Breast-Feeding: It's OK If You Can't Do It.

Friend and commenter, Missy, linked to an article yesterday that stirred up a number of emotions for me.

And in any case, if a breast-feeding mother is miserable, or stressed out, or alienated by nursing, as many women are, if her marriage is under stress and breast-feeding is making things worse, surely that can have a greater effect on a kid’s future success than a few IQ points.

I didn’t have the best time when it came to breast-feeding. Obstacles began piling up for me the moment Emory was born. For starters, my milk never came in. I didn’t experience the engorgement all the nurses and LCs suggested I would. In fact, my breasts got slightly smaller after he was born.

My postpartum experience was not the best. I was depressed. Words can’t do justice in trying to describe that depression. Chemistry took over. Every time it occurred to me that the birth of my first child was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, I felt even worse because I was experiencing quite the opposite. How could I be a good mom when I felt so unhappy? What was wrong with me? The questions mounted unanswered, and while my head felt like it was going to explode, my boobs did not.

There is an alarming amount of pressure put on new mothers when it comes to breast-feeding. It’s so prevalent, that there are actually Web sites where women congregate in order to slam celebrities who did not breast-fed and praise those who have. There are wars waged against and on Facebook. And some of the pro-breast feeding literature out there borders on militant. A late night google search hoping to discover a little leniency can make one feel like even more of a failure. 

In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner—an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?

It goes without saying that many women today feel very passionate about breast-feeding. I have seen fights break out over whether or not it’s OK to do in public. Nursing mothers here in New York have been known to make a statement by taking over an entire subway car. I have seen fights break out about whether or not it’s OK to lend your boob out to feed another person’s baby. I’ve seen people go as far to attack a person’s character because they chose not to breast-feed. 

Some women experience intense anger when another woman doesn’t breast-feed. And I would find this hilarious if their reactions weren’t so damaging. 

Haven’t we heard enough already? Can’t we be proud of our choices without making others feel worse for making another? And why brag? Boasting is ugly. 

Furthermore, if feminism is about making choices, and a woman chooses (for whatever the reason may be) not to breast-feed, she should not receive so much as a nasty look from any fellow Sistren boasting the word feminism. And yet, that often happens. Which begs another question: is it the men we need to talk to about equality? 

I welcome discussion and debate when it comes to breast-feeding, but this post probably isn’t for those likely to have breast-feeding listed as their religion. This is for anyone who went through (or is going through) what I went through two years ago. This is for all the new mothers out there overwhelmed by their new roles. This is for the new mother wondering why she can’t accomplish something as seemingly natural as breast-feeding. 

Here’s how the first few days I spent with my new son went:

The morning he’s born: I try unsuccessfully to get a latch. I summon the help from two nurses and one lactation consultant. He vomits every time I try. I think it’s me, something I’m doing. Am I gagging him? 

“Is the vomit green?” They ask. “No. It’s not green.” “He’s fine then. Keep trying.”

Day one: A lactation consultant comes in to see me. I’m crying. I tell her I can’t get him to eat. I tell her he keeps vomiting. We try again and fail. She asks me how much milk he’s gotten. I tell her none. She inspects my nipples. Says I may have problems but we’ll succeed! We try formula. He vomits that up immediately. I continue to cry.

Later that day: Emory and I try again. I am told I am not vigilant enough, that I’m not trying hard enough. I am told that I need to be more forceful. I need to force my breast into his mouth. He throws up all over me, the color is green. I call a doctor.

Five minutes later: Emory is taken away from me and admitted into the NICU for reasons unrelated to breast-feeding (or lack thereof). I begin pumping around the clock in hopes of getting something, anything to come out of my breasts. This does not happen. 

Three days PP: Emory and I are sent home seeing zero success at breast-feeding. 

I should have just given up. Had I felt better back then, I probably would have. After all, Emory was doing well on formula. But I thought that I had to breast-feed. We just never did get the latch worked out so I exclusively pumped for 5 months. I supplemented with formula the entire time because my milk and the engorged breasts everyone warned me about, well, that never took place. At five months, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and put on a drug that wasn’t safe for babies. I stopped pumping (or HUTH, for those of us EPers).


