Ending Our Breastfeeding Journey: How It Actually Brought Us Closer During A Time That My Postpartum Anxiety And Depression Was Trying To Pull Us Apart
Who would have known that the night before I admitted myself to the hospital at 4.5 months postpartum would have been my very last time nursing my baby girl? When I think back to that night, it makes me so emotional. I can’t help but to think that I may have savored that moment differently if I had known that it would have been our very last time and that I would stop breastfeeding her.
I felt robbed. Robbed of something that I was so extremely passionate about. Something that I loved so much and something that I had great success with this time around. So much success that I had plans to donate my large stash of frozen milk to a mom in need.
Breastfeeding Became A Trigger For My Anxiety
The day I was discharged from the hospital and returned home, I quickly realized that nursing my baby was now a trigger for my anxiety. And once my anxiety kicked in, the scary intrusive thoughts I had been experiencing followed. I felt trapped while nursing her. Trapped in the sense that I couldn’t do anything if I started to feel anxious. These intrusive thoughts haunted me. I wanted to try and avoid them at all costs, even if it meant making a decision to temporarily stop breastfeeding my baby.
I temporarily made the decision to bottle feed her using my frozen supply of breastmilk. The breastmilk I was so grateful I had been procrastinating on donating. I was an emotional rollercoaster at this time. I went back and forth between being ok with this temporary decision and then feeling like the worst mom ever. It was guilt for not sucking it up and continuing. I had “believed” in my heart breastmilk was the best for my baby. But you see, that’s the thing. Society makes us moms feel as though breastfeeding is the ONLY way to feed our baby. That if you don’t, then you must be a bad mom. This is so far from the truth. Mamas – please know that you are the absolute BEST mom for your baby regardless of your decision.
I Began To Fall In Love With Bottle Feeding
Bottle feeding my baby was a whole new experience for me since I had not bottle-fed either of my girls. My emotions would sometimes get the best of me. The guilt I felt overpowered any positive feelings I may have felt. But you know what, as time passed, bottle feeding my baby was something I grew to really enjoy. Not only did I find comfort in it, but I loved how close I could hold her to my body and face.
When her eyes looked up at mine, my heart melted in a way that I didn’t always experience while breastfeeding. I loved rubbing my face on her soft, fuzzy head. It was a new way of bonding and one that I actually began to fall in love with. I thanked God because having to make this difficult decision actually brought us closer during a time that my postpartum anxiety and depression was trying to pull us apart.
At this time, I had hopes of continuing our breastfeeding journey once I was healed. If I am being completely honest, it wasn’t for any reason other than “believing” that my breast milk would help get my baby through the winter without getting sick. Whether this breastmilk belief is true or not, I’m not sure. But, when you have more than one child and that child goes to daycare, you quickly realize that no breast milk is mighty powerful enough to prevent ALL germs from spreading within a household.
The Permission I Needed To Stop Breastfeeding
I had been pumping and storing my milk this entire time. I did this to keep my supply up to prepare for the day that I returned to breastfeeding my baby. The pumping sessions added a huge amount of stress to my life. Something I didn’t need any more of while I was healing. I went back and forth between the decision to exclusively pump or switch to formula after my frozen stash was out. I was so torn and was looking for help in making this decision. Of course, I wanted to do what was best for my baby. But also for me and my own mental health because I mattered too.
Every day, I am so thankful that my nurse practitioner and my therapist could see how stressed I was. This was such a difficult decision and that what I really needed at the time was for someone to help me make this decision. And just when I needed to hear this the most, my therapist said, “If you want someone to give you permission to stop breastfeeding, then I am giving you permission and it’s perfectly ok.” It was in that moment that I felt so much lighter. All of those mixed emotions I had been experiencing began to subside.
The End Of Our Breastfeeding Journey
Once I had made the decision, I never once looked back. I SLOWLY started to wean myself from pumping. With each pump session that I dropped, I began to feel stronger and stronger in my decision. I slowly started to introduce formula to my baby which to my surprise, I was ok with. Eventually my frozen stash had come to an end along with my pumping journey and we were strictly formula feeding.
So while ending our breastfeeding journey wasn’t completely my choice or what I had intended, I’ve come to learn through my experience that I actually really love formula feeding. I most likely would never have gotten to experience it if it weren’t for my suffering. But, I am actually thankful that I did. Formula feeding opened my eyes to a whole different way of bonding with my baby. It made me better in asking and accepting help since others were now able to help feed my baby. It is so much less demanding. And, it made life with an infant and a toddler a bit more easier and less stressful on me.
My Biggest Takeaway from The Choice to Stop Breastfeeding
As I sit here writing this while watching my baby girl play with her big sister, I can’t help but to feel proud of myself for making such a difficult decision and realizing that my mental health mattered way more than the milk that my baby got. My baby is thriving. She is hitting her milestones. She is happy, healthy, content, is well taken care of. My baby girl feels safe, loved and guess what – she was formula fed for almost 8 months! I will never regret making this difficult decision and I am a much stronger mom for having done so. Fed is best! Don’t ever for a second think you’re any less of a mom because you chose not to breastfeed or stopped breastfeeding.
Jenn Wirth is a wife and mom to her 2 girls and her Angel baby in Heaven. She is a former first grade teacher from New Jersey and a postpartum anxiety and depression survivor. Her struggles with postpartum has led her in founding Mom’s Maternal Health. MMH is a safe, judgement-free community that focuses on normalizing the hardships of motherhood; the stuff no one really talks about. She offers tips, takeaways, resources, and support to help you on your journey from trying to conceive to pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond. She invites moms to share their story; the good, the messy & the emotional rollercoaster of mom life in hopes of helping moms feel seen, heard and less alone as they navigate motherhood.