Breast is Best, Except when It’s not

Breast-is-best-except-when-its-not

When you have a baby these days, particularly if you live in Portland, Maine (or any other “progressive” city) you are overwhelmingly pressured into breastfeeding. And don’t get me wrong – it’s great that breastfeeding is now the recommended way to feed baby, and that doctors and parents alike are beginning (or continuing) to realize its incredible benefits. However, in a well-intentioned attempt to promote the wonders of breastfeeding, it seems other choices (i.e. formula) have been demonized. And that’s wrong. And here’s why.


Breastfeeding is really $%*ing hard. And not just when your baby won’t latch, or your nipples crack, or you don’t produce enough milk, or whatever other physiological ailment you might be experiencing. It’s hard even when your baby hops right on the boob and gains 12oz in a week (yes, that would be Mia) and you experience little to no pain. It’s hard because babies need to eat every 1.5-3 hours, day and night. They don’t care if you need your hair cut, or to go for a run, or to buy groceries – or just to take a damn shower. They need to be nursed as soon as they’re hungry, 24 hours a day. Sometimes they want to nurse for 10 minutes, sometimes 90 minutes. Sometimes they want to eat every half hour for 30 minutes (which for those of you who are mathematically challenged…that means they nurse ALL DAY). And when you’re breastfeeding, this means they need YOU and no one else ALL THE TIME. It feels like there is some sort of unspoken sentiment out there, that mothers should love this. Your baby needs you, all the time. They depend on you. You’ll miss this when they’re 16 and they won’t even look at you. It’s BONDING time. Feel the love. Right?


But sometimes, and maybe I’m a bad mom but I don’t think so, it doesn’t feel so lovey-dovey. It feels like you want to sleep through just ONE of the nighttime feedings. And you want to go grocery shopping without having to whip out your boobs in the middle of the produce section. You want to go get your nails done or read a book or write a blog post in one sitting. But you can’t. Because you’re a professional milking cow.

“Why don’t you just pump a bottle so other people can help?” you might ask. And I will tell you why. Because when you’re breastfeeding AND pumping that means you have to nurse your baby for 15-30 minutes (ever 1.5-3 hours) and then immediately after hook yourself up to a cold, unforgiving nipple torture machine for ANOTHER 15-20 minutes in order to produce an ounce or two (if you’re lucky) of milk, which makes up LESS THAN ONE BOTTLE. So in order to pump enough milk to actually leave the house without baby for more than 5 minutes, you have to pump like, all the time. Every time you feed the baby. Including in the middle of the night (when you produce the most milk). You also have to immediately rinse, and sterilize all of the pump parts (there are many) after EVERY time you pump, even at 2am. And after all that work you take your child to the doctor where they almost universally question your baby’s weight gain (inadvertently questioning your ability as a mother to provide for your child). So you sit there and nod and smile and wonder if your body is in yet another way, deficient.


Hannah-and-Mia
The reality is, I’m still exclusively breastfeeding Mia, and I plan to for as long as possible. I DO believe breast is best….for Mia and I. But for the first time (I admit it, up until Mia was born I DID secretly judge people who used formula – “they just didn’t try hard enough to make breastfeeding work”) I understand very clearly why breastfeeding is NOT best for everyone. Because while Mia and I are lucky that it’s come pretty naturally for us, and there are many times when I love it…there are also times when I SO WISH that someone else could feed her for a few hours, and I could have a break. And I can’t imagine how much stronger those feelings would be if she didn’t latch well, or my nipples were bleeding, or I wasn’t producing enough milk.

So when the stress of breastfeeding is causing your milk to dry up, or your hair to fall out (literally or figuratively) – or its making you resent your baby and feel unfit as a mom – then it’s NOT best. Babies grow up on formula all the time and they turn out great. And if that means mom can keep her sanity – then that’s what’s best – for everyone.


I’m so glad that medical professionals have finally come around to breastfeeding, and they are providing the extra support that many moms need to make breastfeeding a positive experience. But I hope that in their quest to help moms make the best choice for themselves and for baby that they don’t ignore the fact that breast isn’t best for everyone. And that it’s OK to make a different choice for yourself, your baby and your family. Because formula can be best, too.

hannahMia

Hannah, a Content Marketing Strategist, lives in Maine with her husband and their daughter, Mia.

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Photo credits: Hannah Richards

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Corinne

Corinne is a part time hairstylist and a full time wife and mom from Pennsylvania. When she's not at work or chasing after her wild-child, she's busy tackling her latest craft or sewing project. She loves inspiring people to tap into their right-brain creativity. You can check out her girls' clothing at CeceLynn Design.

Comments (3)

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    Leanne

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    Thank you so much for writing this. My son, who is now almost 3, got breast milk exclusively for 16 months. I worked full time and traveled a ton – pumping in my car, airports, hallways, closets, and other awkward places for over a year. It was so hard. But I am so thankful for the experience and that he got breast milk for so long. My daughter is 3.5 months old and is adopted. We got her at birth and for 3 weeks prior, I tried to relactate. I was terrified of formula, lack of bonding, and immunity. But relactating didn’t work and we used formula. She is a delightful, smart, and healthy baby to whom I feel intimately bonded. I would always nurse if possible, but I have stopped judging. Thank you.

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    Mac

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    Thank you!

    With my 1st baby, I chose not to breastfeed right off the bat. It was just to much extra stress I knew that I did not need to contend with.

    With my 2nd baby, I was all set and as prepared as I could be to breastfeed. And then the delivery happened and it was the worst emotional and physical experience I had ever been thru. I immediately experienced nausea and toe-curling pain with the 1st attempt. We struggled even with the bottle due to a mild tongue tie that no one would fix. But because the hospital was so “breast feeding friendly” – which they weren’t at all – it made the bottle feeding just as difficult. Why do some hospitals have to be difficult with BOTH ways?!?!

    I’m glad I chose not to breast feed in the end. It would have made me resent my precious and perfect baby that I love so very much. I have no regrets over my choice and I want other moms to know its ok to make a decision for yourself as long as it doesn’t put you or your baby in harms way. Your baby isn’t a baby forever and you want to love and cherish every moment as best you can and whether it’s with breast feeding or bottle feeding…you are still providing the best care for YOUR baby.

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    Lisa

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    This was a great article, thanks! I think it’s important to provide all the support possible for breastfeeding, but also to acknowledge that it is a huge commitment and sacrifice. Yes, the “oh, just pump a little so you can have a break” is easy to say if you’re not the one having to nurse, pump AND worry about the “supply problems” and “nipple confusion” you may be engendering. I have breastfed my sweet girl for almost two years now, and am very glad things went well but as with you it has not always been hearts and bunnies every time! I think my little hoover would keep going indefinitely but I have to wean her now for medical reasons. But also, to be honest, I am done at this point–it hurts at this point, for one. So self-weaning is not always best for all parties either. Every woman needs support for her choices in these matters.

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