During that time, I received countless email letting me know how difficult it was for women when it came to breast-feeding, which helped a great deal. But in the wee hours of the night, when I felt my most insecure, I turned to the Internet, in search of anyone to tell me everything was going to be OK if I gave up pumping and just formula fed my son. (You’d be surprised how little there is out there for people in my situation. On nights when I looked for reassurance, I found I felt worse.) It took me a long time to realize that the only person I needed approval from was the person doing all the searching.

Truth be told, Internet, I still have a lot of pent up anger when it comes to how I was treated by some breast-feeding mamas out there. Usually, I try and focus on all the positive stuff, because I mean it when I say that when I was going through that rough patch, many of your emails got me through it. But that doesn’t mean the judgmental stuff doesn’t stick with me as well. 

The biggest problem as I see it, is that so many women are afraid to state outright: Hey, I didn’t breast-feed! In fact, I have met some mothers that whisper such things under their breath at the playground—like it’s some kind of fatal flaw, and I suppose that for some it is. I’ve also seen a few mothers breath a sigh of relief upon discovering that another mother in the room didn’t breast-feed her baby. 

What is everyone so afraid of? Judgement? Receiving a failing grade in motherhood? Getting demoted or fired by your boss? There are no grades or graduation ceremonies to speak of. And your boss really just wants to eat, poop, sleep and giggle. So what are we all so afraid of?

Sometimes, all someone wants to hear (or read) is that they’re not alone.

And so. Consider this a small drop of water in a bucket full of oil: It’s OK, new mama, if you are unable to breast-feed your baby. Formula is a wonderful option. You are not a failure. You’re a new mom! Rejoice in that. You are not alone. 

If you’re interested in reading the article, please click here. It sheds light on all the medical claims having to do with formula vs. breastmilk. It’s very enlightening. And it’s written by a breast-feeding mother of three.


  1. I’m so sorry you had such a hard time and so many bad feelings about the issue. I sure hope I never said anything that hurt your feelings because I remember encouraging you to keep trying. But I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with formula or reaching a point where you say it isn’t working. I have had a hell of a time being a mom, but the one thing that worked beautifully for me was breast feeding.

    When I had my daughter, I didn’t have many peers with kids, the baby boom of late was just getting started and I didn’t have anyone encouraging me, to the contrary I had older relatives encouraging me to give up and move to formula. So I’m glad I stuck it out because it didn’t happen right away. And luckily, my daughter easily moved between breast and formula so that made it work better in the beginning.

    Honestly, I don’t understand the militant moms who rip other women who don’t do things by the “ideal, perfect modern mom” book.

    Don’t you think there is just something so wrong in our culture today. We’re more disassociated from others than ever, some have an extreme need to compete and a devastating superiority complex where they think they know what’s best for everyone else. Ease up world. Ease up mothers. We’re all flawed human beings. Not one of us can say we’ve done everything right or that we know all the answers. What works in the life of one mom may not work in the life of another and that is OK.

    People are so busy pursuing perfection and idealized lives that they forget that they are just people. We’re all just people and when you’re at the end, you’re not going to look back and take pride in how militantly perfect you were…you’re going to look back and think about the people you love and the people who loved you. When you boil life down to the core, that’s all there is. It doesn’t matter if you breast fed or if you fed your kid only organic food or if your kid never watched television or this or that. Ultimately, those things matter very little. Live moderately, live modestly, laugh, fail and keep trying, pursue your dreams – do good to be good.


  2. OK, I just read the intro blurb in the Atlantic piece and before going any further anywhere I gotta say one of the chief problems in this whole cultural discussion (over breast-feeding, I mean) is this (perhaps charactertisitcally American?) tendency toward melodramatic extremes. Why can there be no moderation when a complicated socio-psycho-medical topic like this comes up? Why can’t journalists exhibit adult-level restraint rather than pulling every emotionally exploitative switch in sight? “Ultimate badge of responsible parenting” vs “an instrument of misery that keeps women down”? Really? Those are our choices? So comic-book thin, so primary-colored? “Godzilla vs Mothra.” “Hulk vs Thor.” Ay.


