Not Breastfeeding

143 Comments

Mother Feeding Her Baby

I am not breastfeeding. I did not, and I will not.

Period.

There, I said it. Hold your fire. I’m sure there are women (and probably some men) out there gasping and shaking their heads. You know what – I don’t care.

This is the first time I have said those four words with such finality. It’s usually said quickly, eyes down, flinching under the weight of judgment.

As Pumpkin approaches her first birthday, happy and healthy, I have finally reached the point where I am okay with our decision and I don’t owe anyone an explanation for that.

Actually, let me back up. My first statement is not entirely true. I did breastfeed. For five weeks. I tried to breastfeed anyway. Pumpkin and I spent those first five weeks crying and staring at each other, bleary-eyed and confused. She was constantly hungry. I was constantly wondering if she was getting any nourishment at all. Hubby just sat by helplessly watching the two loves of his life get increasingly weaker, more miserable, and more hopeless.

But I wouldn’t give up. I had read all of the information out there from the AAP, the La Leche breastfeeding mother Nazis, and all the other internet gurus with the requisite qualifications to post on an anonymous blog. I was convinced that I was a terrible, selfish, unloving wench completely undeserving of a child if I did not sacrifice everything to breastfeed for at least the first year (if not two). I knew, somehow, that I was being judged as a mother just for the mere fact that I had googled the phrase “switching the formula.”

Eventually we surrendered. The way Pumpkin voraciously attacked the first formula bottle I offered and then proceeded to double her birth weight almost overnight, I knew that she was going to be okay. But was I?

For the last 50 or so weeks I have secretly beat myself up over this decision. I beat myself up despite the fact that I may actually have the healthiest and the happiest baby on Earth. This isn’t just my biased assessment – daycare workers, doctors, other family members and even strangers confirm this for me on an almost daily basis.

Although she is healthy and happy, she does still get ear infections, and lots of them. We have even had to get tubes and she still gets infections. In my obsessive google-polling of every idiot with a WiFi connection, I have “heard” that I could have prevented this suffering by breastfeeding. So the self-beatings continued. If there was any way I could have tried again, I probably would have, even though it probably still wouldn’t have been the right decision for us. Unfortunately, that well had run dry many weeks ago. I was all but convinced that I actually was that terrible selfish person that the boob-pushing moms thought I was.

But now, as we prepare to celebrate one year together, Pumpkin and I are both standing up for ourselves. Her literally, as she is just learning to walk; and me, figuratively, as I know I am not a bad or selfish mother and I also know that our decision was the right one for us. While I won’t presume to love my child more than any other mother, I will say that I absolutely love her as much as any other mother, regardless of whether they are human milk machines or not. I love her unconditionally, endlessly, and fiercely. I would spare no expense and would give any part of myself for her health and happiness. For us, that part of me just wasn’t providing those things for her.

And I didn’t quit breastfeeding for selfish reasons. I didn’t do it so I could sip martinis or stay out (either at clubs or in the land of nod) all night. I was worried sick about her milk intake. Some of that was probably crazy-first-time-mommy-post-partum-sleep-deprived freaking, but it was freaking nonetheless and it was taking away from the joys of those first few weeks together. I wanted to breastfeed because people told me I should. She just wanted to be fed and loved. At that time in our lives, those two desires were just incompatible and she won. Our house became a different place with the very first sip from the bottle and I won’t apologize for that and I do not regret it.

None of this is not to say that if we have another baby in the future we won’t try again and, maybe, future baby and I will have a different take on the whole thing. But for me and my Pumpkin, it just wasn’t right and I refuse to spend any more time regretting it or blaming myself for the inevitable ails of her childhood. Either way, Pumpkin is never going to remember where her first milk came from, but she will always know that she is loved without question and she will never want for anything I can provide her.

And besides, it’s Hubby who had ear infections as a child so, obviously that is his fault.

Comments

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  1. 1

    Cat (Minoaka Bebe) says

    Thank you for writing this post, I was in the same boat as you. I made the decision not to breastfeed as well and it wasn’t for selfish reasons either. I did give it a try, I was under a lot of stress and I wasn’t producing enough for my son. He lost a couple of pounds and I was worried about his weight and not getting enough nourishment. I did everything I could to produce milk but it just wasn’t working for us. Like you, if I do have another child I may give it another try.

