FFF Friday: “The thing that amazed me the most was the public assumption that I would breastfeed”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts and feelings, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so. 

Today’s FFF Friday will probably cause a fair bit of controversy, but I think it’s extremely important to hear from women who made a conscious choice not to breastfeed, despite being educated about the benefits. And just like Nicole’s piece from last week, Amy’s story is brutally honest – and brutal honesty can sometimes offend. But in order for us to create real, positive change, we need that kind of honesty. We need women like Amy to say hey, this is my story, this is my truth, and I’m not asking you to approve of it, but simply to hear it, and accept that I have every right to make my own decision. It takes bravery and a strong sense of self to be on both the speaking and listening side of that type of conversation.

I am confident that the FFF audience has both those traits, in spades. So I’m going to let you all go to it, since my 2.5-year-old is getting uncomfortably close to an overly full cereal box….

Happy Friday, fearless ones. 

The FFF

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Amy’s Story

I’m proud to say that I’m one of those 30% who didn’t try breastfeeding, and this is my story about feeding.  Pre-pregnancy I viewed breastfeeding as archaic and unnecessary, something only modern hippies did.  It was something that people did back in the day, but because they didn’t have a better option (sort of like why would you use an outhouse, if indoor plumbing is available?) It’s much easier to judge these things before you become pregnant (remember this was when your imaginary kids were always well behaved and clean).   And I was surprised the first time I was pregnant how popular breastfeeding was, because I still couldn’t understand why you would choose to breastfeed.  Then I started getting the books, the magazines, and visiting all the mommy-to-be websites. I learned how much better it breastfeeding is, and how really good moms always breastfeed.  But I was still unsure – my siblings and I were all formula fed, we seemed healthy and normal enough, was breastfeeding really some sort of magic to have instantly better babies?  Deep down though, I still felt breastfeeding was wrong for me, so I continued to prepared to formula feed.

But then, these thoughts ran through my head…But what about the cost?  I was going to be on maternity leave for 12 weeks with only two weeks of paid leave at 60%, could we get by with spending $20-30 per can of formula?  Even when I tried to research how much formula I would need at first, once again breastfeeding came up, because if I was a good mom I won’t need formula.  In fact one site told me, that if I was adopting I could pump myself full of hormones so that I could breastfeed…is that even healthy? This made me a little suspicious, would pumping yourself full of hormones really be better?  That’s when I decided to do a cost analysis for the the first 5 months of my baby’s life (3 months of maternity leave, 2 months to get our budget back in place (haha, as if this really happens after baby).  I found out that I only saved $10, and I also found out that the idea of breastfeeding really upset me, made me nauseous, and I was almost in tears by the end of the cost analysis.  That’s when I told my husband, who had been hearing the same breast as best propaganda,  that I didn’t want to breastfeed, that it seemed unnatural for me.  I felt it was worth the extra $10 to be able to enjoy motherhood and to not feel sick about feeding my baby.  He was concerned about the health risks, so I promised him, that I would wait and see after giving birth how I felt, since maybe once you give birth you suddenly have the desire to breastfeed, and maybe that’s when it seems natural?

I arrived at the hospital at 6am on October 4th, 2011 to be induced since my son was taking his time (9 days late).  After spending most of the day in between sleepiness, hunger (I’ve never been so happy to eat lime jello in my life), watching a lot of law and order, and starting the early stages of labor, I woke up to find two nurses and my doctor breaking my water.  My son’s heart monitor had gone off and they needed to use an internal monitor.  At this point I was at 2cm after using Cytotec for induction all day.  I had started the systemic drugs, and was feeling pretty loopy.  The doctor gave us two options, have a c-section now, or try the Pitocin, but probably have a c-section.  I honestly felt drunk, I couldn’t make a decision  I didn’t plan on having a c-section – I’m one of 5, my dad is one of 8, women in my family are very good at having babies, I was going to try to avoid the epidural, so I didn’t even think a c-section could happen to me.  I told my husband to make a decision, and he said he couldn’t on his own, so I told him to call my mom.  To my surprise, they opted for the c-section.  After a bit of time, my 9.5lbs, 23.5 inch long son joined us and I instantly loved him.  But that desire to breastfeed never came.  Luckily, the hospital I delivered at did not judge me on my feeding method. I was asked breast or bottle, and then after choosing bottle, what brand.  My heart goes out to those mothers who are forced to try one feeding method or another.