  3. BTW L & L never got it going either. She still agonizes over it. She pumped (now *that* might be the agony keeping women down) until there simply was no more milk, but he never latched, ever. OK, maybe twice. So now when he won’t roll over, or when he gets his first cold (last weekend), of course she’s convinced this is why.

    Ay again.


  4. Allow me to “one-up” you (and yes, I’m kidding). I never even tried to breast feed. I did not want to. It was a decision I made long before I was even pregnant.

    I expected to get backlash, sure. What I didn’t expect was the fact that everyone just assumed that I was breastfeeding. No one asked if I was or was not. When I asked for a prescription from my doctor a few months after my son was born, she told me I couldn’t have it. Why not, I innocently asked. Because you’re breastfeeding, I was told. Oh. Yeah, see, I’m not. Blank Stare. And then some more Blank Stare.

    I am lucky that my husband is so very supportive of any issue I feel strongly about, one way or the other. Having him on my side when it seemed like the whole world was telling me I was a horrible mother (my God, I used formula AND I send my kid to daycare!) was a big, big help.

    That being said, it’s too bad that I even felt like I needed his support. It’s sad that I needed to know at least one person was in my corner to get me through the stares and the whispered comments about our various choices. And the not whispered comments.


  5. I don’t have a kid, and can’t speak to breastfeeding, but since you bring up feminism, again:

    “Furthermore, if feminism is about making choices, and a woman chooses (for whatever the reason may be) not to breast-feed, she should not receive so much as a nasty look from any fellow Sistren boasting the word feminism. And yet, that often happens. (Which begs another question: is it the men we need to talk to about equality?)”

    I think this echoes the same issue I responded to a few posts ago on feminism. Just because someone labels him/herself a feminist doesn’t make every statement or ideal s/he holds a feminist one. You suggest that women are the problem with feminism, and I think that’s a.. I don’t want to say dangerous statement, but maybe a tricky/sticky one, because it both assumes that men are the target or enemy of feminist thinking and that women will ultimately hate on each other. As I see it, feminism reacts to, comments on, tries to defend against, etc. a patriarchal system, one that both men and women have grown up in and are subject to performing certain behaviors unconsciously.


  6. Fair enough, RMH. Perhaps that was my way of saying that I simply want women to be kinder to other women. And a lot of the time, they aren’t. And I often ask myself why that is and how we can change it.

    Perhaps feminism in this instance was poorly used.


  7. Or maybe the cloak of feminism was inappropriately or ignorantly donned by the person giving you sh*t. It’s not a weapon to be deployed, it’s a way of understanding cultural and sexual and social dynamics, after all. Like Marxism. A lens, as it were, for a particular kind of seeing.

    In a way, I feel like breastfeeding (and some of the other hypercompetitive territories of contemporary parenting) as little more than new ground on which to compare worth. A metaphorical c*ck-measuring contest. There’s something very post-industrial-capitalism about it, especially given all the very expensive accoutrement it demands: pumps, special bottles, consultants with hourly rates that will make attorneys weep. Like so much else in parenting these days it becomes a demonstration of prosperity, not to mention that elusive “authenticity” about which the educated American upper middle class has so much anxiety. And then, too, of course, perfectibility: as if this one thing could clear the path for our kids, prevent them from ever having to endure disappointment in school, emotional pain, financial distress. Understandable, I guess, on some level — we all want the best for our kids — but psychotic on a number of other levels.

    America, baby. Love or .. have a breakdown.


  8. Thank you! I’m one of those “natural” and “organic” moms, but breast feeding never came easy with my babe (now 13 months). I struggled through it, supplementing after every feeding for 10 months. It was demoralizing and it really took away from the experience of becoming a mother to constantly read how formula is poison. I felt like an unfit mother. Now, I realize that formula is fine, and my boy is very healthy and smart. I feel like there are a lot of moms out there that have trouble! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m always scared to tell people that I gave my guy formula. That’s so ridiculous!


  9. I don’t know you, but I hear you. I’m about to have my first baby and I plan to breastfeed. However, I have a friend (who already has two young children and breastfed them both) who asked me the other day if I was going to breastfeed the little one. “Yes” I honestly answered. She was all “Thank GOD – I just DON’T understand it when women don’t do it, I think if you don’t want to be bothered then you have no business having kids”.

