So What, I Didn’t Breastfeed

didn't breastfeed

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I had no intention of breastfeeding my daughter. I read the recommendations, I listened to the counselors that told me the benefits and I politely declined. No one asked twice or tried to sway a decision that had already been made.  Breastfeeding would have been bad for me even if it was good for my daughter and I chose accordingly.

My pregnancy was a difficult one and I was thrilled when my daughter left my body. Whether right or wrong, I was ecstatic that now there were two of us. I wasn’t a woman that glowed through pregnancy: I visited the ER for hydration, my feet rivaled that of an elephant’s and I was permanently exhausted. Beyond the trips to the hospital, there is nothing unique about elephant feet or exhaustion during pregnancy, but I was happy that it was over. There was no way I would continue to have my daughter attached to my body for another two years. 

I knew my limitations as a mother before I became one. Breastfeeding would have meant that I was someone else’s food source. I knew that responsibility was an awesome one and that I was not up to the task. I would have resented my daughter for being hungry all the time and that it was my body doing all the work. I would have spiraled into a deep and dark depression without my autonomy.

I also liked my perky breasts and wanted them to remain that way.

My daughter deserved the best and, for me, the best that I could offer was a bottle and formula. I didn’t have second thoughts then and I still don’t. I made feedings a special time where my partner and I sat down and held our daughter; even when she gained the strength to handle the bottler herself. We were purposeful in our recognition that feeding our baby was an important time to bond and we took it seriously even if that time was not spent at my breast.

Choosing not to breastfeed allowed my partner to be a participant in the earliest stages of fatherhood rather than a sidekick. He, just like me, woke up in the middle of the night for feedings and could be found at the mall with our baby in one hand and a bottle in the other.

Breastfeeding wasn’t for me, but I support mothers who decide it works for their families. I get angry when Facebook deletes pictures of women nursing their children and even more mad when someone suggests that breastfeeding is indecent (it’s not). But ultimately it’s not my cross to bear because I have no frame of reference. All that I can offer is my support.

I wasn’t cut out to be a breastfeeding mother and my daughter is none the wiser. If she remembers her bottle days at all, it’s through pictures. She doesn’t feel left out or that I didn’t love her enough or that I was somehow selfish.

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Even if I am selfish, so be it.

It made me a better mother.

 

Photo via Flickr

What do you think?

So What, I Didn’t Breastfeed

Liz Henry is the irreverent voice behind the award-winning blog The Six Year Itch. She lives with her daughter and her partner, Slasher, in Philadelphia. That's not his real name and that's not her real hair color. Her soft middle is totally real. Liz graduated summa cum lazy with a degree in English literature, which means she knows how to write properly, but rarely does. She loves Harry Potter and Luna is her favorite. ... More

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19 comments

  1. I plan on breastfeeding, but good for you! If that’s what you had to do to be the best mom you could, all the power to you, there is no reason you should second guess or feel guilt over that decision.

    My sister bottle fed her babies with formula. She did *say* she tried breastfeeding, but it "didn’t work out". I think she planned on formula feeding all along but felt guilty about her decision to do so. I don’t think it was a bad choice on her part to choose formula, but I do feel bad that she felt guilty about it and felt she had to say that she tried as hard as she could to breastfeed.

    Again, good for you 🙂

  2. Moe says:

    Wow. Maybe I’m naive and see the humorous side of life, but I did not take your comment "I also liked my perky breasts and wanted them to remain that way" as serious as everyone else. I actually laughed. I’m kinda jealous I didn’t use that as an excuse on some ladies. LOL!
    I would think, no, I would hope, that that was not a major determining factor for not breastfeeding. I can’t say it was on my list of reasons as to why I did not breastfeed my son, but had I known (yes, even if I knew it was myth) I would still use it as a reason because I find it humorous. Lighten up ladies.
    I’m with Liz on this one. I decided not to breastfeed from the day I knew I was pregnant for what some may view as selfish reasons. So what! I’m selfish! I’m 40 with my first baby, believe me, I am selfish. However, I can honestly say my selfishness has made me a better mother. If I feel better about myself and happy with my choices, it will show in my concerns and care for my son. It is about me, so I can be all about him!
    Aside from selfishness, another factor in my decision was that I saw no difference in any baby or child that has been breastfed or bottle fed. Every bottle fed child I know is as normal and healthy as the next breastfed child I know, if not healthier.
    Do what’s right for you and your family by taking in all the facts and support, not judge, one another as mothers.

