|Maya’s first feeding at Lenox Hill Hospital. 3/2/12.|
I wanted to dive right into this week’s topic of discussion, which seems to be a recurring hot button issue for most moms- the battle (should we even call it that?) between breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Every parenting magazine, blog, site, handbook, Facebook post I come across, has some article, some picture, or some op-ed about how women choose to feed their baby. Some are judgey whether you bottle or breastfeed, some are very ‘let go and live,’ and some are just moms, like you and I, sharing their personal stories with anyone who is willing to read and listen. I had several moms and moms-to-be, personally reach out to me and ask me when would I be doing a post on my blog about breastfeeding and bottle feeding. And the answer is now. It’s a story I always wanted to share and I think many moms just want to feel like they’re not alone and it doesn’t matter what feeding boat your own.
Being a mother is the hardest and most rewarding job in the world. The last thing we need is judgement from other moms about how we feed our kids. Listen, we’ve all judged. I know I have. It’s human nature to judge but it doesn’t make it right. We, as moms and as women, need to cut each other some slack and be supportive instead of alienating with judgment. However way we choose to feed our children, is a personal choice. Whether you breast feed, or pump/bottle feed, or formula feed, it doesn’t matter. There’s no right or wrong answer here and you can’t care what other people think or say about your decision. The moment you do, you have signed up for a never-ending slew of unwanted confident-thrashing opinions that have nothing to do with you as a parent. The bottom line is that you have to do what works best for you and for your family. Why do we, as moms, find ourselves struggling with the choices we make? Why do we let outside forces, society, ‘parenting experts’, tell us how they think we should be raising, feeding, clothing, our children? The only parenting expert in your family is you, and no one knows what your family needs better than you. As one friend put it, ‘we have to do lots of other things for our kids other than feed them to help them grow and develop.’
Every mom has a story and you’ll get to read a few of those after mine. I am thankful and humbled by the many responses I received from so many moms out there after I asked them to share their stories for the blog. And whether they chose to breast or formula feed, they all have a common thread- they all want to be good parents to their children. I think we can all stand behind that. It is important for me to make note, that the opinions and stories shared in this blog post, are personal ones. Negative comments or feedback are not welcomed here. So please check yourself when you click on this link. This is not a place to bash women who breastfeed or formula feed. This is a place of being able to strip down and share your stories with other moms. You’ll read all about their joys, frustrations, anxieties, excitement, annoyances, and personal growth without judgement.
This is my story and I invite you to read it. I made the decision even before pregnancy that I wanted to bottle feed. I have never once regretted my decision. I have never looked back and thought, ‘what if.’ And I have never once questioned my ability as a mother because I made the choice to bottle feed my child. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. It wasn’t for me and I never saw an issue with that. The idea of breastfeeding my child was not something that I craved. I never once felt that maternal instinct to breastfeed. I never longed for it, not even after Maya was born. On the contrary, I find it awkward and odd and even unnatural at times (though rationally I know it’s the most natural thing we are meant to do as mothers. It was just not natural to me). Many of my friends breastfeed and that’s wonderful for them because it’s what they wanted, but I never wanted that. I just never felt the need and why would I do something just because that’s what you are told you are supposed to do? Especially knowing that I wasn’t going to enjoy it based on my feelings towards it and it would ultimately take away from making any connection with my baby? Let’s not forget most of our parents bottle-fed us in the 70s and 80s and we turned out just fine. I was bottle fed and I think I’m pretty great (clearly with a healthy dose of positive self-esteem).