The thing that amazed me the most was the public assumption that I would breastfeed.  Co-workers would let me know that our insurance would cover some pumps (I told them I was on my husband’s insurance to avoid this conversation .  People would ask my how my son was taking to nursing, and I would quickly explain to them that he had trouble with regular formula, so they switched him to soy at the hospital.. When I returned back to work I was informed that if I needed to use the mother’s room to talk to HR to get a key (just to make this clear, they locked the door because they caught people napping in there, not to deter mothers who want to nurse.) It was so strange to me that others would assume that I was breastfeeding, especially those who had children.

A few weeks after my son was born, I joined a mommy support group sponsored by the hospital.  We shared stories of birth, pregnancy, late night feedings, and general adjustment to our new lives.  It seemed like everyone was breastfeeding, but I was not alone – two of my new mommy friends also formula fed.  As the weeks went by, I watched many of my fellow moms struggle with breastfeeding and by the end of the six weeks many of them were on formula.  It pained me to see them so upset that breastfeeding wasn’t working for them, I have a lot of respect for breastfeeding moms, it sounds exhausting.  I didn’t realize how much guilt they would experience, since to me, formula was the best choice, and honestly, as long as your child is eating, does it matter?

Further along into my adventure into motherhood, I finally understood the guilt felt by these mothers.  Not that I felt guilty for choosing formula, but I hated that some circles of mothers would make me feel less than.  Talking to other new moms after a library story hour, when to their horror they found out my child was formula fed.  Clearly I was uninformed, didn’t I know how amazing breastfeeding was?  How was I going to bond with my child?  Wasn’t I concerned that I was increasing my child’s chance of cancer, infertility, gastric problems, and ear infections?  Clearly, I’m a terrible mother.  Then slowly, the circle of moms got smaller, where I physically was no longer part of the circle. How could I relate? I couldn’t talk about how many ounces of milk I had in my freezer, my child’s favorite nursing position, or how I was going to nurse for 3 million years.  I now understood why the moms who couldn’t breastfeed felt guilty, they were pushed out of circle, but not by choice.  And apparently, formula feeding is a slippery slope, next thing you know I’ll give my baby fast food and cigarettes, because I can’t be trusted to make healthy choices for my child.

I hate that there is a group out there that has decided that formula feeders are lazy and/or uninformed.  I am neither, I’m the one up at 3 am scrubbing bottles because in exhaustion we forgot to clean them before bed.  I’m the one carrying six canisters of formula and a baby through Target.  I’m the one making sure I have bottles filled with water and filled formula container along with diapers, wipes, toys, pacifiers, and a change of clothes.  This was my choice, because breastfeeding was not the best choice for my family.  I won’t have the luxury of finding it funny that I woke up in the middle of the night with a baby on my breast, because my husband stuck the baby on there when it woke him  up.  I will not get to gossip with all my friends about how amazing breast milk is on cradle cap, poison ivy, or eye infections. But I love cuddling, playing, and snuggling with child without having a barrier of the obligation to breastfeed – something that I felt would make me resent my child.

 

I’m pregnant with my second child, and this time I wanted to be prepared.  I plan on choosing formula again, and I want to be able to prove I’ve done my research next time I get kicked out of a circle.   I hope someday we can get to a point where we all realize that what’s normal is feeding your baby is normal and it doesn’t really matter where it comes from.  That we stop indoctrination of moms with information about what is best, but give them the realities of the situation.  The important thing is to feed your child, safely, and that no matter what you do, someday your kid will get sick.  Food is not a magic health solution.  You will bond with your child if you pay attention to him or her.  Lastly, you are not less of a person because you made a different choice or had to give up your original choice.  You are a good mom, because you meet your child’s primary needs of love, care, and comfort, not because of one parenting choice.

