Me and Wee: Why I Don't Breastfeed

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why I Don't Breastfeed

Hi friends!
I've gotten emails and comments from many readers over the times asking me why I didn't/don't breastfeed my kiddos. It's quite a hot topic, isn't it? Although, maybe it's not anymore. It's a topic that has been beaten to death, that is for sure. It seems to me like most people breastfeed these days...most just assume that everyone else does. So, when asked if I'm nursing and I say "nope" I often get a raised eyebrow.
I get it. It's what has been proven to be the best choice and yadda yadda yadda. I get it.
But, you know, I feel like asking someone if they are going to breastfeed is a personal question. And usually the people asking me are strangers. These people don't know me from a hole in the wall. But they want to know if my baby is going to be breastfeeding? It just strikes me as odd. Maybe it's just me?
Did you know, a stranger scolded my cousin for her choice to bottle feed her baby. She was at the grocery store and a stranger commented that she should be ashamed and that "The breast is best." My cousin was shocked and told her to mind her own business. Well, I would have added a few more choice words to the conversation!
First of all, what we choose to do in our own lives is our own business and not up for others' judgement or advisement unless asked for. Furthermore, this woman had no clue about what my cousin's circumstances are. What if she were seriously ill and on medications? What if she were suffering from depression, and again, on medications? What if she'd had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy? What if she just well didn't want to breastfeed? Do people ask themselves these things?
We can't know what someone is going through just by looking at them. We never know the back story. That being said, I now think carefully when I feel like I want to judge someone when I see something I don't agree with. Unruly child? Perhaps the child has a behavioral disorder and isn't just a pain in the neck. Crazy person cut me off in traffic? Perhaps they are rushing to get to the hospital to see their dying mother (although unlikely! Hmph). My point is, we can't rush to judge others and we must let their choices be their own and be supportive. Or, "zip it" if we don't agree (once we know the whole story of course).
All that being said, I should end the post here.
But, in the spirit of sharing I'll continue.
I'm not breastfeeding because I suffer from Pressure Urticaria. It's a condition that developed when I turned 22. In a nutshell, I am allergic to pressure on my skin. Any weight or pressure on my skin causes a burning itchy hive to appear there. They also cause pain and swelling. I'm often covered with them. I've spent the past 11 years dealing with this ailment and there is no treatment. No cream helps; no special concoction can fix it. It is what it is. I'm always itchy. Always swollen. Always scratching and bleeding. Needless to now say, adding a newborn attached to the breast would make the condition WAY WORSE. I don't think I need to go on.
I knew I wouldn't ever breast feed because of this, so I never got the feeling that I SHOULD be breastfeeding or felt guilty about it. I DO get defensive because people have judged me over it when they don't know anything about me or what kind of mother I strive to be.
Truthfully, I LIKE bottle feeding. It's easy to do (We make up a bunch of bottles to store in the fridge each day and take one out to warm up well before it's time for the feeding). I always know how much food is being taken so I don't have worries. I still feel bonding, even if it's not so physical. And Chris gets to participate in our newborn's daily feedings. I go to bed nice and early these days (shooting for 8:00 pm)...and Chris does the feedings that go until midnight. I do the feedings that go after that. This way, we each get a chunk of sleep. I get lots of rest so that I can function positively the next day. Important when you suffer from depression! I enjoy the convenience of being able to come and go as I please and not have to worry about being the only source of food...see? Lots of positives. Obviously, I'm not knocking breastfeeding. But, I'm here to say that bottle feeding isn't a horrible alternative. I've had so many friends beat themselves up when breastfeeding didn't work out for them for one reason or another. That made me sad for them. Why is there so much PRESSURE? It's just not right. I just wish everyone would just let the whole topic drift off into the wind. But here I am, discussing it. AGAIN.
Here's my 2-cents: You do what ya gotta do. The kiddo has to eat. You gotta make it happen one way or another. You go ahead and choose what is right for you, your kiddo, your family, and your situation. When that all aligns, you have what is best. And I applaud you, whatever that choice is. If the kiddo is able to eat anything and grows, you are in success! Otherwise, I'm sure you are dealing with bigger fish to fry.
I'm off to prepare the next bottles for my 3-week-old now! It's been 4.5 hours since the last feeding; time to go again!


