When I got pregnant with Lizzy, I knew I wanted to breastfeed for the first year. I had no illusions that it would be easy, but I figured that it would definitely be do-able. Just to be clear here, I don't actually think that breastfeeding is best for every family and every situation, but I had read a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding, and it was something that I wanted desperately for us and for our family.
As it turned out, breastfeeding was much harder than I expected. I can honestly say that I didn't ever enjoy a single nursing session like I've heard a lot of other moms talk about. Lizzy was a super active baby (she was walking around 9 months), and it was hard to keep her focused for a whole nursing session. Every single session was a battle, and I ended up in tears more often than not. She was very small, and I'm so thankful that we had a pediatrician who never pressured me to supplement with formula--I have no doubt that many others would have recommended just that for a baby who was in the 5th percentile. It seems crazy to say that through it all, as much as I hated it, I still wanted desperately to breastfeed.
When Lizzy was around 9 months old, she just stopped nursing. If it was a nursing strike, it was sure as heck the longest one I ever heard of, because I never actually got her to start again. We had introduced solids and she was eating quite a bit of them at that point, but we did end up having to supplement with formula...which was something that I never really imagined we'd have to do. And I was super irritated because I had set a goal of breastfeeding until Lizzy was 12 months old, I didn't accomplish that goal, and there was nothing that I could do about it. And consequently, I had a pretty hard time mentally and emotionally--being upset that I wasn't breastfeeding, being disappointed in myself for not being able to do it longer, being irritated with Lizzy that she couldn't just nurse like a "normal" kid, and being mad at myself for being somewhat relieved when we finally made the decision to switch to formula.
(Edited to note: Reading info like the above sign from Pinterest were both the reason that I wanted to breastfeed so badly AND the reason that I felt so terrible about not making it to the goal that I had set to exclusively BF for 12 months based on the recommendations of the AAP and WHO. I feel conflicted about the sign now, because while I think it gives some great statistics about breastfeeding and its benefits, I also feel like it unnecessarily bashes moms who choose to formula feed, and I think there's a better approach, which I'll get to later on in this post.)
During the whole breastfeeding experience with Lizzy, I never had a "nice" pump. I had a crappy one-sided electric that took FOREVER to pump with, and it was terrible. In retrospect, I think having a Medela or Ameda quality pump would have made a huge difference for me--heck, I think I probably would have been able to give her pumped milk instead of formula once she started refusing to nurse. But at the time, for our family, spending $200 or $300 on a breast pump was about as feasible as going to the moon.
I did some research then, and I've done some more this time around since I hope to be able to breastfeed #2 as well, and what I've found is that most advocates of breastfeeding will tell you that many moms need more support in order to breastfeed exclusively. I've been told that in Oregon, 91% of mothers initially breastfeed. But by 6 months, only 62% have continued (source). I've heard stories from many friends who said that they breastfed until they returned to work, and after that point, they just didn't have a pump that made it possible to pump enough milk in the time they were allowed.
The problem is that if you can't afford a $200 or $300 pump, you're often out of luck. Some insurances cover pumps, though at least mine doesn't actually reimburse you for a pump, just applies whatever you've spent towards your deductible (and since our deductible is $5,000, that's kind of worthless to us). Our local hospital doesn't offer rentals--the WIC office does, but they only have a couple, and priority goes to moms who are on WIC and working full-time. So what I see locally is that moms who can't afford to buy a pump often use a second-hand one from a friend or relative, which is not recommended at all and comes with its own set of risks and dangers.
I keep hearing from state health departments, the AAP, WHO, and the CDC that they want to promote breastfeeding...but if that's really the case, then it seems to me that instead of spending time and money trying to convince moms who decide to formula feed that they're making a bad decision, maybe a better place to start would be in offering better support to those women who do wish to breastfeed. One of the many ways to do that would be by offering all women better access to breast pumps at a more affordable price point.
I've done a lot of Googling--I figured there HAD to be a non-profit out there somewhere that provided women with breast pumps or grants for women to purchase pumps...but I can't really find one. So some day, I think I'd like to start one. Though, after some initial-research into what it takes to start a non-profit, funding sources required, etc-- that would be a God-sized dream for sure.
But that's not to say it's not possible :)