I had heard so many stories from other moms who had told me that the hospital would push the whole ‘breast is best’ speech on me and I said, ‘they can push all they want. They’re not the ones feeding my baby.’ And when I got to the hospital, and I was asked if I was bottle or breastfeeding, I firmly told them and that was that. I was never bothered. Not once. And I had the most positive hospital experience a new mom could ask for. I know that isn’t the case for many new moms. When I was pregnant with Maya, someone said to me, ‘Once she’s born, you’ll see. You’ll feel that connection instantly and you’ll change your mind and want to breastfeed.” That didn’t happen. In fact, my first reaction was to request the cold cabbage (the nutrients in cabbage have been known to quickly stop milk production) I had brought to the hospital so I could start applying it to my breasts to dry up my milk. Granted, I smelled like a rotten salad but it worked. I never once agreed with anyone who said that breastfeeding would be a bonding experience that couldn’t be duplicated if I bottle fed. I couldn’t have been more insulted hearing that. Not so much for me, but what about those women who DID want to breastfeed their baby but just couldn’t for whatever reason? Or those moms who willingly chose to bottle/formula feed? Does that make them any less of a mother? I think not. How do you tell these mothers that they won’t bond with their child unless they use their breast? That’s not a fair assumption to make and one that couldn’t be further from the truth. Feeding your baby is not the only way to bond. There are a million other ways to bond with your child that doesn’t involve feeding. I also rolled my eyes whenever I heard that your child won’t be as healthy unless they were breastfed. Kids get sick whether you breastfeed them or not. I know a lot of breastfed kids who are constantly sick and some who never get sick. Same goes for formula babies. That argument falls flat.
I loved feeding Maya. I loved sitting in my glider, rocking back and forth, singing to her while I fed her, and holding her in my arms forgetting about the time and anything else I had to do. It was just her and I- and for that brief time- the world stood still for us. Formula feeding Maya allowed us to put her on a schedule right away. She was a textbook baby- eating every 3.5-4 hours. She took to the bottle easily, ate generously, and slept contently, which makes for very two happy parents. Even our pediatrician applauded us for making a decision that worked for us and even mentioned how some new parents unfortunately get pressured into doing something they don’t necessarily want to do and are made to feel guilty for it. That makes me sad. Bottle feeding also helped enormously with nighttime feedings. Coco wanted to have that one-on-one feeding time with her and it was important for me that he have that. He also loved doing the night time feedings, which was a blessing for me, especially since we didn’t have any help whatsoever. It allowed me to rest and get my sleep at night without worrying. I come from the mentality of ‘a sane mommy is a happy mommy’ and because I never doubted my decision to formula feed her, my experience was nothing but positive. I also knew that formula feeding was a better fit for our lifestyle. Coco and I are parents on the go and having her on the bottle and being able to feed her on-demand wherever we were, was crucial in my decision-making.
When I speak to other moms who made the choice to give their babies formula, they always share the same sentiment- that they’re often shamed for not choosing to breastfeed and questioned about their decision. There shouldn’t be any guilt or shame with choosing to formula feed. Formula was invented for a reason and it is used in hospitals for a reason. And you don’t have to give anyone a reason as to why you chose to feed your kid formula. It’s your choice. Same goes for breastfeeding moms. Judgement exists amongst them too! How long you choose to breastfeed doesn’t make you any less of a good mom. Neither does your decision to pump or supplement. If you don’t produce enough milk, it’s not your fault. It happens. And if you decide you don’t like it, that’s fine too. And if you want to breastfeed until your kid is 4 years old, hey, go for it. More power to you. Whether you love doing it or hate doing it, it doesn’t matter either. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Ask yourselves this, mom- Is your baby healthy? Is your baby loved? Is your baby getting everything he needs from you beyond feeding? If your answer is yes, you get a gold star for being the most amazing mom. End of discussion.
Rocco will be here in just a few months, and again, I have chosen to formula feed. My personal stance on how I’ve chosen to feed my children has not wavered and I know I am doing what works best for me and for all of us as a family. I’m excited that Maya will also be able to help feed her baby brother, which will be something special for her to do until she runs out of patience (which is expected since she’s three). I’m looking forward to bonding with my little boy over some Similac, some lullabies, and good ol’ fashion cuddling!
So to all the moms and moms-to-be out there who are figuring out what’s right- tune out the outside voices, the ‘parenting experts’ and do what works best for you. There’s no guilt or shame in whatever you decide. No right or wrong. Be nice to one another- we’re all just trying to make it through each day with our sanity. Breastfeed until your heart’s content, pump the night away, or formula feed the sh#$t out of your baby! Whatever you choose, you’re still a great mom. So tell those naysayers to take their opinions and shove them.
