If I'm being absolutely honest, I have to admit that my first three months of motherhood were horrible. I didn't make enough breast milk and, as a result, my daughter got terribly sick. So I felt like a failure right out of the gate. Then, when my second child was born, I discovered combo-feeding, and honestly you guys, it changed everything. There are lessons every mom learns when she combo-feeds, and for me, they made all the difference.
I totally wish I had learned that breastfeeding is not an all-or-nothing thing, that formula is amazing, and that I didn't have to be solely responsible for feeding my baby sooner rather than later. I also wish that my desire to breastfeed exclusively didn't have to mean I felt like a bad mom when I couldn't. I now know that lots of moms are unable to exclusively breastfeed, undersupply isn't rare, and besides, my ability to lactate and dispense breast milk have literally nothing to do with my ability to be a good mom.
The second time around, I was able to ditch exclusive breastfeeding as a goal and re-define what "breastfeeding success" meant for me and my baby. I set realistic goals (which changed when life changed) and I discovered that combo-feeding was not only a great choice for us, but a way to share parenting tasks with my partner, get more sleep, and take care of my mental health.
When my youngest baby was born, I felt no shame about announcing my intentions to combo-feed him. I wish I had known it was an option the first time around because, honestly, it's so amazing.
Combo-feeding allowed me to share parenting tasks more equally with my partner. It was amazing to give him some bonding time with baby, and have time to myself for sleep, a shower, or to be able to get out of the house, without a baby or pump along.
After my second baby was born, I re-defined what "breastfeeding success" meant for me and my baby. I figured out that combo-feeding was right for us, and could feel my stress level drop. What's more is I was able to recognize the role that the pressure to breastfeed played in my postpartum mental health struggles, and get help for them, too. Honestly, combo-feeding probably helped save my life.
As a breastfeeding mom I was constantly worried. Was my baby getting enough to eat? How many wet and poop-filled diapers did they have today? How much would I be able to pump? Would I have to supplement with formula forever? Would they be OK if I did?
As a combo-feeding mom, I gained confidence. I always knew that my baby would get enough to eat no matter how much I could produce. After time, what once caused me so much pressure and pain became no big deal.
As a new mom, I thought that supplementing with formula meant I couldn't continue breastfeeding. Now I know that's definitely not the case. I am so glad I learned that combo-feeding was a thing, and that it would give me and my family some of the best parts of formula and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding for me meant using formula, too, who knew?
I got so much more sleep once I started combo-feeding. Honestly. Even when I got up early to power pump, I was able to have my partner take a shift at night. It was amazing. I also no longer stayed awake worrying about my breast milk supply. What I couldn't make myself, I could make up with formula.
I wish I had known how amazing formula-feeding could be. I think in our rush to promote breastfeeding, we forget that formula is a healthy choice too, and is amazing for families who want or need to use it. Combo-feeding taught me to view formula as life-saving, amazing science milk.
No only did combo-feeding allow me to feel peace of mind, but I became so much more relaxed as a parent, as a result. I cut myself some major slack and realized that I didn't have to be a perfect mom to be enough for my kids. That was an amazing lesson that was impossible for me to learn while struggling to breastfeed and feeling like a failure.
When we set the bar at exclusively breastfeeding, many moms will not succeed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 80 percent of breastfeeding moms also feed their babies formula. In my mind, I see this as infant-feeding success rather than breastfeeding failure. In a world where exclusive breastfeeding is not possible or realistic for many American parents, combo-feeding is a great way to continue breastfeeding your baby, and allowed me to meet my goals.
It took having two babies, "failing" at exclusive breastfeeding, and succeeding at combo-feeding to teach me an important truth about motherhood: being a good mom has literally nothing to do with your ability to breastfeed. Nothing. Before formula existed, many babies failed to thrive and died, and in places where it's not accessible, babies are still hurt today. As long as you feed your baby in a way that they grow and thrive, you are a good mom. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.