*Please note the following post is not a bash on breast-feeding or to knock it in any way. This is simply the story of my own personal experience, so please read it as such.
When I learned I was pregnant with my first child, I immediately started planning as much as I could before the arrival. I got onesies and swaddles, researched the best swings and so on. Most importantly, I researched and planned for how I was going to feed my baby. I almost immediately decided breastfeeding was for me. There were so many positives; no constant bottles, it’s FREE, the bonding I would have with my child, the ease of being able to feed my baby anywhere, and of course the obvious health re2asons. I went on to boast for the remainder of my pregnancy just how amazing breastfeeding is to everyone I met (and I hadn’t even done it yet!) Visions of me breastfeeding in a field, wearing a flower crown and loving life consumed my mind, quite literally. Anyone who said anything negative about breastfeeding, I considered not to be smart or hardworking, because I already knew this was the best option for me and for my baby.
Stella was born a week early on Labor Day Weekend back in 2014. From the moment she was born, Stella latched on immediately and we had this moment that everyone tells you. I looked into her sweet eyes and we bonded instantly. Oh, how I wish that last sentence wereactually true. The latching immediately thing happened, however I was still being STICHED UP after three days of labor; I had Prodromal Labor, google it; two hours of pushing her out, I was exhausted, hungry and terrified. I looked into her eyes and saw fear and actually thought the following, “Am I doing this right? Holy shit I’m breastfeeding. Does this really work? Omg I can’t believe I just pushed out a baby from my vagina. I could use a shower. Will my husband remember what he just saw? Ew, that’s so gross. Hold on though, I’m kind of a bad ass. I just pushed a baby out. I made a BABY and now I’m FEEDING her with my own boobs. This is awesome. When can I have a drink to celebrate? Oh wait, why am I thinking of drinking, I just had a baby. Wait, I can’t drink now, I’m breastfeeding for the next year. Wow look at her go; she’s really eating. Are they going to clean her up yet? Is she done eating? How do I know she’s done eating? I’M SO TIRED.”
The next 6 weeks were a giant haze to put it lightly; with the first two weeks being by far the worst. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. Every time she cried, I would feed her because that’s what the nurses and doctors told me to do. I changed her diapers, swaddled her, fed her for fifteen minutes on EACH BOOB every time she ate; which was every two hours. She did this thing where she would poop through her onesie every single time I fed her, so I always had a towel handy to block me from these literal explosions. Then there’s the aspect of having to physically recover from giving birth. The diapers on YOURSELF, the bleeding, the engorged boobs, the stitches. It was just a huge mess in my opinion. Something my mind was not ready to handle.
As the weeks went on, and I recovered physically, I still found the idea of motherhood very far away from me, even though I had just become a mother. I told myself, this is how it is. It will get better. They will eventually sleep. She will eventually drink regular milk. This will get better. This will get better. Those thoughts in my mind however, quickly turned into, “When the hell does this get better? Will she ever sleep more than 2 hours? I wish my husband had boobs so he could feed her and I could sleep for longer than an hour. Why did I have a kid. Is this real life? Does she even like me? I feel nothing when I look at her. Did I just say that? OMG I’m horrible.”
More weeks went on and things did not get better. Stella was still feeding close to every 2-4 hours and I was her personal milk maid. I felt trapped. I tried going to get my nails done once between her feedings, and had to wait 15 minutes for a spot to open up and was having anxiety that I wouldn’t be back in time to feed Stella before she woke up. I never left without her for too long, for fear that something would happen to me on the way home and I wouldn’t be able to feed her. We went to family parties, and I felt so uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of everyone because my boobs became the size of actual watermelons; so feeding Stella discreetly wasn’t exactly an option. I was constantly going into people’s bedrooms and feeding her there. The loneliness that ensued was unlike anything I could have predicted. Feeding her became one of the most miserable tasks of my day; and that’s hard because she literally needs to eat all day. The crying, the running to feed her, the amount of time it took to feed her; the pumping in between feedings so I could maybe get a break at some point; it all just seemed too much. These feelings were ones I kept inside for a long time. How could I tell people this? I am just going to be seen as weak. Other mothers breastfeed all the time. I just need to push through this. This is the best thing for my baby.
Time went on, and things got worse. I remember driving around for one of Stella’s naps, so I could get out of the house for a change. I fell asleep quickly and almost hit a tree and woke up inches from that tree. I drove immediately to my mom’s, which is something I was doing just about every other day. I couldn’t bear the thought of having to be home with Stella ALL day. I would make up any excuse to rush over there. At my mom’s house, I remember someone asking me,
“Are you okay?” and I simply said, “No, I just want to go home.” They said, “Then just go home.” I responded with, “Yea, but I don’t want Stella to come with me”.