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Have a story you’d like to share for FFF Friday? Email it to me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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20 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “The thing that amazed me the most was the public assumption that I would breastfeed”

  1. Grrrrr..I am so sorry you met such jerks who decided they couldn’t be friends with you based on what you fed your son. That is ridiculous. Worse than middle school when you couldn’t be friends with the girl wearing the wrong brand of pants. At least we can understand why 13yr old girls are petty jerks and we excuse them for it because they are 13 and they will grow up. Or at least some of them will. I guess not these ones you met. Time to find the geeks, they are more fun anyway. 🙂

    Good luck with baby #2! Oh and I’m with you on the general attitude—I never really thought it made much difference either.

  2. You sound like an intelligent, caring, well informed mom who looks at ‘the big picture’ when it comes to feeding your baby, Well done. Your children are lucky to have such a smart mommy, one who doesn’t just follow the crowd to fit in. You’re a wonderful example for them! Cheers!

  3. “Food is not a magic health solution. You will bond with your child if you pay attention to him or her. Lastly, you are not less of a person because you made a different choice or had to give up your original choice. You are a good mom, because you meet your child’s primary needs of love, care, and comfort, not because of one parenting choice.” Amen! This is me cheering for you: woohooo! Great post, I love hearing stories from all sides and angles, so thank you.

  4. I love this post. I adopted my kids, and breastfeeding was never an option, not only due to the medications I take, but due to the fact that I just don’t buy the whole “breast is best” campaign. How many people can look at another person and say, “Oh, s/he was formula fed.”? They can’t! It’s such a crock, really.
    The point is, good for you!

  5. Thanks for posting this. Im having my first baby early december and i have no intentions to BF at all. So im glad im not the only one.

  6. I really enjoyed this and applaud any woman who can rise above what the rest of the world thinks she should do and choose to do what is best for her and her family.

  7. “It was something that people did back in the day, but because they didn’t have a better option” Love this line! I am pretty sure this is how the French feel as well. I have thought that too, even though nursing does have a few benefits, to me the benefits and draw backs of each make it about a wash. If only life’s problems were as easy as solving them through nursing. Great essay.

  8. awww, thanks so much for sharing that! Just made my day! I do wish you a healthy pregnancy and delivery, and i do hope you don’t run into the same kind of snobbery again this time around.

  9. I have been waiting for this story. I made a very similar decision, but felt that I had to pretend that I had not. Including in front of the post partem nurses who made me bawl hysterically for making the choice I did. I have a happy, healthy 15 month old and, next time, will go about my business much more confidently. Thank you for sharing your story!!

  10. Thank you–so appreciate your article! So nice (and yet horrible at the same time) that there are other people out there with experiences like mine–you said it plainly and professionally, all the more effective.

  11. Yes! What a fantastic post! I’ve received some backlash for formula feeding my daughter and it is such utter BS. I probably could have breastfed just fine but *gasp* I DIDN’T WANT TO. And that’s that.

  12. This is just a question – can you explain how you worked your budget that breastfeeding would only save you $10 over formula feeding? I don’t understand that part, and since we are FF too I am wondering if there are any savings tips I missed – though I thought we got them all!

    • This is what I have more recently figured out for a year- as I don’t breastfeed, some of the numbers might be off – like I think you might need more cleaning supplies for the pump. I also didn’t include things like cost of food since some moms need to eat more to keep up their supply or if you take any supplements, or the cost of using an LC.

