I knew I was in trouble when I found myself googling “celebrities who breastfeed” and examined each and every woman’s breasts to verify (from my own perspective) if they did indeed breastfeed or use formula.
As a first-time mom, I was so obsessed with breastfeeding my newborn baby that I had tunnel vision for all-things breast. Any time I met a new mom, I would casually ask her if she breastfed or formula fed. This would help me determine if I could hang out with her or not. I was a part-time formula feeder who was so desperate to exclusively breastfeed, but my newborn son would not allow me in the highly coveted “liquid gold” club. He had no desire to take milk from my breast and made every effort to let me know.
I, however, made every effort to pump every two hours (morning and night) and place his unwilling mouth on my breast because I was determined to be an ethereal mom who was made for motherhood.
But I wasn’t an ethereal mom. I was an unshowered mess who felt like a failure for having to supplement with formula. It’s not like I really wanted to breastfeed, it’s that all of the external messages I was receiving was telling me that I had to breastfeed. What I really wanted was that stamp of approval. I didn’t want other people to think I wasn’t trying.
I didn’t want to be judged as a mom who only half-assed her way through motherhood. What I didn’t realize is that I was the one who was judging myself. I was my own worst enemy, and I was sabotaging those early days of motherhood with all of my unrealistic expectations.
I don’t think anyone questions that breastfeeding is an excellent way to nourish a baby. But you know what else is excellent? Feeding a baby. Whether it’s through “liquid gold” or through formula, it doesn’t matter how your baby is fed as long as that precious baby is fed.
After trying to find photo evidence of Beyoncé feeding Blue Ivy with a bottle and comparing my son to Albert Einstein and Michael Jordan (both of whom were breastfed), I decided to give up the good fight and embrace formula for good. And do you know what happened? Nothing. Nobody cared. The only person who was so concerned with breastfeeding was me. I felt the huge weight of hopelessness being lifted off of my shoulders, and that was the moment I truly began to enjoy motherhood.
Parenthood is a 24-hour, rest-of-your-life job, and if you plan to put in 100%, 100% of the time, you will most definitely break. My husband always reminds me that it’s better to be flexible than to break—so when Plan A doesn’t work out, I must embrace Plans B, C, D, and all the way down to Z. Seven years into motherhood, I look back on those first few months and wish I would have been easier on myself.
Nobody cared how clean my house was, how put together I looked, or how coordinated my baby’s outfits were. The only person who cared was me, and I only cared because I thought other people cared. If you think about it, it’s kind of narcissistic of me to think that so many people cared about my life and parenting decisions. At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is the love that you provide for your children and the present moments that you can give them.
I have a quote hanging over my desk by Max Ehrman that reads, “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” I read this to myself anytime I’m feeling anxiety when I’m aiming to win that seal of approval for motherhood. Spoiler alert: there is no seal of approval. We’re all just winging it.
If I could talk to myself as a new mom, I would tell her, “Screw breastfeeding! Stop pumping and take a nap with your son. Despite all of your efforts for extreme perfection, your son is going to grow up to be amazing just how he is. Oh, and that perfectly curated, Pinterest-worthy first birthday party you planned? Just get him a cardboard box, he’ll enjoy that infinitely more!”