I Hate Breastfeeding

(In a recent off-blog discussion, I mentioned how we’d never discussed childbearing or breastfeeding on our blog. Since I’m the only one of us who has actually born a child or breastfed (at least as far as I know), I figured I’d have to be the one to remedy that. So I pulled out a post I wrote last month but never actually posted anywhere. And at least one other blogger encouraged me in this, so it’s not totally my fault.)

Well, since it’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I’ve seen a number of posts about breastfeeding and how great and wonderful it is. Azucar even talks about the glories of nursing toddlers. So I felt the need to come out of the closet myself, and tell everyone the truth. I hate breastfeeding. I absolutely hate and abhor it. Much like pregnancy. (Though I think I hate and abhor pregnancy more.)

I’m not trying to say that people shouldn’t breastfeed. I’m not trying to say that I think it’s gross or wrong if they do. I’m not even saying that I won’t breastfeed. I’m just saying that I hate it. It makes me miserable. I am not a fan.

Breastfeeding is really good for your baby; I know that. It’s the biggest reason that I have breastfed both my sons. Like bearing them, it’s something that I do for them as a mother, even though I really don’t like it.

I actually didn’t mind breastfeeding so much with my first. He only nursed about every 4 hours (I think – it’s been a little while) after the first couple of weeks. He also switched back and forth from breast to bottle with great ease from the time he was a month old (and he needed that bottle – he spit up about 3/4 of what he ate, and there was no way I could keep up with that). If I really didn’t want to breastfeed him at a particular time, I could give him a bottle, or better yet, get his dad to give him one. Or his aunt, or his grandparents. It was great. At about five and a half months a number of things happened (he got teeth, school ended and we started taking more car trips, he wanted to look around while he ate), and I weaned him. I didn’t even realize it was happening at first, but when I did, I shrugged and said, “I guess I’m weaning him.” I never looked back.

I thought I would do the same sort of thing with my second. I breastfed him from the first, though it was harder with him. He wanted to eat every hour and a half, for about thirty minutes. I knew I would go completely insane if we did that, so I put my foot down and said he could eat every two hours. And I timed it. He would cry, my husband would plead, I would look at the clock and say, “It hasn’t been two hours, don’t even think about giving him to me.” It kept me (at least sort of) sane. This needing to eat every two hours, both day and night, went on for the first six months. It was horrid.

I tried to get him to switch back and forth to a bottle, like his brother, but he refused. I felt like I never got away from him, and that started to drive me somewhat insane. Things were compounded by the fact that he tended to spit up formula pretty bad, so we tried a lot of different formulas. Finally at six months we tried a soy formula, and found out he was allergic to soy. He got upwards of 50 blisters on his bottom and his legs. It was not fun.

A couple of months later it was obvious that he wanted more to drink than I could give him (he cried when he got done breastfeeding), and since he still wouldn’t go back and forth from breast to bottle, I decided I’d have to just wean him cold turkey. I did, and it was miserable. And then he broke out in blisters again (it takes about 3 days after he gets soy for them to show up). It turns out all infant formulas have soy in them. We went back to breastfeeding, and gave him some juice when he was still thirsty.

I kept breastfeeding him for another few months, until just before his first birthday. He decided to wean himself then, and other than the fact that it was incredibly painful, I was happy. Being able to give him a sippy cup is so much better than breastfeeding him. I’m a much happier (and better, I think) mommy.

So, now you know my dirty little secret. I think breastfeeding is awful. I think those that love it are crazy. But to each their own. I will breastfeed my next kid, I’m sure. But unless there are allergy problems, the kid will get weaned well before a year. Because my health and sanity are important, too.


  1. I’m a confimed lactivist, but I really like this post. I think a lot of times lactivists act like bfing is just one big party when the reality for a lot of women is that it is just a lot of work and, sometimes, pain. I think this post does a really good job of articulating the sacrifices that mothers make.

    I don’t particularly like bfing except that it gives me an excuse to read 🙂

  2. For my family, the main problem is that sleep deprivation is the number one cause of my wife sliding into postpartum depression. I learned this the hard way with our first kids. Now I know better than to let my wife do the nighttime feedings. So, bottle feeding is essential to my wife’s sanity and I am very thankful for it. It makes me sad that so many people try to make her feel bad about not breast feeding. That thing you said about being a better mommy is pretty important. My youngest is two weeks old, so I know whereof I speak.

  3. Vada, you’ve just shattered all of my illusions! And all these infertile years I’ve been thinking that breastfeeding would be like…well, you know, like a Mary Cassatt painting, the light streaming impressionistically through high windows to illuminate a domestic scene of order, calm, and maternal bliss, with an obligatory soft gauzy veil over the lens and, of course, blankets over all the heads of all the men who are standing outside the frame gawking. Lest they be inflamed to unbridled broiling lust.

    I must say, though, your descriptions strike me as just a wee bit more trustworthy.

  4. I’m mixed. I loved breast feeding sometimes. I hated it sometimes.

    I bf all my kids until they were 1year+. And the first month or two was always hell for me. That’s the part I hated. I would leak, a lot. Anytime the baby would cry, in the store, at the park, in church, and then I’d have to big wet stinky milk spots on my shirts. I smelled like a cow. all the time. I also hated getting untucked all the time, and never feeling like my clothes were in the right place. Garments did not help. And my nipples hurt.

    The lactation specialists kept telling me that if I was doing it right it wouldn’t hurt. Then they would look at my nursing child and my face cramped up in pain and say, hum, you appear to be doing it right. It shouldn’t hurt. This is not helpful. My middle child pretty much sucked all the skin off my nipples and when she spit up it was red with my blood. Good times.

    But after the first two months, my nips toughened up and those horrible uterine cramps stopped. and I loved not having to wash bottles, or pack food for the baby. I had food with me where ever, when ever, no prep or clean water or heater needed. Of course this also meant that you couldn’t leave the kids with someone else for more than a few hours, which was also not much fun, like say on your anniversary, when you get up at the bed and breakfast and drive back home to feed the baby because your boobs are about to burst, (MIL was up half the night with screaming child who refused the bottle) then drive back to the b&b and climb back in bed with sleeping dh who feels rested and relaxed. Which was not the “I love it” part, I suppose. But I also love the closeness and connection to the baby. But then again, I also really longed to have my body back, to take my allergy meds! I love allergy meds!

    Yeah, so mixed bag. But when I say I LOVED not having to wash bottles, you have to understand just how much I hate washing dishes. I really reallly hate dishes. And I like boobs.

  5. As I am a mother of three and my current son is 20 months and we still nurse 3-5 times a day or night. Of course at times it’s just for a few minutes.

    My opinion about bf (and pregnancy for that matter) is about the child, not you. If you are doing it for yourself you’re missing the enitre point. Which is the child. It’s ALL about the child. Forget yourself the appearance of your body, the shape of your breasts or body and everything. It’s about the health and everything of your CHILD.

    I am tolerant of women who hate bf, but really, what kind of mother are you?

    I realize that there are people who can’t bf, that their milk never comes in and I feel sorry for them, since they have to use a bottle and mess with all of that. Or get goat’s milk or other mother’s milk from LLL.

    But I think that formula should be a prescription based item. I don’t think that a can of formula really knows how long ago I had my baby or what he really needs.

    Truth be told, there are some nights when I have had my 20 month old nurse for 2-3 hours and YES, I feel violated. He does this when his mouth hurts from teething. But I gain my patience back when I realize this is his comfort, that I am a great comfort to him.

    When people ask me about nursing him, I tell them my story. So here it is:

    Both of my sons, have recessed jaw/chin, which makes it hard for them to stick their tongue out and suck, thus nurse at all.
    It took me 10 weeks to teach my first son to nurse. I spent that entire time pumping every 3-4 hours and feeding him. If you think bf is strapping yourself to a baby, this is worse, because you have to everything twice.
    When he gained weight, and muscle strength, he learned to nurse. He nursed until he weaned himself at about 15 months.

    I thought it was because he was born 3 1/2 weeks early. The doctor and I had different opinions about when I conceived. It turned out that I was right, even though he was big in the womb. (My DH and I are both tall, thus big kids.) And he was 8 lbs., so he didn’t seem little,and I found out later from my Ped Dr it was the recessed chin that was the true problem.

    Ten weeks sounded like a really long time, until my third child was born and he had the same bfing problems. At least this time I didn’t believe the nurses when they told me it was me, or the way I was holding him or whatever. This time I went straight into pumping and feeding.

    There even was one of the lactating consultants in the hospital who told me I should just give up, that he who never learn. I looked at her shocked and told her to please leave and that I had been through this before, and I therefore could be my own cheering section, if her job was getting to hard for her.

    Needless to say, he learned to nurse at 4 months and a week and it was the next two weeks that were pure hell, since a 14 lbs. baby pulls different on your nipples then a newborn. OUCH. Then I toughened up and I was fine. And ready never to see the pump again. I loaned it to a friend.

    I have learned patience and tolerance, about bfing and I try to keep my opinions (usually) to myself, but it’s nice to say how I really feel about bfing in this forum.

    I still get looks from the new mothers in the Mother’s room at church, but we don’t care. And when someone asks when we will stop nursing, I say, “Oh, in about 15 mintues. Then you can have my spot.”

  6. LF, I’m sorry that your experience has been so difficult, and I think it’s admirable that you have nevertheless been so persistent. But did you really mean for this

    I am tolerant of women who hate bf, but really, what kind of mother are you?

    to come across as harshly as it sounds?

    When you say that breastfeeding, like pregnancy, should be about the child, not the mother, I think you’re just reiterating what Vada is saying. I may just be reading into her post, but I thought she was pointing out that all the discussion of how wonderful breastfeeding is for children morphs into the idea that breastfeeding will also be wonderful and fulfilling for the mother, and in some (perhaps many) cases, it just isn’t.

  7. But I think that formula should be a prescription based item.

    That is pure crazy talk. I have never understood why breastfeeding is a religion for some people, but so it is. LF, I am sure you will go to breastfeeding heaven, good job.

  8. Wow, has hell frozen over or something? Breastfeeding thread on ZD? 🙂
    Still, it’s nice, I can relate.
    I’m pretty much right on with fMhLisa. Sometimes nice, sometimes not. I think a huge amount of baby enjoyment in general (not just breastfeeding) is about how much sleep the mother gets. I weaned my first at about the same time he slept through the night: 9 mths. It was a really hard 9 mths. I’m not sure I enjoyed breastfeeding at all, especially b/c he was a difficult baby in so many ways (and is still a difficult kindergartener). My second was totally the opposite, aside from the initial horrors of nipple soreness and uterine cramping, I enjoyed every minute with him. He was just a sweet little guy, he would put his hand up and pat me gently while he nursed, it was like a breastfeeding TV ad. He is still a happy 20 mth old, and I would have nursed him past the 14 mths that I did if I hadn’t found out I was pregnant. So, here I am in my 8th mth of pregnancy, wondering how breastfeeding will work out this time, remembering the uterine cramps (where’s the epidural for those?) and the incredibly sore nipples. Yikes.
    Good post, I think being honest about breastfeeding is helpful for everyone. Thanks.

  9. To me, it seems, that nothing stirs up a more emotional debate than the subject of breastfeeding. Personally, I have had horrible nightmare experiences with breastfeeding with all three of my children. The first one nearly endangered my life, as I developed an abscess in my breast that required a 3 week stay in the hospital on IV antibiotics and several months of having the open wound packed and dressed by nurses. I tried with my other two with disastrous results as well. I fully understand the benefits of breastfeeding, but I hate breastfeeding too.

    That being said, I wish that breastfeeding could be something that everyone figures out what’s best for each individual. If you want to breastfeed until their children are toddlers, great! If you can’t handle the pain, struggle and sleep deprivation and want to give your kids a bottle, great! One solution doesn’t work for everyone. To me, it’s all about having a healthy, happy, well-fed baby and a healthy, happy mommy. Judgments and guilt are the LAST thing a post-partum hormonal mother needs.

