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I didn’t expect to have this reaction to 20 pounds of frozen breast milk but I was hit hard. Seeing these full bags of unused breastmilk made me briefly question whether or not I should have stuck it out and continued to make myself nurse my son. Should I have ignored my mental health to give him what everyone says is best?
You can't go into a doctors or midwives office with posters and pamphlets procaiming the magic fruit of the breast. You can't go on the social media without seeing a mom so lovingly feeding her baby topless in the desert. Sure, the messages and images of breastfeeding are beautiful and there is no greater bond that one between mother and child. But is there too much pressure coming from a medical and social standpoint to breastfeed when may not best all women.
There is no shortage of self-doubt in motherhood. All any woman wants is what's best for her baby. I know I do. That's why I forced myself to breastfeed my first 2 children. I had become a milking machine and human soother. My body was not my own and there were no boundries to be set. I was a mother of a baby and it was my duty to give all of myself to my children.
Breastfeeding was never positive for me. I never had an issue with latching or supply. If anything, my issues were with over supply and making my newborn babies projectile vomit, violently. Then they'd cry in discomfort for months on end, sending me down the darkest path a mother can go down. I was depressed, angry, and hating my life.
Seeing both babies suffer through what was supposed to be the best thing I could do for them was confusing and heart breaking. I was making them ill and so uncomfortable, they'd cry day and night. And that was best? No wonder women are feeling isolated and divided when it comes to feeding their babies.
Breastfeeding clinics are great if you want to continue to breastfeed. They're set up in a way to support healthy breastfeeding relationships but you never see or hear women seeking out support for bottle feeding. There isn't as many options for women who what (or need) to exclusively bottle or formula feed in person, but there are great online resources like Fed Is Best andDon't Judge Just Feed.
Don't get me wrong, I like what breastfeeding clinics and breastfeeding support groups offer. Breastfeeding can be a rough go for moms. And if it's something they really want for themselves and their babies, it's wonderful to feel included and encouraged. Trust me, there is a lot of love and magic that takes place in breastfeeding clinics and support groups.
But women who bottle feed or formula feed don't have that same support or inclusion. In my experience, I was questioned and pittied. I made the best choice my my son and myself, I don't need pitty. I need support, too.
I had stuck with breastfeeding with my first 2 children. The intense pressure coming from every single direction made it harder to feel like I was bonding with my them. I felt trapped by them. Mind, body, and spirit. It was hard to cope with the sense of loss, I felt.
I was (and still am) happy to make sacrifices for my children. I'm a mom first. But at what cost? I wish I had a good answer for you.
I had initially planned to breast feed my baby and it went well for the first few days. It wasn’t until I was back in the hospital at 4 days postpartum that things turned for the worst. To read more about my trip to the hospital after a day of being discharged, click here. It was one of my biggest deciding factors when I chose to formula feed my son.
I was put on Percocet to relieve the pain I was in and spent a week pumping and dumping 24/7 because I didn’t want to risk the meds affecting my son.
When the meds wore off, I was thrilled to breastfeed him again. He latched on like he hadn’t missed a beat and we were both doing well. This changed again when he was 4 weeks old.
He started screaming for hours and there was nothing my husband and I could do to console him. I was in a lot of pain from my belly birth and still trying to recover from the trauma that surrounded it. Being the hospital for nearly 20 hours from something easily prevented shakes me to the core.
There was one day in particular that I can’t shake. It was a Friday, a PD day for my oldest and my sweet baby cried and screamed for 11 hours straight. For weeks, this poor baby cried for hours on end and this was the worst.
Caring for 2 older children was difficult. Somehow, we managed. My husband and I took turns carrying, bouncing and swaying our new baby with the hopes he’d fall asleep. My lower back would throb in pain simply because I had no core strength and my spine needed to do all the work.
This nearly broke my husband and I. The guilt of barely surviving and trying to take care of our other children and ourselves as this newborn baby screamed for comfort was too much to handle.
We would yell at each other because we were emotionally and physically exhausted. We lost our connection as a couple and as a team. We were miserable and couldn’t even be in the same room with one another. There were times were we didn’t speak.
