‘What am I doing wrong?’ I was left on my own to flounder. My nipples were bleeding and I was in pain.’: Mom ‘so embarrassed’ about not breastfeeding, finally urges ‘don’t ever feel the need to defend your decision’

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“In 2011, my oldest daughter was born via emergency cesarean and I was so drugged and drained physically my milk didn’t come in for days. She had problems latching because she had a lip tie which never got revised because I never even knew it was a ‘thing.’ I blamed myself for not knowing better, not being prepared; basically for everything! I didn’t have any support leaving the hospital and was left on my own to flounder. I fell into the trap of thinking, ‘I don’t breastfeed my child so I am not good enough.’

Courtesy of Brenda Stearns

We supplemented with formula and I remember feeling so, SO guilty. My own breasts couldn’t provide her with the nourishment she needed. I put so much pressure on myself and had so many expectations as a new mom which I couldn’t reach. I was left feeling defeated, lost, and alone. I would hate myself for not being able to do what my body was ‘supposed to’ so easily and naturally (at least that’s what they all say).

Have you ever felt that way?

Everyone talks about ‘breast is best’ and while it’s true in a sense, it also seemed there was so much pressure to do something beyond my ability. No one talked about their own struggles so I felt isolated. Breastfeeding was pictured as this perfect bond which should come so naturally between mom and baby.

Breastfeeding didn’t work for us. I remember sitting on the couch crying my eyes out because my nipples were bleeding and I was in so much pain. I said to myself, ‘Why is my body failing??? Why is this happening to me? What am I doing wrong?’

I was very disappointed in myself to say the least. My husband reassured me, ‘It’s okay. As long as our baby is healthy and happy everything else doesn’t matter.’ But I didn’t feel the same. I was confused, lost, and hopeless.

Courtesy of Brenda Stearns

The first four months of her life we used formula. And while I hate to admit it, I felt so embarrassed about our choice to supplement. I wouldn’t admit this to friends and family and I didn’t even talk about this part of my life until recently. We would get the formula which was pre-made so we didn’t have to do any mixing when we left the house and no one would know. It was so stressful trying to prove something to myself and what I thought were the expectations of everyone else.

I’ve learned and grown so much and I realize now what we feed our babies isn’t what makes us a good mother in the end. Whether we use breast or bottle, breastmilk or formula, your breast or a wet nurse, your breastmilk or donated milk, organic formula or generic brand… it is irrelevant! No one has the same story as you do! No one knows the struggles you’ve been through to come to this decision for you and your child.

Courtesy of Brenda Stearns

I’ve used formula.
I’ve also been breastfeeding for eight years nonstop!
I’ve tandem nursed while pregnant.
And as of last week, I can say I have also pumped and bottle-fed.

And guess what, the love I have for each of my children didn’t change because of what I fed them.

I truly hope no parent has to feel embarrassed for the choice of how to feed their child. Don’t ever feel the need to defend your decision. Parenting is hard, be proud of yourself, you’re doing an amazing job!”

Courtesy of Brenda Stearns

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brenda Stearns of Ohio. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read Brenda’s powerful backstory of meeting her husband:

‘Is it OK to call you?’ What if he’s a creep? I don’t even know him! Mom said, ‘Why don’t I meet him first?’: Woman meets future husband through accidental text while living in another state

Read more stories about women struggling with breastfeeding here:

‘Are you breastfeeding???’ That’s the face of a well-fed baby. Does it matter? NO.’: Mom insists how we feed our babies ‘is not anyone’s business’

‘I fed him the F word. Yes, formula. To some, feeding your baby the F word is worse than putting them forward-facing in a car seat.’: Mother admits she ‘hated breastfeeding’ after trying every remedy for newborn diagnosed with failure to thrive

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