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Bottles & Boobs: It's OK to Formula Feed!

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Guest blogger Jill Simonian: Ah, life with a newborn! Eat, poop, sleep, wash bottles ... then repeat. Yup, I said the nasty B-word: BOTTLE. Secret's out folks: I'm not breastfeeding, and I don't feel guilty at all.

baby drinking milk
I didn't always have this unwavering strength of opinion about the breastfeeding thing. From the beginning of my pregnancy through the day my little girl was delivered, women from all areas of my life asked me if I planned to breastfeed. Friends, relatives, doctors, nurses ... even a few strangers. It was an epidemic. Depending upon who the inquisitor was, I either said, "I'm thinking about it" or "Nope. I've never been into it." The latter answer was the truth; the former was the lie that shot out of my mouth to keep me from feeling guilty at the time.

Breastfeeding is a hot topic for new mothers, and frankly, I'm tired of everyone being so damn interested and judgmental about such a personal choice! That said, I acknowledge and respect the medical research that says breast milk is superior to formula. However, this did not change my decision. The bare truth is that the thought of breastfeeding makes me uncomfortable. I can't help it. Apparently, I am that immature. I could not imagine having my baby suck on my boobies.

I've also heard that it's painful. And that your breasts turn into deflated-tire-like globs and are never the same. For a gal who was flat-chested to begin with, these conditions sounded extra scary and intimidating ... and I wasn't interested in experiencing them firsthand. I know this might seem selfish, but sorry, that's how I feel. (You will not be shocked to find out that my mom did not breastfeed, either. Perhaps I've been subconsciously brainwashed about this subject?)

Even though I made up my mind well before heading to the hospital, the nurses got to me after delivery. Every time I answered the "Do you want us to send in the lactation coach" question with a polite "No thank you," I could feel their underlying disdain. I spent three days following the birth of my baby doubting my choice. I cried and cried. My husband thought I was nuts for questioning myself and told me to stick with my original plan if I was going to lose my mind over it (and he's a pediatric doctor, for God's sake).

Long story short, I caved, called in the lactation nurse and tried "pumping" as a compromise. (I still wasn't mentally ready to try breastfeeding directly.) To my surprise, pumping wasn't that bad; it didn't hurt and I actually found it fascinating to see what my body was capable of producing. I also felt politically correct about supplementing my baby's formula with what nature intended.

That positive attitude lasted exactly eight days. After a few episodes of painful engorgement, stained sports bras and minimal milk production, I opted to ice my chest and shut down the dairy factory before my throbbing little tatas exploded into a million pieces in the middle of the night. I'm glad I tried to change my initial opinion about breastfeeding, but it just didn't work. And I was now OK with it.

My question to myself (and you) is: As a grown woman, WHY had I felt that I needed to compromise my own personal comfort and make excuses to others in the first place? To those women who are at ease breastfeeding: More power to you! But it's not for all of us. I don't judge breastfeeding proponents; why should they judge me? I am exhausted from the ongoing and heated debates comparing breastfeeders to bottle feeders, and insinuating that women who do not breastfeed are uncompassionate mothers.

As women, we collectively cherish our freedom to shape our lifestyles, careers and families. Let each mom feed her baby however the heck she wants without passing judgment! As long as the baby is eating, he/she will be fine! My baby has been on the bottle for over a month now, and we are bonding, thriving and happy.

To my fellow formula-feeders: Don't ever feel guilty about what you're comfortable with, and don't let any walking milk makers boss you around.

next: Could Frisky Behavior Run in the Family?
129 comments so far | Post a comment now
preemiemum December 7, 2010, 1:03 PM

oh please,YOU say its not the right choice for my son yet how would you know what is best for MY child? you dont its as simple as that.if my son hadnt been given formula he would have died so in actual fact formula was and still is the best thing for him,regardless of anything you or anyone else cares to say im proud of my son for being the fighter he is and without that formula he wouldnt be here.

so if breast is best then what should i have given my son for the 3 weeks my milk didnt come through? fresh air??

response to Samantha Baker December 7, 2010, 1:07 PM

Samantha, u said it best….Formula is a perfectly healthy ALTERNATIVE. That’s the point, it’s an alternative. Not a way of life for every single baby born. In your case, u truly felt that u could not do it. That’s the exception. U can’t blame a mother that has circumstances. However, u could have still tried to pump. And I would argue that if u REALLY tried and sought professional help, u could have succeeded.

Everyone has their own issues….and some cannot breastfeed. That’s just a fact. But what’s astounding is the mothers that don’t actually try bcuz they happen to think that Formula is healthy. Healthy? Wow! Since when did formula become Healthy? It may be a decent alternative, but healthy it is not, so please don’t advertise it as such, bcuz it’s not!