  10. To me, it seems, that nothing stirs up a more emotional debate than the subject of breastfeeding. Personally, I have had horrible nightmare experiences with breastfeeding with all three of my children. The first one nearly endangered my life, as I developed an abscess in my breast that required a 3 week stay in the hospital on IV antibiotics and several months of having the open wound packed and dressed by nurses. I tried with my other two with disastrous results as well. I fully understand the benefits of breastfeeding, but I hate breastfeeding too.

    That being said, I wish that breastfeeding could be something that everyone figures out what’s best for each individual. If you want to breastfeed until your children are toddlers, great! If you can’t handle the pain, struggle and sleep deprivation and want to give your kids a bottle, great! One solution doesn’t work for everyone. To me, it’s all about having a healthy, happy, well-fed baby and a healthy, happy mommy. Judgments and guilt are the LAST thing a post-partum hormonal mother needs.

  11. My opinion about bf (and pregnancy for that matter) is about the child, not you. If you are doing it for yourself you’re missing the enitre point. Which is the child. It’s ALL about the child. Forget yourself the appearance of your body, the shape of your breasts or body and everything. It’s about the health and everything of your CHILD.

    Speaking as someone who is on pretty serious psychiatric meds, and who will have to go off of them in order to bear children, this kind of attitude scares me. I will have to go off my meds when I decide to try to have children. I am not very stable when I’m off my meds. Which means that (unless something radically changes) as soon as I make it through childbirth, I will go back on my meds, and my babies will not be breastfed. Yes, it’s about the child, but if I’m too emotionally unstable to take care of my child, then it won’t be in my child’s best interest to breastfeed her.

    Granted, I’m an extreme case, but I think Vada’s post raises an interesting question: How can a mother recognize when she’s taking something that is beneficial for her child to the point that it’s so unhealthy for her that it ultimately ends up being unhealthy for her child?

    I think the point Vada makes about her experience stopping breastfeeding in the sentence–I’m a much happier (and better, I think) mommy–is key.

  12. Harsh as it is, YES.

    I am sorry that my feelings are so black and white and that some of you do not agree.

    But all the above complaints about bfing are not from the child, but the woman who choose to have a child, but then not to look at the child’s best interests.

    A child is not an accessory to go with the nice car and house. They are a sacrifice, a huge gift of self-less service. I feel like peole are not thinking of child, but more of how it will change themselves.

  13. One more thing:

    I feel for Seraphine and her medications and those who have had life threatening events with their own breasts.

    I think that I am not so much anti-bottle feeding (I’ve done it.) then I am anti-formula.

    Formula is made by some guy, never does it know when your baby was born, thus it never changes.
    Formula is horridly expensive.
    LLL has banks set up for trading of breast milk.
    Before formula was wildly popular, people used goat’s milk.

    Side note:
    Have you ever noticed that the poorer the person is the more likely they will use formula? The person already on food stamps who should be using the home-made bfing way, is buying formula?

    Don’t hate me.
    Use that energy to love yourself and your children.

  14. Why is it all about the child? Do mothers have no claim to individual well-being, entirely aside from the happy mom=happy child argument? Mothers are people too– they don’t just exist to serve others. I think our culture makes far too great a fetish of female self-sacrifice.

  15. And LF, what basis do you have to call yourself tolerant? You sound absolutely intolerant to me. Do you impose on fathers the same obligation to sacrifice everything for their children? Or is it just mothers who have no independent right to exist?

  16. I’ve nursed 3 kids (for an average of 1 year). i believe in it for nutrition, for immunity, for frugality, and for convenience (portable, immediate, no dishes).
    But in no way would I call it satisfying, bonding, emotional, or important to the relationship. and that’s fine, we’re all different. just like some women think it feels good, and some get riddled with infections and lumps and cuts.
    And so it goes, with everybody choosing what is best for themselves and their babies, as best they can tell, given the options available.

  17. Whoa, LF, I’m usually the intolerant lactivist, but that’s a bit much even for me.

    z is right that we need to weigh the needs of the mother as well. I’m not real sympathetic towards women who choose not to bf because “it’s gross”–I think they need to put their squeamishness beneath the legitimate health needs of their child. I’m totally intolerant on that one!

    But . . . but . . . at a certain point of physical or psychological stress, a mother’s need not to bf becomes greater than the need of the child to bf. As reprehensible as I think formula is (in general, and I’m thinking esp. of the way it is marketed), it is not an automatic death sentence. It is second best, to be sure, but that doesn’t make it evil. I can’t draw the line for anyone else as to where the mother’s needs legitimately outweigh the baby’s, but it does happen.

  18. LF, I have to disagree with you. Completely. Breastfeeding is definitely beneficial, but I think you go too far when you try to make it the test of parental concern. Just because someone doesn’t breastfeed doesn’t mean that she’s “thinking of only how it will change [her].” It may be that, like Seraphine is planning, she just can’t afford to pass her meds along to her baby. It may be that she’s more happy when she’s not breastfeeding, like Vada, a fact which isn’t just going to affect her, but her kids as well.

    To say that breastfeeding is so much better than formula feeding that it is worth any sacrifice is, I think, obviously wrong. There are clearly cost/benefit tradeoffs to breastfeeding just like there are for all kinds of choices parents make. Since we can’t see other people’s potential costs and benefits, I think it would be far more reasonable for us to give one another the benefit of the doubt as cchrissyy suggested, rather than rushing in to judge with an easy rule that can help us feel oh-so-superior to the great unwashed who don’t know what we do.

  19. I nursed my oldest until he lost interest and I’m still going strong with my second at 6 months. Is breastfeeding the best thing for my kids? Yes, and I’ve made a number of sacrifices to ensure that they were well-fed (nipple pain, loss of sleep, loss of personal time, health etc.). Painting breastfeeding as an endless joy glosses over the very real work I’ve done and sacrifices I’ve made to provide for my kids- and I think this glossing over is a detriment to mothers getting the respect and recognition they deserve.

  20. LF – My situation sounds a lot like yours. My child will not feed from the breast, and so I’ve been pumping for almost two months. I’m seriously thinking of putting the pump away because, well, it’s just too difficult and I’m getting no sleep. Pumping is the worst of both worlds, since you have to clean bottles _and_ pumping equipment AND you have the major nipple soreness and sleep deprivation that goes along with nursing.

    I congratulate you on your ability to weather through the difficulties, but that doesn’t mean everyone should or can make similar sacrifices.

  21. Side note:
    Have you ever noticed that the poorer the person is the more likely they will use formula? The person already on food stamps who should be using the home-made bfing way, is buying formula?

    Are there stats to back this up?

    If so, I’d be willing to bet it has something to do with the WIC program, which is not the same as food stamps. WIC provides free formula for babies, or certain free foods to breastfeeding moms.

  22. Clarification: I checked, and LLL does not encourage women to ‘trade’ milk in any way shape or form. In fact, several places on the website officially discourage ‘informal milk sharing.’

    There is a network of human milk banks in which pooled, pasteurized donor milk is available by prescription (see hmbna.org)- not affiliated with LLL.

    That said, I do think formula is far inferior to human milk, and I wish human milk was more available to families who can’t breastfeed. People treat formula, since it’s expensive and doesn’t kill babies (except when it’s recalled for having glass particles, dangerous levels of excess chromium, etc), like some sort of super food. It is dried milk powder with sugar added to it! Read the ingredients- looks (and tastes) disgusting to me. The formula companies use unethical marketing tactics and basically make it as cheap as they can to make the highest profits. There are no studies that show that older babies do better on formula than they would on plain cow’s milk or any other mammals milk- we are experimenting on our babies giving them this stuff (and Nestle our money).

  23. I worked hard at breastfeeding, but had varying levels of success. My first had a tongue thrust and we just could not get it right. I ended up pumping for six months and supplementing with formula, until we switched to formula exclusively at six months. Total nightmare.

    My second was a little better. I breastfed her for six months. It was hard. My breasts are really big anyway, and I’d gained a ton of baby weight and they were gigantic. I couldn’t ever fall asleep breastfeeding her or she would literally start to suffocate. I also had (I forget what it’s technically called) oversupply and milk would just squirt all over the place and squirt into her mouth and she’d end up gulping and gagging and it upset her stomach, which was already a mess from her reflux. I hated it. I never understood what people were talking about when they talked about enjoying breastfeeding or bonding, or anything. I hated it. I loved my baby when she was sleeping, or awake, or ANYTHING but breastfeeding.

    With my third I’d lost some weight, and regulated my supply better and we actually successfully breastfed for almost eight months. I still hated it.

    You’re not supposed to admit that though. Nice to be able to say that out loud.

  24. And anon, I totally feel your pain. Pumping all the time, around the clock, for months, totally sucks. I will never forget the sound of my stupid Medela pump, swish swish, swish swish, on and on, for hundreds of hours of my life. Ugh.

  25. I am very grateful for formula, because it allows me to feed my baby. It may not be quite as good as breast milk, but it is a good substitute. All of my children have done very well on it. It does not deserve to be demonized because it has saved the lives of many infants.

    I went into motherhood with high hopes of breastfeeding only to discover that I couldn’t produce enough for my newborn to wet a diaper. I tried pumping and the most I could ever produce was four onces by pumping five times in 24 hours. Much of the breast feeding literature misleads women into thinking that any mother can nurse. That is false. In reality mothers differ in their physical ability to breastfeed. Some women are born with very few or poorly developed milk ducts.

    Don’t judge other mothers for not breastfeeding and don’t think you are superior because you breastfeed. You just don’t know their circumstances of the mothers who feed formula. Most mothers want what is best for their children. Let the mother be the judge of that. Formula fed babies can be very healthy and happy.

    I often wonder what the pioneer mothers would of thought of formula. I’m sure it would have been a blessing for many of them. Back then babies starved to death when their mothers milk dried up .

  26. RK, I hope you weren’t directing your comment to mine. Formula is certainly a blessing. Of course formula fed babies can be, and are, happy and healthy. I just wish it were a better, safer product. It’s difficult to hear the dangers or drawbacks because so many of us depend on it to feed our kids and we don’t want to hear that it has risks or that it’s made to very minimum standards- but we should expect better. We should also expect better breastfeeding advice and help. Anyone who has had trouble breastfeeding can attest to the fact that we get a lot of differing opinions, many of them very ill-informed or biased by personal opinion rather than evidence-based. Many mothers who find they are unable to breastfeed very well might have been able to if they’d gotten better (or more) information and support (which is also difficult to hear, I know).

  27. As a midwife and lactation consultant, I realize I have a biased opinion on these issues. However, it is best to stop perpetuating bad information. Each woman’s experience with pregnancy and breastfeeding is different and therefore it is valuable to hear many different stories and experiences of different women, if for no other reason than to have one’s feelings validated.
    I feel I must attempt to set the record straight:
    Nipple pain beyond the first week or so is related to a bad latch.
    “Lactation consultants” in the hospital are rarely more than nurses with a title, rarely do they have any personal breastfeeding experience (beyond one obligatory attempt) or even additional training in counseling or lactation.
    Sleeping with or near your baby will promote more and better sleep for everyone, as you do not have to wake up to your baby crying, groggily get him or her out of bed, nurse, then get him or her back to sleep. It’s easy to feed and fall back asleep when you don’t even have to move. By making cosleeping culturally abhorent, we reduce the likelihood women will be able to handle breastfeeding in these artificial conditions (humans have always slept with their babies before the industrial rev).
    With each pregnancy postpartum contractions get stronger because it’s harder for the uterus to get back down to a small size in the same amount of time (# 10)
    Formula should absolutely be on a prescription basis, artificial milk has been the cause of epidemic infant death and disease in the US as well as third world countries. Refer to the book “The Politics of Breastfeeding” by Gabrielle Palmer(#9)
    (#12)I agree completely that judgements and guilt are the last thing a postpartum mother needs and that’s why good bf help is so extremely important
    (#5,#16) bfing has unbelieveable and understudied benefits for women, most notably your risk of breast cancer is inverse to the number of years you breastfeed
    Almost EVERY medication can be worked around to be able to breastfeed with a motivated mother and doctor
    (#16)I have no argument regarding the elevation of female self-sacrifice, but consider the fetishization of the BREAST! hardly a comparison.