    I was FLOORED, to put it mildly. I’m good friends with this person – who is usually open minded and non judgmental. I suggested that it really isn’t for everyone and that honestly, there are scads of kids out there who are formula fed and are FINE so…who really cares? She got on her high horse about how no, it’s the best option, end of story.

    *sigh* It’s been my frustrating life story as of late with this particular friend, who seems to think that her way of parenting (absolutely no television, no junk food, and of course only breastmilk) is the BEST. I’ve tried gently pointing out that it is what is best and what works well for HER family and that is really great – but it is not the best for everyone, necessarily. She doesn’t see it. It’s unfortunate because at this point it is damaging her friendships with even our non kid having friends. Why do some perfectly nice people get this way? I don’t understand it. I’m choosing to breastfeed for a number of reasons, but I would be okay with NOT breastfeeding if my reasoning led me down that path as well. I mean give me a break – there are so many variables involved in raising a kid that you can only do the best you can do and that just has to be good enough. If you try to do what everyone thinks/says you SHOULD do, then you aren’t thinking for yourself, which just makes no sense to me.


  10. I’ve thought about your situation a lot, actually, as my SIL had a lot of problems breastfeeding and went to pumping exclusively. Before I read your blog, I didn’t even know women did this! I must say, I find it very noble :-). My SIL did it for about 5/6 months and then went to formula. She has a very stressful job with long hours and gave herself the reasonable goal of going until her baby started solids. My brother (the dad) wanted her to go longer, but jeez, I would just find that so difficult. Fortunately, I don’t think she beat herself up about it too much.

    One thing I never, ever understand: Why women are so smug when they BF successfully. My daughter latched on right away and we had no problems to speak of (except for the hours and hours spent nursing sitting on my torn-up lady bits after her foceps delivery–ow), but this is not something I had anything to do with. Why should I be proud? I was just lucky that it worked out for us. Actually, it’s kind of amusing, as now that she’s 18 months and still nursing, I find myself a bit embarrassed about it. I recently ‘fessed to my playgroup and it turned out I was dead last! Like Emory, Ellie gets chronic ear infections (as did I) and attends daycare so I do it for the extra immunity, but I found myself citing this explanation when I was met by blank stares. Oh, well!


  11. I hear you. Prearrival, I was sure that I was going to solely breastfeed. I went into the hospital with the mantra firmly implanted in my head. My daughter lost weight and at the suggestion of potentially supplementing, I refused the hospital’s pediatrician. Heck, I could do it. I doubled my efforts – pumping and feeding at the breast. After discharge and many a lactation consultation, my daughter was still losing weight. I was staying up round the clock either nursing or pumping. Once we reached 3 weeks of weight loss, I had to accept that I was NOT making enough milk and it was compromising my daughter’s health. We started supplementing with formula and immediately her behavior changed from angry, hungry baby to sated.

    Then I felt both guilty I was supplementing AND guilty that I hadn’t started supplementing her earlier, essentially starving her. Then I realized how idiotic I sounded. I was in a no-win situation and had to make decisions best for me and my family, not decisions best for everyone else. After that whole emotional drain, I became a better, more accepting, less judgemental, stronger mother.

    Some things work for some people; some things don’t. And as women, we need to be more accepting of other people’s choices, even if they aren’t ours. I ended up breastfeeding and pumping for 6 months and 8 months respectively. And I’m OK with that. I know I did the best job I could.


  12. I really, really enjoy reading your stories, btw. I just wanted (and needed) to say that.


  13. Perhaps every ounce of breast milk has a tiny bit of the mother’s heart, soul and love in it.

    I don’t mean this as a Hallmark moment, but to somehow find a way to describe the heartless hags that dare insult and lecture other mothers. Could they have produced so much milk in their lives, that there’s nothing left inside?!?!?

    Never let others get to you , Michele. Never.


  14. Thank you. I cannot tell you how much your post would have meant to me when I suffered through BF my two sons. I too, looked for information and support and felt judged, mistreated, and alone.