      52 Cans(23.2oz) of Formula (1 can/week):

      Gerber Good Start: $23.77/can =$1,236.04
      Target Brand: $13.49/can =$701.48
      Breastfeeding supplies:
      Good pump for work (I realize you can use a cheaper one, but I assume that you need something that works in 20 mins or so, I also know that some insurances will cover these – but what they cover might not work for you): $100-300 depending on brand we’ll average ($200)
      Storage Bags: 75 for $13.90 (so if you pump 3 times a day at work, 15 bags a week, box had 5 weeks worth of supplies then. so you need 11 of these boxes. ($152.90)
      Breast Pads: $10.29 for 60 – lets say you need two boxes (I know the amount needed is different for each woman), so ($20.58)
      Nursing Bras: about $50 each (I’m basing on my size, I realize some women might not even need these, but I can’t be braless in public). You probably need a minimum of 3, but most bra people will tell you need 7 (in different styles). So let’s say you go with a happy medium of 5 ($250)
      Nursing shirts: Let’s buy four in a year, for trips to the mall or park when you just want something easy to wear on the weekends (I assuming that by pumping at work you don’t need a nursing shirt.) Old Navy carries shirts for $15-20, so average $17.50, so in total ($70)
      Nursing Cover: looks like they’re averaging ($25), some are $10, some are $50, I am sure there is a difference between them besides how pretty they are.
      Pump Cleaning Supplies: $8 for a pump cleaning bag set with 100 uses (I assume that covers about a year)
      Grand Total: $726.48

  13. I so needed to read this story! Im currently 15 weeks pregnant with number 3 and have been asked on several occasions if im going to “try” to breast feed this time! Like they know my journey! And im annoyed at myself because its hurt me because i still carry guilt! But I dont know if its even right for me or my family to even go there this time, but wether i do or not is nobodies business. Reading this has made me feel better as there are people out there who do understand and arent judging me.

  14. I cannot express how much I appreciate this article!!! I just recently had my fourth child. With my previous three, I struggled to breastfeed each time- with many bumps along the way-allergies, tongue tie, low milk supply- I felt like I had been through it all. I went into this pregnancy knowing that it would be my very last, and as such, I wanted to enjoy every moment of the pregnancy and my child’s infancy. So I chose not to breastfeed. Granted, I still have some fleeting moments of guilt here and there, but it is nothing compared to my previous experiences. I don’t know if there is any real association in this- but this is the first time I haven’t experienced postpartum depression. This is the first time I have felt so instantly in love and bonded with my infant. (not to say that I don’t love my older children-because I do so very much!) This is also the first time my husband and I have actually gotten along and are both feeling equally invested and happy in our baby’s care. To me, all of these things are worth far more than being able to say “I tried my best” in regards to breastfeeding. Thank you for your honest and open article.

  15. I loved reading this,thank you!
    I tried breastfeeding for a few days with my first pregnancy, and only for one day with my second. I always felt like I needed an excuse as to why I was feedng formula.We are hoping to have a third, and I’d like to go straight to formula,no stress involved. I was feeling guilty about feeling this (I’m not even pregnant!), and mentioned to my husband how much money we could save if I tried and was successful at breastfeeding. His reply was, “What about the cost of your emotions? It’s not worth how it makes you feel.” How true! And to hear it from him was so great. I hope I am that strong when the time comes. And I hope I can drop the excuses and just own my decision.

  16. I have say its so nice to hear so many supportive voices! I wrote this a few months back, and my second was born a month ago. We had a similarly great experience at the hospital. Ironically, about a week after birth I had fallen asleep while holding the little dude and woke up to find him helping himself to a snack. We gave combo feeding a try for about 9-10 days, but he became increasingly more frustrated with each attempt and I wasn’t vested in bfing, so we went back to exclusively formula feeding and we’ve both been happy since!

  17. Thank you so much for your honesty. I too decided that breakfast was not for me. And while most of the people in my life are very supportive of my decision, I have certainly run across many who are not. I’m glad I’m not alone.

  18. These stories made me cry. It breaks my heart that we put this pressure on ourselves to do something that in the scheme of things really doesn’t matter.

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