It was in that moment that I realized I needed to call my doctor. I had finally said out loud what had been running through my mind these past 6 weeks. It sounded worse out loud than it did in my head, and that wasn’t even the worst thing that had crossed my mind. I think I’m still too embarrassed to say those thoughts out loud quiet yet.
I got on the phone, called my OBGYN and told her what I had been feeling. Her exact response was ,”Nadia is the baby in a safe place?” and “I want you to stop breastfeeding immediately.” She went on in detail about how I should proceed with feeding Stella formula, which one to use, and I still wasn’t understanding why once she said those words to me, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. “I want you to stop breastfeeding. That replayed over and over in my mind, and I felt lighter each time I heard it. She suggested I come to her office the following day to discuss my diagnosis of Postpartum Depression. We talked for close to an hour and she explained the correlations between breastfeeding and developing Postpartum Depression. I never, in all my research before having a baby, realized these two could be linked, and now it completely makes sense. Baby Blues and Postpartum are completely different. I was having thoughts of resentment, thoughts of harming Stella and myself, which is not to be taken lightly. It wasn’t just exhaustion I was feeling; I was losing my drive to be a mother; I was losing my focus on what was important. I was very clearly, becoming depressed.
In the weeks following, I spoke to a therapist and had weekly phone calls with my OBGYN. I am so happy to say that I quickly found myself again. I wasn’t crying during feedings. I wasn’t running to feed Stella every time she cried; because now I got the opportunity to quantify how much she was eating, and learning her as a baby, what her cries actually meant, and most importantly, learning her as my daughter. Switching to formula allowed for my husband to have a bigger role in Stella’s life as well. He felt horrible not being able to help over those first 6 weeks. Me getting up, doing all the feedings, non-stop; all day, every day. He got sleep and adult time at work, and he genuinely felt like he could not offer me any balance. However, that’s exactly what we found when I stopped breastfeeding. About two weeks into the groove of things, I was SMILING again. We alternated feedings at night. He got to bond more. I became excited to go mix her bottle up, because she wasn’t crying during the feedings anymore. She was sweet and adorable and it was so reassuring to see she actually liked the formula. I felt confident in myself as a mother.
The best part is, it strengthened our bond, that was basically non-existent in the first few weeks of her life. I used to look at Stella with such resentment. Like she had come here and took parts of my life away from me. Looking back, I feel horrible for all those weeks I lost with her feeling this way, but so incredibly thankful that I went through this experience. It helped me realize that everyone is different. Every person will have their own experience with their child. I was reminded the importance of MENTAL HEALTH. As much praise as there is for breastfeeding and all its extensive benefits, there is such a negative connotation to formula; and that needs to stop. Your child is safe and healthy on formula. Your child is safe and healthy on breastmilk. One does not out way the other. My doctor urged me to understand that if I am not mentally happy, that is what will negatively affect my child; not formula.
There is so much pressure to be the best and comparing moms to other moms, that I think we’ve forgotten to stick up for one another and STOP ALL THE JUDGING. Let’s stop pretending that motherhood is rainbows and butterflies. Let’s be open about the hard stuff. Let’s be open about the crying. Let’s be open about our struggles. Let’s be open about how hard this is. Let’s not lose ourselves along the way. Let’s put ourselves first sometimes; because in the end our kids need HEALTHY parents, role models, teachers. Let’s show them the importance of self-care. Let’s show them how to love ourselves.
Writer’s Note: I am proud to say that Stella is a functioning three year old, who was fed formula for the first year of her life. She is extremely bright, kind, and has tantrums like some of her other friends who were breastfed. She goes to daycare 3 days a week and has had two fevers in her whole life *winky face*
Nadia Catoliato, Style Editor & Writing Contributor
You can find my decorating account here and my style account here
I’m wife to Thomas, we dated for 3 years, got engaged, and later bought a house in New York. I am also mama to Thomas’ two little clones, Stella and Luca- we got pregnant shortly after buying our house with our now toddler, Stella, and just welcomed our newest addition, our son, Luca. I’ve always loved grabbing a good coffee, going for a long drive in pretty towns, trying new restaurants, and living life with my family. Although I work in Fashion, my dream was always to become an Architect. I love home décor, throwing parties and organizing.