When Maya Vorderstrasse’s first child was six months old, the mum was unable to continue breastfeeding her. She was crushed, until she realised her bond with her child could be just as strong if she used a different feeding method.
On Saturday 23 September, Vorderstrasse posted a gorgeous photo on Instagram that shows her simultaneously breastfeeding her almost two-month-old daughter, Hazel, and formula feeding her 13-month-old daughter, Zoey.
In the caption, she wrote that she became pregnant with Hazel when Zoey was two months old, and by the time Zoey hit six months, Vorderstrasse’s breast milk had dried up. Initially, she was heartbroken, but then she had an important realisation.
“I felt my heart shatter, and the guilt consumed me,” she wrote.
“We had to start bottle feeding and I thought our bond would disappear and that she would think I was not providing for her, until it hit me: nothing had changed.
“It was still our time, she’d still grab my hair and smile at me with her eyes. She was so happy. Fed. Loved.”
Vorderstrasse, who went viral in August for her funny pregnancy letter boards, told HuffPost she’s been giving formula to her oldest for about seven months. She began breastfeeding her youngest daughter after she was born and is still doing so.
The mum-of-two said though no one ever commented on the way she fed her child, she still used to feel ashamed whenever she mixed a bottle for her in public.
“It hasn’t happened to me directly, but my guilt and shame every time I was in public and had to mix a bottle were real,” she told HuffPost.
“I always tried to hide it, and thought that people would judge me for it.”
But now, she’s become confident that she’s no less of a mum for turning to formula when breastfeeding became a struggle.
“Feeding them is beautiful,” she wrote in her post. “Providing for them, seeing them gain weight, grow and smile and be milk drunk makes my heart jump in happiness.”
When asked if she had advice for other mums who might feel inferior for choosing to formula feed, Vorderstrasse stressed that feeding ― whether with breast milk or formula ― is “an act of love.”
“They’ll always admire, love and bond with you no matter how you choose to feed them,” she told HuffPost.
“Strangers don’t know your story and have no say on how you choose to parent and care for your child. Motherhood is wonderful and challenging as it is, so put aside the pressure and guilt and simply do your best to love and care for them.”
This article originally appeared on the US edition of HuffPost.