I chose not to breastfeed my babies.
World Breastfeeding Week has been a time to reflect on my choices as a woman and as a mother. Choices that we all are afforded to make, with the hopes that we mothers can support each other no matter how we choose to nourish our babies.
I am the mother of 3 girls, each who have been bottle and formula fed from the day they were born.
Before my oldest was born I did what all other mothers do. We plan, we prepare, we educate, we make choices on what types of diapers and wipes we will use, and most importantly we make choices on how we will feed our baby. I thought I had it all figured out. I had taken the time to enroll in a great program through our health insurance company that promotes breastfeeding and read up about the benefits of breastfeeding and breast milk. I was more than excited to pick out my breast pump and choose bottles to use. My plan was to mostly pump, since I would be going back to work, but I knew that I would most likely not be able to pump for the first few days.
That is where my excitement ended.
I brought the box home with the pump in it and there it sat. I took the parts out once and looked at them, thinking to myself that everything looked rather interesting but I quickly packed it all back up again. Time passed and I never got the urge to figure out how the pump worked.
Then my daughter was born. She came into this world by c-section, I was blown away by all of the emotion I felt. Love, pain, sadness, nervousness, and anxiety all at the same time. It was so overwhelming but one thing I knew was that this tiny little human now consumed all of my heart. During all of the hustle and bustle of a post c-section delivery I remember a nurse asking me if I wanted to try to breastfeed. I answered no. I said not now. I said later. I just held my baby close as she slept and figured she couldn’t be hungry just yet.
A bit later, when I was transferred down to the mother/baby unit into my longer term room, I was asked again if I wanted to try breastfeeding. Again, I said no. Something inside of me just didn’t want to, not even try. What is wrong with me? I knew she would need to eat sometime soon but I wasn’t ready for the task of breastfeeding my baby. Moments later my daughter started to cry when yet another nurse was in the room. The nurse kindly asked if I had tried feeding her yet and I, once again, replied no. In one quick swoop the nurse came over, took my daughter, and began to disrobe me informing me that my child needs to eat and we need to see if she can latch on. In a moment of haste I yelled at her to leave and not to come back.
In that moment something happened to me. This nurse didn’t make me feel human, I felt I was being handled more like an animal. I knew that breast was best and I am the person who is supposed to give my child the nourishment she needs but I just couldn’t do it. Another nurse came in and offered me formula, I accepted, and fed my baby from a little bottle that looked like it was meant for a doll. From that point on I fed my daughter from a bottle with formula. I never had the maternal instinct or urge to breastfeed her or any of my other children. The pump continued to sit in the nursery room closet.
The difficulty about my choice was not the guilt I felt, because I didn’t really feel any, it was the shame I felt I received for my choice.
I was asked many questions about why I chose to formula feed and I could not always provide a good answer. It “just didn’t feel right” was not the answer that the people who asked me wanted to hear. Most people assumed that I had tried to breastfeed, but wasn’t successful, so I had to supplement. I allowed them to think this and just kept quiet. I fully support breastfeeding and think it is the best choice for a baby but it wasn’t the right choice for me and my baby. I never longed to be part of that group of women who share the common bond of nursing their sweet babes.
In my situation the choice to bottle feed ended up being a blessing in disguise for our family. When my first daughter was four weeks old, I was admitted into the hospital and needed emergency surgery. I was gone for almost a week. Thankfully my husband was able to easily continue our daughter’s feedings and routines. The choice to use bottles and formula saved us in this moment. A choice that I don’t regret.
Jen! Thank you so much for your wonderful article! I couldn’t agree more with your stance. My son was both bottle and breast fed. I came to the conclusion that if our children our fed than we are great parents, end of story. There are so many news stories out there talking about parents abusing their children, being neglectful and cruel. The idea that anyone would judge someone because of how they choose to feed their child is unreal to me. You are clearly an amazing mother and advocate!
As Meghan said this is SUCH a courageous post and I congratulate you for standing up for what felt right for you and sharing that with other moms who could have had the same experience. What is important is that your baby and YOU are happy. Becoming a parent is hard enough, you shouldn’t ever feel shamed for making a choice that was right for you and your family. It’s sad that we live in a society that shames people for the choices they make on how you want to raise your kids and it’s mom’s like you that give me hope!!
Thank you Tara for leaving such a wonderful comment! Sharing personal stories about controversial topics such as this leaves one very subject to any kind of judgment. I am open to feedback as long as it is constructive and not demeaning! You are amazing as well! Rock on Momma!
What a courageous post. The shaming needs to stop. Let’s build each other up, not tear each other down. Mama, you obviously made the right decision for you and your babies. Bravo for sharing this vulnerable story.
Thank Meghan! What ever happened to the sisterhood mothers are suppose to feel? Sisterhood of the Motherhood!
Also thank you for acknowledging that breast is best. For anyone trying to Make a decision still, look at all the ways breastmilk boosts baby’s immune system.
Hi Brenna! Thanks for your comments. I wasn’t breastfed and it wasn’t something that I was around as a child. It just wasn’t part of my maternal instinct. But I do acknowledge it is best and support anyone who does it! That’s the difference I think, I support others even if it wasn’t what was right for me!
Also I’m not sure thati know anyone who has a maternal instinct or urge to breastfeed. If it wasn’t all i was taught, I don’t think I’d have known any different.
I’m a huge breastfeeding activist but I totally can relate to the unnatural feeling you felt at being handled like an animal. I wonder what your exposure to breastfeeding was before this in your personal life. Were you breastfed or bottle fed? The comment about the doll bottle was so cute. Sometimes we just need to feel like we have our bearings with something new and if the doll bottle was familiar to you in your most vulnerable and hormonal time and made you feel on top of things then, I agree, it’s what your family needed. My only question is why it was that it felt right to you… and who the heck let you have a pump before you even had the baby. Lol. Those contraptions would scare anyone away.
You couldn’t even try?!? You may think you’re a great mom, but you couldn’t even try to do what was best for your baby?!? You deserve the shame.
Actually I don’t think I’m a great mom, I know I am. I’m a freaking amazing mom! I appreciate you taking the time to make your comment. This post has been shared across the country and yours is the first remark that was negative. Most feedback received has been other moms standing up and saying, “me too”. I think though that your comment is very much liken to what is at the root of many things wrong with our society. Have you ever heard of the term “mommy wars”? Shaming someone for their choices, just because it doesn’t fit into your perfect model of parenting is judgmental and overall mean. My 3 girls totally rock and me bottle feeding was my choice and my choice alone.
Sarah, your comment is completely inappropriate. I’m amazed at the things people feel they can say when hiding behind a computer screen. I hope you never have anyone say the words that you just said to her for a parenting CHOICE you make.
Thank you for your article! I am not pregnant and don’t have any sweet kiddos yet, but like you, I learned that I want to be a mom more than anything else. In my head I’ve assumed I would choose to breast feed, but over time my desire to do that has changed. I’m just not sure it’s for me. I myself was a bottle-fed baby and I am intelligent and healthy. So thank you for standing up and saying that it’s ok to choose bottle feeding. There’s way too much judgment in this world.
Thanks Kayla! Do what feels right to you. My kids are normal and do not have any strange complex because I didn’t breast feed!
Thank you for sharing this Jenn! You know that this is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I’m so thankful you shared your story!
Thanks Nissa! And thank you so much for the support!