“Breastfeeding is best for babies.” This is what I see the 8 or more times I scoop out the powdered formula to make my daughter’s bottle each day. This is what I have had to face since the day we drove home from the hospital. I never knew how heart-wrenching those words could be. Sometimes it feels like those words are laughing at me. Sometimes it feels that I am being judged by all mothers. But every time, it brings feelings of confidence in myself and my own love for my baby girl. 

 10 months ago my beautiful baby girl was born as healthy as ever. Everything was perfect – except that it wasn’t. For the first 24 hours of her precious life she would not eat. We’ve all heard it and many of us have been there – baby won’t latch. Nurse after nurse showed me multiple different ways of how to hold my baby girl, how to squeeze my breast, and simply how I was doing it wrong. 

It was my fault after all. 

24 hours passed. Our beautiful baby girl would not stop screaming out of hunger, and was losing too much weight. What was our choice? The nurse only gave us one – she needed a bottle. Fear of my baby’s survival pushed down any worries of baby girl never being able to latch. “Yes, yes! Give her the bottle!” My weariness and anxiety was overcoming me.

My dear girl was able to eat from the bottle, and all fears were gone, except for those that I had pushed down far – the ones of no more breastfeeding. So began my journey of pumping, bottle feeding, supplementing, fighting to breastfeed, and lactation consultant after lactation consultant. This was not how I expected motherhood to begin.

Hours upon hours of that dreadful pump sound filled my days resulting with only 2 ounces a time. Hours upon hours of my own baby screaming because she could not receive the milk from my breasts. Hours upon hours of warming and making bottles while feelings of failure and inadequacy as a mother filled my soul. 

I needed support. I needed guidance. So I read. I read blogs and articles and forums. Other moms could do it. Other moms did it for months, some even a year! I had to be able to do it. I could do it. I wouldn’t give up. I was blinded by the strong desire to be the ‘perfect’ mother.

I pushed myself. I ignored my true inner feelings of the hope for the day that I would stop. I dreaded every feeding. I dreaded the cry of hunger from my own daughter.

How could I begin motherhood with dread, disappointment, and constant failure? I felt disconnected from my own baby girl. I felt hopeless. Many questioned, “Why don’t you just stop?”  It was an option I would not consider for myself. How could I stop without feeling like an inadequate mother? 

I needed to choose. My reasons for continuing were for my own feelings of insecurity and inability to mother my own baby. But what about my baby? What was best for her? And that’s when I realized. In the midst of a pumping session while trying to console my daughter by rocking her chair with my foot as she cried for my arms, I realized she needed me. She needed my love. She didn’t need my pumping.

I gave up. And the day I gave up a wave of relief washed over me. I could hold my baby instead of spending 25 minutes pumping while she longed for me. I could feed my baby with no 30 minutes of screams and fights at the breast beforehand. I looked forward to feeding time, when I got to cuddle my daughter close, while looking down into her beautiful eyes as she sucked the bottle. I had peace with my daughter for the first time after 5 weeks of frustration, stress, and anxiety. I finally began to get to know my baby girl.

So, maybe to you, ‘Breast is Best,’ but to me, above all “Love is best.”

Esther Vandersluis

Esther is a Canadian writing from Hamilton, Ontario, living in a sea of pink as a girl mom to three. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/beautifulalarm) where you will find writing for stay-at-home moms, moms with littles, sleep-deprived moms, moms feeding babies, and babies with failure to thrive, all under the umbrella of faith in Jesus Christ.