    I absolutely believe that women are not given a true choice regarding breastfeeding. The way births are handled in this society destroys all our body’s impulses and cues for initiating breastfeeding easily and simply. Newborns actually have instincts to crawl to the breast and self-attach after birth if left undisturbed. I don’t believe women can make a choice regarding breast or bottle until they have breastfed successfully, it’s easy to bottlefeed successfully when it’s socially accepted and the breastfeeding relationship was damaged at birth, and it’s nearly impossible to breastfeed under those circumstances. Therefore, I don’t think it’s a true choice.
    This being said, I do believe it’s unfair to judge women after virtually taking away their ability to breastfeed without unnatural pain and effort. This is the great paradox in my mind regarding medical birth and breastfeeding. We assert that it is wrong to judge women for their choices, but isn’t it wrong to take away their choice?

  28. Vada, thanks for this post. I’m bfing #2, and it took me 2+ years and 2 kids to own up to the fact that I hate it. I think I grew up expecting to love it; I never heard anyone complain about it.

    I do it because I think it’s really important. It is beneficial for my kids, and I have the time and luxury to (#15: poor women I’ve worked with who use formula do so because they can’t afford the $300 electric pump or even the $30 hand pump. They don’t have a place to store their milk at work. They don’t have a place to pump at work. They work because they can’t afford to stay home.)

    I have a family member who can’t bf because of the medication she needs to be on for mental illness. Should she breastfeed while she thinks Jack the Ripper is looking through her window?

    I consider myself a lactivist and think everyone who can bf should, but the guilt that can be placed on those who don’t bf makes me mad. There are so many legitimate reasons that people don’t feel comfortable proclaiming as they mix their formula.

  29. -There are so many legitimate reasons that people don’t feel comfortable proclaiming as they mix their formula.-

    I did not breast feed any of my 3 children and the reason is quite personal (and no, it’s not because I think it’s ‘gross’) and it isn’t something I ever felt like getting into in an explanation to anyone – even in this anonymous forum I don’t feel like going there – but I will say that it has always really bothered me that bf or not bf should be some kind of barometer for whether or not you are a good mother.

    My children are fairly grown now – ages 17, 12 & 10. They were healthy happy babies. I understand there are health benefits to breastfeeding. However, I wonder sometimes if women who are so judgemental about breastfeeding truly understand that it’s entirely possible to have a non-breastfeed baby who is healthier than a breastfed baby. I always found that strange, that they didn’t seem to be able to accept that in my particular situation, my children turned out just as well as could have been hoped for by the healthiest breastfed babies. Maybe it’s good genes, maybe it was my pregnancy nutrition, maybe it was environment, maybe I loved my children more and better than most moms. 🙂 My kids, all 3, were incredibly happy healthy children. They still are.

    I was of course joking about loving them more than most moms. But that’s what talk of breastfeeding vs. not breastfeeding starts to sound like to me…there is a subtle undertone of “I love my child more than you love yours” and of course “I’m a better mom”. #5 is a good example of this thinking.

  30. Does anyone know what extra benefits there are for bf for longer than a month or two? I know pediatricians recommend bf 6 mo or longer, but what exactly does an extra few months add?

  31. Some thoughtful comments. One point that hasn’t been made is that there are bad reasons for breastfeeding as well. When I had problems nursing my fourth child (which I already detailed over at T & S last week), I will confess that my primary motivation was NOT the baby’s well-being, but rather my pride as a breastfeeding mother who nurses for at least a year. I was not willing to give up that image of myself, and I couldn’t stomach the idea of spending all that money on formula when i wasn’t employed. So darn it, that baby was gonna nurse no matter what. (I really wouldn’t have let her die, of course, but in retrospect I have to admit that the hassles may not have been worth it.)

  32. Great post! Thanks for the shout-out.

    I love to read other women’s perspectives of breastfeeding. I’m a firm believer that the vast majority of women can nurse, if they have adequate education, support, and are not undermined with bad advice or misguided medical intervention.

    However, just not liking breastfeeding is something else entirely!

    I think that every woman should weigh the benefits to her child the come via breastfeeding vs. the mother’s personal experience.

    To Anon 34: Yes, let me provide the evidence. Every child is born with a virgin gut. As long as breastfeeding continues, their digestive systems are populated with the most beneficial flora and fauna: mom’s milk seals the holes in the tract preventing the passing of pathogens through the digestive tract. Breast-feeding induces local immunity in the urinary tract by prompting the infant itself to produce molecules that protect it.

    The immunologies are important and continue as long as you nurse. Although there is a rapid, almost instant, transfer of immunologies with colostrum, antibodies continue to be made by the mother and transferred to the child as long as they nurse. This means that even if a mother gets a cold in 6 months, she will transfer the antibodies to her child reducing their risk or duration of illness.

    The longer a child nurses the lower their risk of certain types of cancer, lower the risk of diabetes, and fewer repeated respiratory and ear infections.

    It’s not just the child that benefits: the longer a mother nurses the less her chances of developing specific cancers. It is additive as well: the more children and the more you nurse, the more benefit. There is an inverse relationship between total time spent breastfeeding and the development of breast and ovarian cancers.

    Nutritionally, milk changes at each step to better meet the needs of the nursling. As they grow older and nurse less, milk naturally concentrates in fats and other nutrients to assure a child is still getting the benefits.

    There is a correlation between duration of breastfeeding and adult intelligence.

    Ad naseum 🙂

    Basically, as long as mother and child nurse, there will be a benefit.

    It is, of course, up to the mother and the child to determine at what point the benefits are outweighed by their circumstance.

    101 Reasons
    Comprehensive list of benefits along with the reference studies

  33. I found out when I was pregnant that I have a somewhat-uncommon uterine deformity that makes it difficult and dangerous to have children. I have two children, and that’s probably all we’re going to have. Both had to be born by c-section, my second after a placental abruption where I started bleeding all over the floor at a party. Sometimes I have felt really depressed and jealous when I look at my friends who have five or six children, all delivered vaginally and with few complications. But I have learned to make peace with the fact that my body just isn’t “made right” and that having children is more difficult for me than for other people.

    I also had problems with breastfeeding, especially with my second. I breastfed my first for a full year and she usually seemed satisfied. Then with my second I ended up switching to formula at five months because he started losing weight and cried all the time. My breasts basically stopped making milk–partially due to stress in my life and partially due to other problems. I have found out that I probably have a condition where my breasts don’t have enough milk-making tissue in them. (There are specific symptoms, like having very small breasts that don’t grow at all during pregnancy, etc.)

    We live in an imperfect world where we rarely live up to our ideals. Despite the fact that I’m “supposed” to be able to bear and nurse lots of children, I can’t. Breastfeeding is great for many reasons, but guilting people into doing it or judging those who don’t or can’t won’t help.

  34. For the record, I really am pro-breastfeeding. However, I think that we would need to make some pretty massive changes in our society to get to the stage of universal breastfeeding. There’s the problem of sexualization of the breast and the issues that surround public breastfeeding. There’s the fact that we live in a capitalistic society and money talks. Formula companies make large amounts of money, and therefore have a lot of control over advertising and politics. Every time the government does a study that shows the benefits of breastfeeding, formula companies get all up in arms about it and throw large amounts of money at people to surpress it. Companies give you free stuff at the hospital, even under the guise of giving breastfeeding advice complete with coupons for formula “in case it doesn’t work for you”. Like someone pointed out, although WIC is an early-childhood nutrition program and advocates for breastfeeding, they also freely give out formula to those who ask for it. We also have the problem of many working mothers who have to put small babies in daycare all day and have no resources for pumping milk at work. Many countries with higher rates of breastfeeding have things like subsidized family leave that lasts for up to a year after having a baby. They have state-sponsored medical care that doesn’t need money from formula companies to support it. However, they also don’t have the culture of freedom of choice that we have in America. We believe in giving everyone the choice to decide whether or not to breastfeed, but unfortunately the cards are really stacked against making that choice for many women.

  35. re: 37

    The problem with supplementing with formula is that it can lead to decreased milk production. Breasts are funny things, they only produce as much as the baby demands. So, if you regularly replace a feeding with formula, your breasts will stop producing as much milk at that time. Make sense?

    So the rule of thumb is to avoid supplementing if at all possible. For most women the best way to get their breasts to produce more milk is to nurse more often.

    Oh, and so you know where I’m coming from: I have two children. The first I nursed for 15.5 months, the second for 20. I probably would have nursed my second until he turned 2 (he had a cow’s milk allergy, which he seems to have outgrown, but he still won’t drink cow’s milk or eat straight cheese or ice cream or whipped cream, etc.), but I got pregnant and, when you’re pregnant, you only have to miss a few feedings (I was only nursing him twice a day at that point) for your milk to dry up altogether. I plan to nurse my third child, due to arrive in about a month.

    I’m a big supporter of breastfeeding, BUT I don’t believe in nursing solely for comfort, and I’ve never popped out a boob just because my child was upset (I’ve seen other mothers do this). This effectively means we naturally fell into a pretty regular schedule, and reduced the amount of nursing we did in public places. I did always nurse my kids to sleep, which meant I had more control over when they took their naps, and in our case led to no long-term problems in getting them to sleep on their own without it.

    Anyway, I really liked breastfeeding and am looking forward to the chance to do it again. BUT, getting it all figured out is hard! With my first child, it took about three months to really get into the routine, and he wouldn’t nurse AT ALL until he was about a week old (leading to that awful pump-and-feed-with-a-syringe routine that I’m sure some of the rest of you are familiar with). Some women give up on breastfeeding before they’ve worked through all those initial issues. For those who do get it all working properly and still don’t like it, well, I’m not sure what to say. Bummer.

  36. “leading to that awful pump-and-feed-with-a-syringe routine that I’m sure some of the rest of you are familiar with”


    Yeah, we did that.

  37. We did that pump/syringe too. It was awful. I cried, I was a wreck, my husband wanted me to give up and I said No, No, No.

    To Anon, I won’t bore everyone by listing the evidence here, but if you’re interested in the effects of formula and formula supplementation of breastfeeding, you can read more here. Or more here.

  38. I guess I dont like the all or nothing approach i keep hearing – a month or two of bf seems to me to be better than no bf. And i dont see the conspiracy against bf by the formula companies. Last time i checked, the Enfamil website states on its front page that bf is best.

  39. Thanks for the info. Reading those links about formula and bf made me wish i’d never even bothered staying up all night pumping these past six weeks. If one bottle of formula reverses the effects of bf, then I’ve been wasting my time (and tears) since day one.

  40. Let’s be clear, because I don’t think the links make it so, that any BF is better health-wise than none. Even if formula does change the pH balance, BM will still give your child immunologies.

    Of course, whatever decision that you and your child come to, it should be what works best for each of you. I happened to stick to it, but not everyone has that chance or that support. I nearly didn’t.

    I respect everyone who gives it a shot and hope that they have the nursing relationship that they wanted.

  41. thanks, but cold comfort if my formula fed child turns out stupid and sickly. i’m so upset right now. Despite my best efforts, turns out i’ve failed and I might as well give up completely.

  42. thanks, but cold comfort if my formula fed child turns out stupid and sickly. i’m so upset right now. Despite my best efforts, turns out i’ve failed and I might as well give up completely.

    Oh, for crying out loud, anon. Don’t let busybodies bully you into feeling like a failure.

    Many kids do just fine on formula. It’s not arsenic.

    I was born six weeks early and spent a few months in the NICU. In that time, my mom’s milk dried up. And so I only drank formula as a child. And hey, I didn’t turn out so bad, did I?