Most sexually abused women DO included. There’s NOTHING sexual about breastfeeding. If u see it that way, u have some issues u may want to see a professional about. In fact, most sexual victims I have spoken to have more issues with men being at their breast then babies. It’s simple….STOP MAKING EXCUSES! Almost any breastfeeding problem is fixable.

response to preemiemum December 7, 2010, 1:21 PM

Preemimum, u are absolutely right. Formula saved ur child. No one can knock u for that. Of course that was the needed choice for the FIRST 3 WEEKS! But why did it continue to be Formula??? What the obvious thing to do is PUMP all that time and feed the milk to ur child in conjunction with the formula until u were able to feed. It would not have taken very long for your milk to prduce once u pump regularly….but I’m sorry, that might have been too inconvenient.
Adoptive mothers are able to produce with pumping without having been pregnant….even a man is able to produce milk. But somehow u weren’t. Hmmm!!

It’s so much a judgment on your choice, but rather a judgment on your defense for it. By the way, it is proven that BREAST MILK is what saves the preemie….Formula is just meant as an alternative until u get ur milk after ACTUALLY TRYING! Your son is a fighter! It’s such a blessing ur child made it through. No one is knocking u for that. Just don’t make excuses for why you’re feeding ur next child formula.

SamanthaBaker December 7, 2010, 1:28 PM

If you had read my first post, you would have seen that I did pump. Unfortunately I didn’t produce enough for my kids to get all they needed so I also used formula. And I applaud you for being able to breastfeed after suffering abuse, but other may not have been able to handle things as well as you. And it’s pretty callus of you to think that the ones who can’t are “making excuses”. And I don’t think I need professional help for having compassion for them.
I know that no matter what I say, you will continue to judge, which is a shame. We have so many challenges as mothers these days, you would think we would all try to meet in the middle at some things, but if it makes you feel validated and superior to judge the rest of us, feel free. I will continue to believe that I did the best under my own personal circumstances. I know in my heart that I love my children, and even more important, they know how much I love them. Your opinion cannot change that.

preemiemum December 7, 2010, 1:33 PM

i pumped 3 times a day for 4 weeks without producing more than 15 ML a time so how would that have saved my son??? i was told to stop by a DOCTOR someone whos opinion i value a hell of a lot more than anyone on here,if i had to do it again i would make the same choice every time which is why my son is such a fighter cos i know whats best for him.
and heres a fact for you-i have living proof its NOT breast milk that saves a preemie and i know several other mothers and babies from NICU who agree as breastmilk isnt what saved my son and thier babies,it was formula as that is all they could have

also you might want to check your other facts too as no not all women can produce milk no matter how long or how frequent they pump,its not a choice you make if your milk comes through or not,mine didnt and more than likely never will

who are you to judge my choice to keep my son on formula just because you believe your own opinion is more important than anyone elses.

Anonymous December 7, 2010, 1:36 PM

How dare you judge other mothers for choosing another way to feed their babies, i tried to breast feed both my babies, first time i couldnt leave the house cause of a number of things and the breastfeeding made me VERY depressed! secound time my daughter wasn’t getting enough from me, so what would you suggest i made her scream all the time cause she was hungry or give her something that actually filled her? how cruel are you? i mean obviously you must think your super mum or something!

stop acting like you know it all, when you know information from books and not about real mothers!

Katie December 7, 2010, 1:39 PM

I’m trying to figure out why just because it’s an alternative it’s not healthy. If it wasn’t healthy there would be obvious signs of malnutrition in babies as it is their sole source of food for several months, quite the opposite babies thrive on formula just as they do on breastmilk. And i’m finding it interesting the analogy between formula mothers and drug addicts. So far from the same thing.

alexx December 7, 2010, 1:44 PM

What about your baby’s right to be provided with healthy food?
By feeding your child artificial milk, you are denying that right.

Sure, sometimes formula is necessary. It’s not going to instantly kill every child who is fed it. But it definitely isn’t GOOD for them, either.
Artificially feeding increases the risk of SO many avoidable things.

Why does a mother’s “right to choose” override the child’s rights?

abby December 7, 2010, 1:49 PM

You people are incredibly annoying, judgemnetal, and mean. So you think this person is selfish? well I’m sure (110%) that all of you have made some selfish decisions, don’t deny it you’re not perfect. Why are you judging her for not wanting to breastfeed? Many moms make decisions that aren’t “best for their child”, they choose the alternative because it’s easier…How many of you stick your child in front of the tv instead of interacting with them? how many of you feed them fast food instead of home cooked meals? how many of you give your kids soda even though its bad for them but they don’t like water so soda will shut them up? I’m sure all of you have answered yes to one of these…Stop acting self-righteous like you know everything its annoying, and by the way I’m not some self-righteous mom either, I don’t have kids but I’ve watched my sister raise my nephew and he is one of the smartest, healthiest kids I’ve ever known and he was formula fed. Sure, breast is probably best but there’s not enough of a difference between the benefits and risks for formula to be “bad”…you all need to shut up and deal with your own kids and also I don’t plan on breast feeding either so oh well I guess I’ll have to deal with my “second best” baby, I’ll still love it just as much