Anonymous said...

Why the pressure to breast feed? Because it's best for your baby. As a parent, you should try to do what's best for your child. You have a more than legitimate reason to not breastfeed, and that's fine. But if a women can, she should. Because it's better for the baby's health throughout it's lifetime.

Unknown said...

While I understand this point, I think it is an inordinate amount of pressure that women put on each other to do it. To the point that women are torturing themselves when the baby can't latch or some other thing goes wrong. I think most people try to do what's best for their child, and at the end of the day DO so. We can only try our best and sometimes it just doesn't go the way we plan. And nobody deserves to be chastised for it.

alicia said...

sometimes I wish I could just hug you, for real.

So that first comment you got here is so nicely anonymous, hard to convince someone of your point when you are hiding behind no name. Although I have breastfeed both my girls I did it because I wanted too. There is A LOT of pressure and even if it is best, formula now a days is soo close to breast milk and children grow up just like breast feed kids.

I have never understood why strangers feel like topics of breastfeeding, pregnancy and parenthood are just free for the criticizing? I can't tell you how many random, rude things have been said to me about all kinds of different pregnancy, parenting topics. WHY!? I would never do this to someone else, why does some one think their opinions are sooo amazing they have to judge and hurt strangers!!!

You do what is best for your child. You do what is best for you. And if you are doing those things, then you are most likely doing a very good job.

I am proud of you for writing this post. You didn't have too but you chose too, you chose to be vulnerable and REAL. I love realness. It's what the blog world needs so very bad.

Thank you for sharing. Your babes are lucky to have such a strong and wonderful mother.

Lor said...

Thank you for sharing, Megan!
There is as much pressure here in France, it's like you HAVE to do it, otherwise in a way you are a bad mother.
I breastfead my first daughter alternatively with bottles here and there until she was 3 and 1/2 months, because the beginnings were horrible for me (crevaces etc. and I suffered a lot). When I had my 2d daughter this year, I decided I would not breastfeed her (a few days later my eldest started school, I had to start working again very soon AND did not want to go tru that suffering again). I do get juged, but I don't feel guilty and both my daugthers are super healthy :).

The important thing is to do what you feel like and stick to it.

Megan said...

I am not a parent so I haven't tried breastfeeding (yet) but I admire your attitude to try to reduced judgement, on any matter. You never know what is going on behind the scenes. I am a speech pathologist for preschool children and see a lot of parents dealing with a lot of things, everyone one of them has different priorities and levels coping. We do all do the best we can, and no one can do it all. Congratulations on being the best mom you can be.

Also, I think I may have a similar condition, while not diagnosed and doesn't sound nearly as severe. I have always been told I have a pressure allergy, like my father had. I can't wear rings or watch too tight or I get a rash under them, my father couldn't wear a neck tie because of it.

Cheri said...

There is so much pressure on us moms, for sure. And yes, there are some women who can't breastfeed for one reason or another - and they should not be made to feel any worse about their situation. But most moms can, if they are supported.

My heart goes out to you, Megan, for all you've dealt with. And you're doing a great job! I've been reading your blog for over a few years now, through my own pregnancy, that of my friends, babies that have been born and ones that have died. Your honesty and openness are wonderful - thank you.

It just makes me sad that our culture doesn't support moms breastfeeding. It's recommended for 2 years by the international community because it's been proven to give kids the best, healthiest start in life. Yet by 3 months, most of the moms in my moms group were on formula. By 6 months, there was only a handful of us breastfeeding. Pass the 1 year mark, and I'm the only one.

