Military Spouse on a Mission is a blog to share tips, tricks, and ideas from a military spouse and new mommy. My name is Jessica and I am a wife, mother, and blogger sharing the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of being a stay at home mom
There’s no denying that breast milk is the best nutrition for a baby. But at what point is encouraging a mom to breastfeed turning into bullying? At what point does it put the health of the mother and the health of the child at risk?
Of course breastfeeding is natural and breast milk is tailored to the baby’s specific needs and contains antibodies to protect the baby. However, formula is also able to provide necessary nutrients if a mother is unable to exclusively breastfeed.
“Baby friendly” hospitals encourage and support breastfeeding and bonding between mother and child. Sounds great right? Well of course it is as long as hospitals are still protecting the health of the mother and insuring that the baby is getting the nutrients they need.
I gave birth to my son in a birthing center that pushed breastfeeding. They did not suggest formula as an option, and would not even entertain my suggestions that perhaps my baby was not getting any colostrum or milk and that is why he would not stop crying.
They encouraged “rooming in” and even made me feel like a bad mother for finally asking them to take the baby to the nursery for two hours since I had not slept in two days. When the baby wasn’t crying, someone from the hospital was in the room at least once or twice every hour.
I was exhausted, emotionally drained, and felt like a failure. No matter how hard I tried, how long I fed him, my son would not stop crying.
There were materials and mandatory videos that said to not under any circumstance give the baby a bottle because it would confuse him. So I didn’t.
We got home after two days. I’m thankful it was a short time because I don’t think I could have taken more sleep deprivation and my baby couldn’t have taken more time without milk.
Luckily my mother was there and I told her my concerns. She encouraged me to give her the baby and go into my bedroom and try and pump for thirty minutes. Not a single drop could be expressed. My poor baby had not gotten anything at all in the two days I had done nothing but nurse.
I was devastated. My body had failed me and I had failed my baby. After being told time and time again that giving a baby anything but breastmilk was not the best option, I didn’t know what to do.
I had samples that had been mailed to me from Enfamil in my cabinet. At first I was upset that they had sent this to me. Where did they get my mailing address? Why don’t they think I could do it?
At the encouragement of my mom, I opened one of the samples, put it in a bottle, and gave it to my baby. He drank every drop as if he was starving and finally stopped crying.
I continued to try and breastfeed and pumped every couple of hours to try and get my body to produce. It took a full week but I finally started to get some milk. A baby would not have lasted a week without any milk.
The bottle did confuse him and we were never able to breastfeed exclusively. I tried power pumping, I ate lactation cookies and made lactation boosting shakes every day. I was never able to make enough milk to not supplement with formula.
I was embarrassed that I was not able to breastfeed my baby. I did get comments like “you should breastfeed naturally, the way God intended.” It made me feel like even more of a failure. I felt the need to explain why I couldn’t breastfeed when I gave my son a bottle.
It took me quite a while before I finally stopped caring. I am a great mom. I do whatever I can for my baby and he is happy and healthy as a result. Breast or bottle, as long as the baby is fed and healthy, that is what is truly best.
In the end I was thankful I had those samples in my cabinet and I gave the samples I didn’t use from other brands to other moms that needed it too. They were very appreciative because formula is expensive.
There is a point where encouraging moms turns into bullying and increases their guilt if they are unable to provide breastmilk for their baby. Saying “breast is best” when you see a mom feeding her baby a bottle is bullying. The hateful comments you see on posts about breast versus formula fed is bullying and unnecessary.
Encouraging a mom to breastfeed in the hospital if that is their choice is great but if they can’t or don’t want to for whatever reason, that should be respected by hospital staff. The health of the mother needs to be better protected so that she can care for her child.
If I hadn’t given in and given my baby formula, he might not be this happy toddler smiling up at me right now. I am thankful for a supportive family and for my precious baby boy.
Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing. One I wanted more than anything to do for my baby exclusively. I couldn’t and you know what? That’s okay.
You breastfed for two years- that’s amazing and you are an incredible mother. You put your baby straight on formula? You are still an incredible mother and do what is best for you and your baby. So mom on my friends.
