Like many women, I wanted nothing more than to breastfeed my son when he was born. I vowed my allegiance to breast milk and proclaimed that I would do whatever it took to give him the nutrition he needed, even if that meant breastfeeding my baby in public. I'm shy about my showing my body, even if I totally support the practice of public breastfeeding; This would have been a seriously big deal for me. Little did I know, not too long after he was born, the nutrition he needed would be coming from a bottle, rather than my boob.
As it turned out, I hated breastfeeding. And not only did I hate it, my body also hated it, as did my sanity. I was unknowingly combating the symptoms of postpartum depression while simultaneously battling my son in order to get him to feed. I was exhausted (like every new mom is) and my boobs hurt and my head hurt, and I wanted to cry and scream for no rational reason at all. (Well, except that all of those things were totally rational reasons to cry. It felt irrational at the time.)
All I could think about was that breastfeeding was supposed to be the most natural thing on earth. I was supposed to love bonding with my son while feeding him, and the fact that I didn't not only not love it, but actually hated it sort of alarmed me. It made me feel like a terrible mother and a terrible woman that wasn't even worthy of motherhood.
When my son was six weeks old, I stopped breastfeeding and sought treatment for postpartum depression. The moment I threw in the towel, I immediately felt relieved. I was sad, of course, the way anyone is whenever something they tried to do ends up not working out according to plan. It wasn't a devastated sadness; I knew my life wasn't ending, and I knew that my now-formula-fed baby would be just as healthy, but it still...just kinda sucked. A lot. But after a few fleeting moments of tears, I felt like my body was my own again. It took some time for me to adjust to the idea that I hadn't let my son down because I quit breastfeeding him.
It took even longer for me to rid my mind of the guilt that accompanied that decision. My son has been fed formula for most of his life and he's perfect. He's thriving and healthy and literally never gets sick. I hate that I let the decision to feed him formula make me feel like a bad mom. I'm a great mom — I just happen to hate breastfeeding (my own experience, of course. Obviously I am 100% in support of other women that breastfeed.), and that is, as it turns out, totally OK.
Here are 12 reasons you shouldn't feel guilty about hating breastfeeding.
Your Baby Is Going To Be Fine
Despite the lies that some people like to feed us, formula is not poison. It is, however, a great way to feed your child. Both of my sons have been formula fed and (spoiler!) they're fine. Perfect and healthy and fine.
Formula Is Very Beneficial
Not only is formula a perfectly acceptable alternative to breast milk, it also has a ton of benefits for both mom and baby. It offers vitamins and nutrients that sometimes have to be supplemented when breastfeeding, and it allows you to know exactly how much your baby is eating. It also makes scheduling feedings much easier and offers the opportunity to give mothers the much appreciated breaks they sometimes need.
Your Baby Won't Judge You
Your baby honestly doesn't care whether or not he's drinking breast milk of formula. All he cares about is that his tummy is full and that he's got his momma near by.
Sharing Feedings Means That Your Partner Can Bond With Baby Too
Formula feeding is a great way to get your partner involved in caring for your new baby. Feeding the baby allows them their own time to bond and nurture, and that's so important in those first few months of being a parent.
If you're exclusively breastfeeding, I applaud you, but you've got to admit that sharing feedings with your partner would definitely make your life easier.
You Can Still Bond Without Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding isn't the only route to bonding that you can take, and it's an especially awful one if you hate doing it in the first place, like me. For me, I loved bath times and bed times with my babies. At bath time, I gave my sons little foot massages, and let them play with the bath toys and the bubbles, and at bedtime, I just adored rocking them gently to sleep. There is not greater feeling that having a freshly bathed, sleeping baby on your chest. There just isn't. You don't have to be perfectly suited to 100% of the tasks and options associated with parenting — you can get to the same end points (in this case, bonding with my baby) by multiple roads.
Breastfeeding Is A Choice, Not A Requirement
Despite what the media might like to tell us, breastfeeding is a choice — not a requirement. It's a choice that is completely, 100 percent up. to. you. You do whatever feel is best for both you and your baby. Personally, the decision to stop breastfeeding really benefited my relationship with my son. After I was able to get some rest and some help for my postpartum depression, I was able to enjoy my time with my baby. A sane mom is as important as a breastfeeding one.
Bleeding Nipples, Anyone?
Um, yeah. Not cool.
Having Someone Attached To Your Body 24/7 Is Never Convenient
As mothers, we're needed every hour of every day. Breastfeeding mothers especially give up every ounce of themselves every day. Having a child physically attached to your body 24/7 makes getting out of the house for errands, or anything at all, quite tricky. Breastfeeding isn't exactly convenient, which is all the more reason to high five the mamas out there that do it exclusively.
Leakage Anxiety Is A Very Real Thing
When your breasts become full of milk, that milk has to go somewhere or you'll get engorged. And engorgement is kind of awful. So sometimes if you're not able to breastfeed or pump, for whatever reason, and your breasts are full of milk, they'll leak. Sometimes they'll leak in public and you'll regret wearing that gray t-shirt to Target. Sometimes they'll leak right through your nice bras and leave them smelling like breast milk for the rest of their useless existence.
Side note: This is the one time in life when it's perfectly acceptable to stuff your bra full of toilet paper. It could actually save you the public humiliation of having two giant wet spots on your shirt for all to see.
There's A Lot To Be Said For Having A Bra That Fits
Most women's boobs are never quite the same again after having children, and especially while breastfeeding. They grow and shrink and grown some more, all in the course of a single day. That makes finding the perfect bra, or any fitting bra for that matter, quite a challenge.
More Sleep = More Sanity, Which Is A Highly Valued Trait In A New Mother
Being a new mother is exhausting regardless of whether or not you breastfeed, but it can be especially tiring on breastfeeding mothers. They're required to answer the call of their babies during all hours of the night, and that can bring about some serious sleep deprivation. Even co-sleeping moms who can basically nurse a baby in their sleep... Like, how soundly can you really be sleeping? (Yes, I'm saying that I don't just need some sleep to function; I need sound sleep.)
That kind of exhaustion can leave any of us feeling a bit, um, crazy. Sometimes sharing feedings in the middle of the night is a saving grace for the sanity of new moms. And again, sanity is a highly valued trait in a mother.
Sometimes You Just Need Wine
The stress of motherhood eventually cracks everyone. Just for a minute, from time to time. And then we quickly glue ourselves back together so we can resume holding that which needs holding. And quite often, that glue with which we piece ourselves back into the whole vessels we need to be, is wine. When I was breastfeeding I remember staring at a bottle of wine and resenting every last delicious drop inside it. "I just want a glass of wine!" I pleaded with my husband.
"You deserve the whole bottle. Drink it." he told me. Since I was nearing the brink of insanity, I took his advice. I had pumped earlier that day and had some breast milk stored already that we could alternate with formula as my son transitioned into bottle feeding, so I felt less guilty (still plenty guilty though) about giving up.
I opened the wine and was able to just relax on the couch like a real human again, for the first time in months. It felt so, so good and honestly, we were all better off after we opened that bottle.
I haven't looked back since. Both of my boys have been formula fed and they're both perfect. The moral of the story is that the best kind of baby is a fed baby. We should support full tummies, not bash breastfeeding abandonment. What's best for one person isn't necessarily best for another, and what's best for all of us is the support of one another.