    I was formula fed and am healthy, smart and capable…but in the midst of post-partum hormones and the pressure I felt to BF, I just couldn’t see sense and reason.

    I seriously want to hug every new mama who is going through what we went through. I wish I could. But your post is just that… a great big hug!

    I thank you for it.


  15. Mihow – well written post. I feel I must say first of all that I am a breastfeeding mother, but that I totally respect your choice to formula feed. Breastfeeding did NOT come easily or naturally to us, and I was one nursing session away from throwing in the towel. Seriously, I was out of town, didn’t have a way to get formula, and was just waiting to get back home so I could get formula and get her off the breast. In the middle of the night, my daughter chose to start latching correctly. We have stayed with the nursing since then, but I was totally comfortable with my decision to switch to formula.

    Jonathan, I have to tell you that I find your comment a little offensive. Every ounce of my milk DOES have heart, soul, and love in it. That doesn’t make me a heartless hag. It’s like having more than one kid…your love doesn’t divide, it multiplies. Whenever I give my child my heart, soul, and love, whether in breastmilk or in attention or in whatever way I bond with my baby, I get more. I just think that some women have a “my way or the highway” mindset, and it isn’t related to breastfeeding. I know in Mihow’s case, that’s what she’s talking about, but as a nursing mom, I’ve had the discrimination as well.

    I agree, women need to support other women. There is no one “right” way to raise your child, and women everywhere would benefit to be more accepting and tolerant to others.


  16. I think a lot of a mom’s success with breast feeding comes down to pure luck — meaning the baby is good at latching on and accepts the breast. Some babies just don’t. Or, some people’s milk doesn’t come in. I’m sure the breastfeeding experts would disagree, but c’mon!

    I became a bit obsessed with being a good breast feeder when I got pregnant largely because it had been so ingrained that “breast is best”. (Another part of me likes doing it for the economical aspect.) But now, almost three months into it (baby has solely had breast milk so far), I can see why people choose to supplement with formula — it’s hard! I’m lucky that I’m not going back to work right away but if I was, it would be quite a struggle to get enough milk for the baby in a daycare situation. I cannot stand pumping! I know it’s possible but I’m just saying that in the child care scenario, I can see why supplementing is done.

    I didn’t get to have anywhere near the birth experience I wanted but as one friend aptly pointed out, I am so far getting to have the breastfeeding ease I was hoping for. It’s an interesting way to look at it.

    I always think that my mother formula fed me (and I was even apparently eating meat at around 3 months old — weird!) and me and my sister both turned out fine (sister, actually, highly intelligent; me, not so much ;0). No one has the right to judge. And, I’m pretty sure my mom judges me for NOT formula feeding!

    Sorry all these thoughts are completely disjointed. Long day with the baby!


  17. Okay, I finally finished the article you linked to and you’re right; it’s great (and hilarious). I particularly loved the passages about pumping at the office (L dealt with this — at her place someone had dropped an ironic beach chair in the bathroom that was the officially designated pumping station. Spa-like indeed) and the pumping apparatus itself, “hooked up to tubes and suctions and a giant deconstructed bra, looking like some fetish ad, or a footnote from the Josef Mengele years.” Those special bras are big business, btw, your excellent DIY version notwithstanding. La Leche markets a model of their own.

    I thought I’d pass long another article with the completely opposite POV — that is, anti-formula. This one’s not anywhere nearly as well written or as sympathetic as the Atlantic piece (IMHO), but it does raise a worthwhile point, which is that the marketing of formula to expectant mothers (and fathers) is so ubiquitous as to be oppressive. Or was, anyway, for us. In fact it came to seem at a certain point as if Similac had locked in the title sponsorship of pregnancy per se: “Childbirth. Brought to you by Similac.” The piece is here:

    Put these two bits of journalism together and I think you get a sense of the schizophrenia that is contemporary motherhood (and parenthood generally, really). Breast-is-best fascism on one hand, big-pharma-and-agribusiness-connected megacorporations on the other. (Similac is produced by Abbott Labs. I know that because I read it off the giant tub that’s in our kitchen cabinet. The pushing works.) What if, like L, you object to processed food products of all kinds, but can’t get your baby to latch?