  3. it’s a personal opinion, i choose to breastfeed because i have an oversupply and pumping all day i think is worse and more painful than having her at the breast .. but sometimes i rather pump and feed her a bottle than have her choke and have milk spray all over her face . plus formula is expensive and having a baby right now is expensive enough, we can’t afford it .. regardless, i son’t think there is a difference between a formula fed and a breastfed baby other than breastfed babies get sick less often during childhood . i was bottle-fed until i was 5 and i rarely get sick nowadays

  4. Jacklyn says:

    Good for you! I would have loved to breastfeed, but it didn’t work out. I tried pumping, and lactation consultants, I even tried different types of supplements. I wish it did work. I am constantly judged by breast feeding mothers about using formula. I even had a mother approach me at the store when I was buying formula to tell me that I shouldn’t even be a mom if I didn’t breast feed.

  5. Melody says:

    I chose to breastfeed because that was what I felt was right for me and my family–the health and cost benefits were too great for me to ignore. That said, I’m a strong believer that every family needs to be able to get the facts, and choose for themselves. When you become a parent, it’s not (just) about you anymore. Every mom needs to think about what that means for her and her family and make those choices accordingly.

  6. "I knew my limitations as a mother before I became one." And that’s what its all about! That is exactly why my second child (due in July) will be 4 years younger than my first. So many people tsk tsked and said I should have had them closer together so they could have a stronger bond. Guess what? I knew my limitations as a mother, and knew that I would be spread way too thin by having a newborn/infant around with my daughter in her terrible twos and torrential threes. I also love her so much that I could not bear the fact that I knew she would pay the price if I had another too soon. I could not care less what anyone else thought–I enjoyed the heck out of the past few years just me and my little girl…and I have to say she did too. So many people base big parenting or life decisions on societal norms/opinions. How about what works best for you and your family instead? So bravo, Liz for knowing your limitations ahead of time. As a mother who breastfed #1 and plans to breastfeed #2, I support your decision–thanks for supporting mine.

  7. DEANN says:

    By the way I also breast fed for the health benefits. However, my mother was in the hospital after I was born having surgery, so I didn’t get a chance to be breast fed. I didn’t deal with a ton of illnesses as a child. As a matter of fact I know a young woman who chose to formula feed, because she thought one of our friends who breast fed always had sick babies. I am not sure about all of that, although I do think breast feeding is worth a thought or a try, I will never beat up a mother who wants to formula or breast feed, it’s hard enough just trying to be a good mother.

  8. DEANN says:

    As far as extended nursing goes, do you pump or nurse him from the breast? I’ve always wondered why when kids are older why the mother would prefer to nurse over pump. I have a cousin who is doing that now and I haven’t talked to her but her grandmother, my aunt, told me.

  9. DEANN says:

    I breast fed both of my children (ages 3 and7 weeks)I also supplemented with Similac, because I felt early on that they weren’t getting enough (they were both over 9 lbs at birth).

    My husband helps me by feeding via bottle, be it breast or formula, and when I’m overwhelmingly tired, I sure don’t mind saying get the formula, lol. My son weened himself at around 6 months (despite my wanting to go for a year), well see how it goes this time :-).

    I can’t say that I’ve had a droopy breast issue, I will admit, I love the cleavage I get during this time, but last time leaking during intimacy wasn’t quite sexy, ha!

    For any mom trying to make a decision, breast feeding is WAY cheaper than formula feeding, but if you don’t want to feel like you’re trapped, pump or supplement or then again formula feed, either way the baby gets fed!

  10. Victoria says:

    I think it is the ‘sagging breasts’ excuse that makes me the most upset at this article. It is an untrue myth, and sounds selfish and vain to use as an excuse not to breastfeed. I know every woman has the right to choose what is best for herself and family, but do not use that myth as an excuse to make yourself feel better about the selfish act of not attempting breastfeeding if possible. I hate to say, I think medical reasons and maybe full time work outside the home are the only excuses for formula feeding that I as a NICU nurse feel are justified.

  11. Francesca says:

    I commend you for making feeding time a bonding time even though you didn’t breastfeed. One thing though: nursing doesn’t make your breasts less perky. That’s due to pregnancy, gravity, and bra issues, etc.

  12. WR'sMomma says:

    While I support you in your choice of BF’ing or not; it’s up to each individual Mom to decide what’s best, and yes pregnancy can be hard. But I think when we get pregnant we have to realize we are no longer living for ourselves alone, and some of the language of your reasoning seems very selfish and negative. Resenting your child for being hungry all the time? That seems a bit harsh. Before anyone thinks I am coming down on you let me say, I’m glad you realized you have things that you will have to work on, I think we all as parents have these moments of realization, but instead of calling them limitations, perhaps you should see them as obstacles to overcome, and chances for growth. Turning the language around and using positive language can make a big difference in how these "limitations" are viewed. Just a thought… As well, I breastfed, and my hubby never felt like a sidekick to the process. He woke up with me when my DH needed to feed. He would feed her pumped bottles when I pumped. He was very involved in the process.

  13. some of what you said sounds a little like postpartum..

