I will happily die on the fed is best hill of motherhood. In fact, I believe that breast is best is a dated concept that disregards many factors of the present day, including: more daily responsibility for mothers (including, but not limited to, working moms), food with added hormones, GMOs, preservatives, and more, higher presence of mental health issues, the stress and anxiety of fertility complications that continue into postpartum, and more.
It is important to note that the decision of how to feed a newborn is a personal one and there are benefits and drawbacks to both formula feeding and breastfeeding. If this article triggers you, it is likely because you are in the I hate breastfeeding/what it has done to me, and you want other mothers to suffer on your hill with you (lol). Proceed with caution.
When I first told my husband that I would be formula-feeding our son from day one, he asked, “Can you just feed him the first time he comes out?” And, why wouldn’t he ask that of me? His mother breastfed, his sister breastfed, the wives of his friends breastfed, and the general pretentious air of “breastfeeding is the best, ever, for the baby,” exists in absolutely every commercial, every motherhood forum, everywhere. When I told him no, he respected my decision. It’s my body that would be the vessel for this process anyway, so what say should he have on how my body is used. (Honestly, this should be the test everyone does before they choose to have a baby with someone – if they force you to choose to breastfeed, don’t reproduce with them!)
Now, my husband is well-aware of the multiple benefits to formula-feeding and has even commented, “I don’t know why anyone would choose the stress of breastfeeding when it is clear there is no need for it.” Even my pediatrician said, when I mentioned (while pregnant) that I would be choosing formula, “And why not? The formula these days are just as good – and sometimes better – than a mother’s milk. Not to mention you save yourself from so much stress and expectation.”
And, yes, that was my primary draw to choosing formula.
This was a new venture I was setting sail on that would clearly be my hardest and most challenging adventure of my life; why would I want to add stress to that journey? I wanted to be the absolute best version of myself for my son, and I knew that breastfeeding, for me, would completely challenge that. I knew it would not allow me to transition through postpartum with ease. In fact, many women in these forums I am a part of often post, “Breastfeeding is adding to my Postpartum depression/anxiety,” or, “I have a total loss of identity as a breastfeeding mama and am thinking of stopping because it is too stressful.”
And yet women in these groups respond, “No! Don’t give up mama! Breast is best!” Why? Why would you encourage women who are struggling to stay on the struggle train when there is a quick solution to their issue that betters their health and makes them better for the baby. A baby thrives when you thrive. It will feel your worries, your stress, your anxiety, your fears. So if you can be better for your baby by transitioning out of breastfeeding, why wouldn’t you choose that path? Why wouldn’t women let other women choose that path? Why do we not want to see women thrive?
Motherhood already comes with a profound loss of identity (you don’t realize it until you are actually a mother), and I didn’t want to lose myself to the identity of being the “milk machine” for my son. I didn’t want what I provide him to be who I am. I wanted to be so much more than that.
As a formula-feeding mama, I:
– Have less stress regarding “milk production”, do not need to see a lactation consultant, do not need to worry about whether I am producing enough for my child to thrive (production issues is a big cause of stress in these motherhood groups, many complaining their child is in the low percentile for birth weight). I like not having to worry about tracking the amount my baby is getting fed – because my bottles tell me.
-Breastfeeding doesn’t just happen immediately; it actually takes time to learn it and learn how to do it successfully. With everything else I was learning about being a mother, this was not something else I wanted to add to the list.
– I do not need to constantly be the one present to feed the baby; my husband actually plays an active role in the cleaning, preparation, and feeding of Raphaël. And he likes that he doesn’t have to worry about “not having a breast” should he be alone with the baby and it comes time to feed.
– I do not need to worry about overproduction and pumping, or pumping if I need to go out and run errands, leaving the baby at home. For working mothers or for mothers who send their children to daycare, pumping is a requirement. In addition, I have weaned my child off of night feeds already to help him sleep through the night, and I don’t have to worry about leaking breasts due to not doing these feedings. (FYI, I still produced and leaked for the first week after my pregnancy – it was so immensely painful that I had to ice my breasts and got backaches – and it stains, is sticky, dries hard on clothing, and gets everywhere.)
– I do not need to adjust my own eating habits for allergy scares, or track my alcohol or food consumption because of the baby’s feedings. Lactose and dairy allergies are particularly prominent in the motherhood forums I am a part of.
– I don’t need to worry about bad habits forming around food such as cluster feeding, or my son going to the breast for comfort. We have an already established feeding routine and schedule with precise quantities and my son turns to me for comfort rather than food or my breast.
– My son bites my finger (without teeth) and grips my face with his talons, and I already know I do not want that on my breasts! No, thank you!
A pediatric nurse I know through Instagram, @motherlyhonesty, told me that she also will choose the formula route when her child is born, stating, “…no mastitis, no sore nipples, you have your body to yourself again and it’s so hard to wean them off the breast. You constantly have to half undress yourself … and even when you are not with the baby you still need to pump every three hours, or even have to wake up the baby because you need to feed them every three hours so your supply doesn’t go down. […] I’ve seen mothers get so upset and stressed and sick because of breastfeeding. I’m not going to do this to myself.”
As a new mom, I didn’t want the added stress of breastfeeding to get in the way of me bonding and enjoying my son – and I knew it wasn’t necessary to bond with him, either! But for many, breastfeeding is bonding and joyful – and to that I say, good on you! But this isn’t the reality for many breastfeeding mothers, unfortunately. I just knew I didn’t want to be trapped to my child’s hunger needs. I did not want to carry the struggles that come with this choice when it would already be the most difficult and challenging journey of my life.
And that isn’t selfish of me! I wanted to be the best version of myself for my son and I knew that breastfeeding would only hinder that goal. So, I chose formula. And I will not be shamed for that choice, because, in the end, FED IS BEST.
And my giant son (weight above average percentile and height in the 98th percentile), who is clever, active, reaching milestones early, and has no allergies or sicknesses, is proof of that.