Breastfeeding seems like the most natural thing in the world, so why is it so hard for some mothers? In their first Mosaic Times podcast, Maya Mohan and Cait Espinoza discuss their struggle to breastfeed, and how it shaped their first few months of motherhood.
Breast is best?
“I felt a lot of pressure to breastfeed because of course you want to do the best for your child.” – Maya
“Breast is best” is the constant refrain in pre-natal and post-natal advice, and Canadian society seems keen to support this – from extended parental leave to coverage for lactation consultants. But while there are undoubtedly benefits to breastfeeding, many women now feel intense pressure to breastfeed exclusively.
“When you have a small baby who is continuing to lose weight, it can be very, very anxiety-inducing.” – Cait
That pressure can have negative effects on new mothers at their most vulnerable. At its extreme it can exacerbate Post-Partum Depression and Anxiety, or cause irreparable damage to a baby’s health if their glucose levels get too low. And while plenty of women have a relatively easy and wonderful breastfeeding experience, those who have a hard time experience a range of emotions, from a sense of failure to a difficulty in bonding with their baby.
The “F-word” (Formula)
There are many benefits to formula, too, either as a supplement to breastfeeding or as an exclusive source of food. Mothers can rely more on their partners, partners feel more involved, and babies still get the nutrients they need. For adoptive parents and same-sex couples, it’s often the only option.
“The nurse said to me, ‘well, if you can’t manage it, we might have to resort to the F-word’.” – Maya
Yet formula is still presented in a negative light, even by medical professionals whose job it is to ensure both mother and baby are cared for. While breastfeeding mothers fight for their right to feed freely in public, mothers who feed formula also fight judgement and intolerance.
“I felt like I had to explain my decision as some sort of last resort because breastfeeding didn’t work out, rather than just a choice that was completely mine to make.” – Cait
Doing What’s Best for your Family
Despite similar struggles, Maya’s and Cait’s experiences led to different outcomes. Their takeaway? Breastfeed, or formula feed, or combo feed; whatever you do, make sure it’s what’s best for your family.
Did you feel the pressure to breastfeed? Or perhaps you felt there wasn’t enough encouragement in your community for breastfeeding? Tell us about it on our Facebook page.