As most of you know, I am a mom. I have an 18 month old daughter and learning how to navigate motherhood was a rollercoaster. There are a million articles on the best way to raise your baby. The reality of the situation is that you will learn what works for you as you go and literally no article in the world- including this one- will be able to give you a road map of the best way to raise a child. In fact, I have changed the way I’ve cared for my daughter repeatedly since she was born.
When Maddie was born 5 weeks early, she was bottle fed. I tried to breastfeed but she was too little and couldn’t latch properly. In the NICU, they gave her formula to increase her birth weight along with the small amount of milk I was able to pump. Once my milk came in, I pumped nearly exclusively until she was about 8 weeks old. When she was 8 weeks, she figured out how to latch. I still bottle fed her for the majority of her meals because she never got enough milk from me on her own, but I breastfed her for her nightly feedings since I could pull her into bed and nurse her while we both fell asleep. That’s right- she slept on her own from the beginning and slept in her crib at 3 months, but she would co-sleep with us the nights she woke up and needed to nurse.
I pumped almost exclusively until she was 6 months old. Once she turned 6 months, we started to integrate formula into her diet. Why? Because, frankly, I was tired of pumping. Maybe that sounds selfish, but I was becoming unhappy and stressed out because of my diminishing milk supply. I couldn’t be the best mom I could be if I was stressed, so I stopped pumping. We used up the milk I had stored up, I slowly stopped pulling her into bed for night feedings, and, at around 7 months, Maddie became exclusively formula fed.
She had been eating purees from the time she was 6 months, but it wasn’t substantial. Around one year, we transitioned and started feeding her more real food and less formula. She still took formula at night before bed, though. Around the time she was 15 months, we removed formula completely and started giving her milk before bed instead. We still do this, every night.
At her most recent well visit, she was measuring right on track in all areas. She is a healthy, active toddler.
So why am I telling you all of this? I’m telling you this to show you that you don’t have just pick one way of doing things to raise a thriving child. The only things I DIDN’T experiment with were cloth diapers and not vaccinating (vaccinate your kids, friends!). I have a group of mom friends and we all have raised our kids differently, but they’re all thriving and healthy. In fact, two of our biggest kiddos were fed totally different ways. One was (and still is) breastfed while the other was formula fed. One of the women has two boys who were fed totally different ways but, developmentally, they are almost identical.
At the end of the day, there are two things that absolutely need to happen, and that’s it:
- Make sure your baby is taken care of. Regardless of how your baby is fed or how your baby sleeps, just make sure your baby is fed, make sure diapers are changed, make sure they’re up to date on their check-ups, and make sure they are healthy and thriving.
- Make sure you are taken care of. YOU deserve to be taken care of as well. You are the best mother when you are happy. If that means that you decide to formula feed because breastfeeding is too stressful, then do that. If you need to co-sleep to get some sleep, do that. If you need to kick your baby out of your bed to get some sleep, do that. If you do one thing for 3 months and then need to change it up in order to be productive and happy, do that. Just make sure that you take care of yourself as much as you take care of your child.
That’s it. And if someone shames you or tells you you’re doing it wrong, ignore it. You’re doing the best that you can and that’s the only things that matters.