Story by Klara Donovan
When I say “I didn’t breastfeed” it doesn’t tell the whole story. It doesn’t express the fact that I wanted to – oh, I wanted to – but simply found I couldn’t.
When I say “I really tried”, it doesn’t describe the lengths I went to. The supplements and medication I gulped down. The hours spent expressing drops of milk, while babies rolled around at my feet. The batches of lactation cookies I baked, laced with as much brewers yeast as I could stomach. The alarms I set throughout the night to pump, while my babies slept blissfully through.
When I say “I loved breastfeeding”, it doesn’t touch the feeling I had as I snuggled each of my tiny newborns close to give it another go. The jolt of pride that filled my heart when they mastered their latches. The absurd sweetness of a milk-covered little face asleep on my arm.
When I say “I tried again, even knowing how it went the first time”, it doesn’t explain my reasons why. The conviction that my daughter was worthy of the same period of mixed feeds that my son had. The guilt I felt for my son, when my supply was ever so slightly better for my daughter. The certainty that I had to try a second time, and I would try a third time too without hesitation, always hoping for a better outcome.
When I say “It was hard to decide to stop”, it doesn’t convey the struggle that it was for me to come to that decision. The lactation consultant who gently told me my efforts were probably futile at this point. The tears that slid down my face as I breastfed my son for the last time.
The fact that I didn’t even want to acknowledge the last time with my daughter, and instead decided hours after the fact that for a second time, the journey was over. The doubts and “what ifs” that plagued me – what if I had tried just one more thing? What if next week, my supply would have increased? The guilt I felt for “giving up”.
When I say “I have nothing against formula”, it doesn’t give justice to how grateful I actually am that in this day and age, I had another option. The relief I had as I watched my kids thrive on it. The way my heart plummets when people describe it as the equivalent of takeaway food.
The plain fact that without formula, my babies would not have eaten. The hot anger that dizzies me when I see someone rebutting the “fed is best” sentiment with that awful lactivist power-phrase: “no, fed is the minimum”. Like I did the minimum for my babies, who I would die for.
It’s okay that breastfeeding didn’t work for me. My kids are beautiful and thriving and happy and healthy, breastfed or not. But blanket statements don’t cover the complexity of things when they don’t work out. The journey can’t simply be summed up by a quick sentence or two.
So when someone says “I didn’t breastfeed,” it’s only a part of the story. It doesn’t tell you anything, really – except the fact that they did whatever they could to feed their babies.