Good Mothers Breastfeed, Right?

breastfeeding and formula feeding
My oldest “breastfeeds” her twins while her brother drinks formula from a bottle.

Good mothers breastfeed.

It’s true. Do you know what else they do? Good mothers formula feed. Good mothers cup feed and bottle feed and tube feed. Because the thing is, good mothers know that what matters most is that they feed the baby.

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There are so many things that mothers feel judged about – that mothers ARE judged about. Go online and view the comments on any article about breastfeeding and you’ll find commenters suggesting that women “cover up,” stop “whipping it out,” just “pump and give the kid a bottle.” Click on over to an article about formula feeding and you’ll find commenters chiming in that “my baby never had any formula” and “I don’t need bottles, I have breasts.” How is that productive? 

In reality, I think that most mothers are doing the very best that they can, with the resources at their disposal, and in consideration of their own unique challenges. And there are plenty of challenges related to feeding – mastitis, low milk supply, NICU time, public judgment, discouragement and misinformation coming from doctors and other health professionals, money, time, health (both physical and emotional).

MORE: You Can Breastfeed! Misconceptions About Milk Supply }

I breastfed all three of my children. My first for around 17 months, until I got pregnant again and she weaned. My twins for around 16 months, with one opting that the world was too interesting to stop playing and the other soon following suit. I suffered mastitis bad enough to demand a hospitalization, a PICC line, and 6 weeks of pumping and dumping because of medication. I dealt with reflux, food allergies, and colic. It remains one of the life experiences I most treasure and something that I feel pride in having done. But that doesn't mean that I consider myself any different or any better than anyone else.

All three of my children also benefited from infant formula. My first during the sudden hospitalization and six weeks of pumping and dumping, during which time I was intensely grateful that I had another option. My twins both had formula before we’d even left the hospital, after a traumatic birth experience and blood transfusion that left me weak and unable to meet all their needs. And they had formula at other times, when life threw curve balls and I did my best to catch up. While formula may not have been my first choice, it was a valid choice and one I didn't and don’t feel the need to apologize for. And I don’t think other women should feel the need to apologize either.

MORE: World Breastfeeding Week: Resources and Support }

I support World Breastfeeding Week initiatives, because I believe strongly that every woman who wishes to breastfeed should have the support and resources she needs to encourage her success. But I also recognize that every woman faces unique challenges and obstacles. Sometimes what we all really need, more than anything, is just for someone to say “You’re doing a great job.” I support breastfeeding, but first I support mothers.

Good mothers feed the baby. You’re doing a great job. 

What do you think?

Good Mothers Breastfeed, Right?

Sara McTigue is a secret agent, cupcake chef, award winning author, photographer, and PTA mom. At least, that is how things look in her mind. When she isn’t testing the bounds of her imagination, she is a mom to three amazing and hilariously funny children, wife to a charming and handsome man, and thoroughly addicted to reading. With a BS in English Education and an MA in English Literature, words – and their ability to shape our lives and thoughts – are an everyday fascination. Af ... More

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8 comments

  1. Profile photo of Kelsey Kelsey says:

    Thank you for this article. From Day 1 I did not have enough milk to feed my baby, he would drain me dry and then scream because he was still hungry. What was I to do, starve him? Obviously not, so I opted to supplement with formula. And you would not believe the comments I would get, from total strangers, about my feeding him apparently poisoned formula. I kid you not – when I meet people the first question is “How old is he, what’s his name, etc” the second is always “Are you breastfeeding?”. My husband didn’t believe it was that bad until we took a family vacation and he witnessed it first hand. From random people in the parking lot, from waitresses, grocers. So if you are a breastfeeding only advocate – I’m very happy for you that you can breastfeed. I wish I could have. But I couldn’t. So please, don’t tell me breast is best, or that my son will be less attached to me or intellectually disadvantaged or have health problems (all comments I’ve gotten). He is happy and healthy and I love him and that’s all that matters.

    • Profile photo of jesster131 jesster131 says:

      Thank you. I was on meds That made it unsafe to breastfeed my son & people still told me I should be breastfeeding even after having it spelled out to them. I got to the point that I stopped explaining & simply told people who didn’t know me it was none of there business.

    • Profile photo of jesster131 jesster131 says:

      Thank you. I was on meds That made it unsafe to breastfeed my son & people still told me I should be breastfeeding even after having it spelled out to them.

  2. Profile photo of Mary Mary says:

    You don’t have to Breastfeed to be a good mother. Where did that idea come from. Who made the rules. I’m 84 and didn’t breastfeed any of my healthy children. Who’s to judge on mothers that don’t breastfeed. i’ve seen mothers breastfeed their children and feed them cold baby food out of a jar. Give me a break. I was with my children morning, noon,, and night, giving them all of my time. Just breast feeding doesn’t make you a good mother.

  3. Profile photo of Kathy Kathy says:

    Thank you so much for this article! It’s just what I needed to read.

  4. Profile photo of ovation ovation says:

    Love this article! There are so any articles with comments that you are a horrible mother if you don’t breastfeed. It is totally depressing how awful some of those people can make you feel as a mother. I was lucky enough to breastfeed both my boys but with being hypothyroid it can cause issues with milk supply even when it’s controlled on medication. I had a wonderful breastfeeding consultant. I tried everything she told me but still ended up supplementing with formula and eventually lost my supply. 5 mths with my oldest and 3 mths with my youngest. All that mattered is my babies where getting nourishment and on a healthy track. I try to support my friends who want to try breastfeeding. I’m open to any questions and I tell them it’s ok if it just doesn’t work for you whatever the reason. Formula is still nourishing and taking care of your baby. What matters at the end of the day is that we are all mom’s doing the best we can for our kids.

  5. Profile photo of Christie Christie says:

    When I gave birth to my son, he was not able to latch on right. I was devastated because I thought it was my fault in a way. For the first month, I’d feed him formula and my own mother told me that I was doing my son a disservice by not breastfeeding him even though I repeatedly told her what was going on. She made me so angry that tears came out of my eyes and I actually comtemplated punching her in her face. Thank God for my boyfriend. He managed to calm down. So thank you for this article. It finally made me realize that it doesn’t matter how I feed my baby as long as he’s being fed….. She still keeps saying that mothers that don’t breastfeed their babies are horrible mothers, but I just ignore her.

    • Profile photo of Sara McTigue, CLCEditor Sara McTigue, CLC says:

      Christie, I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s reaction. I’m glad that you had the support of your boyfriend. You’re absolutely right – at the end of the day what is important is feeding the baby. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

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