So many gave up because they felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, or got rude comments, or were desperate for sleep and thought giving a bottle might help. Some felt overwhelmed by the demands... it can be hard to breastfeed every hour or even every 3 hours. I totally get it. And it's a choice.

I just wish there was more support for breastfeeding moms. Because for all the people that made you feel pressured to breastfeed, I can tell you there are just as many if not more, plus a whole culture, that is pro-formula. I've heard the whole range of sarcastic comments, from "he's still going to be asking for the boob on his senior prom!" to the pointed looks when I dared feed my baby in public or did it without a cover (let me tell you, most babies can't stand to be under a hot, sweaty cover for very long).

And yeah, it's great that formula is there for moms that have to use it. I just wish there was better alternatives for moms who aren't able to breastfeed. Because to say that formula is so close to breast milk is laughably uninformed.

More and more studies are coming out showing the long term effects of what babies ingest in their first few years of life. From obesity to cancer, it's finally coming out in the mainstream press that lo and behold what we eat makes a difference.

So yeah, some people chose to eat junk food and give it to their kids. It's a choice, too, but we don't pretend that it's the best one for them.

Power to the moms that are doing there best, day in and day out. Power to the moms that have to formula feed for whatever reason. Power to the moms that commit to breastfeeding. We're all in this together. That doesn't mean we can't demand better for all of us, breastfeeders and formula feeders. And I think we can all agree that rude comments from strangers to new moms are just plain mean.

Unknown said...

Well said Cheri!

Sara said...

Every Mom has the right to make her own choices for her child, and it personally makes me sick that women who breastfeed think they are better moms because of it. It really isn't anyone's business why someone chooses not to breastfeed. No one should have to tell their story to make people others feel more comfortable about why they chose formula. All that matters is that the mother has made what she feels is the best decision. Judging is judging. There's way too much of it out there among moms.

One last thought... It really doesn't help for anyone to list all the negative aspects of using formula to someone who doesn't have any other choice.

Thank you for telling your story, Megan. Your insight and honesty is much appreciated.

Julia said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I had planned to breastfeed my daughter from the beginning, but it just did not work for us. I could never really get her to latch on properly and she would get really frustrated and basically we would both be in tears. So I started to pump and would pump for twenty minutes on each breast every three hours and maybe get 1/4 of an ounce of milk total, also very frustrating that I was producing basically no milk. After two weeks of wrestling with the breast pump, I packed it up and back to the hospital it went. From that day on she was a formula/bottle feed baby and honestly it worked out just fine. I loved that my husband could help with feedings and I could get more sleep. Our daughter is healthy and happy. You have to do what is right for you, regardless of what others say.

katie c said...

right on, and well said, megan!! i love your honesty and openness and your blog is so refreshing. let's give each other a break - parenting is hard work - we don't need to add extra stress with negative judgement. congrats on your little man - he's just adorable and best wishes.

empty george said...

Thank you for writing this. My little one wouldn't latch on and the pressure coupled with undiagnosed (at the time) post-postpartum depression was terrible. I pumped for a few weeks, which I hated. I got an infection and would bleed. Anyway, I got the looks from people too. It was hard to go through. I felt like I was a bad mom even though I had been to a breastfeeding specialist and the lactation nurse several times. I even had a male colleague at work ask if I was breastfeeding. I think that the education about "breast is best" has been very successful. Maybe it's time for a campaign called "mind your own business a-hole." Just kidding, sort of.

I wish you and your family the best. I've been reading your blog since you were pregnant with Paige. I was pregnant at the same time. I appreciate your honesty about the difficulties and joys of being a parent.

Maria said...

To George: " I think that the education about "breast is best" has been very successful. "

No, it has not been successful, because in America still only 35% mothers breastfeed exclusively at 3 months and lots of them never even try (around 25% never try!).