You know those days that just break you down? The kind of day where you are wondering why you had children in the first place? The kind of day where you are genuinely wondering if you are fit to be a mother? The kind of day where you are overcome with guilt for having these thoughts? Yea that was my day today.
My son was having a particularly difficult day. He has never been a great sleeper but slept even more poorly than usual the night before. As a result, we were both low on sleep and low on patience.
Even though he had gotten less sleep than he needed, it did nothing to damper his never ending energy. My son has enough energy to power a city for a year. I literally have no idea where he gets it from. He only has one speed and it is off the charts. On today, it was like normal but even more hyper and much fussier than usual.
There were moments when I was positive I had zero more patience left to give. And then I said a silent prayer and found the strength to keep going. At the end of the day, I was physically and mentally exhausted but felt invincible once I finally got him to bed.
My son deserves the kind of mother that has all the patience in the World. He may be difficult, he may be strong willed, he may be going through other developmental changes that are making that personality even more trying.
Regardless, he deserves a momma that can work with him. The one that is patient but firm. The one that knows when to give and the one that knows the way he needs to be guided. And you know what? I’m that momma.
I know that because I believe strongly that God never gives you anything that you can not handle. He gives you what you need. He gives you the challenges that will shape you into the person he needs you to be.
My son has made me a stronger person. He has made me see that I have far more patience than I ever thought I was capable of. That I have more love than I ever thought I could give.
He has given me wisdom and has made me more resilient. I may not be perfect and I may still have a lot more to learn on how to be the momma he needs me to be. I may get frustrated and I will make mistakes but I can be that momma.
I have already seen myself grow so much. He has given me that gift. God has given me the gift of growth and has blessed me with this sweet boy to make it possible. So even when I feel broken, when I feel like I have nothing left to give. That is what I will remember and I will take a deep breath, say a silent prayer, and keep going.
The exhaustion begins to overcome you as you stoop down to pick up yet another toy and clean up yet another mess. The checklist of things to do continues to grow along with your frustration. You try to remember the last grown up conversation you had and a time that you simply got to relax uninterrupted is a very distant memory. So what do you do when the feeling of mom burn-out begins to creep up on you?
Everyone has been there. Parenting can feel like an endless twilight zone. Repetitive routine mixed with a fog from years of sleep deprivation is a breeding ground for it.
We wake up every day the same way (usually at the same time if your child is a human alarm clock like mine). We make three meals and several snacks, most of which we pick up off the floor.
We take care of our children: change diapers, help them get dressed, put on shoes, get juice cups and snacks, wash them up, read the same stories, sing the same lullabies, do the same bedtime routines.
Then we clean the same floors, do the laundry, pick up the same toys, and wash the same dishes. The repetitiveness can feel exhausting and often times pointless when whatever it is we just cleaned gets destroyed an hour (or mere minutes) later.
Sometimes it can feel like we are all alone in this parenting gig especially if you have a spouse that works long hours, or travels frequently. The mixture of loneliness, exhaustion, and never ending tasks can leave anyone feeling burnt out.
What to do when you are feeling mom burn out:
1.) Acknowledge that you feel it.
Acknowledge to yourself that you are starting to feel burnt out. You can just say it aloud, write it down, anything. I have found the best way is writing it in a journal.
Write about what you are feeling. Let yourself experience those emotions and feelings, even if they are negative. Have a glass of wine and let it out. Write it down after the kids are asleep and let yourself really feel it.
2.) Identify the emotions you were feeling leading up to it and think about the events that may have contributed to it.
What happened the day before? Have the feelings been mounting for weeks or did it come on suddenly? Were you angrier in the past few days? Sad or a little blue? Were there particular events that were the last straw and drained your last bit of patience? Again- writing it down or just thinking about it helps. That way, later on if you are feeling the same emotions, you can be aware of them and step back, and go through the process to avoid feeling burnt out.
In my experience when I am feeling burnt out, it seems like a long time coming. The feeling has been building for weeks and so has my guilt for feeling resentment or any negative emotions. I mean I get to stay home and experience every joyous moment of my child’s life- shouldn’t I be loving this? I do love it but I also get frustrated and even miss aspects of working outside the home. And you know what? It’s okay to feel that way. I have never felt such joy and love as that I am given from my son. I also sometimes resent that I am the one changing every diaper, cleaning every mess, and drying every tear. And I have every right to feel that way. Good things- the best things- come with negative emotions too. But you know what? I would not change it for the World. I have just learned to acknowledge when I am starting to feel burnt out and work through my emotions.
