Mommy guilt is not a myth. It's real, and it plagues conscientious mothers everywhere. This week it has reared its ugly head in our home.
As I've mentioned before, my children will not nurse, so I pump several times a day to ensure that they get the best nutrition possible. Over the past few weeks, the twins' consumption has caught up to and sometimes surpassed my production. I found myself dipping into our frozen supply occassionally and feared that the end of exclusive breast milk was near.
On Tuesday we had our two-month check-up, and I discussed this situation with their pediatrician. Her recommendation? Begin supplementing with formula once a day now so that 1) their eventual transition to formula will be gradual and 2) we can stretch my breast milk out as long as possible so that the babies are still receiving primarily breast milk for many more weeks/months. So on Wednesday, their 10 week birthday, I prepared my first formula. For their goodnight bottle, each twin received 2 ounces of formula mixed with their milk. As I poured the powder in, I stood in my kitchen and cried. I had failed.
The crazy thing is that I have never been that obsessed with breastfeeding. Yes, I believe that breast milk is best, but I also know that children thrive on formula as well. Before the twins were born, I had taken it as a given that we would supplement their diet with formula. So why all the tears this week? Why the agony over beginning to replace approximately 1/12th of their diet with formula? Mommy guilt. An ugly, unwelcome visitor.
What I find ugliest about mommy guilt is that, too often, it is brought about and perpetuated by other mommies. Women have a natural tendency to compete, and nowhere is this more apparent than in child-rearing. Moms who chose natural labor scoff at moms who opted for pain medication. Moms who breastfed well past the recommended one-year are quick to tell their story, while moms for whom nursing didn't work out shyly linger in the corner. Moms whose children sat/walked/talked early boast of their little one's accomplishments, while moms who are worried that their sweet child might be a bit behind stay quiet. Moms who stay at home make working moms feel guilty; working moms make stay-at-home moms feel like they must prove their worth. Our best support network is unfortunately too often the source of our anxiety.
For the immediate future I will continue to pump as often as possible, but also continue to give the twins some formula each day. I will work through my formula guilt, supported by the women who have sweetly and honestly shared their own formula stories with me.