While someone might have a real medical condition that prevents her from breastfeeding (like Megan here), and this is perfectly understandable (they do the best for their babies and there is no question of that!) most of the people I know found funny excuses, e.g. 'I was worried whether my son was getting enough', 'she had jaundice'. Some just say it is easier with a bottle or that they were frustrated, because it is easier for sure (in the beginning at least), e.g. you do not need to control your diet, you loose weight earlier, your partner helps with feedings too etc.. But yes, it is definitely better for a baby to be breastfed - the science is very clear on that. It is also better for a child to be raised around grandparents, for instance, but many of us, me included, cannot do it for some reasons. Still, I acknowledge it would be better for my baby.
But anyway - my point is that there is a difference between people wanting to breastfeed but medical reasons preventing them from this (you should not feel bad about it), and people who do not care (they should feel bad about it). The idea is that we do the best we can for our baby.

Anonymous said...

I hate how judge-y and condescending women can be to other women. We all love our babies and are doing our best. What gives anyone the right to criticize another's choices?

p.s. my mother-in-law informed me that she thinks breastfeeding is "disgusting". Knowing full well that I was breastfeeding. Can't win for losing.

Lor said...

Poor Colette, this is awful, how can your mother-in-law say such a thing to you?? For me, it is the other way, I did not breastfeed my 2d daughter as I did with the 1st and I sometimes get the raised eyebrow. But it is not that bad, though. Here in Franche most women breastfeed (around 70 %), almost all of them do in Nordic countries. I am not "pro-formula", I just had too much of a hard time " years ago and decided that it would be ok for my baby (although not the best thing, I know) to give her bottles. I am not sure it was "the best I could give" to my 1st daughter when I was in tears and bleeding and all...

And why do strangers have to ask you that? Isn't it very intimate ? I think I would ask them in return (we've talked about this before :) whether they have sex with their husband and what they like to do in bed...????

Michelle said...

I disagree with the thinking that certain situations in which a woman chooses not to breastfeed are more legitimate than others. That's still flawed, judgmental thinking. Women may not breastfeed for a variety of reasons, and it's no ones place to determine who's is more legitimate (aka. the better person/mommy). Those on the quest to "educate" by means of chastising, guilting or preaching need a refresher in kindness, compassion and sensitivity.

To quote Cheri, this should be our mommy mantra:

"Power to the moms that are doing there best, day in and day out. Power to the moms that have to formula feed for whatever reason. Power to the moms that commit to breastfeeding. We're all in this together. That doesn't mean we can't demand better for all of us, breastfeeders and formula feeders. And I think we can all agree that rude comments from strangers to new moms are just plain mean."

Unknown said...

I do breastfeed, but I tell you, I love bottle feeding too! It kept me sane the first month after my baby was born. We had to add some bottle feeding in because she wasn't eating enough and it gave me a break which I desperately needed and allowed me to grow strong enough to make my own milk - Later we switched to only formula at nights and it's the only thing that's kept her sleeping decently!

On another note, I had something similar, though I have no clue what it was, at the end of my pregnancy and for about three months afterwards - I was SOOOO itchy! It kept me from sleeping, it was part of the reason my baby was induced even, because I went in for having hives all over - but every time I went to the dermatologist they would disappear.
How did you get diagnosed?? I would get them all over but they would come and go...nothing helped and nothing seemed to cause them.

Stephanie said...

Hi Megan,

I'm obviously slow to comment, but I just wanted to applaud you for telling your story and how judgmental people can be (especially other mothers). Truly, it's no one's business but yours, but I hope it gave people some pause.

I was lucky to be able to breastfeed, but it wasn't easy, it wasn't easy at all. And when I went back to work and couldn't pump enough for my baby to get solely breastmilk, I beat myself up, thinking myself a failure. Pretty soon, I got over it and whatever I was able to pump was fine by me. We mothers need support, both for breastfeeding, but also for allowing ourselves to do whatever works best for us and our families.

I plan on nursing my new baby once she gets here (any day now!), but I feel so much freer knowing that I will be fine doing the best I can.

Marguerite said...