    No soup for you, I guess. And no membership in the Supermommies of the Month Club.


  18. Michele Chaves March 14, 2009 at 1:03 am

    I like Brad’s comments. It really exemplifies the point that women (and parents in general) are bombarded from every angle and ultimately they can’t win. They’re damned either way if we listen to the culture.

    Parents need to just step back and employ some basic common sense. I think that is sorely lacking everywhere today. Common sense isn’t radical, it isn’t condescending or judgmental. It is just basic and simple.


  19. This never seemed to be an issue back in the 80’s when I had my two. Or I was too naive to notice. I tried with both for about a week each and it was excruciatingly painful both times, so I stopped. If it’s any consolation, my oldest is about to graduate college as is my youngest and both are extremely musically talented, never had one day of trouble out of either of them, completely healthy, smart, successful, members of society. All without the boob.


  20. I have a 5-week old and am in breastfeeding hell. Breastfeeding has NEVER been easy, pain-free, convenient, or cheap for me or my baby. I could rant endlessly on how I feel about the pressure to breastfeed but I won’t. I just wanted to thank-you for saying that it’s okay to NOT breastfeed. Women need to hear that.


  21. Thanks for posting this! I also found it and posted it to a certain local list serve – no comments yet!

    We also had the HARDEST time breastfeeding – after 50 hours of active labor strapped to a bed – and saw several consultants. It was only when the most militant one of them said “STOP!” that we did. And we were both the happier for it.

    Thanks for posting this! It is so important for new parents to hear.


  22. This is a wonderful post, and the comments are thoughtful and wonderful and

    where were you people 13 years ago when I needed you???

    It. was. HELL. Never got engorged, pump didn’t work, baby couldn’t latch on. I worked at it for six months, but for the last three, used one of those Medela supplement boxes with the tubes taped to my nipples.

    You know the situation is bad when the La Leche League consultant is telling you to put the baby on formula.

    On top of everything else, I thought he had a sleeping problem. Thank God I finally gave in and “weaned” him. It turned out he was just really hungry all the time.


  23. Thank you for writing this post. I always thought I would breast-feed. My mom did, all my cousins who have kids did, pretty much everyone I knew did. Except one aunt-she used formula and had 2 children 11 months apart. I still remember her sisters berating her and telling her that if she had been breast-feeding she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant.

    I had a hard time getting my son to latch on. The lactation consultants at the hospital were awful. The one kept ripping his head off and SHOVING it back onto my breast. I cried and cried after she left. My confidence was shattered. Add on the fact that my labor was long and I had pretty bad injuries to recover from..So we went home and I worried everyday. Finally one day my mom just put my son on my breast and he nursed, and it all seemed fine.

    I suffered postpartum depression but never got help until my son was 15 months old. So, I resented breast-feeding my son. I resented that it took an hour at first, I resented the fact that I was the only one who was on call 24 hours a day. I hated it. I cried everyday. He was doing okay and gaining weight, but he just loved to suck and fall asleep, which drove me crazy.

    Of course the lactation consultants told me not to use pacifiers because my son would have nipple confusion, so I really felt like I was both food and pacifier.

    When my son was about a week old I freaked out because he was cluster feeding. So I went to the local breast feeding support center and spent $150 to have someone teach me how to hold my son and all that good stuff. He was getting enough and doing well.

    I guess my greatest issue was my lack of confidence. I would call a lactation consultant every week with questions. I would just convince myself that my son was starving even though he had plenty of diapers each day.

    I went on birth control that was supposedly okay for breast feeding and my milk production dropped. So then the lactation consultants suggested I pump between feedings. Now, between each nursing session taking 45 minutes to an hour and my son needing to eat every 2 hours and the pumping taking 15 minutes per side, well that gave me about 30 minutes before I had to be back at it again. I didn’t have time to sleep, eat or shower. And everyone was telling me I needed to eat to keep up my milk production. Now, what was I supposed to do? Let my son cry? I just really felt like I was in a lose-lose situation.