Moms of the world unite! Read their stories…
Kelly– I chose to breastfeed for as long as possible. The feeling and emotional bond is such a beautiful experience. Although it can be exhausting at times, I wouldn’t change a thing! It truly is an incredible and an unforgettable moment shared with my child. Also the perks of saving money rather than using and spending formula also helped for the first six months. When I went back to work, I tried pumping and keeping a schedule to pump at work, but milk production was an issue and then had to eventually switch to formula, which was a very easy change as well for our son. The choice to breastfeed or not is yours. I don’t feel there is a right or wrong answer here. However, there are some great benefits as well to your child having your breast milk. But it all depends on you and what works best for you.
Jessica– Breastfeeding is something that I knew I wanted to do. My mother nursed me and my grandmother nursed her. I was determined to make it work. I went to the classes and read all the books I could get my hands on. My son was a very hungry newborn. I felt pressure from the nurses at the hospital to give him some formula to hold him over until my milk came in. I felt so guilty. I couldn’t do it myself. I asked the nurses to feed him in the nursery so I didn’t have to see it. Once my milk came in a couple days later, it was so much better. He latched like a champ and would feed very quickly. It was such a beautiful experience to see him grow, week after week, solely on what my body was providing for him. I went back to work at 3 months. I was able to pump at work for another 10 months. I did everything in the books to keep my supply up. It was demanding and exhausting at times, but for me, worth every single minute. Since nursing went so well with my son, I thought it would be the same for my daughter. I was wrong. She was a terribly, lazy eater. She had a terrible latch and would fall asleep at the breast. After a week of this, I had to go see a lactation consultant. I cried in the office, feeling like a failure. I didn’t understand how I was able to nurse my son for 13 months and now I couldn’t even do it for a couple of days. The LC was amazing and with her help we taught my daughter in just one day, that the breast was for eating. It was night and day after that! I also went back to work when she was 3 months old and pumped again for 10 months. I feel blessed that I was able to provide the perfect nutrition for my babies for so long. My husband was a very big supporter and advocate for me. Even on the bad nights, he was there, reassuring me that my body was meant to do this. I understand that breastfeeding is not for everyone, but it was the perfect choice for our family.
Christina– My first baby I breastfeed for about two and half weeks and I was just so frustrated and gave up. I ended up getting postpartum depression after it. I was so upset with myself for not trying harder. Then with the second, it went super smooth and I did it for 10 and a half months. I got an infection and mastitis but didn’t give up. I stayed home with the other two and with number three, I will be going back to work in September. I am nursing and it has been great. I am just torn because #1 I am leaving her with my mom, though wonderful, I am so sad I have to leave her but I have to do it and #2, I have so much going on with the older ones I don’t know if I will be able to handle pumping at work and all the craziness. So I am torn on which formula to choose. Should I start supplementing now etc. I know that many children are formula fed and I should not feel guilty but as a mom I have always felt it is what our bodies were made to do.
Jen– I will say it’s challenging and rewarding at the time same time. You get a sense of motherly fulfillment to see the milk your body produces feeding and sustaining your child. But it’s really a sacrifice of time and body and diet and life, especially if you’re a mom like me that likes to get up and go. Breastfeeding is supposed to be quick and convenient, but it’s not for all moms. Like me- I go to the mall and spend a lot of time in a bathroom or in a fitting room feeding my otherwise starving and screaming child. I’m dying to switch to formula in my day to day but my gut and my instinct are telling me to continue to feed him myself and wait just a little longer before introducing ‘foreign’ substance into his little body. And every night I go to sleep, is another day that I gave him the milk that’s custom made for him.
Cari– Breast is great but it wasn’t for me. My constant level of stress, guilt, anxiety, and perfectionism was going to make it all the worse an experience. I already battle with feeling like I’m doing a good enough job on my own with no family around whatsoever, that the stress of not succeeding at breastfeeding was going to be too much. Maybe others view me as selfish but in reality, I know what I gave up in order for me to be a better mom in all other aspects to my baby. And it also felt awkward for me. Him sucking on my breast was also something difficult for me to wrap my head around. So many breast moms make formula moms feel bad. Such was my experience. I’m sure it goes both ways but since I’m on the formula end, I usually see the breast moms doing the judging. Moms put so much judgement on each other when we are already doing the hardest job.