Another perspective on the questioners: I've often asked bloggers questions like that ("you said she's interested in the toilet but you don't want to potty train her yet - why not?"), but I do generally try to make it clear I'm asking for my own edification, as someone who's not in that situation but likely to be soon, and who wants to know about parenting from real people. I was asking people about feeding decisions all through my pregnancy, for example. Now that she's here (2 months old!), breastfeeding's working out fine, but I have a much better understanding of everything.

Perhaps it's not in all cases so similar to "tell me about your sex life" as it is to "how long did it take you to conceive?" (Which I get a lot from friends I know are trying or thinking about it, so I just assume that's the case when others ask me. It's the old Episcopalian doctrine of "charitable presumption," I guess.)

Of course, with a sister-in-law who didn't get along very well with breastfeeding, I have a father-in-law who wants me to switch to formula so we can be the same, so he can take her overnight, so she will be as huge as her cousin (21 lbs at 6 months!), etc. (And a cousin on mental health medications who's of course not breastfeeding, so I'm the only one in a family with three babies.) Of course there's much less of the guilting factor (unless I were swayable by "she's not growing enough! You must be starving her!"), so no risk of the emotional trauma I've seen in friends who really tried yet failed, but there's still pressure both ways...

(And yes, I said father-in-law... there's a very non-standard gender dynamic on that side!)

Rachel said...

When I found out I way carrying my 1st child I knew I was going to breastfeed. At that time, I naively thought the only "choice" was between breast and bottle. I didn't understand why anyone wouldn't breastfeed since it had been proven to be best. Once my son arrived, the "choice" changed. While the doctors couldn't figure it out, I just never produced enough milk. I had regular appointments with a lactation consultant, pumped after every feeding, used the tube-on-breast supplement approach, took medication, but nothing worked. I would sit topless on the couch feeding my son for an hour every feeding, crying. It was truly one of the hardest times in my life. I should have been relishing in my new son. Instead, I was depressed and beaten-down. I felt like I had failed.

I continued to breastfeed what little I produced and supplemented with a bottle until my son essentially weaned himself off the breast at 6 months. Of course, when anyone asked (and many did) whether I breast fed, I always answered yes and didn't offer any more. In hindsight, perhaps I should have shared. Their question to a complete stranger was out-of-line and perhaps it would have been a lesson for them. There was nothing to be ashamed of in this situation, but I still felt shame.

Once we were solely using a bottle, I relaxed and just enjoyed my son. When my daughter arrived just 16 1/2 short months after my son's birth, I was able to breastfeed for 2 weeks before it became clear, once again, that I was not producing enough milk. This time, however, I did not stress about it. I did the recommended techniques to increase milk production with no success. I breastfed and supplemented until she was 3 months old and decided she didn't want the breast anymore. We then switched solely to a bottle. This time, I felt no shame. I had done all I could. If someone was going to judge me for it, let them. I knew I was doing what I could for my baby

My children are almost 4 and 2 1/2 now, healthy, happy and bright. When I see a new mother breastfeeding (wherever she might be), I think that is great. When I see a new mother bottle-feeding her baby, I think that is great too. No judgement-that is not my job anyway. I have first-hand knowledge now that the choice isn't always confined to "breast" or "bottle".

In closing, I so appreciate this blog entry. We all have different circumstances to deal with and we can not know what those might be just by looking at someone. Judgement is not ours to pass.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post, my situation was almost identical to yours. My son and i are both much happier now that he is formula fed. I'm so tired of people feeling like they have the right to chastise you for choices that are none of their business.

Sara said...

To Cheri:
Not a single person I know has ever encountered a single instance where breastfeeding was or is not supported. Your experience is drowned out by the sea of judgment, narcissism and sanctimony from the pro-breastfeeding crowd.
Btw, if you for a second think that Science has PROVEN that breast is better than formula, you are "laughably uninformed". Go ask an actual scientist what the studies actually say. Hint: Correlation is not causation.

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