I had enough. I was tired and non functional. I was a shell of a women who couldn’t hold myself together anymore. Knowing I couldn’t continue going on like this, I decided to try formula. I felt like there were no other options. My son was 7 weeks old.
Admittenly, I felt lost. I didn't know if this was the right call. I didn't talk to anyone about this because I didn't want the outside noise. I needed figue this on my own.
Over the next few days, we started to notice a difference. He wasn’t crying nearly as much. At 8 weeks, the crying was no longer every single night. Thank heavens because it was Christmas time. Our hearts broke thinking about how this was going to turn out for our other kids. We wanted to give them a good holiday but too drained emotionally to get it all together.
My other two children were colicky and I didn’t cope well. I became depressed and anxious with both and knew I couldn’t sink that deep again
I had continued to pump and saved my breastmilk for the time I was ready to start again. But the stress was too much. The anxiety left me fighting sleepless nights while feeling like I had been up all night drinking, during the day.
I tried my hardest to emotionally to begin breastfeeding again. It was something I wanted. But my anxiety got the best of me. My history of postpartum depression was too much for me to suffer through again. My sleepless nights were not an option. I was left with a very difficult decision.
I needed to take care of myself and my family. I couldn’t do that in the state I was in. I decided to continue with what was working for everyone and formula feed.
I pumped until my supply ran out. Christmas eve was the last day I pumped and the first quite night we had in months. It was the first time my baby slept peacefully. The first time my husband and I slept peacefully.
I'm looking for a place to donate the supply I still have. It’s important to me that a mom and baby who needs it can use it. I want to see what I couldn’t do for my son, be used for good and not wasted.
I cried as I posted this simple question on Facebook and I’m choking up now. But for me, this is my way of letting go. Letting go of my trauma, letting go of my anxiety, and letting go of feeling the pressure to exclusively breastfeed and failing my baby by not doing so.
There are times where breast isn’t best, and for my family and I, breast wasn’t best here. I’m not ashamed I couldn’t make breastfeeding work for me emotionally and I don’t feel like my son is suffering. He’s healthy and thriving. So am I.
This was such a trying experience. My hopes for this post is to help another mom, fighting through her feelings of guilt know she isn’t alone. Choosing your mental health over breastfeeding is hard. But if it’s what’s best in the end, you have nothing to be guilty for. You are NOT a failure.
This was not an easy decision. It was extremely hard and it took weeks to come to. I took it seriously and tried my hardest to make it work first. It didn’t work and I’m at peace with that.
It’s not to say it still isn’t hard. I go back to the “what if’s” and wonder if I should have tried harder. Maybe I should have but in that moment in time, this was (and still is) the right choice.
Whatever you decide is the best for you and your baby is the right choice. There is no shame in that.
We need feeding inclusion, not feeding exclusion.
Love your baby body,
Terrell
Are you looking to prevent or overcome a pelvic floor symptoms post-pregnancy like peeing your pants when you workout? Check out my 5 steps to preventing and overcoming pelvic floor dysfunctions with my Post-Baby Fitness Handbook. Click here for your free copy.
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Spring is in the air and with it is new fitness goals and bootcamps in the park. Although if you’re Canadian, the dream of doing anything outside without snow seems far fetched. Am I right?
So, I have a question for you. What are your fitness goals for the spring?
For many of you, you may find yourself signing up for group classes to get you moving again. After being cooped up all winter, it will be nice to finally get outside. Oh, to get outside in some sun, I mean.
But I have to bring this up before you sign up for the biggest baddest bootcamp (this includes anything geard to mom and baby too). And this is not all group training classes, coaches or trainers are created equal.
Don’t get me wrong, I love group training and what it offers people in general. At 4-months postpartum, I signed myself up at West London CrossFit here in London, Ont. Group training offers community and new friendships. It offers moms a chance to move and get out of the confines of home. And they offer a lot of fun and sometimes a little competition. Who doesn’t want that after being stuck inside after a looooooooong winter?
Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t offer mom and baby or stroller bootcamps. They’re not my thing. I’m not saying they’re a not great training option, many are. I’m more than happy to refer you to some trusted ones if that’s what you’re looking for.
