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Tonilyn Hornung is an author and freelance writer who lives with her husband, son, many furry friends, and never enough closet space.
When you follow Hannah Bronfman on Instagram, you see a woman revealing her deepest personal moments. Hannah not only shares her beliefs and best recipes, but she also took us inside her raw and honest pregnancy journey. We watched her fearlessly go through the emotional ups and downs of IVF. We did a happy dance when she announced her pregnancy, and then, seriously, how much did we love seeing pics of her beautiful baby boy? (The answer is: a lot.)
Well, this entrepreneur, activist, wellness enthusiast and influencer is influencing the conversation yet again. As a direct result of all the pressure placed on her as a woman to exclusively breastfeed, Hannah is looking to change the wording around feeding journeys entirely. She says, “I think that the question really should be, ‘How’s your feeding journey going?’ versus how is your breastfeeding journey going. Even that one word can bring so much emotional baggage to the surface that you might not be prepared for it because every journey is so different.” Hannah hopes that sharing her story will relieve the guilt other parents might feel while navigating their own feeding path—so get ready to click “love” as Hannah tells her story.
Hannah Bronfman’s road to motherhood
Hannah’s road to motherhood had more twists and turns than she expected (like most of us). She and her husband, Brendan Fallis, tried to get pregnant for close to seven months. When that didn’t work, the couple changed direction and decided to visit a fertility specialist. They ended up trying a few treatments but she still wasn’t getting pregnant.
Hannah reveals, “Then I did finally get pregnant, but I had a miscarriage.”
Miscarriage and fertility treatment
Through the loss of a miscarriage, Hannah courageously continued with her fertility treatments—but there wasn’t a positive pregnancy test happening. That’s when she and Brendan changed direction again and decided to try IVF. In vitro fertilization is a series of procedures that help with fertility. Finally, Hannah announced, “I found out I was pregnant on March 5th, 2020…” Of course, this all went down a week before the country went into lockdown due to the Covid pandemic.
IVF is a difficult journey to pregnancy
Hannah says her journey to becoming pregnant was hard, “When I think about what we actually endured, what we went through, and how it affected us and our community, it was definitely a journey we didn’t anticipate,” she says. Hannah was able to find gratitude on her way to getting pregnant. She’s so very thankful for her amazing partner who was her rock through the whole process and feels so fortunate to be able to share her IVF experience with others. “We all know that IVF can be one of those things, or any type of fertility treatments, or the road to parenthood, can be really sad and lonely and isolating,” she says.
Pregnancy can kick those planning instincts into overdrive, but Hannah tried to be flexible in her approach—to not to put any tough expectations on herself. She says, “Giving birth in the height of COVID, I just felt like whatever my plan was going to be, I had to be open to a situation changing or moving…” The only real expectation she had was to exclusively breastfeed her newborn for 6 months.
Six month breastfeeding goal
Hannah’s son, Preston Miles Thomas Fallis, was born on November 20, 2020, and Hannah remembers Preston latched immediately. Breastfeeding was off to a good start, although she wasn’t totally sure how breastfeeding for 6 months became the ultimate motherhood goal. “I think, first of all, media tells you 6 months at least for exclusive breastfeeding. And I work in wellness, so in my mind, I also was like, ‘I definitely want to embrace the breastfeeding journey and go as long as possible,’” she says. Then Hannah’s journey took yet another unexpected turn when her breastfeeding plan ended before 6-months.
The pressure to breastfeed
Hannah says pressure for her to exclusively breastfeed came from everywhere, “…from my friends, from my family, from the media…I think on social media, you do see this spectrum of the versatility in feeding your children, but that is also met with so many judgments and criticisms,” Hannah explains. Really, the only breastfeeding prep Hannah had was a small chat group and she didn’t even own a breast pump when she started. After speaking with a friend who was pumping her own breastmilk and freezing it, Hannah realized she wanted to do this, too. “I wanted that insurance policy,” she says. Her breastmilk supply was robust and she was feeling good—until Hannah’s lactation consultant told her Preston had reflux.
Infant reflux and breastfeeding
The Mayo Clinic says, “Infant reflux, when a baby spits up, occurs when food moves back up from a baby’s stomach. Reflux occurs in healthy infants multiple times a day.” That’s when Hannah was instructed to bring her milk supply down to help Preston’s reflux. She says, “…essentially a full boob, like mine, was like a fire hose in his mouth.”
Fast forward to a couple of months later when Hannah’s milk supply is dropping and Preston needs to be topped off with a bottle to be fully fed. Not only that, but he’s preferring a bottle because it feels less intense to his throat. “Well, I guess now I need to start pumping like crazy to get my supply back up,” Hannah begins, “and after pumping like crazy for two weeks with no real increase, I was like, I can’t do this anymore. Honestly, I was miserable.”
Changing from breastfeeding to formula feeding
Then the signs were unmistakable. Her son didn’t enjoy his time breastfeeding. “He’s uncomfortable. He doesn’t want to do this. And I just felt like, okay, I have to respect what he wants. At this point, I’m holding onto this for me,” she says. Pivoting from breastfeeding to using formula wasn’t a smooth emotional transition either. She remembers one of the first conversations she had with her husband: “I mean, there was a moment where my husband could see the frustration and he was like, “Why don’t we just try?”
And I was like, “If you say the F word, I’m going to scream.”
It was Brendan that reassured her that if she stopped breastfeeding and pumping, it wouldn’t affect the bond she had with her son. “You don’t need to do this to yourself.” Brendan said to her. At the time, it was the opposite of what she wanted to hear. In retrospect, though, she was grateful he stepped in to offer his perspective because when she stopped, she felt relieved. Hannah believes she needed to work through the stigma attached to formula feeding because it hadn’t occurred to her that her son would need it. “Like I said, at first when my husband would even mention it, I’d be like, absolutely not,” she says. “Then I realized my (breast milk) supply’s running low. This boy is taking down ounces, and I needed to make a decision on what formula to use,” she says.
Finding the best baby formula
It was when Hannah found Bobbie baby formula that she knew was on the right road. She felt extremely comfortable with her choice and Bobbie’s organic formula ingredients. “More importantly,” she begins, “their message is what resonated most with me.” It was the whole philosophy that spoke to her and she explains, “They’re really supporting moms in every aspect of why it might not work to breastfeed, and that there’s no shame and there shouldn’t be any guilt around that…”
Breastfeeding for working moms
Bobbie’s message talks about encouraging parents “in a world where flexibility & compassion co-exist with efficiency & ambition.” Hannah is looking for this support for herself and for others in a society that historically doesn’t support the working mama. She says, “So, I think that there’s this inherent friction with corporate America saying, you’ve got to breastfeed for 35 hours a week exclusively until the kid’s six months, but we’re also not going to give you paid leave for maternity, so figure it out.”
This is why Hannah is ready to positively shift the way we talk about feeding our children. Hannah says, “I think evolving the conversation forward really also has to come from all angles- from the moms, from the husbands, from the employers, from the doctors, from the government.” And that’s being a good influence.
Hannah Bronfman is partnering with the Mama Glow Foundation to help families in need of formula.
Hannah is part of the Bobbie formula feeding campaign ‘How’s Breastfeeding Going’ along with new dad Tan France. Her goal is to help #shakethestigma on formula feeding. Join her and Bobbie on this mission by visiting howisfeedinggoing.com.