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  2. 2

    gem says

    I totally can relate on this. I tried breastfeeding but I failed. I switched on formula after two weeks because of the same reasons you have. I felt awful and irresponsible but I love them and can’t bear to see them crying out of hunger. I disregard what others have to say, afterall, my kids are so healthy now. :)

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  3. 3

    Kimberly says

    When my daughter (now a little over two) was born, I fought tooth-and-nail to breastfeed her. She was only five pounds and some change at birth, with moderate jaundice, and she lost more than 10% of her birth weight in the first week, then did not increase as hoped. Her pediatrician (who was actually MY pediatrician, years ago) insisted I start supplementing with formula. And after spending 45 minutes to an hour every two to three hours with her latched to me, only to spend that same amount of time feeding her a bottle immediately afterward, I was exhausted. I pumped as much as I could, and after draining both sides, I’d have a total of two or three ounces (I once got four and cried because I was so happy I could give her a full bottle). After a few months of this, my meager breastmilk supply was actually dwindling, and I finally gave up and switched her solely to formula. And she thrived. She (knock on wood) has never had so much as a cold, is now beginning to read, knows her entire alphabet, can count (to ten while distracted, to twenty if she’s focused), and according to her pediatrician, she speaks at the level of the average four-year-old. I’ve been criticized for not sticking it out (I’m a young mom, too, which apparently gives everyone justification for analyzing my parenting skills), but I can honestly say I am happy I didn’t waste any more time or energy stressing over something that wasn’t working. Breastfeeding didn’t go any more smoothly with my son (now one year), and when I realized how much stress it was causing both of us, I switched over to formula without the heartbreak I experienced with my little girl. I will continue to attempt breastfeeding with any children I may have in the future (fingers crossed that my boobs decide to get their act together), but I have learned that formula is not the end of the world. Thank you for being a voice for us formula-feeding moms!

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  4. 4

    Samantha says

    Love this post! I relate to the entire thing from the actual breastfeeding dilemma to the google-to-the-rescue mentality.

    You know what I think? Screw the breastfeeding Nazi’s! You’re the mommy!!

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  5. 6

    Maija @ Maija's Mommy Moments says

    Love this post and am a big supporter of moms deciding what is right for them and baby. I had to laugh at the ear infections prevented by breast milk and give you a little piece of mind there since I have three children and breastfed each one exclusively for 6 months and then continued to breastfeed two of them for almost 6 more months after introducing solids. ALL THREE OF THEM HAVE TUBES. My youngest still gets ear infections too even with the tubes in (are you using ear plugs in the tub/pool?) – and I breastfed her the longest! I could single-handedly disprove the breast milk prevents ear infections theory. My advice is to continue to blame it on your husband because that’s likely much closer to the truth.

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    • 7

      Sullivanthepoop says

      I can say that I formula fed three children who have never had a single ear infection. I think it is mostly genetics thrown in with the fact that bottle fed babies leave more milk (formula or breast) in their mouths than babies who suck it out of the breast and when they have a cold they can drool excessively and the drool is milk laden. If that milk laden drool gets in their ears is it a very good medium for bacterial growth. People with IgA antibody deficiencies do not get more ear infections, unlike GI infections, so I don’t think the antibodies have anything to do with it.

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      • 8

        Julie says

        I bottle fed my children and neither of them had an ear infection until they were past the age of three….long after we said good bye to the bottle. They were great babies and now great perfectly healthy kids.

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  6. 9

    OHN says

    I was asked over and over by people (women) if I was breastfeeding my newborn son. I would simply say, “no, I’m not”. Never angrily, never with an attitude, but so often was met with a backlash of how I was really doing him a disservice, blah, blah, blah. It actually would have been rather difficult for me to breastfeed as instead of a 9 month prep time, we had 3 days notice before I became a mom. Once when I told a woman that I didn’t because our son was adopted, she went on a rant about how she read somewhere that “even women who adopt” can breastfeed if they take hormone shots (for months I might add–remember we had 3 days notice) etc etc. People need to mind their own damn business and let me ruin my child’s life like any other good mother :-)

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  7. 11

    Jess says

    Same thing happened to me. Spent the first two months of my son’s life doing nothing but feeding and pumping and cleaning the supplies so I could start feeding and pumping again. I didn’t actually get a chance to enjoy my baby because it was so stressful. When I changed to formula it was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders.

    It’s true that breastfeeding is natural and women have been doing it for thousands of years. But there have also been lots of babies who died and lots of wetnurses so… you know.

