I Can Breastfeed, But I Won't

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Strange title for an article written for entrepreneurs, isn’t it? May seem strange, but it is oh, oh, so relevant for some of us ladies.

I am now the proud owner and growth facilitator of four tiny humans. You read that correctly: I have four kids. But I’m also a small business owner, and that’s a huge part of who I am as a person, as a woman. As my third trimester was coming to a close in this last pregnancy, I found myself thinking seriously about how having a baby at this stage in my career would affect all the progress I had been working toward for over a year and a half. Having a newborn resets the clock in so many ways, and there was no question that it was going to set me back in business.

An infant at home meant my free afternoons for networking were gone. Working a full day through would be impossible. Waking up at 5am to start working before the kids got up for school and daycare? Not likely.

All of my usual habits were going to go by the wayside. So what could I do to make sure that I didn’t lose steam in the business I had worked so hard to build? I thought back to the most trying times from the first days of my previous three babes, and the answer was clear: breastfeeding.

Looking back

I had never really wanted to breastfeed. With my first child, my husband had done tons of research and was spouting all the benefits breastfeeding would have for our son. He begged me to at least try it; I agreed. I lasted three weeks before I just couldn’t take the pain of it anymore.

With my second and third children, breastfeeding was still tough, but I was able to manage it much better and lasted 6 and 7 months respectively. Both of my girls could have breastfed for longer, but I was dying to have my body back. I didn’t hate the experience, but I certainly didn’t love it like a lot of women do.

Making a decision

I decided early on in this last pregnancy that I would do what I wanted this time; and what I wanted to do was to continue pursuing my passion as unhindered as possible. When my midwife asked me about my plans to breastfeed, I told her point blank that I wouldn’t be doing it this time. I explained to her that it was physically exhausting, painful, and took hours out of my day. Not only did I want to get back to work quickly, but I had three other kids at home that I wanted to lavish with attention as much as I could.

She was silent in thought for a moment. Then she said, “Ok. You’ve clearly thought this through and are making the best choice for yourself. That’s important, because you’ve got to take care of yourself first and foremost.”

And that was the end of it.

My wellbeing and desires matter, too

The midwife went on to tell me to be prepared to defend my decision not to breastfeed as breastfeeding has become more mainstream in recent years and not everyone would be so nice about my decision. It was true.

After giving birth, every nurse and faculty member that checked in on me made the assumption I was breastfeeding. At my daughter’s first pediatrician appointment, the doctor flat out asked me to explain why I didn’t want to breastfeed.

The absolute honest truth is that it’s nobody’s damn business why I’m choosing not to breastfeed this kid. She’s well fed, constantly cuddled, and as loved as she could possibly be. I’m not breastfeeding because I’ve always chosen to make my kids a priority. I still do. However, it’s not my only priority. At this point in my life, I’m choosing myself.

This doesn’t mean my children aren’t the most important thing in my life. It doesn’t mean that I’m putting my career above my family. It simply means that while I may not be able to “have it all”, I’m going to do my very best to create balance among the things I love, and that includes this business I’ve worked so hard to build.

My baby drinks her bottle in a quick ten minutes instead of 40 minutes in a way that’s pain-free and unobtrusive for me. Then she spends the rest of her day snuggled on my chest while I conduct client calls or cozy in my lap while I work at my computer. She even joins me for the occasional networking lunch.

I’ve come a long way since I bore my first child at the age of 22. I don’t think I ever had envisioned myself as an entrepreneur—maybe not even until a few months after I took the leap—but it certainly has become an important part of who I am…. And I really like that person. So instead of going back to square one, I’ve decided that I’m going to conduct a bit of a juggling act so I can keep moving forward. (And juggling is much easier when you don’t try to do it while balancing on a ball and lighting yourself on fire.)

Plus, now my husband can help with late night feedings! Seriously, I don’t know why I didn’t consider formula feeding sooner.