    (Stop laughing, everyone. 😛 )

    Yes, there are statistical benefits to breast feeding. But there are also a lot of formula fed kids who turn out just fine — even if they do become lawyers and bloggers.

    And the tactic of trying to make other moms feel guilty over the slightest formula use is deplorable. We might as well say the same thing about a single bite of a hamburger, or a single day without exercise, and why weren’t you listening to Mozart-in-the-womb, anyway?

    The only phenomenon I’m aware of that’s faster than light is the speed at which someone else will tell you that you’re raising your kids all wrong.

  43. Anon (#43)–

    If you don’t think the formula companies are up to no good, see if you can get your hands on one of the “breastfeeding support kits” they give out at hospitals. With each of our three children, my husband and I have laughed ourselves silly over it. One I remember had a magazine where the words were more or less neutral but then we looked at the pictures: all of the breastfeeding babies looked wide awake and alert while all of the ones with bottles in their mouths had their eyes 3/4 closed. There was also interesting half-truths: “breastfeeding women can’t diet.” (Well, yeah, but they are losing 500-1000 calories per day from breastfeeding . . .)

    Another one had reprinted The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding–nice gesture, wouldn’t you say? Except it was in a 9-point font, no margins or white space or illustrations, spine so thick you couldn’t read the words on the edge. Looked like the cel phone manual from hell. They also included ice packs “for aching breasts.” Makes bfing sound so easy, doesn’t it? Oh, here’s a coupon for Enfamil . . .

    That said, I don’t think you should feel bad about your formula use–some *is* better than none, and odds are your kid will be fine. More than fine.

  44. Nothing made me feel like more of a failure than my daughter’s troubled nursing. My son is a nursing champ, and I enjoy bfing because I feel it is a service to him and a break for me.

    Breastfeeding should never be confused for love or mothering. It is great if it works out and fine if it doesn’t. I think many women feel a lot of guilt about bfing not going the way they expected.

    Breastfeeding is hard and I had no idea it would be until I started. I remember crying on the phone with my mom who had bf 10 kids and asking her why she had never told me it hurts. “I guess we think no one will do it if we tell them the truth” was her answer. I try to be truthful with all new moms I know–I don’t want anyone feeling bad if bfing is not heaven-sent for them.

  45. I just wanted to thank everyone for the great and thoughtful comments so far. I’ll try to add some follow-up comments of my own tomorrow.

  46. I agree that the stuff from formula companies is awful, and I’m amazed at how much free formula they will provide as a gift to a woman who has expressed an intention to breastfeed. (Apparently the coupons, etc. are worth less in the packets for moms who have already decided to formula feed.)

    So I got every ounce of free formula I was offered, and donated it to a shelter for abused women.

  47. The women who intend to breastfeed are the ones who end up buying the most formula. That’s why they act like the support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is set up to be the unattainable ideal (witness the anon on this thread who now feels like breastfeeding isn’t worthwhile) while supplementing with formula is the reasonable choice. Mothers who want to breastfeed use formula for the longest (rather than switch to cow’s milk ‘early’ or use juice, sugar water, watered down formula etc) and stick to brand names rather than store brands. Julie is RIGHT ON about the marketing… the breastfeeding mothers are usually dark haired and sexy looking, in a nightgown, and the bottlefeeding mothers are usually blond and fully dressed. There are so many subtle hints it’s amazing. Oh, and the free hand pumps they put in your free ‘breastfeeding pack’ are a TOTAL JOKE. So don’t be confused about Similac’s good intentions re: your breastfeeding relationship. Why would they give you a parachute if it’s in their best interest for you to hit the ground hard?

  48. Apologies for not reading all comments–just can’t bring myself to get through all of them on another breastfeeding thread ‘cuz, y’know, i’m still all broken up about NOT getting to continue Eve’s little Mary Cassat painting, which despite the stupid pumping and the “supplimentary nursing aid” gizmo and the sleep deprivation and the going off of rather needed medications for my auto-immune disease, breastfeeding was for me just lovely. Breastfeeding offered a sort of peace with my body I haven’t felt since it went all wonky on my mission.

    I know y’all have responded to LF’s views, but I must add something: LF, your wish that formula be prescription based is a gigantic slap in the face to adoptive mothers such as myself. We had to switch formulas something like 10 times. Pharmacies cannot fit that many cans of various formulas. There’s no way in hell an insurance company would cover formula, and if it were distributed as you suggest i imagine the cost would increase *dramatically* so the formula companies could cover their expenses. (And yeah, those companies do some deplorable things, but they still have to stay in business or my baby does not eat.).

    To which you may reiterate the goat’s milk/ LLL milk trade argument. AS someone who tried rather desperately to attain donated breastmilk–and was really lucky to get six weeks worth from friends–you’re wrong if you think this is easy. Milk banks reserve the liquid gold for sick and premature babies and you’ll be banging your head against a wall trying to get any if your baby is fine, just adopted. I know. And while I love the LLL trade idea, there’s no way you can know what the donating woman has eaten or what drugs she may have taken, and you are of course dependent upon enough donated milk to go ’round even there. Which–I went to meetings–I coudln’t’ get here. Even with friends who I could call and who I trusted weren’t taking drugs, my baby struggled with who-knows-what they ate. Because they didn’t exactly write a list of all the foods they’d consumed before pumping since they possess no more hours in the day than anyone else. I still don’t know if it was broccoli or Indian curry that made my baby convulse in hysterical pain every occasional bag of donated milk. At least with formula, stinky and ill-tasting yuck that it is, I can read the can and call the company.

    I am a huge fan of breastfeeding, as should be readily obvious by my over-the-top and self-endangering attempts to do it with my adopted little Muffin. I’m sitting here literally tearing up that I had to stop, and that now Muffin has even ceased the comfort nursing (human pacifier!) he used to so love. But when I bottle feed in public, I loathe knowing there are women with your opinion who are looking at me and thinking “child abuser. What sort of mother are you?”

    I’m not trying to attack you, really. I’m not the attacking sort. But please, please, please take the word of someone who tried those non-formula avenues that it’s not always possible. And that staring at a bottle-feeding mama may, in fact, make her a WORSE mother because she ironically becomes burdened by worry over what others think rather than focusing on her child.

    Wow. That was long. But this has been hard.

  49. Vada–a great number of my breastfeeding friends have confided to me that while they bf for the health of their babies, they envy my bottle-feeding freedom. I don’t think they envy the dishes though, LOL!

  50. Oh yeah…left a salient detail out…I continued to take a lactation inducing drug for weeks even though it made break out in hives because i thought i would be a bad mother if I didn’t. Three separate doctors had to ORDER me to stop bf-ing and formula feed before I’d do it. I swear I want to use a magic wand on the women who cast judgmental stares my way when i whip out the bottle, and give them those hives.

  51. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I did more research today, and a new study published in the British Medical Journal this month shows NO correlation between a reduction in childhood allergies and asthma and breastfeeding.

    Guess the lactivists need to turn down their rhetoric and stop making women feel guilty for struggling with breastfeeding.

  52. Also

    In 2002, a smaller study, conducted among 1037 New Zealand infants, found babies who had been breastfed for more than four weeks ranked almost double the risk of contracting asthma and allergies in their childhood compared with counterparts who had been fed on infant formula.

    From the linked article.

  53. Anon,
    I’m not sure what your point is. That is not the only reason to breastfeed. I will refrain from posting links to the thousands of studies that show strong evidence in favor of breastfeeding, the least of which have anything to do with allergies and asthma. I would not want you to waste your time looking up more studies, most unsuccessfully, to prove lactivists wrong.
    Few lactivists purposefully make women feel guilty about not breastfeeding when they haven’t been able too. Obviously you have feel guilt about the whole breastfeeding issue. With few exceptions (as displayed by someone on this board) lactivsits advocate breastfeeding whenever it is humanly possible. If breastfeeding has not been or is not possible for you, no one is faulting you or thinking you are a terrible mother.
    Please don’t accuse us of being ruthlessly biased, because we aren’t, or promoting breastfeeding for mere fun because we don’t. The original thesis of this thread is that some mothers hate breastfeeding, but do it for the benefit of the baby. Obviously it would be much more convenient then if breastfeeding wasn’t so dang beneficial. But it is.

  54. Sure, Mami- I’m sure we can find studies proving anything we want to. Thus my point. My point is that rarely is bf talked about in a balanced way. It’s that if you don’t bf, your child will be sickly and stupid. Full stop.

  55. Anon-
    “It’s that if you don’t bf, your child will be sickly and stupid. Full stop.”
    Who said that?
    Why are you so jaded? First you say the formula companies don’t have a reason to not want women to breastfeed–It does not take a rocket scientist to see the absurdity of such silliness. Profit margin?
    We breastfeeders aren’t necessarily mean. We don’t tout breasfeeding as good for health to make all the other mothers feel bad. It’s simple science.
    It takes a motive to spew manipulative rhetoric to make others feel guilty. There is no secret motive! What would Vada’s motive, who hates breastfeeding, be? Janet, who can’ t breastfeed, her motive? Lisa, who is a leaky mess, does she have some secret motive? The original post clearly shows that if breastfeeding wasn’t clearly a superior way of feeding an infant, lots of mothers (like Vada) wouldn’t!
    If we were into rhetoric against our better judgement we would try to reason away breastfeeding so we wouldn’t have to do it. That is exactly what you appear to be doing! Perhaps you are doing it out of extreme guilt that you are placing on yourself.
    No one thinks your kid is going to be stupid and dead if you don’t breastfeed, (maybe dead if you don’t breastfeed and live in Africa though). Quit blaming lactivists for making you feel guilty that breastfeeding has not been successful for you. If you’ve tried, that’s all you can do. But please quit ignoring sound medical research just so you’ll feel better while accusing all of us of having a hidden agenda.

  56. We breastfeeders aren’t necessarily mean. We don’t tout breasfeeding as good for health to make all the other mothers feel bad. It’s simple science.

    Mami, I don’t think anon is saying that breastfeeders are necessarily mean, or denying that the preponderance of evidence does suggest that breastfeeding is, in general, preferable to formula. As I understand her, she’s simply saying that she’s been made to feel like a bad mother for not breastfeeding.

    It’s also worth pointing out that science is never simple, never entirely free of rhetoric or motive, and maybe most important, it’s never done. In science as in every other field of human understanding (including religion!), our most cherished conclusions are always subject to revision. It does seem that in some cases the benefits of breastfeeding may have been a little overstated; from what little I’ve seen, further studies haven’t borne out absolutely every claim that’s been in its favor. This is a fairly predictable cultural pattern, the extravagant and then revised rhetoric of the health panacea. First a particular behavior is touted as having innumerable benefits (drinking 8 glasses of water a day, eating oat bran, eating blueberries, ingesting antioxidants….). Then it turns out that well, beneficial as it may be, it mightn’t solve quite _all_ of your health problems. The evidence on breastfeeding, which in the course of a generation has swung from being gross, icky, and lower class to being the absolute apogee of good motherhood and upper-middle class, now seems to be going through a bit of a research reassessment. This is only to be expected.

    Even more important, _life_ isn’t simple; every single human life is unimaginably, incalculably complex in the difficult choices it forces on the liver. In some cases (Seraphine’s, Janet’s) breastfeeding simply may not be the best option. What tends to make me skeptical of lactivism, and all forms of activism, for that matter, is the desire to reduce that complexity on the backs of the human beings whose experience stands inconveniently in the way of the purity and simplicity of one principle or another. It’s a form of the fallacy of division to insist on applying a general truth to every particular circumstance. I’m not trying to accuse you personally of that, btw, but I have seen some lactivists (like every other kind of activist) get quite strident and extreme in their advocacy of what I would absolutely agree is, in most cases, a very good thing, one that ought to be fully culturally acceptable. And so I can definitely understand why anon is struggling with guilt over the issue, and why Janet had to have three different doctors tell her to stop trying.

