We welcomed our fifth baby to our family this past summer so you could say that I am well-versed in the newborn days. With our first son, I was so nervous about if I was "doing it right." I worried about when I should be nursing him and for how long the sessions should be and it always felt like I somehow was falling short, like there was a standard of motherhood that I wasn't living up to. I remember when he was having a hard time sleeping and I had anxiety over whether or not to put cereal in his bottle; I tried so hard to do everything "correctly." In the end, I nursed him until he was almost 6 months old before we switched to bottles and formula and even some solid foods. He lead this early weaning and I didn't fight it. Honestly, I was glad to have breastfeeding behind us and get in to feeding I could measure more easily.
When our twins came home, I once again struggled with nursing. Our twins couldn't latch and I spent hours crying with the breast pump or struggling through emotionally charged nursing sessions where I felt like a failure twice over. I would try nursing one baby and then have to go through the same thing with the next baby. I made it through 2 months breastfeeding this way before we switched to bottles. I was much happier and could care for our 2-year old and newborn twins better, but the decision was wracked with guilt. I felt like I could have done better. On top of that formula for twins was expensive. Unlike the first time I nursed, there was a growing "normalize breastfeeding" movement and my newsfeeds were flooded with success tales of breastfeeding multiples and how it was worth the effort. It didn't help that one of the common questions from strangers when I went out with our twins was, "Do you breastfeed them?" When I said no, I would often hear back, "Omigosh, I wouldn't breastfeed multiples either!" I did not often follow up with, "I tried." Trying didn't seem to count for much.
With our fourth son, breastfeeding came a bit easier. He latched well and-- with 3 busy older siblings-- I enjoyed the ease and freedom of nursing. I didn't have to load down a diaper bag with bottles and formula for an outing or worry about where I could find room temperature water-- not too hot, not too cold, but at the exact temperature the baby would take the bottle. Unlike nursing our first son, I heard a lot of comments this time around while nursing in public, such as, "It's so good you breastfeed him." I think the comments were largely due to the breastfeeding movement. I appreciated the encouragement and the nursing support, but it also made me feel even guiltier about my previous breastfeeding experiences. I often felt like I needed to confess how nursing hasn't always come easily. I breastfed our fourth son until he was over a year old and by the time I weaned him, I was ready to have nursing behind us. As easy and convenient I found nursing, I was also ready to have my body back. My husband is in the Navy and we had recently moved across country. I felt exhausted unpacking our household, managing our children's feelings regarding the move, and settling in to our new community. After I got the children to bed for the night, I wanted some quiet moments to myself, not to start a nursing session.
I was asked a lot while pregnant with our fifth child if I was going to be breastfeeding or bottle feeding. I like breastfeeding because it is better for our budget and not having to worry about packing bottles or how much formula I will need for each outing is convenient when leaving home with 5 children. However, I wasn't sure what my breastfeeding journey with her would look like and I was nervous about all the emotions surrounding breastfeeding. Once she was born, I surprisingly found it easy to let the negative feelings go. After all the ups and downs of the pregnancy (it was a rough pregnancy) and the awareness that this is our last baby, my attitude changed. Just like each pregnancy, every breastfeeding experience is different. Not just mom to mom, but child to child. My breastfeeding experience with each one of our five children was different-- including our twins and how each one of them nursed. Instead of shame or guilt for "only" breastfeeding each child for however long I nursed them, I realized that my breastfeeding journey has been a labor of love.
I've found myself looking back through old pictures as our fifth and last baby has grown-- comparing the noses on each one of our babies to hers or looking at our children in well-loved hand-me-downs that we no longer need to hold on to. One of the pictures that made me laugh out loud was a picture of my husband washing a sink full of bottles for our twins. They went through a can of formula in one day! It was unbelievable. A picture that brought happy tears to my eyes was my grandmother feeding our oldest pureed peas; my son was her first great-grandchild. He would pull such funny faces eating foods he didn't care for. To this day he pokes at the peas on his plate, though overall he is our most adventurous eater. With our across country move during our fourth's son first year, I delayed starting finger foods since I didn't want to add anything else to my already busy day. When we finally sat him down in the high chair to start finger foods, he was eager to try everything. Our new house has an amazing bakery just down the road and, of course, my husband and his 3 older brothers felt a ginormous donut would be a great starter food for a one-year old.
As siblings close in age (including a set of identical twins), there is much our children have in common. Often they wear the same clothes. They share the same toys. They have many of the same friends. But they are individuals and when I move past the ways they look the same or act the same, I can see that each of them have different rhythms, thoughts, interests. They are actually very unique and learning their different quirks has been one of my favorite parts of parenting, from their mannerisms to their speech cadence to their sleep cycles. Looking through the old pictures and thinking of each breastfeeding journey as something unique to that child-- not an unrelenting standard of measure-- I have been able to accept my own feelings regarding breastfeeding, to give myself grace, the same grace that I so easily give to my friends and sister for their breastfeeding journeys.
What I have appreciated along the way is support from companies like the Honest Company. With their high level of standards, they make it easy for first time moms or fifth time moms to make the right choice when it comes to feeding newborns. They understand that the right choice is the choice that is best for baby and offer products to make feeding time-- no matter how I choose to feed my baby-- easy and enjoyable with products I can trust. Because I trust them when feeding my newborn, I find it easy to trust them with bathing and diapering and more. It has been easy to incorporate the Honest Company in to our family routine. With all of the other hard to make decisions that come from feeding a newborn, I know that I don't have to stress about our Honest Company products.