But here is where I get concerned. I see these massive groups of women sprinting, jumping, and doing traditional ab training like crunching for days. Some are pushing strollers and some have their babies strapped to them (wearing your baby as you workout is a safety issue in my opinion).
I've seen many moms who clearly haven't had their alighment addressed who are performing various movements with less than ideal form. This leads me to believe that these moms haven't learned the strategies that prepare for them for the very movements they're being coached. They are just running through the motions.
My other concern is how many programs that are geard to women who have recently given birth is their messaging. "Do my super awesome program and get your pre-baby body back" or "how I got my body back and you can too" is just plain awful. It can take up to a year (if not longer) for a mom to completely recover from childbirth. And putting the pressure of weight-loss or body transformation in the most vulnerable time in her life is an ugly practice. Setting up restrictive meal plans and having a new mom record everything she eats into a food log is far from helpful. The first year postpartum isn't the time for restriction and being forced back into shape. Just sayin'.
I’ve been working exclusively with women since the beginning of my career nearly a decade ago as well as working with prenatal and postnatal women for 4 years. Many women I’ve worked with have mentioned they participated in these programs because they assumed they were safe. After all, who wouldn’t assume that a fitness program that has “stroller” or “mom and baby” in it’s same wouldn’t be safe?
I know I did when my first baby was born 6-years ago.I know I did when I was cleared for exercise at 6-weeks postpartum.I know I did when I was told I could return to my regular fitness program.I know I did when I had no idea about incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or diastasis recti (aka abdominal separation).I know I did when I was a certified personal trainer working with the general population.
Mommy bootcamps are marketed to all moms. Moms who just got cleared at 6-week and moms who have been postpartum for a year or more. They are even marketed to moms without being aware how a c-section and a non complicated vaginal delivery heal differently.
And it doesn’t matter how fit you were before pregnancy, your body still needs rest, recovery, and rehab. All postpartum women need to begin a program that supports the recovery process including, alignment, breathing, as well as
Once all of these things are in a good place, then you can include strength and impact like running, jumping, and yes--even crunching.
In my personal journey and coaching experience, getting your ass kicked is never a good healing strategy, especially within the first year postpartum. With sleep being subpar at best, inconsistent energy levels, and the general stress of life with a baby, you may find your body copes with this impact differently (totally normal during this chapter). This may even leave you feeling discouraged.
In the video above, I'm 4-months postpartum and
these are my very first box jumps!
As I mentioned earlier, I signed up at West London CrossFit at 4-months postpartum. Before I felt comfortable enough to reintroduce that level of impact into my training, I made sure that I took as much time as I need to rehab using
Post-Baby Rehab, and I got assessed by a pelvic floor physiotherapist. I was all good to go.
Now, I’m going full force either. Before going straight into the classes, I worked with one of their coaches, Shoko (her athleticism is inspiring!) for a couple sessions. It was important to see how my body was able to function so I don’t break myself!
Once I entered the general population (hehehehe), I made sure to chat with Lacey (another great coach who has really has my back!), to let her know exactly where I was at. She gives scaled options (and sometimes I scale back even more to make the movements manageable and functional for me.) and she comes by to check on me and cues me when I need it. I have never felt pushed to do anything that’s beyond my capabilities or out of my comfort zone. Doesn’t mean I’m not challenged. Oh, because I am. But I’m also aware of my body’s limitations and where I am in the healing process.
After having a baby, it’s important to pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If something doesn’t feel right, you may need to make adjustments or the program you’re in may not be the right fit (for now).
I am jumping and running with absolute confidence! I may be a little on the slow side, but this is my body today.
You can have that too.
If you’re a new or mom within the first year postpartum and ready to get back into a high impact fitness program or sport, I am relaunching my group postpartum strength and conditioning program of it’s kind here in London, Ont. Date, location and other details to come. Also be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for my upcoming workshops for moms of all ages and stages in their training.
Not local to London Ont, I have you covered. Come on over and check out my Online Coaching.
I look forward to seeing you this Spring,
Terrell
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