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  8. 12

    Skinny Mom's Kitchen says

    I had the exact same experience with my first child. It was awful and for the first time in my life I had a mental breakdown. I tried everything and was so sad when I finally “gave up”. But like your little girl mine turned out healthy, happy, and perfect. I then learned early on to ignore people who judge because eff them they have there own issues.

    But to give some encouragement for your second one when my second daughter was born I went into thinking “ok I will try but it doesn’t work out I am ok with that” and I even told people they are not allowed to come to my house if they felt the need to express their breastfeeding opinions. However, to my surprise my little peanut latched right on with no issues. I was totally shocked.

    I believe all moms need to make the choices that work for them. period. Everyone else worry about your own kids!

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  9. 13

    SaucyB says

    oh honey. Not only did not breastfeed, i didn’t take the class, didn’t try once, and did not feel guilty for a nano second. I say without any shame or embarrassment that I didn’t breastfeed because it grosses me out and I pretty much choose to view my breasts as my two favorite accessories and nothing more. My kid was and is healthy and happy as a clam. Going with formula is just not the tragedy that people want to make it out to be.

    SaucyB recently posted… Advice for Husbands Everywhere: How to Get Laid More Often by Your Wife

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    • 14

      Erin says

      Actually, this whole attitude IS a tragedy. There is absolutely nothing gross about providing your child nourishment. As someone who nursed all three children for one year, I AM judgemental about people who could have breastfed and didn’t. I’m sorry, but you did your children a disservice – period.

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      • 15

        Brenna says

        Erin- who are you or any one else to say what is right for a family? Breastfeeding was the best decision FOR YOU. Not breastfeeding was the best decsion for Saucy B and myself. I refuse to feel guilt over it. I LOVE MY CHILDREN JUST AS MUCH AS A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER. This is NOT the only way to show love for your child. Why are mother’s so hard on each other and so judgemental of each other? Whether we breastfeed, work outside the home, co-sleep, eat organic, discipline, etc, etc, etc. We are all doing what we feel is best and dammit, it is a hard job. Frankly, I am tired of defending myself. I do not judge your decisions, so why judge mine?

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      • 16

        Holly Taylor says

        A tragedy is the earthquake in Japan, kids straving around the world, kids dying of terrible diseases, kids being unloved and mistreated.
        A tragedy is not a loving mother choosing to not breastfeed or not being able to.
        Not loving your kids, not protecting them, now that is what I would call a disservice, not simply making the right choice for you and your family.
        Judgement comes back to bite you in the ass everytime.

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      • 17

        Sullivanthepoop says

        Hmmm … I chose not to breastfeed my two older children because I didn’t want to. I could have, but I was a fulltime student with internships and the idea of breastfeeding was just not that big of a deal to me because I understand the science. Now, with my third I wanted to because life was different and I wanted to try it, but I not only produced no milk, my breasts didn’t change at all during pregnancy. So, three children no breastfeeding all IQs over 130, two successful adults with graduate degrees, not a single ear infection, no allergies, no asthma, no obesity, all far too attached to me. What disservice did I do them exactly?

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      • 18

        Julie says

        Erin, you are wonderful for breastfeeding for a year. Please don’t pass along your judgmental attitude to your children. That would be a disservice to the World…period.

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  10. 19

    wendy says

    I never understood why women torture themselves and feel guilty over not breastfeeding–until I had my kids. The guilt over my trouble nursing my first was enormous. I tried consultants, pumps, herbs, etc. In the end, I did my best at doing my best– when my twins were born I knew I wasn’t going to try as hard. Formula made my life easier and made their mommy a little less frantic and crazy. Just a little. Thanks for the post!

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  11. 20

    Vinobaby says

    AMEN, Sister. You just told my tale. Thank you.
    I went through the same thing. My son is now a happy, healthy, 7 1/2 yr old and I still catch hell from the Breastfeeding Nazis for “giving up to early.” My life. My child. My breasts. My choice.

    Cheers.
    VB

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  12. 21

    Jodi says

    Don’t beat yourself up!! I did breastfeed both my girls and they were still riddled with ear infections!! My first one had tubes at 8 months and my 2nd one had tubes at 6 months!!

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  13. 22

    lifeintheboomerlane says

    I’m still consumed with guilt that I nursed my first two for only a few months. I went 7 months with my third. But I see women happily sailing through the first year (like my daughter) and I feel like I couldn’t do what was supposed to be “natural.” This post does make me feel better.