    FWIW, anon, I think Kaimi is a walking advertisement for formula. I’d be infinitely pleased if my children turned out like him. As a culture we’re unbelievably hard on mothers, and we expect them to raise children like little projects, blaming them for every little thing that goes wrong. But it’s just not possible to be the perfect mother who makes the right choice all of the time, and sometimes even our best choices fail, in this fallen world. You’re clearly doing the best you can for your children. In my book anyway, that’s plenty good enough. If you find a theological perspective more comforting, it might be helpful to reflect that your children were sent to _you_, and that in God’s view, the only view that really counts, the person they need is _you_–not some abstract perfect ideal breastfeeding mother.

  57. well put, eve.

    before i had a baby, i was really quite convinced that people who didn’t breastfeed were strange. i couldn’t understand it.

    but now that i’ve got a little guy who couldn’t latch or suck to save his diminishing and jaundiced tiny life, i’ve been able to look at the feeding issue somewhat more judiciously.

    i pumped every two hours day and night for three weeks and never got more than 1ml of breastmilk. pretty demoralizing. it was even worse to have lactation consultant after lactation consultant tell me that if i just kept pumping my milk “would come in.” in the end, however, the stress of recovering from a fourth degree tear, trying to feed a newborn, and dealing with an absent husband who was tending to his own father in another state, pulled me down to a dark dark place. after a lot of thought and heartache, i took the pump back to the consultant, bought a bottle, and have tried not to look back.

    i say hooray for the genesis of this post. hooray for personal truth. everyone’s story is important. it seems like the more we listen to each other, the bigger part we have in making the world a good place for our children, be they breast or bottle fed.

  58. Eve-

    The problem that I see is that no one here has accused Anon of being a bad mother. On the contrary, everyone has said whatever she decides to do is just fine. I think everyone is confident that you are exactly correct in every word of your last paragrpah.
    Yet she accuses us (breastfeeding mothers) of making her feel guilty after posting what I see as clearly leading questions in each of her posts. I don’t like that. I have plenty of friends who have bottle fed out of choice. I like them. They are good parents. I see this as ironically judegemental.

  59. Mami, it’s possible I missed something in all the back and forth, but I haven’t seen her make any accusations at all, or pose any leading questions either, for that matter. She may have come across as a bit dramatic in saying she might as well give up and that her children will turn out sickly and stupid, but I’m guessing that’s because she’s feeling discouraged because she’s tried so desperately hard to breastfeed and has encountered some evidence suggesting that even some formula is less ideal than straight breastfeeding.

    But even if she did say that breastfeeding mothers made her feel guilty (as Janet actually did, in her mention of judgmental glances), that wouldn’t necessarily have anything to do with you, as a breastfeeding mother, or anyone else on this thread. Undoubtedly there are breastfeeding mothers who make formula-using mothers feel guilty, just as there are feminists who attack SAHMs and SAHMs who shun working mothers and Mormons who won’t let their children play with non-Mormons, etc. ad nauseum. But as long you personally aren’t making anyone feel guilty, then I think you can safely exempt yourself from what, if made at all, seemed to be a very general observation not directed personally at anyone on this thread.

  60. As a bottle feeding mother, I just had to get over the disappointment of not being able to breastfeed and not look for offense. Other nursing mothers I associated with have been very supportive and polite . I can’t really recall feeling harshly judged for not breastfeeding. It is possible to read to much into a look. I think the “Nipple Nazis” and the “Breast Gestapo” (as pediatricians commonly refer to them) are in a very small minority.

    (I have to admit that do get irritated by the smugness of many breast feeding advocates in forums like this.)

  61. But even if she did say that breastfeeding mothers made her feel guilty (as Janet actually did, in her mention of judgmental glances),

    Yup, and i felt bad about that. I probably should’ve stepped away from the keyboard and gotten a tighter grip on my horses, perhaps, before dumping all my pain on you guys. I’ve really only had a very few people make it clear they thought my bottles indicated a lack of judicious mothering. The other stares (and some people really do look for an awfully long time) may have simply been curious people wondering what would compel me not to breastfeed rather than assuming i’m terrible for not doing it.

    Or heck, maybe they just stare because my Muffin is so very handsome–how can you not stare? 😉

  62. Janet, whoops, sorry, I didn’t mean that as a condemnation of what you said at all; I just thought you were making a factual statement about your experience, one I can certainly readily believe!

    But I have no doubt that your Muffin is so handsome that he’s the source of much staring. 😉

  63. mami – no one has to come straight out and ‘accuse me of being a bad mother’ for not breastfeeding. Isn’t it obvious? While I may not be a “bad” mother, I’m certainly a “defective” mother for not being able (willing?) to provide my child with breastfeeding’s health benefits.

    For example, if enough people touted studies that you could add ten points to your child’s IQ if you fed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it would be strange (abusive?) for you not to whip out the PB&J for every meal. Many people talk about bf your child as if it were as easy as running in to the corner store for Wonder Bread and SuperChunk peanut butter. Because everyone has heard of these studies, those mothers who don’t bf are looked upon as either selfish or defective (or both). Either way, women who want to bf but can’t feel guilty.

    As Eve said, I meant nothing personal to you or anyone in particular with my comments about bf.

    To follow up with my comment about the formula companies, of COURSE these companies market formula by appealing to convenience and don’t provide complete information about the benefits of breastfeeding. The formula companies are in the business of selling products for profit, after all. But making a profit from offering biased, non-fraudulent, information to consumers is hardly a conspiracy in our capitalistic society – it’s called clever marketing.

    By the same token, lactivists appeal to a mother’s primal urge to do what’s best for her child. And when lactivists tout studies that show your child’s health will be disadvantaged if you don’t bf, while neglecting to mention studies that show your child will be just fine without bf, they’re acting as disingenuously as the formula companies.

  64. “studies that show your child will be just fine without bf”

    Can you link to some of these studies? (I was the one above who noted that formula isn’t a death sentence or evil–so I get the idea that a child *can* be just fine on formula, but the way you wrote that sentence left me with the impression that there are studies that show that bfing has no advantage over bottle feeding. Is that what you meant to imply?)

  65. I think that we’re just caught in an icky situation where breastfeeding is not the cultural default even though it is the best practice. If breastfeeding were the default then the mothers would get the education and support they need to breastfeed and many would have more success in their attempts. Also if/when breastfeeding is the default and you see a woman giving a baby a bottle, rather than assume something negetive about the mother, (that she never tried breastfeeding, or is selfish, or uneducated or whatever) you assume something much more innocuous (that it’s the baby’s aunt, the baby has a latch problem, the mother has a supply problem etc.).

  66. let me try this comment one last time
    You have a beautiful way with words. Thank you.
    After reading yours and Eve’s posts I have realized I do the same thing you do (did).
    I have been accused rather harshly before and have let myself get needlessly defensive. I will take glances and comments from non-breastfeeders the same way you took them from breastfeeders. This discussion has been very useful for me. Thank you.

    I do see that some breastfeeding moms are mean, and are judgmental. I am sure that non-breastfeeding moms all experience this at sometime. On the flipside (I’m on the flipside so this is the view from here) non-breastfeeding mothers are often very harsh and mean to breastfeeding mothers. We are accused of being intolerant and judgmental simply for feeding our children or for merely presenting the current medical research even only when asked. We are brow beaten for breastfeeding longer than someone else deems valid. There are actually cases where a mother has been investigated by CPS because both she and her child chose to breastfeed into toddlerhood. I do not know of any mothers who’s stewardship of their children was threatened because they chose not to breastfeed. We are in the minority. The United States has the lowest breastfeeding rates of any industrialized nation. Lactivists do get obnoxiously loud at times, and the other side louder, and so we go round and round. It truly is a sad predicament.

    Perhaps they are staring because you are in excellent form after childbirth. My friends who have adopted have all had stares, comments and questions from strangers like, “Wow! You look great! Your baby is only a month old! How did you do it?” They usually just smile and say. “Thanks.”
    My sister’s friend and her husband had adopted and were shopping at Babies R Us. Her husband was carrying around their darling 2 week old when a woman who was great with child approached him to admire the baby. His wife walked up and the woman looked at her incredulously and asked, “This is your wife? You just had a baby?” Before she could answer her husband dove right in and explained what good care of herself his wife took, and how she ate really well and exercised a lot. It didn’t help that she had a tall thin frame. The woman looked at her and said, “Oh, that gives me hope.” Poor woman, unrealistic expectations.


    “while neglecting to mention studies that show your child will be just fine without bf,”

    There are no such studies. If you are referring to the studies you linked earlier, they show not asthma allergy link, but that does not mean there are no benefits! This is what drives me crazy! If you don’t breastfeed fine, but don’t pretend we’re making up the benefits.

  67. mami and Julie – the article I linked to says that there is no correlation between a reduction in childhood asthma and allergies and breastfeeding.

    More specifically – if the lactivists show you studies that your child will have fewer allergies if you bf (which I have read and heard them say) then they should also disclose studies that say these health benefits have not been verified.

    I’m not saying that bf has no health benefits! If it didn’t, I certainly wouldn’t be up (again) tonight attached to this *(&^% machine and getting no sleep. All I’m saying is that bf shouldn’t be presented to women as a panacea or as an all or nothing venture. When it is, _that’s_ when the defensiveness and guilt rear their very ugly heads and make everything worse. (is there anything worse than bleeding blisters on your nipples?? probably, but I can’t think of it right now)

  68. Anon–
    If yoour nipples have bleeding blisters you need hlep STAT. You really should contact a board certified lactation consultant. It shouldn’t hurt or damage your nipples to use a pump. I’ve been there, it hurts bad. I understand how with a two month old, aching breasts, and no sleep you are at your wits end. Please, find some support!

  69. More specifically – if the lactivists show you studies that your child will have fewer allergies if you bf (which I have read and heard them say) then they should also disclose studies that say these health benefits have not been verified.

    They are not trying to be sneaky. They don’t know about the other studies.
    I’m not sure what you mean by verified. There have been multiple studies that show lower allergy/asthma risk.

  70. Eve, as a long-time activist (I participated in my first protest in the 6th grade) I simply must relay appreciation for both the elegance of your prose and the sophistication/empathy of your thought here:

    What tends to make me skeptical of lactivism, and all forms of activism, for that matter, is the desire to reduce that complexity on the backs of the human beings whose experience stands inconveniently in the way of the purity and simplicity of one principle or another. It’s a form of the fallacy of division to insist on applying a general truth to every particular circumstance.

    Such realizations make activism hard, but ultimately more than the self-congratulatory poster-board waving in which I have, at times, participated. (BTW, only a few of the protests I’ve been in seemed that way. Otherwise I’d stop 🙂 ). Have you read The Pedagogy of the Oppressed? I made my “Rhetoric and Social Justice” students read it a few years back and while they loathed me for inflicting dense–and translated–prose on them, I really do think it’s a must read for college freshman.

  71. mami—#79 elicited an audible chuckle over here in SLC. Thing is, it’s never the prego women who comment on my figure–it’s always the ones with babies of the same approximate age. And while I’m not svelte as I once was, I’m one of those weird size 12/14 women with absolutely no tummy whatsoever.

    The women usually tentatively ask what form of exercise has shrunk my tummy up so fast. I feel way too bad for them in their apparent corporeal angst to play along, so I always tell them Muffin is adopted. One even thanked me for my honesty ‘cuz she thought her constant sweat pants must indicate personal lethargy. Heh. There are a few benefits to infertility.

  72. Janet, thanks for the kind words and the book recommendation–I haven’t read The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (do you think I could sneak it onto my exam list on modernist poetry? Oh, my very traditional advisor’s hair would light on fire!)

    Actually, your excellent comments are making me think of a conversation I had with my sister Kiskilili awhile ago about the perils and necessities of activism. I’m constitutionally allergic to it (which may simply be a highfalutin way of saying I’m a chicken)–it’s that introvert thing, in large part, that makes me very uncomfortable navigating large groups of people and organizing things. But as Kiskilili reminded me, speaking of the civil rights movement and the demonstrations against the Vietnam War, for all its inherent limitations and sometimes extremely simplistic rhetoric, it does a work that nothing else can.

