Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Better

Before you get all hysterical and bent out of shape over the title of my post, I will state that it’s not what you think.  I am a formula feeding mom but by no means a formula feeding advocate. There is a difference. This post is dedicated to my experience formula feeding and reflecting on some of the thoughtless things people say, for who knows what reason.  Whether these statements are made in effort to change a formula feeding mom’s choice or to flat out make them feel terrible, I don’t know. However, I do know that every mother has feelings and to make comments that suggest even in the slightest that I’m not trying to make the best decisions for my family is hurtful. 

This has been a very tender topic towards me since having a baby.   Ever since I decided I wanted to be a mother I also made the choice that I wanted to breastfeed.  Years down the road when I got pregnant it was still my plan.  Even up until I gave birth it was my plan.  The reality is though that because of health issues I had to make a choice.  I had to make a choice if I would breastfeed and be miserable or formula feed, so I could address my medical needs, which would in turn make me healthier, happier and be able to better care for my baby.  In this case breastfeeding was NOT the better choice for my baby and I, formula was.

Let me share a few things I am tired of hearing though:

I am tired of hearing people assume that because I formula feed, I must be lazy.

·         False.  In fact I held off on treatment for 9 months while I was pregnant, so my baby would be healthy.  I gave up my own needs to benefit my child.  Someone who is “lazy” wouldn’t do that.  I planned to hold off on treatment to breastfeed as well but after discussing it with my husband and doctor, we found that this was the better choice for our family.  Never assume you know everything…it just makes you look dumb.

I am tired of hearing that breastfeeding makes your baby smarter.

·         Bzzzzzzzt wrong again! I know plenty of people who are very smart who were breastfed and formula fed.  Likewise, I know individuals who struggle intellectually who were breastfed and formula fed.  Breastfeeding does not guarantee intelligence…The fact that some people even think that and have the nerve to say it to someone who is formula feeding, makes me question their intelligence.

 I went to one of my doctor appointments crying, as I had been struggling with the comments people had been making about how babies are smarter when they are breastfed.  It was making me feel terrible and depressed that people would say such things.  However, in the midst of my sobbing, my doctor said the greatest thing in the world to me.  “Julie, do you think I’m smart?”  I paused and said “well yes, of course.” He continued with sharing that he was formula fed and went on to graduate top of his class at Yale and was also the Chief Resident of his department.  Do I even need to say anything else?

I am tired of hearing that mothers are closer with children they breastfeed.

·         Once again…false.  While a mother who breastfeeds may be close with her children, it doesn’t guarantee anything. Besides, what about fathers?  Does that mean they have absolutely no hope to be close to their kids?  Nope.  While breastfeeding is a bonding experience for the mother and child, it doesn’t infuse a lifetime bond.  My mom breastfed all seven of her children and guess what?  Some are close to her and some are not.  For goodness sake, I can think of someone who breastfed all her children and she isn’t close with ANY of them.  On the flip side, I have a dear family member who formula fed her children and guess what? Some are close to her and some are not.  The fact is neither feeding method is relevant to how close a child is to their mother. 

I am tired of being told “I’m disappointed you didn’t do what’s best for your baby”.

·         Are you just mean or what?  Why do people say things without knowing any background?  I’ve had several people say this to me and each time I was totally shocked. I shouldn’t have to explain myself.  In one instance my sister stepped in and said “she can’t for medical reasons”.  There was immediately an awkward silence but NO apology for such a harsh judgement.  If only people knew how difficult this decision was and how many times I’ve cried over it.  Whether someone formula feeds for medical reasons or for convenience, the fact is it’s nobody’s business other than my baby, my husband and my own.  Don’t assume anything about anyone. It only stings when you realize how wrong you were.

Most of all, I am tired of people making comments saying that they can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t breastfeed…Followed by some type of shaming statement.

·         As parents we try to do what’s best for our children.  In fact that’s the goal right?  With that being said, what works for you, might not work for me.  When I make a decision it is after a lot of thought, consideration and pondering.  So next time before you post something online or make a comment about how terrible formula is, think about people you love and care about who might be using that as their best option.  Think about the women who don’t have a milk supply and that is their ONLY option. Think about the women who struggle with illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, anxiety, depression, severe anemia, arthritis etc. Maybe they have a child who refuses to breastfeed. The list goes on. I’m not saying that these reasons are an automatic cause for someone to not breastfeed but it may be a contributing factor in their difficult decision.

Whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding, we all share something in common.  We are all mothers who care about our children.  So instead of making snarky, disrespectful comments towards someone who is experiencing motherhood differently, try to put yourself in their shoes and just be supportive and loving.

  I have the utmost admiration for those who breastfeed and think it is absolutely wonderful.  Don’t misunderstand my message…I DO believe there are many health benefits to breastfeeding BUT my overall point is as mothers we do what’s best for our children and family.  Breastfeeding isn’t always an option or the best one at least, so making hurtful comments and assumptions only tears others down.  We need to stop thinking that because we breastfeed or formula feed it makes us better or less than other mothers.  We are all equal. We all know motherhood is difficult, so let’s put any differences aside and stick together and make the best of it!