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  14. 23

    Laura M says

    I feel that as moms we always choose what’s best for our children with their guidance. She told you she was having issues with your milk and you listened instinctively (after stubbornly succoming to what the world expected you to do). I breastfed my daughter for a year until she brought me her sippy cup when I told her it was time for her night-night milk. I know breastfeeding isnt an easy task and its not for everyone. Never be embarrassed of your choices for how you raise your child. A mom always knows whats best for her kids.

    Oh and my friend nursed for just over a year and her daughter had all the ear infections and tubes in her ears as well. Her little one just turned 6 and its still a constant battle, so I doubt it has anything to do with where their milk supply comes from.

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  15. 24

    Alexis says

    I’ve had every nursing issue under the sun – mastitis, clogged ducts, bad latch, low supply. So I can TOTALLY relate to how stressful, frustrating, and (let’s be honest) horrible an experience it can be. With #1 we worked with consultants, took supplements, rented a medical-grade pump, ANYTHING to make it work. Lots of stress and anxiety. No fun.

    Nursing doesn’t work out for everybody and I would never question anybody who has decided that it is not working for them. It does make me a little sad however when people don’t even try :(

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  16. 25

    Brittany {Mommy Words} says

    I think everyone should do what works for their families and concentrate on enjoying babies as much as possible. I don’t think you should feel guilty at all.

    I do think you may want to think about how you view women who breastfeed longer than 1 year. The AAP actually recommends 2 years and my daughter is 16 months old. She cannot undo a button on my shirt. It is strange to read about not wanting to be judged and then have you call moms who feed longer than a year creepy.

    Maybe you did not realize that might be hurtful to some. I’m not sure. I will say that as a breastfeeding mom I get a lot of nasty comments from formula feeding moms too and I would never judge a feeding decision. It is not all one way at all.

    So just know that I think your post was good and clearly many women need to hear this, but I am not creepy at all and neither are my kids. We are actually quite normal.

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    • 26

      Alison@Mama Wants This says

      Brittany, I agree with you 100% and I could not have said it better. My son is nearly 17 months and still breastfeeding, and no, he can’t unbutton my shirt either, nor does he try to pull my t-shirt down when he wants a feed.

      Somer, I don’t judge you, or moms like you, at all. I applaud you (and them) for trying your best, and you did what was best for your child and you, just like all moms do. I just wish you hadn’t used the word ‘creepy’.

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      • 27

        Mira says

        Agreed…I completey support every woman’s choice to feed their child in whatever way works for them. Seriously. I did breastfeed and planned to stop at one year. Then one year became two, and I felt happy with that for myself and for my daughter. But I have to say, I went to a brunch with friends (without kids) who didn’t know I still breastfed and heard all about how “creepy and disgusting” it was. I left in tears, feeling incredibly judged, if unknowingly. I weaned my daughter at just over 2 years because it was the right time for us. Feeding your child is personal, and it’s hurtful to attack another mother for her choices, whatever they are.

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  17. 29

    GG says

    I love, that as a first time mom, I am going into the breast vs bottle debate at a time when women are speaking out against the guilt ans stigma of bottle feeding. When women ask me what my plans are for my unborn son, I tell them that I’m going to give breast feeding a good college try….but if it’s not working, then I’m going to bottle and that’s it. I refuse to let anyone pressure me into a stressful first few months with my son. I want to enjoy being a mommy and not get saddled with other people’s judgements. Thank you so much (and all the other mommy bloggers speaking up on this issue) for setting this new young mommy free of the expectations!

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    • 30

      RunBek says

      I agree GG! I was uncertain about even trying breastfeeding and people reacted as if I were suggesting that I was going to murder my child. But hearing how other women tried, didn’t try, supplemented…I’m realizing that it’s my decision. I’m going to try, but I also don’t plan on doing it longer than my maternity leave regardless of how “successful” I might be.

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  18. 32

    Alison says

    Wow I’m kinda hurt by you calling me creepy. I mean kudos for you for going even 5 weeks! Some don’t even get that far. I’m not a Nazi but I hate it when I’m called things because I nurse closer to 2 years with my kids. Which the WHO states is what’s good for the kids. What’s different than a kid saying he wants a bottle? than a kid wanting to nurse and asking for it? Sad.

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