    Then I had to return to work when my son was 8 weeks old. I pumped each day, which I hated. I felt like a cow. I really couldn’t pump enough each day to keep up. I nursed at night but that didn’t make up for it. I would have nursed on the weekend, but my son didn’t do very well going between bottle and breast. I finally got to the point where I was mixing breast milk that I pumped with formula during the day and nursing at night. Then one night he refused the breast. So I decided to switch totally to formula.

    Of course then I berated myself at first. But then I felt myself begin to warm to my son more and as other people could feed him so I could have time to eat and groom myself and catch up on sleep, I felt even better.

    But sadly I didn’t begin to fully enjoy mothering as I thought I should until when my son was 15 months I went on anti-depression medication. It totally changed my life.

    Now, if I ever have another child I may not breast-feed at all. If I do and it doesn’t work, I will switch to formula without a second thought.


  24. I have so many friends who have dealt with this too – I think its so unfair that there is a percentage of women who can make other women feel so berated. I’ve often heard we are our own worst enemy and I think that’s not far from the truth.

    I did breastfeed for a few months and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I never bonded with my baby over it. She didn’t care where her food came from. I felt like a bad mom just because it wasn’t this special thing.

    I think we as women have the right to choose what is best for our children – and that choose is personal, and if it means you are less stressed and a better mother – than use formula. Many of our generation are formula fed and I think we are just fine.

    Oh and my breastfed baby has eczema and food allergies – things that BF’ing supposedly helps so who knows!

    I wish there were more moms out there who wrote what you wrote so they know they are not alone. Thanks for writing.


  25. *hugs* I feel terrible that you had that experience. You’re absolutely right, women _should_ be kinder to women. We are not “one size fits all” and one person’s experience cannot be every person’s experience.


  26. Bluestar: I hope breastfeeding works out for your friend, with an attitude like that, she has quite a distance to fall from.

    That whole argument about formula being created in a lab. You know what’s also made in a lab? Prenatal vitamins.

    That is all.


  27. Prenatal vitamins: absolutely correct. We got those in the cabinet too.

    And you know who’s advised to take prenatal vitamins, even when they’re no longer prenatal? Breastfeeding mothers.

    If childbearing were Vegas, Big Pharma would be the house.


  28. I have a 2 1/2 week old – and I’m not breastfeeding. This time it just wouldn’t work and after 1 week of BF & supplementing I decided that for everyone’s sanity to go to strictly formula. And yes – I feel much more sane admitting I don’t BF then forcing the issue and making me & my son miserable. I BF son #1 for 3 months until I had to return to work – and for the last month of those 3 months I pumped exclusively. I’m happy I did what I could for each of them in regards to BF, and gladly tell anyone I don’t BF. If they can’t handle MY decisions and thinking that’s their problem, not mine.


  29. I was lucky in that I had abundant, thick, creamy breast milk. My daughter latched on quickly–she has always been a good eater. Things went well until I finally got my period around her 6 month birthday … and it would not stop. After six weeks of bleeding, my doctor put me on the pill and I stopped breast feeding abruptly. I was sad for about 2 feedings (especially when I realized that just because my baby wasn’t eating from my boobs, my boobs were still producing milk–ouch!).

    Then I realized how much freedom I gained by using formula only. I never did feed her breast milk exclusively. I always had some formula in my bag just in case. Not feeling like a cow lifted some of my postpartum depression, and I still bonded with her when I fed her a bottle. I never felt guilty. Maybe that’s because my mom was a pediatric nurse for 35 years and told me that the only thing that mattered was she was gaining weight.

    She turned out fine, although has mild allergies and eczema (@ Kelly). By the way, I was adopted and NOT breast fed (obviously) and I’m one of the smartest people I know :).

    Breast feeding in my mind is my business and no one else’s. If I want to do it in public, that’s my prerogative (and I did, often). If I want to use formula, that’s my choice.

    I’m sorry that you’ve had such grief about this topic!

    and by the way, lactation consultants are evil beasts. I don’t think any of them have any patience, and they are mean! I had similar issues with my consultant at the hospital–until I screamed at her for pushing my daughter at me and told her to get the f*** out of my face. Nurturing they are not.

