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Opting Out of Breastfeeding Was the Best Decision I Ever Made

Photograph by Twenty20

I know what you're thinking: Another battle in the breastfeeding department. But it's not. I promise I'm coming from a good place. I only revisit this time in my life and write this for pregnant and/or new moms who might feel like I did back when I was in their place. Opting out of breastfeeding—twice in two years—proved to set me on a most happy, confident and productive track as a brand new mother. And yes, I'm sick of the breastfeeding blog posts too, but here we all are again.

I'll make it quick and dirty: The reason I chose to not nurse either of my babies is because I simply did not want to.

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I had no medical reason to give credit to my formula-feeding choice. I just didn't want to try the popular alternative. What's wrong with you?! Breast is best! I get it. I agree. But I am who I am. I am me. Being honest with myself has proven to make me the best parent I can be.

My unconventional choice started during my first pregnancy. Friends and family wondered: Why haven't you registered for nursing pads, detachable-strap bras and nipple creams? Answer: I just couldn't picture myself doing all those things that breastfeeding moms do (God bless 'em). I couldn't picture a baby—my most precious baby that I knew I'd be in love with and obsessed with (and I was)—at my breast. OK, I was probably immature (as nursing your own child is regarded as one of the most natural and "real" things in the world), but the whole process seemed so unreal to me. I'd think about it and wince.

I half-considered nursing as my due date approached, mainly because of the pressure that exists to do it.

Despite breast milk's touted benefits for superior nutrients and mother-child bonding, I wasn't interested. I knew I'd bond incredibly with my kids, regardless of breastfeeding or not. I'd feed my baby with formula and it'd be fine. I don't grow my own food in my backyard (I barely even buy organic); I myself was a formula-fed babe back in the risky-and-dangerous-for-all-things-parenting late 1970s; and formula is FDA-approved: so there you go. That's the only way I know how to explain it all honestly. (I don't know how to be more honest than that.)

I half-considered nursing as my due date approached, mainly because of the pressure that exists to do it. Finally, I asked my husband (the pediatric surgeon): "Are you going to flip out if I don't nurse our baby? Am I being stupid about this?" He (and his 10+ years of medical school and specialty surgeon training) shrugged. "No. It's your choice." And it was my choice. My choice.

I did get convinced to pump for my first-born by hospital nurses. I was genuinely curious about the whole look-what-my-body-can-produce thing, and they did sell me on the power of colostrum. ("Liquid gold," they called it. Admittedly I was intrigued.) My patience for pumping lasted exactly eight days. After those eight days, I closed the milk factory. Done. No looking back.

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I repeated my pumping pattern for my second-born a year and a half later in an effort to treat each baby the same. Yet after eight days (again), I happily brought on the cabbages. I was IN LOVE with both of my newborns (and lucky to not experience any postpartum depression either time). But I was ready, excited and anxious to take my body back for myself after each pregnancy—not in a vain way, but in the most basic way of, "This is how I'm going to thrive and survive as a new mom." Pumping every two hours was painful, annoying and exhausting (moreso the second time around, when I had a 1.5-year-old to also take care of without help).

I suppose just holding my baby to breastfeed directly would've been less complicated than the pumping process, but again, I wasn't into the idea. I wasn't losing out on any bonding experience, as I was fortunate to stay at home full-time both times—meaning that I did all the holding, rocking, talking, soothing, swaddling and playing morning, noon and night. My girls and I might even be considered a bit "too close" in the bonding department. Why force myself to "experience" nursing just to please strangers and the online community of breastfeeding advocates?

Opting out of nursing actually empowered my confidence, abilities and joy as a new mother.

I also thought about other things related to new motherhood: Some women get night-nurses or full-time nannies from the get-go (and forego the duties and "bonding" that take place during nap-rituals, diaper-changing, bath time and play time—nursing or not). Some women return to high-powered jobs just days or weeks after birth. Some new moms move out of their own house and go live with their parents (without their spouses) on account of scoring free round-the-clock help. Those moms that make those choices are not judged nearly as much as non-nursing moms.

Opting out of nursing actually empowered my confidence, abilities and joy as a new mother. I was happy, productive, content and in control when most of my breastfeeding new mom friends were not. I never felt less-than; I felt more-than for tapping into an inner confidence (about making a choice that was right for me at the time) that I didn't know I had prior to kids. My newborn days and first years of motherhood (both times) were not challenging, difficult, painful or a "haze." They were fun and fulfilling. I remember feeling tired, but never completely depleted and exhausted. I'm pretty sure it's because of the choice I made.

My girls are both healthy (luckily!) and all development is right on track. (Aha, the formula worked!) I know so many women—smart women—who are either nursing now or recall nursing with such hatred, pain and frustration, and I want to ask: Why are you still doing it? Why did you keep doing it? A happier mom is a better mom, hands down. We can all agree on that, right?

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Whatever your choice—about nursing, pumping or opting out of all of it—stand by it. It's fine. You're good. Unless your doctor has exclusively ordered you to breastfeed on account of stabilizing and/or curing a health issue that your baby must overcome, your child will (most likely) be fine. Great, even. Newborns need confident moms who take charge for everyone's greater good more than they need our actual boobs. If you're thinking of opting out of breastfeeding for no reason other than you just don't want to, know that there's nothing to fret about. (I say that with genuine admiration and respect for the nursing moms who tirelessly really do enjoy it.)

I just wasn't into it.

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