A powerful Facebook post by new dad Kim Chen has been generating shares and support from around the world. Kim’s wife, Florence Leung, died by suicide last year after silently battling postpartum depression. In the post, he opened up Florence’s struggle, which included her feeling pressured to exclusively breastfeed.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits all story around whether moms should or shouldn’t breastfeed, and we must support all women in their choices.
Today’s Warrior Mom guest post comes from Avery Furlong of Ogden, Utah. She writes about her own journey in feeding her child.
By Avery Furlong
I can still remember the shrill cry of my brand new baby boy as I tried to get him to latch. It tugged at my heart, and made my eyes burn with tears of frustration.
“Come on, buddy!” He finally latched, but the pain that accompanied it was excruciating. I yanked him off and burst into tears. My husband quickly came in and took him from my arms as I ran to the bathroom. I slammed the door and sunk to the floor. I let the tears fall.
Everyone could breastfeed. Everyone. Right? That’s what I had read. That is what the nurses at the hospital said. Breast is best. It was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world. But I hated it. I straight-up hated breastfeeding. I had seen a lactation consultant who assured me everything looked fine. I asked friends for help, but nothing was working.
I hated feeding my own child. Wasn’t feeding supposed to be bonding? I dreaded being near him because I knew I would have to try to nurse him, and that meant an hour of both of us crying. I constantly thought about hurting myself or running away so I wouldn’t have to put my son, or myself, through such misery just to feed him. Not to mention my reoccurring mastitis. (Seven times. Seven. Times. I wouldn’t wish mastitis on my worst enemy.) It’s NOT supposed to be like this. What is wrong with me? What kind if mother am I if I can’t even give my son “the best”?
Completely desperate, I switched to exclusively pumping to eliminate the pain, but that made things even worse. I spent more time trying to squeeze out one more ounce than I did with my baby. I missed out on so much being attached to that pump. Especially sleep. Every time I fed him I was bitterly thinking about pumping for the next feeding and wishing I could just sleep instead. Those thoughts always turned into awful thoughts of ways that I could disappear so I wouldn’t have to keep doing this.
I finally thought I could confide in a few close friends about how miserable I was. It felt like a slap in the face when they looked at me and said, “Well, breast is best. It’s worth it.” As if it didn’t matter that I hated feeding my child so much I wouldn’t even look at him when I fed him. As if it didn’t matter that I was missing out on my baby because I was so stressed out about pumping enough ounces. As if it didn’t matter I was having suicidal thoughts as I fed my son. I felt the full pressure to give my son that liquid gold, even though it was slowly killing me. But it didn’t seem to matter, because “breast is best.”
I reached the darkest and scariest place I had ever been before I finally saw my doctor. On top of starting medication and therapy, my sweet doctor, who is a dear family friend and supported me through my difficult pregnancy, looked me right in the eyes and told me it was ok to stop pumping and attempting to nurse. He gently reminded me that formula does not equal failure.
The guilt ate at me as I prepared that first bottle. I worried he wouldn’t need me any more. I felt like giving him my milk, even though I hated it, was the only thing I was doing right. I wanted him to have the best.
And then I fed him the formula. His big blue eyes gazed up at me, and he smiled. He reached up and patted my face. And for once, I didn’t look away. I didn’t have the urge to hand him off to someone else. There were no negative thoughts about pumping or pain. I smiled back. I tickled his toes. I ran my fingers through his red hair and sang him my favorite lullaby. He giggled. It was the most peaceful, happy, truly bonding moment I had ever had with him. And it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have to stay up and pump for the next feeding. Instead, I watched him sleep peacefully in my arms.
I am a firm believer that fed is best. Breastmilk is absolutely amazing. There is so much science behind that, and I won’t deny it. But formula gave us something that breastmilk couldn’t. It gave me my sanity back. Formula was best for us. No amount of breastmilk could ever replace me as a happy and healthy mother. He needed ME more than he needed my milk. Because I am “the best” for him. I am enough. You are enough. Your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces.
Today, that sweet boy is an extremely healthy, loving, active little boy. He is definitely a momma’s boy. Our bond is stronger than ever. Unless I told you, you’d never guess if he or his brother were formula fed or breastfed. To be honest, it doesn’t matter. They are both happy, healthy, and loved. And I am too. That is the best.
“I am a firm believer that fed is best.” What a perfect way to express this! I too suffered, punished myself, and reached a devastating dark place attempting to breast feed (and then exclusively pumping for months) my first child. It took a wise lactation consultant (one who asked about me and how I and we as a family were doing) to say “I don’t think you can breastfeed this baby. Let’s talk about options.” With my second one, similar struggles but I was able to do what I needed to for my mental & physical health…and again aided by a different wise LC who said “what babies need is relationship” Thank you for sharing your story. It is such a hard, scary and deeply, deeply personal struggle.
This is beautiful! This mirrors my story with trying to breastfeed then trying to pump so perfectly it is eery! So much support and love!
I got teary eyed reading this because it reminds me so much of what I went through. I had mastitis twice and I cannot imagine having it seven times! Bless your heart for going through that pain and frustration. Making the decision to stop breastfeeding was such a painful decision to make, but like you, was the best decision for me and my baby. I was afraid I wouldn’t have a strong bond with my son if I didn’t breastfeed but continually trying to make breastfeeding work was causing both of us to be frustrated and wasn’t creating a healthy bond between us. Thank you for sharing your story. Fed is best.
“Fed is Best.” I love that quote. I, too struggled as you did. I remember at my son’s 1st Pediatrician visit, he said to me, “I wasn’t breast fed. Were you?” I answered No and he replied, “Well we both turned out just fine and so will Joey!” Joey is now a 18 year old who was awarded a full college academic scholarship and recruited to play Golf at a Division 1 school!
I wish so much I had been able to read this when I was struggling to feed my baby when he was tiny! So glad things worked out for you xx