    @ Egirl … all we can do is the best we can, and put a little away for our kiddos’ therapy around age 23. :)


  30. Great blog! It always cheers me up. You have a beautiful family and I appreciate your honesty about everything. Susan


  31. I had a horrible, horrible experience with a Lactation Consultant at the hospital. My baby was in the Special Care Nursery and given a bottle right away while I was still recovering from the C-Section. When I finally was allowed to try to breast feed him, he wouldn’t latch on. And my milk really wasn’t coming in. The LC was so insensitive, and not at all helpful. She continued to pressure me during my four day stay a the hospital, so I kept trying. There were a lot of tears and frustration on my part. Finally the morning we left the hospital I just decided no more breast feeding. I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to go home and enjoy my baby. Not be stressed out about breastfeeding. The nurse asked me if I wanted to see the LC one more time, and I said I didn’t want her anywhere near me. She came anyway. I promptly sent her back out of the room. Deciding not to breast feed that morning really was the best thing I ever did for myself or my son.


  32. Thank you, thank you. Like so many others I fully intended on breastfeeding with my first child, but simply could not produce enough milk. I switched to formula in the hospital after 2 days because my baby was starving. Within one week, not only was I berated by a hospital staff member but also by my militant breastfeeding sil. Sorry, girls, but I wasn’t going to starve my child. Happy to say, years later, my daughter is in the gifted program in her school and my second child, whom I didn’t even bother to breastfeed after the first fiasco, has tested at the 99.8th percentile for his age group on a professionally administered intelligence test. Neither child has any medical concerns whatsoever. My sil’s (the one that insisted breastfeeding was the best & only way to go) kids have numerous allergies and one child has socially developmental delays. Kind of blows the “benefits of breastfeeding” rants out of the water, doesn’t it?


  33. Thanks for writing this. It’s a brave thing to speak openly about doing the “wrong” thing.
    In many of these mothering matters – slings vs strollers, crib vs family bed, breast vs bottle just to name a few, there is no right or wrong, there is what works for you and what doesn’t. Sure there are benefits and drawbacks to both, but we will never be able to dawn another’s life experience in order to judge these choices.
    I am a breastfeeding counselor and birth doula and too often encounter the militant heartless words you mention.
    As a woman who loves breastfeeding and has fully brainwashed myself into thinking it is the most gratifying and helpful thing about having a baby I am eager expose myself to something other than the propaganda, something richer and more full bodied than the ideal and perfect. So don’t stop talking about it, your voice is so important for the sanity of mothers everywhere.


  34. Antoinette Henning March 21, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    THIS is getting me through! This is making me not feel so GUILTY. When Joshua was born 3 days ago, they immediately wanted me to breast feed, and every latch, even the ‘perfect’ latches were EXTREMELY painful. Lactation consultant and nurses latched him so many time, said I wasn’t waking him up enough, said I wasn’t trying, said the latch shouldn’t hurt cause it’s a ‘good’ latch. I felt miserable, and I never wanted to leave a hospital more. I could have cared less if I was bleeding out all over the place, I just wanted to get AWAY from the criticism, and almost 48 hours after delivery, and not getting ANY sleep, I couldn’t handle him screaming for food that just wasn’t coming out because their wasn’t enough coming out for him to be satisfied. He was STILL hungry! And he lost almost 5 ounces! I just gave him a pacifier, and he relaxed. And then that same nurse who said all those nasty things, got even nastier. “You’re going to ween him from that good latch, don’t give him a pacifier.” I CRIED every time he latched. It hurt so much. I cried LESS giving BIRTH. And every time it hurt, I just wanted to yank him off, I was getting ANGRY at him, like it was his fault. And last night, after coming home from the hospital, I handed him to my mother at 2 in the morning, sobbing and angry, and went to Walmart, bought some bottles, came home, and he ate so very much. And now I’m getting sleep, and we’re cuddling skin to skin when he isn’t bottle feeding. My breasts hurt, and are a little engorged, but I don’t care. I’m glad he’s eating a nice healthy meal. I’m glad he isn’t starving to the point I can here his stomach growl after JUST feeding him. And he smiles a lot more. And I wish I had NEVER attempted to breast feed. It was a horrible experience.


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