  14. I support your decision. Each mother should do what is best for her.

    I do want to reference two myths in your post though. First, breastfeeding is not a cause of sagging breasts. Age, pregnancy, smoking, BMI, and breast size are though. http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2010/4/4/sagging-breasts-whats-to-blame.html

    Second, breastfeeding doesn’t have to mean that your partner is a sidekick. That certainly wasn’t the case in our home. Just because I was nursing, didn’t mean that my partner couldn’t have equal time skin-to-skin with our baby or couldn’t equally contribute to his care. It is perhaps easier when the mother is breastfeeding for her partner to play the sidekick role, but it doesn’t have to be that way at all.

    None of that negates the fact that you have the right to make the decision that is best for your family. But I don’t want other women to base a decision (one way or the other) on a myth.

  15. Would you have ever guessed before nursing your son that you would still be nursing him five years later? It’s amazing to learn what we’re capable of sometimes, and breastfeeding can feel so empowering. (Of course, there are just as many – if not more – women who feel defeated and failed by breastfeeding – a problem I see as the heart of the breastfeeding topic.)

    But as a supporter of extended breastfeeding, I can also see that those who continue nursing past what society deems "acceptable" face criticism from others – much the same as women who opt for formula face criticism for their choices. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of feedback from people who think extended nursing is wrong and that by making that choice you’re damaging your child. Of course, that isn’t true. In reality, it seems that no matter what choices we make, we face someone who feels the choices we’re making aren’t the right ones.

    I think this is where we can learn so much from our children. My breastfed, co-sleeping, junk food eating kids can play happily with their formula-fed, crib dwelling, all organic eating best friends without a thought about their differences. They look at one another and all they see is other kids. The world would be more like the playground if we could look past our differences and just see other mothers 🙂

  16. I have talked about my own breastfeeding experiences here pretty often. I loved nursing my babies, but it was often a challenge – and one I wasn’t always sure I was capable of managing (which was part of what inspired me to become a CLC). I think that nursing holds a wealth of benefits and experiences for mother and child, BUT I also think that knowing your limitations and needs as an individual is equally as essential for being a successful mother.
    There are benefits to nursing – as you pointed out, there is no shortage of information available that supports breastfeeding – but what isn’t always available is non-judgmental support for mothers’ choices. I will always take the time to answer a breastfeeding question or support a mother who desires to breastfeed, but is struggling. But, at the same time, I won’t criticize or demean a mother who decides – at whatever point in her journey – that breastfeeding isn’t for her. There are so many factors that contribute to breastfeeding – and general parenting – success, but the most important is feeling confident and supported. And I think that ALL mothers deserve to feel that kind of confidence or support – whether or not they make the same choices that I have made.
    Congratulations on finding what worked for you and your family.

  17. I’m gonna do the best I can to breastfeed. My body, my baby, my decision. Lizs too.

  18. renee200823 says:

    Breast feeding is not just about bonding with your new baby… When I first started reading I thought hey I can relate to the ER visits and the struggle she went through while pregnant, I went through it four years ago and currently I am experiancing it once again but this time I was hospitalized for 1 1/2 months and sent home on home health with a constant feeding tube in my upper arm… NOT once have I had second thoughts about either pregnancy, only I was scared and prayed alot for a healthy baby! So, after reading the first 3 paragraphs it sounds like maybe recentment to the idea of having to nurture your baby and give her more time, give up the ‘perky breast’ you seem to love. Taking the easy route in situations is what every normal human wants, right? But providing a quick and easy choice rather than giving your child a natural healthy benificial meal is not always a wise choice. Like I said, its not just bonding with your baby its the natural vitamins and suppliments that she will get from your body as well as minimizing colds and really helping her immune system. There is also benefits for you as a breast feeding mother. Breastfeeding lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Also, it helps reduce uterine bleeding. Breast feeding was uncomfortable for me with my first baby because I was very shy but once I seen how natural it really is and how powerful it is to be able to provide a save meal for my baby I quickly got over my fears. Even breast feeding for the first 7-10 days is great! I’m not at all dissing you as a mother but in my opinion everyone should allow there baby the first 7-10 days of nutritionfrom breast milk because that is such a crucial time in your young infants life and he/she needs all the vitamins and nutriants you can give her.

  19. I think it’s unfortunate for you and your child that you didn’t even try. Ultimately, it’s your decision and every mom has the right to do what she feels is right. Who knows, you might have surprised yourself and liked it? As a mom who breastfed her son for a long time and enjoyed every minute of it, I feel sad that you didn’t get to experience how wonderful it can feel to be the only source of food your baby needs. I personally was fascinated and awed by the fact that my milk was all he needed for 9 months. And then I ended up breastfeeding him for 5 years, only for a few minutes each day the last three years. After learning that my health would also benefit greatly from breastfeeding, I was sold on extended breastfeeding. I have blogged about my experience with breastfeeding over the years: http://dagmarbleasdale.com/2011/07/why-im-proudly-nursing-a-preschooler/

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