Jessie– I don’t like breastfeeding. To me, it’s awkward and extremely depressing and it is not something that felt natural to me. I don’t care if my opinions shock others, because it’s MY feeling. With my first, I breast fed for four weeks. With my second, I pumped for four weeks, and with my third, I pumped for two days. I do think that breast is best for your child; however, a sane mommy is a lot more important to me. I really don’t think we should care what other people think. At the end of the day, you have to do what works best for you and I am happy with the choices I made. We have a stronger connection because of it.
Michelle– I’m nursing for the second time around. The first time we made it 8 months and this time I’d love to make it to a year. The first time was much harder and luckily things have really fallen in to place this time. I think it’s a deeply personal decision just like many other decisions that you make as parents. Everyone’s situation is different, Nursing if you stay at home is completely different than going back to work and having to pump multiple times a day. At the end of the day you have to do what works for your family and makes you happy!
Jenny– I was a baby when I had my 1st child at the age of 20 in 1999 and things have definitely changed. I tried to breastfeed because it was “the right thing to do”. I lasted 2 weeks of what felt like torture. I quit when I was pumping one day and blood started coming out. My doctor who was a saint (may he RIP) told me “Don’t worry sweetie, she likes the bottle so stick to it.” And so I did. I felt great comfort in seeing the amount she was drinking vs. not knowing if she was actually sucking anything out. My daughter couldn’t have been any healthier. When #2 came along in 2004, I was determined not to even try breastfeeding. The nurses in the hospital gave me a real hard time about not wanting to try, to the point of tears. My husband came to my rescue and shut them up. I stuck to formula from day one and baby #2 couldn’t have been healthier. I remember my mom telling me “ustedes nunca tomaron teta y mira lo bien que estan.” A part of me felt failure because everyone was doing it and succeeding at it, while I thought it was torture. I felt like I was taking the easy way out. I respect everyone’s choice and think it should be tried at least once but it is not for everyone. Much respect and kudos to the mommies that succeed. But my kids were strong and just as healthy.
Carolina– I always knew I wanted to give breast milk probably because my sisters did so I thought that was best, but I also have so many friends and family that have struggled so much with it that I thought, ‘if it doesn’t work, I will likely give it up quickly.’ Ain’t nobody got time for that stress! Anyways, when baby girl came at 35 weeks and ended up in the NICU, the doctors really pushed me to pump because they felt breast was best for a preemie so I did. I pumped and pumped and pumped and have not stopped! When I got home from the hospital, I tried to get her to latch and it just didn’t go too well. I know a lot of people say breastfeeding takes work but I honestly wasn’t up for it. I got so angry and frustrated each time I would try to get her to latch that it became a horrible chore! So I gave up. Some say that breastfeeding is better for bonding, well with her crying and me frustrated, there was no bonding going on. After three weeks I became an ‘exclusive pumper’ and it’s been one of my best decisions! I feel that her and I are so bonded. I’m happy because I know how much she eats and I’m a control freak. She’s happy because she is full and she digests it well. I was able to sleep and let others feed her and put her on a schedule, and my mind is at ease since I’m giving her what the doctors told me I should. Pumping ain’t easy, but it’s been the best decision for me and my baby girl- 7 months going strong!
Gladys– For me, breastfeeding didn’t work. I have big boobs and for what?! If I produced three ounces of milk a day, I was lucky. I’m thankful for formula, particularly Enfamil, which I used to feed both my healthy girls.
Cheyenne– Unfortunately. I did not have a chance to breastfeed. Kenzie would not take and I didn’t produce enough to pump for her. It kills me when people talk badly about formula-fed babies! If i was able to choose, I would choose breastfeeding not only because it is natural and better, but it’s also cheaper! But I’ll tell you what- my baby is just as healthy being formula-fed compared to breastfed babies her age. I don’t see a problem with either way as long as your baby is getting what they need.