    Kaimi, whoops, now I’ve REALLY put my foot in my mouth. (This thread has a got to be a record for foot-in-mouth disease and I don’t even have any children to breastfeed or not breastfeed–!!!) Although I would indeed just love to have a child like you–you remind me very much of my brother Ziff and of Kiskilili in your sense of humor, and I’d just read the complete works of Calvin and Hobbes to prepare myself–I’m afraid I’m not actually expecting. I was just, um, thinking of hypothetical children.

    [Turns bright red and swears off blogging for the rest of the day.]

  73. Oh, good heavens. I should never, never have read this thread. RT and I are expecting our first, and now I think I’m more nervous about the breastfeeding and weaning than the delivery, which will come complete with narcotics piped directly into my spine.

    Urgh. Help!

    By the way, here’s a question for those who’ve pumped while they’ve worked or been in school. How does that work out, logistically speaking?

  74. Thanks everyone for the lovely discussions. I don’t have time to respond to half of the comments that I would like to, but I will make some general observations.

    First, while I think breastfeeding is wonderful for children, I think that only a mother can decide when the risks to her outweigh the benefits to her child. I’m glad that Janet realized that Muffin would be better off with a healthier mommy (though I’m a little jealous breastfeeding was Mary Cassatt-like for you). I’m glad that Seraphine realizes that staying sane enough to take care of her children is better than breastfeeding them, and I’m especially impressed that Jacob J realized that keeping his wife sane was more important than her breastfeeding them (and that he was able to recognize that this was a large part of the problem).

    I’m also impressed by those who stick with breastfeeding despite all the horrors it entails for them. All of you who’ve breastfed with bleeding, cracking nipples, or who’ve pumped for months first so their milk wouldn’t dry up before their kid got the hang of breastfeeding, are amazing. I’m quite sure I would just give up if I had those problems (unless, of course, the kid was allergic to formula, in which case I’d have no choice but to stick with it… grr).

    I think I must be extremely lucky in that I’ve never felt judged by others for either breastfeeding or using a bottle. But maybe I was judged and just didn’t notice, because I didn’t really care what anyone else thought (this has happened in other areas before).

  75. For those of you who have said that Americans breastfeed less than any other industrialized nation, can you clarify this at all? I wonder, mostly because I don’t know a single mother (and I know a lot) who has not at least tried to breastfeed their babies. Pretty much all of them have succeeded, as well.

    Is the statistic that fewer American women breastfeed exclusively? Because lots of women I know (myself included) are fans of the freedom granted by an occasional bottle. Or perhaps that few Americans breastfeed children older than 1? Because that’s true, I’m sure. But as a whole, I think most every American woman breastfeeds.

  76. By the way, here’s a question for those who’ve pumped while they’ve worked or been in school. How does that work out, logistically speaking?

    It seems to depend on the baby. Two of my five (40%) were willing to take a bottle of expressed milk, including the baby while I was finishing my undergraduate degree. The others were not.

    My daughter had her first child in grad school, and she found that her baby would not take a bottle. Which really sucked (bad pun!) because during one summer institute, her poor husband was stuck with a disconsolate hungry baby all afternoon, and then baby wanted to nurse all night to make up for it. But she still pumped at work mid-day and brought the milk home in a soft-side cooler and froze it for a milk bank for preemies. A good turn, and she felt it helped maintain her milk supply.

    It can work out well, or not, and it is frustrating that it seems to have nothing to do with mom, but all up to the baby’s whim. Statistically speaking, moms employed full-time are less likely to be able to totally breastfeed.

  77. Serenity Valley,

    Congratulations. (Or no congratulations, if you’d prefer. I personally don’t like congratulations until I’m at least 4 months pregnant and feeling at least a little bit like a human being again.)

    I’m sorry to hear that you’re nervous about labor, delivery, and breastfeeding. Take some deep breaths — you’ll be fine. Epidurals are wonderful (this is just my opinion, of course). Breastfeeding, while I don’t particularly like it, is not that bad. It’s certainly better than pregnancy (at least for me). And if it’s too bad, you can always give your kid a bottle. It’s really okay. I’m sure you will be a great mother 🙂

    Sorry I don’t have any advice about the pumping while working issue — I hate pumping even more than breastfeeding, so I rarely did it.

  78. Well, I guess I’d better stop knitting these booties then, Eve. 😛

    (Actually, I knew perfectly well what you meant the first time, but thought it would be fun to intentionally misread you. I hope this doesn’t make you reconsider your impression of my (warped) sense of humor. 😛 )


    Congratulations! May your young tomato seed grow well.

  79. For those of you who have said that Americans breastfeed less than any other industrialized nation, can you clarify this at all?

    Here’s a well referenced report from La Leche League. In the US, rates of breastfeeding vary greatly by region, ethnicity, education, and socioeconomic status. Hispanic women are much more likely to breastfeed, and Blacks least likely (and there are reasons for that, since many black slaves were forced into wet-nursing). Well educated women in the Northeast US are also likely to nurse.

    While nowadays the rates of initiating breastfeeding are ever-increasing, it was very rare when I became a mom in 1975. Of the 40 or so women on the maternity floor, only two of us were attempting to nurse, and fortunately the other mom was an experienced breastfeeder who gave me some tips, since the nurses had no clue, there were no brochures or books available to me.

    So there is a huge gap in our social fabric in that there is currently a generation of grandmothers who might be vaguely supportive of the idea of breastfeeding, but have no experience and are quick to counsel their daughters and daughters-in-law to feed formula. My daughter has thanked me repeatedly for setting her an example and being supportive. (Apparently some of her friends struggle with moms or moms-in-law.)

    I am the only woman of my generation (I’m 50ish, and had my own babies from the 1970s to 1990s) whom I have ever met whose mom breastfed. This is why there is such a need for groups like LLL to fulfill the function of passing on knowledge and support, which is done more informally through families in other countries.

    I think LDS women may have been more likely to at least initiate breastfeeding, but I am a convert. My LDS mother-in-law, who birthed in the 1950s and 1960s, attempted to breastfeed but was sabotaged by the systemic issues that others have mention.

  80. Kaimi, should I ever manage to have or adopt a child, you will owe me some serious booties! 😉 Come to think of it, you should get those knitting needles clickety-clacketying stat for SV and RT’s progency. (Congratulations!)
    Naismith, my mother once told me about the opposition she encountered and how utterly bizarre everyone thought it was when she breastfed me (I was born in 1971)–she said her mother, who had also breastfed, and was her only source of support. My mother breastfed all of us, and I’d be curious if it got steadily more culturally acceptable by the 80s, when the youngest two of us were born.

  81. Regarding the US’s low rate of breastfeeding before the 1970s: I know the American Pediatric Association and other such groups were very taken with modern scientific thought, and they assumed that formula was better than breast milk for many decades. Women were actively discouraged from nursing; as I recall, this might have been why hospitals separated them from their babies after birth.

  82. Yes- i think the early 70’s were the low point for bf initiation in the US. I feel lucky my mom was a hippie living on a farm and breastfed me for 9 months.

  83. I’ve breastfed each of my children for up to two years (the youngest I’m still breastfeeding at 22 months, and I don’t know when we’ll quit). The first one gave me cracked, bleeding and blistered nipples for the first several weeks, but then we were fine. The second one wanted to nurse every 45-90 minutes for the first six months. The third one didn’t gain weight fast enough on exclusive breastfeeding, so I had to supplement him with formula. I ended up breastfeeding him a full 24 months. This last one is the only one who hasn’t given me some kind of trouble, but when she’s 2 and still hasn’t weaned herself, that too may change. 🙂

    Breastfeeding is not something I do for the baby, particularly. I think breastmilk has obvious benefits for the baby (primarily the antibodies/immunities), but I pretty much believe that how healthy your baby is has less to do with breastfeeding than it does with genetics and individual constitutions. Obviously millions of babies have thrived on formula, and plenty of breastfed babies have not. I think the only reason a woman should breastfeed is because she wants to. Whether she wants to because she thinks the health benefits are worth the personal sacrifice on her end, or because she wants to do the Mary Cassat thing, it really doesn’t matter. The baby will get fed either way, and most likely will be just fine.

    I have loved my breastfeeding experience. Even at its most miserable (bleeding nipples and breast infections), I felt the misery was offset by the emotional benefit I received from it. I just like the feeling of closeness and intimacy with the child that breastfeeding gives me. Not every mother gets that feeling from breastfeeding. She will get intimacy and closeness via some other route.

    So if a mother doesn’t want to breastfeed, she should not be guilted into it (just as she shouldn’t be guilted *out* of it because of others’ hangups about breastfeeding). Breastfeeding out of guilt does not promote an intimate bond with your child, especially if the guilt-induced breastfeeding leads to resentment, depression, stress or other health problems. Then it will be an impediment to mother-child bonding, which, unlike formula, is an actual threat to children’s health.

    I also think that women don’t have enough social or systemic support for breastfeeding. Education about and normalization of breastfeeding will lead to more women breastfeeding and breastfeeding longer. I really don’t think demonizing the formula companies is called for. So they want to make money selling a product that many parents want and/or need. There are more evil ways of earning a living.

    People who glare at breastfeeding women and people who glare at bottle-feeding women could each do with a generous helping of Mind Your Own Business. I really don’t care if you bottle feed your baby beause he’s adopted or because you think breastfeeding is gross. I don’t care if you breastfeed because you find the experience rapturous or because you’re a narcissist with a martyr complex. As long as mother and child are doing fine, the rest of us should just butt out. Don’t women (and especially mothers) have enough to feel guilty about already?

  84. At the risk of a complete threadjack . . . .

    SV, I highly recommend looking into Hypnobirthing. I have two children (and will have my third in a few weeks). I delivered both children in a hospital attended by a Certified Nurse-Midwife. For the first, I had an epidural, etc., long labor, really long pushing stage, good end result but I felt not totally in control of the process and I felt like I had been hit by a truck. (And then there was the whole lovely postpartum refusing-to-latch-on experience I mentioned above. Lovely.)

    Second baby, tried some Hynobirthing practice on the rec of my sil. Time of labor from first contraction to delivery was under 7 hours, and I went 6 cm to baby in 17 minutes. Some of this is attributable to it being my second baby (I wish there were some way to skip that whole first-vaginal-delivery thing!), but I think a healthy part of the credit goes to how relaxed I was during the whole process. I had no drugs, no IV, no nothing, and everything was faster and less painful.

    Like everything else associated with reproduction, there is an expensive way to do hynobirthing and a cheap way. The expensive way is to hire a hypnobirthing doula, and have him/her lead you through the practice and attend at the delivery (several hundred $$, most likely not covered by insurance). Or you can do like I did and buy (or borrow) the Hypnobirthing CD for $25 and just practice at home. A Google search should quickly turn up the official website.

    Sorry if this is spammish–it was just such a good experience I have a hard time not being a little evangelistic. Now watch, number three will be uncooperative and it won’t work at all like I have it planned!

  85. Well, as long as we’re getting evangelical . . . anyone bothered by pregnancy aches, pains, stiffness, tiredness, or insomnia should get Shiva Rea’s Prenatal Yoga immediately. I love it without reservation and, as y’all have probably noticed by now, I’m not exactly the granola/hippie type.

  86. I know there are already a million comments, but I just had to add my experience. I absolutely believe that breastfeeding is good for the child. But I also believe having a mentally healthy mother is also good for the child, so each woman has to find the right balance. With my first, I really thought I would love to BF, turns out my experience was much like Vada’s. Totally hated it. I felt so claustrophobic. It was a little frightening to me because it seemed like everyone loved it so much and I was the weird one.

    I think my mother could see the desperation in my eyes and said that maybe I should try a few bottles to supplement the breastfeeding. Wise words. Maybe not in line with the medical research that has been done, but switching back and forth worked beautifully for 8 months until I weaned her when I went back to work. My husband was able to do the middle of the night feeding for the first six months and he still treasures those quiet moments he had with her way back when. And I will always treasure those long blocks of sleep I could get (go ahead call me selfish if you want).