3.) Talk about it with someone.
Anyone- your spouse, your mother, a friend, or a fellow mom. Talking with a mom friend lifts so much weight off of you. Chances are she has felt the same thing and sharing it with each other makes you both feel lighter. Because you aren’t alone. We have all been there and probably will be again. Because- twilight zone.
4.) Give yourself a break and practice some self care.
Something I have always struggled with is asking for help when I need it. There are so many people that would be more than happy to give me an hour of me time by watching my child if I really need it. Don’t feel comfortable asking a friend or family member to help out with the kids? Invest in yourself and pay a babysitter for an hour. Trust me, that $10 will be worth it and will help you feel more refreshed.
There are also little things I like to do for myself every day while my son is asleep like take a hot shower, give myself a pedicure, or relax with a face mask on. If you need a nap- take it. The laundry will wait, and the pile of toys on the floor will be there when your kids wake up (even if you put it away for the fifth time today). Use every minute of time you get to the things that make you feel refreshed. If that includes cleaning up a bit, try and do that too. During nap time or after I put my son to bed, I like to do at least one thing for me, at least one thing for the house, and at least one thing for my businesses. Some days I get less done than others. And you know what- that is okay. The most important thing is taking care of your kids- and taking care of yourself makes you a better parent.
5.) Think about the good things too.
Give yourself a minute before bed to think of everything you are thankful for that happened that day. Think of the moments that made you smile. The greatest joy I feel is when I see my son happy. I think of all the times he smiled that day. I praise God for giving me another day to be his Momma and for giving me the ability to shape my feelings and my outlook on life. Be happy for the good things, they very rarely come without some drawbacks as well. In the end, I would rather have the good with the bad than nothing at all.
Mom shaming is real my friends. I literally see it everywhere. Even on a different continent, mom shaming crosses all boundaries.
As mothers, or just as people living in the same World, it is so important to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. It is so much easier to show kindness than to be cruel to one another. Or if you are not in the mood to show kindness, just don’t say anything at all. So simple.
You never know how your actions are going to affect someone. You never know if that cruel word or that nasty look is the last thing they will see, if it will stick with them, or if it will cause them pain. They may be resilient and not let it affect them but it could also cause a deeper cut than you had any intention of inflicting.
Recently, I was on an international flight with my 16 month old son and he (like any baby) was getting a little upset. And instead of sticking in some head phones or just giving him a minute, the woman in front of us glared back at me every time he so much as made a grunt. She complained to the flight attendant instead of saying something to me.
I was so anxious getting onto that flight. The added anxiety of another woman glaring through the seat at me (making eye contact) just made it so much worse. Sometimes, babies get upset at some point and time on a 14 hour flight. It’s inevitable. Being cruel in this situation, or any for that matter is not going to help the situation. It’s not going to make it better. It certainly is not going to help him stop being upset.
When we immediately show condescending disdain to others, it doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help us, it doesn’t help them. All it does is give the already anxious mom doing everything she can to keep her baby happy even more anxiety.
I will never understand why people feel the need to be so rude and condescending to young moms. Most of the time they are literally doing everything they can, with mounting anxiety, to make it better and keep their child happy.
The people that I see giving me or other moms those awful looks are almost always women of child bearing age. Why do we have to do this to each other? Would it seriously be so hard to either not make any look at all or smile with encouragement?
One of my favorite sayings that I always tell myself is “You never know what someone is going through, so always be kind”.
A little kindness goes a long way. It can literally change someone’s entire day. It can set the tone for a difficult journey. It can give someone hope for the future.
Can you imagine that? Something so small that literally takes zero effort on our parts, can mean so much to someone else. So why wouldn’t you?
The next time you see someone struggling, whether it be a mom or just a person who looks a little down, offer some encouragement. It could just be a smile, a kind word, or a greeting. You never know who’s day you might turn around or what impact that will have, regardless of how small.
Best part: it makes you feel better too. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: joy is contagious. When you are spreading happiness or doing something kind, it makes you feel happy too. So go spread the joy my friends.