As a woman who breastfed her children for a cumulative 38 months, I think it's safe to say I'm a big fan of breastfeeding. I personally found it lovely and satisfying and there's no doubt that breast milk is a magical substance. But do you know what's even more lovely and satisfying and magical and good for babies growth and development? Their mother's mental and emotional well-being. Some moms prefer, for whatever reason, formula feeding so breast is best, unless it's not. I asked moms to discuss why they decided to formula feed, not because they had to, but because they wanted to.
"But wait," you may interject, "you just said you breastfed your kids. What gives you the authority to discuss formula feeding like this? Stop taking away someone else's narrative." Great question, but actually I did formula feed my oldest child, just not exclusively. I realized days into his life that, for me, formula feeding and breastfeeding were not mutually exclusive and that formula could, at times, even be a tool to help me continue to breastfeed.
For the first two weeks of my son's life, I supplemented (seemingly incessant) nursing sessions with a few milliliters of formula. Doing so enabled me to rest (and therefore heal and not go absolutely insane with exhaustion) and gave him that little extra bit of food in his tummy he apparently needed. After a while, we had a handle on the whole breastfeeding session, so I thanked formula (you know, in my mind. I didn't actually thank a can of formula. I wasn't that delirious with sleeplessness.) put the can back in the cupboard, and went on to exclusively breastfeed for months, even after I went back to work.
After a while, though, I found I was not producing enough pumping to keep him fed while I was at work. It was around this time I remembered, "Ooh. Remember how awesome formula was back when he was a newborn? Rather than add yet another loathsome pumping session in my day, let's give formula to make up for what I'm unable to produce." That worked so well that around the time my son was a 10-month-old baby, I decided it was time to break up with my pump — at best our relationship could be described as "rocky"— and feed him exclusively formula while I was at work and continue to nurse him when we were together. We were able to keep that going until he was 17 months.
Formula-feeding was an excellent decision for me and my family, and I don't ever regret my choice. Here's what other women have to say about why it worked for them.
"My first two children were formula fed. I'm not sure if it was because I was too young and inexperienced to do it right or if my first was simply too hungry all the time, but after two weeks I decided that formula was the way to go. When my second came along, it's what I knew how to do, so I did it. They're adults now and have both since expressed great joy and comfort at not having touched my boobs in any way, shape or form."
"When I was newly 19 and held a small baby in my arms, I couldn't imagine that intimacy. I had a really tough childhood and struggled with closeness and vulnerability. It made me uncomfortable but I didn't understand why for many years. I thought it was more appealing and easier and blindly believed that the father would be an equal partner in a formula world."
I just really didn't want to. That was enough for me; I didn't bother thinking about why. My children didn't know the difference. They were fed and happy; that's all that matters.
"I'm a contrarian. I didn't feel very strongly about it one way or the other. I think I probably wouldn't have, but what pushed me over the edge [is that] I had a whole lot of people telling me about how I had to breastfeed and it was basically child abuse if I didn't. Well, the surest way to get me not to do something is to tell me I have to. So I just didn't."
"I am one of the few people that chose not to breastfeed my child. I was not breastfed, so it wasn't something that seemed natural to me. I made this decision for several reasons but mostly because I knew I was going back to work rather quickly (after six weeks) and had heard so many nightmares of having to pump throughout the day. The office I worked in didn't really have a private place for me to do it and the inconvenience of that was a huge factor. The other was that I was worried that my child wouldn't transition from the breast to the bottle easily and didn't want to be worried about that during my work day. I was worried since everyone says breastfed babies are the healthiest but I can say that she is one of the healthiest kids I know!"
I heard too many horror stories from too many women to have any interest in even attempting breastfeeding. No shame.
"I had kids a long time ago (I don't want to say how many years, but it's a lot) and it didn't even strike me to breastfeed because it was pretty rare back then. I just assumed I would bottle feed. I knew I could breastfeed, but I didn't have much interest. Looking back I don't feel like I missed out and I don't really feel I would have done anything differently."
"I exclusively breastfed my daughter for the first two weeks of her life, and while I loved the snuggle time and the fact that she was getting my immunity, I hated being the 24/7 parent — the whole thing was just super depressing for me; like anxiety attack, I hate my life, what did we do, depressing. Knowing my long history with anxiety/depression, I refused to allow my time with my tiny babe to be filled with hate so I chose formula. After her first bottle she finally slept for more than an hour at a time (meaning I slept for more than an hour at a time!), and she finally started gaining weight. Just like when I "gave in" and got an epidural and had the most blissful birth experience, I'm so happy I "gave up" breastfeeding because now I can enjoy being a mom."
I'm a sexual assault survivor and I knew breastfeeding would be extremely triggering for me.
"I gave breastfeeding the old college try, but I didn't feel that magical bond so many people say happens. At first I thought there was something wrong with me, but I quickly realize it was a 'different strokes for different folks' situation. We preferred bottle feeling, and my wife (our baby's non-gestational mother) was happy she could take more of a role in feedings."