Rosie– I did both. Formula helps with the feedings and you don’t need to go crazy pumping. Also, William didn’t take to the breastfeeding and it was frustrating. I think all kids are different and you should at least try to breastfeed as it is beneficial for the baby. But as a product of the 70s where you only got a bottle, most kids turned out fine. And the breastfeeding did work better with the girls. I mostly breastfed them until almost six months. Formula is a lifesaver though when they are with other people or for night feedings because the hubby can do.
Lisa– When I was pregnant and asked which I preferred, I was on the fence. I always leaned towards the bottle but I always understood the benefits of breastfeeding. It was my husband who really wanted me to breastfeed so I figured I would try it. Because I told the hospital I was breastfeeding prior to my arrival, when my baby was born and my milk hadn’t come in and my baby wouldn’t breastfeed, that’s when I decided I would never make that mistake again. The hospital pushed me to the point of a nervous breakdown with its “breast is best” campaign – so much so I along with my son’s pediatrician had to basically fight for formula because the hospital didn’t want to loose a statistic to the bottle. It was a horrible experience, one that greatly interfered with the happy arrival of my son. Once I checked out of the hospital I didn’t let it go and I contacted everyone who would listen and from that point on I realized that breastfeeding vs. the bottle is a way more personal choice than I ever anticipated. Everyone gave me their opinion pre/post baby’s arrival but I personally vowed to never judge one way or the other because I lived it. My newborn was beyond hungry, I had no milk and the hospital insisted for me to “keep waiting and trying.” It is a very personal choice and I support both but the most valuable lesson I learned was to be flexible with my choices – I wanted to but couldn’t and once I realized that the bottle was fine, I was happy with my decision. Today my son is happy, healthy and a hearty eater! What would I have done differently? I would have never pre-indicated I was breastfeeding at the hospital.
Kris– The topic of breast feeding is always a hot topic between moms. When I was on bed rest and my due date was approaching, I decided I was going to mentally prepare myself and read as much as I could about child development and the birthing process. Before I even thought about having kids I always thought A) I will get a c-section because the thought of having a natural birth disgusts me. and b) NO BREAST FEEDING. Lo and behold, both things did not happen. When I spoke about it with my husband, I was anti- breast feeding and his natural response was, “You should make an informed decision before you decide whole-heartedly what you should do. And why wouldn’t you breast feed if that’s what’s best for our baby?” As I started to do my research, I found out how great breast feeding is for baby. So after reading that, I felt kind of guilty not breastfeeding and so I changed my mind. Plus, if it’ll make me skinnier faster, why not? Once my baby girl was born, it was a different story. She didn’t want to feed. She would just fall asleep so she became jaundice, and I had to bottle feed per the doctor, but I could pump to supplement and get that milk flowing! May I add that no one ever tells you how difficult it is to breastfeed. It takes a lot of work and it is super painful. So I would pump every 2 to 3 hours and I would feel like a cow every single time. I was only able to last 3 weeks. Pathetic, I know. I almost got Mastitis twice. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t feel less attached to her because she isn’t drinking my milk or latched on to me.’ And I couldn’t even get out of bed because I had a fever, and I couldn’t even raise my arms to hold her. That wasn’t worth it to me at all! I much rather be a happy and healthy mom and be able to care for my child.
Vivi– Breastfeeding my kids was one of the most frustrating, humbling and empowering experience of my life (in that order). Once breastfeeding started to work easily, and that took a few weeks for each, it was really amazing to think that all that your child needs to survive is you. If you take care of yourself, you are everything you need to take care of your child. It really was the most remarkable thing I have ever experienced.
Adriana– I breastfed for three months. I had to return to work after one week so that’s why I didn’t last longer with the breastfeeding. I didn’t pump as often as needed. I believe breastfeeding helps the mom get back into shape faster and gives her a closer connection with her child. If I had another kid, I would have done the same. The transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding was smooth since my child enjoyed eating. At the end of the day, it’s whatever works for the mom. The kid will be fine.
Do you have a story you want to share? Message me! I would love to hear it.