    And just for the record, she is a normal, healthy, active, no-allergy child.

    Breastfeeding with my second was a much more troubled experience, and not just mentally. If you want, you can read the details here. Anyway, by eight weeks she went to formula completely and we were both much happier people.

    And just for the record, she is a normal, healthy, active, no-allergy child.

    So I guess my point is if you are physically and mentally able to breastfeed your child. Great! Feed them till their teenagers for all I care. I don’t even care if you do it sitting next to me on the bus or in a restaurant. More power to the breastfeeders. But if you can’t for whatever personal reasons (that you should never feel the need to justify to anyone) or you decide to supplement you are NOT dooming your child or loving them any less. And you need to ignore anyone who tells you as much.

  87. jumping on the threadjack bandwagon, I second Julie’s endorsement of Shiva Rea’s prenatal yoga video. Very gentle, and very good. I loved it, when I wasn’t on bed rest, that is.

  88. 89. Serenity Valley

    You want logistics? You got ’em!

    I work full time and pump when I’m away from baby. Logistically, it does take a bit of planning. I tandem pump, nurse the baby on one side and pump the other first thing in the morning. Then, if I’m away for when the baby is feeding I will pump at work. This usually yields the right amount for baby to eat while I’m gone. I will sometimes pump extra to build up a freezer supply. I invested in a quality double electric pump and made sure to read everything my grubby hands could get a hold of to educate myself on pumping.

    I’m lucky enough to have a job where I can come home for lunch to nurse the baby. My boss knows that pumping is important to me. Time and access to a place to pump is, in my mind anyway, conditional to my accepting a position at the company. Occasionally, baby will even come to work with me. Push comes to shove and baby isn’t taking a bottle or is inconsolable, I will drive home. I am very blessed to have an understanding company and flexible position.

  89. I can’t relate. (I’m a man.) However, I will say that my wife is still breastfeeding our third child and he’s turning 4 years old next month. He eats everything plus wants his boobs. She decided to let him decide when he’s ready to wean himself. I did tell her that the world average of weaning (if the child does it) is between 4 and 7 years old and we both think he’ll probably be one of those 7 year old weaners. (He loves boobies!) She goes through times of wishing he was done already to times of wishing he’ll never be done. One thing I can say is that of my three children, he’s been nursing the longest, and he is the smartest of the three, the fastest, the strongest, the most social, the most fluent talker (in two languages), the most energetic, the most calm, the most well-rounded, the most dexterous, etc., etc. I don’t know if all of these superior traits is from breast-feeding, but the other two kids both recognize their youngest brother is exceptional in virtually every way.

    One thing I have noted, though, is that apart from nursing a long time now, he also has nursed differently than other babies. He demanded access to both breasts from the beginning and whenever nursing one breast, played with (twiddled) the nipple of the other breast at the same time. This has been going on for a long time and his manual dexterity is beyond belief. Maybe this has something to do with the marked difference between him and his siblings.

  90. Okay, so the guilt is just added. Janet, my husband and I recently submitted adoption papers. But the bf thing just eats at me. There’s no way I can take the meds to nurse, so that’s out of the question. But we have studies, anecdotes (LDSAnarchist for example) etc, that say the bottle-fed child is horrendously disadvantaged and will have health problems, etc. So is it better to leave the baby with a single mom who bfs? That’s what I’m hearing from these lactivists. If I adopt a child I KNOW that I will be doing something hazardous to his or her future health. Can one do that in good conscience?

  91. Anonymous,

    There are things that are much more important to a child than breastfeeding. Like having loving parents who are willing to take care of them. If a mother is giving up her child for adoption (which is a very hard decision), I’m sure that she is unable to care for that child adequately, whether or not she could breastfeed. I’m sure you will be blessed for wanting to take care of one of God’s children, whether or not you breastfeed.

  92. Anonymous–if you’re still around, take heart: a study just came out indicating that women who suffer from allergies and asthma run the risk of passing along the disorders to their children by breastfeeding. That doesn’t discount the merits of bf-ing, obviously, but it might help ameliorate your sense NOT bf-ing somehow dooms your child or that bf-ing is a cure-all which runs no risks. “Breast is best” only in some circumstances–like being able to take meds, or get pregnant, or having access to adequate nutrition, or any number of things. You aren’t doing anything *hazardous* by bottle-feeding. You might not be able to give the baby quite the immunological boost bfing would provide, but that’s not the same thing as placing her in hazard’s way.

    Remember, many if not most middle class white Americans in their 30s weren’t breast-fed, and most of us came out alright. Adoption is hard enough emotionally–don’t beat yourself up. I did enough of that for the both of us! You have to take meds, you have to take meds. That baby will still have a wonderful mother–and a healthy one, which is not a small thing.

    You can email me if you want to chat!

  93. i know this thread is way over but i wanted to drop a line about my own experience.

    i was a student homebirth midwife for three years, and i’m a doula now and certified lactation educator working toward becoming an IBCLC. i’m also in graduate school to become a naturopathic doctor because i want to attend homebirths and do well-woman care from a holistic perspective – and offering breastfeeding help will be an enormous part of that work.

    but i didn’t breastfeed either of my children.

    you’ll never meet a bigger lactivist than me. before i had children, i gave women dirty looks if i saw them bottle-feeding. you might say that i was in desperate need of a humbling experience.

    the reasons why i couldn’t breastfeed are legion. i can’t point to any one thing and say, that’s why. the nightmarish experiences of trying to nurse my two children are the #1 reason why i don’t want to have more kids.

    now when i look at a woman bottle-feeding, i don’t make assumptions. i don’t assume that she doesn’t care about her child. i wonder if she has PCOS, or if she’s on a medication that can’t be mixed with breastmilk (some DO exist), or if she’s painfully shy and cannot stand the thought of someone seeing parts of her body that are normally hidden, or if she had a terrible experience like mine and is sitting there in terror wondering if someone is looking at her in judgment – the way i do when i have to feed my daughter with a bottle in public. i don’t even assume that it’s formula in the bottle – how are we to know?

    the formula industry is predatory and formula is a poor substitute for breastmilk and nursing (two separate entities). nevertheless, i am so grateful to have formula available to me, because, alas, i do not live in a rural african village and nobody is going to breastfeed my baby if i cannot. formula lets my child survive and thrive. that doesn’t mean i don’t hate using it to the pit of my core.

    i also went way far out of my way to find women who were willing to pump for me. my daughter is almost a year old and has had breastmilk every day of her life – mine up until 2 months when pumping no longer worked, and various friends and donors after that. obtaining donor milk might not be condoned by LLL, but i don’t really give a crap. as long as the mother is free of TB or AIDS, i’ll take her milk, and that’s even with my very high personal standards of diet and lifestyle. this is because i realize that milk even from a mother who has bronchitis or eats nothing but count chocula cereal is vastly superior to formula. my daughter is incredibly blessed to have so many women willing to sacrifice for her by pumping, whether it was once or every day for a few months. most women do not have such opportunities if they are unable to breastfeed.

    one thing that has been very important for me to realize is that breastfeeding and nursing may go hand-in-hand by default most of the time, but they can occur exclusively of the other. it’s possible for a woman to breastfeed without really nursing because she’s not connecting with her child. and it’s possible to nurse while feeding with a bottle because i feed her skin-to-skin, i look her in the eye, i connect with her. i credit this effort when i realize how vastly more attached my daughter is than my son was when i couldn’t get over what not-breastfeeding meant to me and essentially abandoned him emotionally.

    women who condemn other women for “flashing” themselves, sacrificing unnecessarily, or having saggy, unattractive breasts do great harm to both mothers and babies. and women who feel that they cannot give even once inch, one ounce of credence to the reality that some mothers and babies cannot breastfeed, and that their hearts break because of it, do just as much damage and cause the greatest amount of pain to mothers like me – mothers who desperately wanted to nurse exclusively, on-demand, well beyond the first year, and nevertheless could not and count the experience among the worst in their lives.

    i understand that many women feel they cannot acknowledge that truth – much less the truth that some women and babies truly cannot breastfeed – because they fear that it will make bottle-feeding even more acceptable in this culture than it already is and mothers and babies will suffer more than they already have. but it’s ok, guys, really. i don’t support breastfeeding any less because i couldn’t do it myself. my breastfeeding advice is not questioned because i didn’t do it myself. nobody who knows me doubts that my commitment was authentic. it’s ok to say, a very few women and babies cannot breastfeed no matter what support and advice they receive, and in such cases, the emphasis should be on replicating the breastfeeding experience as much as possible and obtaining the highest-quality substitutes available. it’s possible to proclaim that truth and still be a lactivist. i know it, because i do, and i am.

  94. just another note that i find the idea of requiring a prescription to buy formula a horrifying proposition. i don’t have insurance, and we live far below the poverty line. if i had to pay for prescription-grade formula, my child would die, because i would be utterly incapable of affording it. just going to the doctor to get the prescription would cripple us for weeks. already, over a third of our food budget goes to formula, even with donor milk; my husband and i go without food sometimes so we can feed our daughter. it is disgusting that someone would be so hateful and angry about breastfeeding that they would want to punish other people.

  95. to the person who said that she is stared at by people when she gives her baby a bottle – those people have no idea what is in your bottle. and even if it is formula, they have no idea what measures you may/may not have taken to avoid using formula. personally, if someone wants to feed their child formula, i think it is fine as long as it is the right choice for them.

    i am exclusively pumping due to latch problems. my baby is 3 months old. i’ve had people stare at me too when i whip out his bottle. i am just *waiting* for someone to have the nerve to comment or ask me about the bottle. i will promptly reply that though it is none of their business, it IS breastmilk in the bottle.

    shame on LF for trying to make women who don’t breastfeed feel guilty. don’t you think we’ve tried it all?? i’ve seen FOUR lactation consultants with no success. i have tried to breastfeed for 12 weeks but finally accepted exclusive pumping because it is taking an emotional toll on me and my son and frankly i don’t want to create a negative feeding relationship with him. he’s getting his nutrition. you don’t get a special mommy award for breastfeeding you know. you’re telling me i’m not a good mother or that i don’t know the meaning of sacrifice?? i PUMP at least 6 times a day and will do so as long as i can. i can assure you it’s a lot more work than breastfeeding. it takes commitment and dedication but i do it a) because i am fortunate to have enough milk despite the latching problems and b) because i believe breastmilk is best and not giving it to him just because pumping is a burden is not fair to my son. so please don’t JUDGE when you see a woman with a bottle in her hand. you don’t know what’s in the bottle. and you don’t know what she has been through.

  96. I’m exclusively breastfeeding my 3 1/2 month old, and plan to continue doing so well past her first year of life. I was 6 weeks along when I found out I was pregnant with her. I quit smoking Cigarettes cold turkey for the health of my baby, but was also freaking out knowing I had been poluting my little one for more than a month. Lately I have been feeling guilty and like I am a bad mother for even thinking about lighting up another Cigarette. The only thing that is keeping me from smoking again is the fact that I’m BF. I wouldn’t dare introduce toxins into my body. I’m hoping I can kick the habit even after I wean her… I could just get pregnant again… lol

  97. Breastfeeding SUCKS!
    I did breastfeed my daughter till she was 9 months old, occasionally giving her formula to sleep at night! I also had a pump that I used before going out, going to work etc. The pump was a rental and much faster than my daughter and actually gave me some freedom. I found no pleasure in breastfeding, but my daughter did not get sick with even so much as a cold until she was 1 yr. old. I think the breastfeeding was one of the reasons.
    I am now pregnant again, and one of the things I am most dreading is the breastfeeding. It is extremely mind numbing as well as physically uncomfortable. It dis help me lose baby weight and then some, but the entire time my breasts were gargantuan!
    I agree that it is for the baby however, and moms should at least try to do it. Kudos to the ones that like it. I always feel sooooo sory for the breastfeeding moms.
    Let me add that I am a primary care physician and do everything I can to encourage my patients to breastfeed, but I cannot blame women for not doing it. Many times they suffer later with having to constantly take kids to the pediatrician with ear infections, colds, allergies etc..

