As I imagine is the case with most new mothers, the first months of Bubba’s life were all about survival. It only took a few sleepless nights for me to abandon virtually all of my preconceived notions about parenting and to start making decisions based on only two factors: will my kid survive, and, presuming so, is it the easiest possible option available. Sure, I had assumed that I’d breastfeed with ease and that baby would sleep in his crib and wear cute outfits and I’d probably shower from time to time or something, but within weeks I had that kid sleeping with me, drinking bottles, and both his outfits and mine were perpetually covered in layers of spitup I simply could not be bothered to remedy.
The sleep deprivation hit me hard, and everything about taking care of a newborn was so much more difficult than I had ever imagined — especially breastfeeding. Prior to having Bubba, I barely gave a passing thought to what nursing would be like, so convinced was I that it would be effortless. But when he arrived and I discovered that breastfeeding required endless patience along with every last ounce of my extremely limited energy supply, and that it could be totally uncomfortable, and that the use of what amounts to a torture device just to pump milk for him while I worked would get old real fast, I quickly determined that it was more than I had bargained for. When Daddy offered to give the baby some formula at three weeks so I could get a little sleep, I agreed without a second thought, and by the time Bubba was seven weeks old the ease of formula feeding had won me over and I gave up on the boobs entirely.
Months later, once the haze of the sleepless newborn days had finally worn off and I had some time to reflect on Bubba’s infancy, I felt a twinge of regret about my decision. Was I an awful person for choosing comfort and sleep over nourishing my child? Could I have done more and tried harder? But Bubba was perfectly fine! He was happy and healthy and smart and clearly no worse for the wear, so I let that assuage my guilt and moved on.
Then I had Baby G, and with him came the opportunity to learn from the mistakes I made with Bubba and do things differently. I decided to give breastfeeding another try, and as it turns out, everything is easier the second time around! My body is already used to reduced sleep, and just knowing what to expect makes a world of difference. To my great surprise, the breastfeeding experience this time around has been a breeze — Baby G is a champion eater, my milk supply is stellar, and other than a couple of clogged ducts (TMI? Gross) things really couldn’t be going any smoother.
And I feel so, so terrible about it.
Not for Baby G, of course. No, I feel horribly guilty that I couldn’t do it for dear Bubba! I was okay with my decision for three years, but now that I’ve had success with Baby G, I am plagued with guilt and regret and am kicking myself daily for not having had just a little bit more patience with my firstborn. How could I have been so selfish?
And of course my brain doesn’t stop with just a little regret. No, I go further off the rails: what if Bubba only seems fine to me because I had nothing to compare him to? What if this kid grows up to be way smarter or more athletic and it’s totally because of the breastfeeding?! And poor Bubba is left watching his little brother thrive while he withers away due to some as of yet unknown deficiency and he never achieves his dreams and then he finds out it’s all because I let him drink FORMULA and then he HATES ME FOREVER and I can’t even blame him for hating me because it’s ALL MY FAULT?!
On the other hand, I’m surely ruining this baby’s life by never being able to offer him my undivided attention because his big brother is always around and by taking selfies while he nurses, so perhaps I can take comfort in the fact that both of my children will grow to hate me in due time.