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Breast is best. We've heard it again and again. And again. I
believed it and was adamant about breastfeeding before I had kids. Then I
tried to breastfeed my oldest son and gave up after eight weeks of misery. He lost
10 percent of his birth weight before we even left the hospital and I was
supplementing with formula before we went home.
My husband was home for two
weeks from his deployment to the Middle East and I had no emotional support (or
help) after he left. I was exhausted and suffering postpartum depression (though I didn't
know it until months later). Though the baby latched on
easily enough, but I struggled with nursing because I wasn't producing enough milk. So I rented a breast pump from the hospital hoping it would be more efficient but barely produced 2 ounces of breast milk at a time, meanwhile doubling the time
it took to feed my baby. Switching to formula full-time was a relief and saved
When my second son was born, I didn't even attempt to
breastfeed. I knew what worked for me and I went back to it. I formula fed my
second son from day one. And you know what? Those early weeks and months were so
much more peaceful for me—and for my baby.
It's easy to feel guilty
about opting for formula when breastfeeding is presented as not only the best
method, but far, far superior to formula feeding. And it's just not true.
Science suggests the gap between breastfeeding and formula feeding just isn't
all that wide, but studies and statistics aside, there are personal and valid
reasons for choosing formula over breastfeeding.
With no disrespect to happily breastfeeding moms, here are
the reasons formula feeding worked for me and other moms:
1. I could share the responsibility
It was important to have that kind of shared parenting responsibility, especially since I didn't have it with my first son.
My husband was able to feed my second son
immediately while we were still in the hospital. Once we were home, we could
take turns for middle-of-the-night feedings and I was able to get more rest.
For me, it was important to have that kind of shared parenting responsibility,
especially since I didn't have it with my first son.
2. I knew exactly how much the baby was eating
This was a struggle in the first few weeks of my
oldest son's life. I had no idea how much he was eating when I nursed him (not
enough, since he lost weight). With formula, I knew exactly how many ounces he
was getting every time we fed him. While this might not be a necessity, it
offered peace of mind at a time when I needed it most.
3. I could take medication without worrying
When I had a C-section with my first son, my doctor
prescribed pain killers that were safe to take while breastfeeding, but I was
still hesitant to take anything. Formula feeding allowed me to take care of
myself and feed my baby without worry.
4. I could have a cup of coffee—or a glass of wine—without
Yes, it seems like a selfish reason to
formula feed. But being able to drink coffee or wine, or take medication
when I had pain or eat spicy food when I wanted to, helped me regain
my sense of self after having a baby. And that intangible thing—your sense of
who you are once you have a child—is important to your happiness and emotional
well-being. And those things are at least as important as how
you choose to feed your baby.
5. I felt like a better, more confident mother
No mother should be made to feel like a bad mother for choosing the method that works best for her.
Failing to breastfeed successfully felt like I was
failing as a mother. And that wasn't true at all. Breastfeeding had been sold to me as something "good" mothers do—and
when I was physically unable to do it with my first son, I felt like I'd failed
my baby, failed my husband and failed my own beliefs. It took a lot of reading and support from my spouse to get past that feeling. No mother should be made
to feel like a bad mother for choosing the method that works best for her.
6. I was able to spend more time with my older child
By formula feeding my second son, I was able to spend more time
with my older son, who was only 21 months old when his brother was born.
And my older son was able to help me give his baby brother a bottle, which was
a lovely bonding time for all of us.
7. I was mentally healthier when I didn't have to worry
We don't talk enough
about the mental health of mothers. Or we talk, but we don't put that much
value into it. When the entire focus is on what's "best for baby," we devalue
mothers and their physical and emotional well-being. I was happier, more
relaxed and less stressed when I switched to formula feeding my oldest son.
That is important to acknowledge, even if I get flak for it. I was happier. And that was absolutely the best thing for my babies.
8. A happy mama makes for a happy baby
The old adage is true. So do what is best for you
and your baby, and don't buy into the guilt. You'll be happier.