  98. Great article, Vada! Thank you for giving a more balanced view.

    Breastfeeding is the best food for babies, hands down, no argument there. Breast milk is supposed to have benefits on neurological development, visual acuity, and even long-term cardiovascular health.

    However…not for one second do I believe that breastfeeding alone should be the number one hallmark of a “good mother”. Here is my story…

    I didn’t breastfeed my first. My son didn’t latch well from the start, and my nipples were sore something terrible. I had severe PPD and depression from prior to pregnancy. I decided it was most important that my son had an emotionally healthy mother. Everyone and their uncle (or aunt, I should say) criticized me for not breastfeeding. Comments were varied, ranging from subtle to “You shouldn’t have the right to have children” and “You should have given him up for adoption”.

    A whole ward of moms had given birth at around the same time my son was born – needless to say they were all breastfeeding. Funny thing was, my son was the biggest and strongest of all those babies. He was visually the most alert and physically fastest developing. He walked and climbed while all the breastfeed babies were still crawling. He stayed in the 99th percentile until he reached about 13 months, from then it has been 98th on everything. He is five years old, and he has been sick three times in his life, two-day colds with a slight fever.

    With my second son, I wanted to breastfeed for real, and had a personal consultant for the last three months of pregnancy through the first six months postpartum. My second son latched on like heaven. I had to learn virtually nothing – the consultant’s advice and patronizing comments were in vain. My son did it all by himself. In the first week, he gained 9 oz. I had great milk supply. My nipples weren’t sore. Everything went fine.

    However, my second son has had health problems my first never had. His overall build and constitution are and have been much more fragile. He had staphylococcal and ear infections in the first few months. He also has food allergies and asthma. Though he seems to be quicker to catch on to language, this difference is due to personality and aptitude rather than a raised IQ via breastmilk.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that breastmilk greatly benefitted my son, and the bonding was wonderful. But fact is my older is still in many regards the stronger child, even though he hasn’t been breastfeed or at least only a few days.

    Also, and this is even funnier, I lost more weight faster after giving birth to my first son not breastfeeding. I actually lost weight slower and even kept some on while breastfeeding, though I generally always had an easy time keeping weight off.

    My BIL and SIL adopted a baby boy a while ago. My SIL formula-fed him all the way. He is now 2 1/2, and both physically and cognitively ahead of his peers. He’s hardly ever sick. Never could you tell that he was formula fed only. And only recently, a health care professional mentioned how “unusually bright and precocious” my children were, and how she can tell that they must have been breastfeed exclusively for longer than a year. I just have to chuckle at these comments…

    To me, there are many contradictions in the way bf is advertised. There is no question about the benefits of breastmilk – it was designed to be the best food for babies.
    But I really dislike the way breastfeeding is being promoted. It’s “bf or else”. This rigid attitude says a lot more about women as mothers than their choice to breastfeed. I think it is the insecure mothers who tend to latch on to rigid mental maps on child raising.

  99. I agree. I disliked breastfeeding. It didn’t hurt at all, I just had chills thinking about it. I did it for 3 months and stopped. And the pump…. I felt like a cow. I think it’s sick to BF a toddler… with teeth… That’s my opinion.

    Sure, BF has all the benefits, but mom has to be well and happy for child to be the same. Viva the Formula.

  100. Vada,
    Thank you so much for this post. I read it at 5:15am as I nursed my four week old daughter (while crying). She had been nursing for nearly an hour and was still going at it strong. I have to say…I am definitely a mother who hates breastfeeding.

    With my first son there were issues in the hospital and I didn’t get help there. Instead I felt pushed and a little battered by some of the nurses who made me feel judged because I wasn’t getting it and he was getting a bottle at times. I pumped milk for six weeks for him and then switched to formula (I really have a hard time viewing it as the evil thing so many other women apparently think it is).

    This time I was determined to bf my daughter. I got a lot of great help in the hospital and was successful in feeding her. But I really hate it. Every so often she has days where she eats really close together and all day and night long. I know these are probably growth spurts, but it can feel like all I do is breastfeed. I am a large breasted woman and have to have at least one hand involved to make sure my breast doesn’t smother her as it gets soft. I also have to sit up to do it (so no laying down to feed). I don’t believe in co-sleeping like the lactation consultant suggested. Not only do I think that it can and does cause a danger to a baby, it is also a hard habit to break and we have no interest in having our children sleep with us. Our baby sleeps in her bassinet about three feet from our bed, but having to sit up to feed her means it is a big deal for me.

    It’s been four weeks and I have committed to do this till she is at least six months old. I have to say though…I had to buy nursing bras, nursing tops, a pump (if I ever wanted to leave), and a boppy. I got a lot of great deals, but I spent more to breastfeed my daughter for the next six months then I would have if I had bought formula (which kinda makes the its expensive thing a line of bull). Sure I didn’t have to have those things, but I definitely would have gone crazy without them.

    I do have an issue with breastfeeding in public. I just am not very comfortable with it and not yet skilled. With the large breasts I have to hold it for her and not seeing her is hard, but there is no way I am doing it without a cover!

    I also don’t think that it is a bonding experience for all women. I bonded easier with my son because I wasn’t so tired and didn’t feel like he was robbing me of as much sleep. Sore nipples isn’t always because of latch issues. I haven’t had sore nipples past the time I was all engorged while my milk was coming in. But this past day and a half with her eating so much has made them sore. She hasn’t changed her latch, we haven’t changed positions, she has just been sucking on them a lot!

    Anyway…I suppose I went on too long (tad bit therapeutic to let it all out).

  101. Please see here: http://alliancebreastfeeding.com/2009/07/breast-is-no-longer-best/

    With all due respect to the Breastfeeding Stasi out there, surely the most important thing is that the baby is happy, growing and cared for by a loving mother?? No?
    If mother is so frickin miserable because breastfeeding for her is a nightmare (even atfer help, counselling etc), what the hell kind of use is she going to be to the baby. Also, does all this ranting against bottle feeding mean that you’re not supposed to express milk and feed?
    For Pete’s sake….

  102. I HATED breast feeding. I bf my daughter for 6 weeks before i switched to formula, and i hated every second of it. The reasons were legion. The worst was that i have had surgery on the right side. the milk backed up against the scar. I was constantly engorged and in pain, I had a lump like an egg next to the scar which kept getting infected. i had mastitis 3 times which gave me such bad symptoms i genuinely wanted to die.I couldnt get out of bed and my fiance had to bring the baby in to me and attatch her to my breast so that she could feed, i was so weak. the antibiotics i was given then gave the baby diarrhoea.

    Aside from that i felt that i couldnt leave the house, or be apart from thebaby for 5 mins.. if i wanted to go out she’d cry for a feed and id be an hour late becuse it took her that long to feed. then id have an hour before she wanted to eat again.I felt that people were constantly waiting for me.I hated the idea of having to expose myself in public to feed her.

    i had so much milk id wake up in the night soaked, and had to sleep on towels that id change in the night,and i spent a fortune on breast pads. Yet when i tried to pump for some bizarre reason id only get a couple of ounces.

    It was so painful i would cry out in pain every time she latched on, for six weeks. midwives would watch and tell me i was doing it right so it shouldnt hurt, but it was agony. My nipples bled so that when she threw up it was pink with my blood.

    What with the uterine cramps and lack of sleep, its a miracle i made it to 6 weeks.I was miserable, depressed and going crazy. When i put her on the bottle it was like the sun came out again.im sad that i didnt stick it out longer, but it just the worst thing ever.if i have another child im sure i will try againbut just thinking about it makes me want to cry. i would never judge a woman for bottle feeding and i look at breast feeding mothers and just wonder how the heck they do it. For anyone who judges a woman for her choices, you dont know their reasons unless you have walked in their shoes.

  103. Wonderful post! My DH and I struggling w fertility issues for 7 years. The whole time I dreamed of cuddling my baby to me breast, blissfully reading a noel while she suckled herself content. I was very lucky that I did not have any bfing issues. However I will admit that those first 3 months were NOT bliss. I felt tethered to the couch. My daughter was a ‘good’ baby. Or so I was told. She nursed every 3 hours day and night but the sessions lasted 45 mins-an hour. You do the math. My saving grace was that she took a bottle well so I went on a brief little strike and gave expressed milk for a few days. After which I was happy to return to the boob and its convenience. My problems lay in the fact that my boobs are so enormous that my tiny infant could not breathe unless I held my breast for the whole hour long ordeal. I could not eat drink sleep read or even change channels. I was virtually paralyzed for an hour. It was exhausting! This same deformity made it nearly impossible to nurse discreetly in public. I didn’t care but my MIL told horror stories of being appalled by women at restaurants ‘taking their shirts off and laying their boobs on the table’ to feed their babies. At around 3months a miracle occurred! My little cherub woke up and learned to hoover down a feeding in 15 minutes! That changed things dramatically. Less than a month later I learned hoist up my shirt, grab my gargantuan tit and offer it to my child all while delivering a steely glare that dared those around me to say one word about bfing in public sans blanket. What freedom! Our most recent achievement is to nurse one handed (ooh and aah) this with the aide of my daughter who has learned to hold ten lbs of flesh off her nose while eating. Actually I think it has to do with her ability to jam her little chin into a mammoth mammery thus forming an air pocket near her nose. Breastfeeding can be tedious at first but the experience improves greatly with time. Not every moment is a picture perfect bonding moment but I guarantee you at least one 🙂

  104. I did enjoy nursing my newborns, but once they got mobile it was something I did because it was good for them, not because I loved it. I nursed mine to 32 and 24 months respectively, and I don’t really see anything to like about nursing a toddler. But knowing it was healthy, I did it anyway. That’s true of many things about parenting – nobody ever said it would be easy. Good for you for putting up w/ something you don’t love for the good of your babies. It’s not always easy but it’s usually worth it.

  105. Oh dear. Well I am sure everybody has an opinion so here is mine. Isn’t Feminism about letting a woman choose? Choose for herself what she wants to do? Letting her choose how she will have her baby, nurse her baby, raise that baby? I didn’t read every comment because I felt it had descended into an argument I am not sure the person who posted this wanted. She was mainly just stating her opinion.

    As a single woman thinking way to ahead about the future. I rest assured have hated the thought of both. Pain is with me constantly everyday. I have fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel. I have some emotional pain that I am dealing with due to my own sensitivity and experiences. When I have my monthly cycles, I have cramping like clockwork for 3 days. It isn’t fun. Yes it will all lead to a little baby in arms one day I’m sure. But I will decide how I feed my child. I will decide how I raise my child. And I will rehearse in a very nice tone and words to tell a woman who thinks I am wrong how it is disrespectful to say to other woman they are wrong, or harming their child, if they don’t Breastfeed. Considering that I have Fibromyalgia, if I get pain while breastfeeding I don’t think I would be able to handle it. I already have enough muscle pains. Fibromyalgia is not fun to deal with either when having menstrual cramps. Being a woman isn’t a piece of cake, and we have to deal with pain on a monthly if not daily basis. We each just try to make the best of it. We cry, and we pray, and we try to endure this the best we can. I support women who bottle feed, and I support women who Breastfeed. I will decide when that time comes. And when I do, I will be sure to be the kindest to those mothers who forever reasons can’t.

  106. Let me just correct and also add by saying: I will be sure to be the kindest to those mothers who for whatever reasons can’t breastfeed. And if I bottle feed, I will be rest assured not displeased with woman who choose to breastfeed in public. It is a woman’s choice. Give that, we can definitely stand up and say, I believe that a woman should breastfeed, but I understand that some women can’t.

    Choices come with consequences. Yes its about the child, but that is no reason to forget the woman.


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