Before I get into this I wan to add a bit of a disclaimer. I recognize that many others have a much more difficult breastfeeding journey. I'm not trying to minimize their experiences, or really even draw comparisons. Instead, I'll share my own experience in the hopes that it will help others feel they are not alone in whatever struggle they're facing with feeding their baby.
Luckily, I have had relatively easy breastfeeding experiences with both of my children. Shep was a champion nurser, earning praise from the hospital's lactation consultant. Even after I went back to work, I didn't develop any concerns about my supply. Really, I only stopped nursing Shep because I "dried up" during my second trimester with Rory. He was well over a year - and I was really proud of the work we had both done to make exclusive breastfeeding a success. Under the mom-guilt pressure to nurse, I made a big deal out of avoiding formula if at all possible.
Now, Rory is a pretty good nurser. She gets distracted a bit more easily than Shep; I mean, sometimes she smiles too big to be able to properly latch. It's an issue, actually. But this time around, I didn't build up nearly as large of a freezer stash before going back to work. Why not? Because, surprisingly, pumping while running around after a toddler and working a fulltime job (and while nursing and caring for a newborn) is really freaking difficult.
In the lead-up to the move, we were lucky enough to have the best family in the world. Everyone pitched in and were all invaluable in helping with the kids and my sanity. On one particularly frantic afternoon, my husband left the house with both of the kids and none of the breastmilk. They were staying with their grandparents for a few days; the drive itself was a few hours and Rory was bound to need food soon after he dropped then off. So, even though he was exhausted and had spent hours in the car, he went back out and grabbed some formula.
Our text conversation is laughable. "What kind of formula do I need to get?"
"I don't know, dude! Do you think I've picked out formula for a baby before somehow, without your knowledge?"
"Do I need to get water, too?"
He ended up buying a jug of nursery water and some Similac and Rory seemed to do really well on formula for those few days.
After giving my daughter formula, I felt free from the anxiety and pressure to exclusively breastfeed my child. it was easy, once the choice was taken out of my hands. Of course, my daughter needed to eat. And, of course, I would do whatever I had to do to feed her. By making sure my daughter was fed, I was being the best parent I could be. There is no award for feeding your baby exclusively breastmilk. And there is no shame in feeding your baby, and giving yourself a break from the pressure to nurse. Even though I know there's no shame in using formula, I felt afraid to do it. Like it was in some way a failure on m part. And you know what? I was wrong, and I am glad I was.