Editor’s note: The following post was originally published on Green and Clean Mom. “Green & Clean Mom can inspire you to try a little harder, be a catalyst for change and to offer you some new tips and news on how to be the green, sexy and sassy mom…I know you are!”
Most moms know that breastfeeding is best for baby and for the moms that decide to breastfeed (it is a choice) there are a lot of great support groups online. Breastfeeding.com provides an online community that helps support moms and Baby Center has many articles for new mothers to help them learn the benefits of breastfeeding and the how-to’s to help moms problem solve. The support and encouragement to breastfeed is certainly more common then it used to be but what about the mothers who do not breastfeed their babies? Is there support and guidance for those mothers on the formula to choose, safe BPA free bottles to use, how to prepare the formula and how much to feed the baby? I am sad to report my findings are showing there’s very little out there.
There is no doubt in my mind that breastfeeding is best for baby and mother but not every mother can breast feed, contrary to popular belief and despite the health benefits, not every mother makes the choice breastfeed and that is a personal choice. Many mothers will say this is not true, “I breastfed and at first had problems at first but I pushed on and it all worked out. You just gave up too soon.” This is a comment I have listened to over and over and remember I have facilitated playgroups for mothers and children for close to a year and so I have listened to many conversations! My response is this: Oh, really, what if I told you that physically I could not breastfeed because I did not make the hormone needed that tells my body to make milk – enough milk that is. What if I told you that I know mothers that breastfed out of guilt and society pressure but that it mentally put them over the edge – how is that good for the baby?
My personal story is this; I tried for three weeks and my son lost weight every week and was not being nourished because I felt so much pressure to continue trying. The lactation counselors said no pacifier and do not supplement with a bottle but my instinct told me this was not right, my son wasn’t eating. I cried and cried, ate more food and drank more water and did everything people told me to do. I followed the advice of everyone and wanted to feel like I was a “good” mom because I was breastfeeding. When it didn’t work out, I cried like I had failed. I cried because I couldn’t do it and must not be a good mother. As Fox News pointed out, the moms who do not breastfeed certainly feel judged but should this really be the case? Shouldn’t moms support one another?
Furedi agrees that, all things being equal, breastfeeding is better for babies than bottle-feeding. But he says moms who chose bottle-feeding for whatever reason should not be intimidated by what others think.
“This is a choice that a woman should make based on her own circumstances. It is not one that society should make for her,” he says.
When I read the article at Totally Her about breastfeeding and being a good mom, I could relate. When I had my daughter, everyone just assumed I would breastfeed but not one nurse asked me. This disturbed me and again I felt pressure to try. I, however, was wiser and more mature and knew that I could not put myself or my child through the stress or pressure again. When I said no to the nurse she pressured me, lecturing me and giving me reading material. When she left the room, I cried. I’m a grown woman and I’m educated and damn it – I’m the mom so back off! I felt so angry that there was all of this pressure but no support to help me make good bottle feeding choices. Instead, I got the “cold” shoulder when I asked questions about baby formula. I was told that they are all the same, no different, bottles too. Except, is this true?
When I researched support groups for moms who do not breastfeed I found an article about how moms that don’t breastfeed are more likely to abuse their children. Okay, that is ridiculous and insane. The research supposedly showed that moms that breastfed are more connected to their children because they release the hormone oxytocin.
Read more about the bottle vs. breast study at Green and Clean Mom!
i honestly think i would’ve lost it at like 6 months because of sleep deprivation. and i credit breastfeeding for saving me and my son. i think the point is not that bottlefeeding = abuse. but rather that there is *something* that you get from breastfeeding that you don’t with bottlefeeding. and that is oxytocin, which *CAN* calm a mother, and *CAN* strengthen a bond that it tenuous in stressful times.
Carlota Bindner says
Jennifer, thank you so much for writing this article, I honestly had tears welling up in my eyes reading your story. I too did not have a real “choice” as to whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed. I suffer from PCOS and adrenal problems, I feel fortunate that I had my two daughters. I tried for 3 months (both times) to breastfeed, I saw lactation consultants, pumped 10-12 times a day, took nutritional supplements, and tried to remain as calm as possible (not easy when your body produces cortisol at extremely high levels). Unlike you, who obviously has a better handle on self preservation, I attempted all this twice. Neither time was I successful. I never developed breast tissue during either pregnancy and my hormones are completely out of wack. I have repeatedly felt alienated, mostly other women, who acted disgusted when I inform them that I did not breastfeed, after they declare that my children must be breastfed because of how healthy they look. I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to come to terms with the fact that my body could not do it.
I think it is about time that people respect the choices that a mother makes and stop making snap judgments. Having talked to other mothers who did not breastfeed, I have found more that had similar problems (hormonal deficiencies) as I. Unfortunately, both my sister and I have messed up endocrine systems thanks to genetics. Unlike my sister, who has more severe PCOS and may not even be able to have children, I have been lucky enough to have two healthy children. I think that is more important in the end. Too much stress can result in emotional problems, cause strain on you marriage and hurt your relationship with your newborn.
Jennifer Lance says
Just to clarify, I did not write this article. Sommer of Green and Clean Mom did. I was lucky to be able to breastfeed both of my children until they were 2.5 years old. I thought it was important to post this as a guest post as I feel it is important not to be judgmental.
Woops, sorry Jennifer, didn’t notice the credit at the beginning to Sommer.
Hannah W says
I am so happy to have read this article. I absolutely agree 100%. I suffered through a similar and very traumatic breast feeding experience as well. I cried constantly at my failure. But once I switched to formula and ‘forgave’ myself, I was so happy! Now, I tell all of my pregnant friends to expect that this might be a possibility, and have counseled several who have also experienced this!
Thank you so much for standing up for those of us that want what is best for our child, but find out that pain, stress, and starving babies aren’t it!
Claire Lindstrom says
I personally would never tell you that you did anything wrong by not breastfeeding. It is the system that isn’t made to support women and give them the correct solutions when there are problems with breastfeeding (someone told you to eat more? Seriously? I’m highly doubting you were eating so little that it would diminish your supply. It has to be pretty drastic for that to happen). Breastfeeding experiences would not be so awful if women had the correct support.
There was one thing you wrote that I really didn’t like though. Breastfeeding is not a choice. Yes, there is choice involved, but the choice is to NOT breastfeed. Breastfeeding is the biological norm. When you stop breastfeeding, your body keeps trying to produce milk and you have to do things like binding your breasts or take medication to make the pain go away. You are choosing to not do what your body tells you to do. So you choose to formula feed, you do not choose to breastfeed.