I prefer not to breastfeed. Am I a bad mom?
No doubt that breastmilk is best. And every mother would want nothing but the best for their babies. However, breastfeeding does not exactly come easy for many moms.
Breastfeeding is best for your baby.
This is the battlecry of all advocates, to make sure it is embedded in every mother’s consciousness, about the importance of this parenting practice. Consequently, women who breastfeed are hailed as “true models of motherhood”, and those who don’t—well, too often they are pegged as “less committed”.
Breastfeeding is a choice. And for some women, it may not even be, as they physically and emotionally cannot do it. Yet the guilt pressed on moms who do not breastfeed is immensely disheartening. The media incessantly talks about how babies who have been breastfed have turned out smarter and healthier. You read it on ads, in pamphlets at your OB GYN’s office, online and even on TV and movies.
All these is true, of course. No doubt that breastmilk is best. And every mother would want nothing but the best for their babies. However, breastfeeding does not exactly come easy for many moms. I, for one, was not able to breastfeed my first son. And I have kept a guilty heart to this day for doing so, feeling I was a failure and I shortchanged him because of that. Was I a bad mom because I did not breastfeed?
It may be about time to drop the judgmental shrug-offs, and begin to understand why some moms cannot, and why this choice does not make them “bad moms”, or any less of a mother than breastfeeding moms.
There are many reasons why some mothers cannot breastfeed—from physical, to emotional, to psychological. Every mother, every circumstance is unique. There is no need call them names or smack a label on their backs.
Why a mom chooses not to breastfeed and use formula instead should not be anyone else’s concern. Some women find it physically difficult because of inverted nipples, and still some have to go back to work, and so they are away from their tots for most of the day.
Other moms share that they simply just did not have enough breastmilk to give their child. I could not breastfeed from the beggining because I delivered CS and I was not physically strong to carry my 10-lbs-baby boy, and I just gave up because he could not latch on. I was so afraid he would just go hungry so I gave him formula instead.
Postpartum Depression takes a toll on moms, too. The exhaustion, stress in caring for your newborn, your husband, and other children, and your physical state after childbirth, just takes you to a rollercoaster of emotions. Inevitably, depression lurks somewhere and just leaps right in front of you.
Once anti-depressants are prescribed by the doctor, breastfeeding takes a back seat. As one mom aptly said, “My baby needs a mother, more than he needs to be breastfed—for now.” It is impossible to take care of someone, when you do not take care of yourself first.
Many moms who went through this say being able to focus on their wellbeing helped big time in keeping them in a better, happy mood, and they were finally able to enjoy motherhood, and be in a better position to care for their babies.
You all must know—breastfeeding is not as simple as many would think. It is stressful and complicated. It entails sleepless nights and full-on mother-baby attachment. So yes, it is a wonderful feeling to be able to do it. But it is not for everyone.
Truth is, some moms just cannot endure the physical demands of exclusive breastfeeding. But this does not make them inadequate, nor are they bad.
Whatever the reason the mother has for not breastfeeding, it is all personal to her. There’s a lot of different ways to be a good mother, and they don’t all involve breastfeeding.
Moms, there is a way around it. All you may need is a good breastpump. “Some breast milk is better than no breast milk,” says Valerie Latona, creator of healthy living website valerielatona.com, in her online article titled “The Real Reason a Lot of Mothers Don’t Breastfeed”. Moms who work can express their milk using a pump, and store them in the freezer for the rest of the day.
Some mothers take on mixed feedings, where they feed their babies breast milk and alternately give formula in a bottle. You can consult lactation consultants or your OB GYN to help you out with this. Or you can simply ask friends or family who have done it, and they can give you tips and show you what to do.
Basically, it eases moms into their new routine. Sleepless nights will be less, exhaustion is pacified—mommy is less stressed and could focus on laughing and giggling and enjoying her newborn and motherhood, and being a happy wife to her husband, too. All because she is not under pressure when baby cries for more milk.
Some say mixed feeding will make you produce less milk, or the baby will want more formula and less breastmilk. Remember that breastmilk comes by demand. That is why expressing milk is the key.
Invest in a good electric dual breast pump, and you’re off to a good start. Be diligent about your schedule so your body will still get into the rhythm and you won’t risk losing the milk.
Also, try eating and drinking special teas and vegetable soup that will help you produce more milk. There are special supplements, too, with fenugreek seeds that will help your milk come in.
The best part of formula and mixed feeding is that dads can join in and be part of the feeding routine. When you start to formula feed, your husband can take part in feeding the baby, holding the baby in his arms, just like you do when you breastfeed. Father-baby bonding is on, and you get a much-needed break.
There are many benefits to feeding a baby formula, too. Maybe not as amazing as breastfeeding, but could be at par. Formula milk is full of vitamins and nutrients, specifically formulated to have the same health benefits of breastmilk.
Formula feeding has been the go-to option of mothers for decades now, but it is only quite recently that women have been made to feel guilty about it. If you are still providing the best possible care for your child, you should never feel like you should apologize for formula feeding your baby.
Women who choose to NOT breastfeed should not feel guilty. Mothers know and feel what is best for her baby, herself and her family—and that’s what makes them a good mom. Whether you breastfeed or not does not define you as a mother; whatever your feeding choice is, does not make you less of a mother.
You are not giving your child less, nor are you mistreating him or her, by choosing not to breastfeed or by feeding him or her formula. Do not be burdened with unnecessary guilt.
It should not be a contest between those who do and those who do not. Not one is better or best than the other.
What’s best is to support each other’s choice, and help other mothers be better at taking care of their children. As long as you feed your baby, as long as you do your best to ask, and learn more about how best practices, you are being the best to your own child.
Do what’s best for you, and will be able to be the best for your child. For sure, too, your baby will not judge you for your decision. They just want to be fed and cuddled and loved.