it’s hard to know how much your baby is getting and even harder not to panic about it, it’s just freaking hard. I’ve talked to friends who breastfed for a few weeks, a few months, or even the entire first year of their child’s life, and all of them told me how hard it was. You know who didn’t tell me how hard breastfeeding is? The breastfeeding education class. I understand that the point of these classes is to promote breastfeeding, so they don’t want to scare you off by saying how difficult it really is, but then again, it’s an education class. It should educate you about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Switching to formula after only one week of breastfeeding was an incredibly difficult, emotional decision, but it shouldn’t have to be that way. It’s time for breastfeeding education classes to get a much-needed reality check and start teaching women that while yes, breastfeeding is natural and cost-effective and healthy, it’s also hard as shit and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. And that is okay.