Anonymous December 7, 2010, 2:01 PM

My children have the right to having a mummy that can look after them properly, dont they? i had many choices to make to get better with post natal depression or breast feed? or to leave my daughter hunger or bottle feed and actually fill her? hmmm think i made the RIGHT choice by my babies, and both are developing about the normal averages for children of their ages?! breast feeding is good, but isnt right for every mother. if you choose to bottle feed from birth it does not mean you are some druggie chav that cant be bothered it means you are making a choice for YOUR child and you shouldnt be punished or judged by narrow minded idiots!

BillyT December 7, 2010, 2:03 PM

Ah Hi Jill, just (very, very quietly now)wanted to say my wife went through the guilt dramas of bottle feeding. Her circumstances a bit different to yours. But in the end it had to be the bottle for the kids. Glad I’m not a shiela, this is too hot for me.
I’m going now before I get shot. BillyT

Gwyn December 7, 2010, 2:16 PM

Humans are omnivores and do super on just about anything that has the essential nutrients. But don’t kid yourself about formula: it’s pulverized cow milk protein from random cows from an enormous dairy that is somewhere you are unlikely to want to tour.

The vitamins and minerals are made in a lab, and the fats added are also artificially made (some from petroleum products.) The sugar is often that “corn syrup solids” that so many parents are freaked about as their child gets older, and no one can quite agree on the best casein to whey protein to put into the formula.

So feed your child formula, it does seem to keep children growing and healthier than if they had straight non-human mammal milk, but be informed about what formula is and is not.

Tracy December 7, 2010, 2:23 PM

I am sure you don’t feel guilty. And neither do lots of moms that plop their kids in front of the tv everyday or ones that feed only cereal to their toddlers. What the heck does you not feeling guilty have to do with what your baby needs instead of just has to get by with and hope for the best? So it’s hard for awhile … so what?

bel December 7, 2010, 2:46 PM

I’m a proud breastfeeding mom. Y do u other breastfeeding moms feel like u need to make the formula moms feel like they’re bad ppl. Does it honestly bother u that much or r u upset because you would’ve done it differently. My aunt is formula feeding her baby because she was born with a cleft lip and my aunt feels that she shouldn’t pump. Am I judging her? Nope she has every rite to choose to feed her baby the way she wants. I know wut science says but u have no idea y certain mothers don’t nurse. And as for the selfish mothers well they’re just plain assholes to think of themselves rather than ther children. I struggled to breastfeed and had to supplement with formula but I hung in there and have nursed my son for 14 months :)

Layla December 7, 2010, 2:54 PM

Reading some of these comments makes me realize how much education is lacking in the prenatal period for women in this area. I took a 40 hour breastfeeding educator certificate course and the differences between breastmilk and formula are tremendous. Most of you are I’ll informed and /or are in denial in order to justify formula feeding.
A baby naturally loses a bit of weight in the first few days postpartum. That is no reason to formula feed. Babies who are formula fed do tend to gain tons of weight because they are drinking dehydrated cows milk (or soy which has a whole other set of problems) and high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. It is a bulky food. It is very clear that there is a link between formula and diabetes and obesity.
I’m sorry but the differences last a lifetime and this issue is a public health issue. We really need to make sure women truly understand what they are choosing and get good support to avoid the easy to fix problems that new moms encounter when starting the breastfeeding relationship. Good education and support from lactation specialists go a long way. As does a commitment to give your baby the best food available.

Anonymous December 7, 2010, 3:22 PM

I won’t judge. Just google infant formula and cancer and form your own opinions. Or heck don’t worry about it. They don’t usually get cancer until they are adults so they’ll have a good healthy, happy, thirty to forty years. Yay!!!!

Monica December 7, 2010, 4:32 PM

Whoever Anonymous is if you are going to post comments the least you can do is tell us who you are. In any case, No I’m not saying that baby formula is the best. But its not the worst either. My son was only breastfeed for a few weeks till he started on formula. And I have a very healthy child. Rarely ever gets sick. Just as active and smart as any other kid. Do I care about what other people have to say about whether or not he was breastfeed. No, because I know that I cared and loved for my child just like any mother would. By the way, there are million of children growing up on tap water and bunch of other products that cause cancer right here in the good old USA. It seems that where ever you turn there is some product that we use daily that has a cancer causing agent in it. If my son gets cancer later in life (God I pray not), I won’t blame it on the baby formula because he may or may not have come in contact with anything that would have caused it. We live and we die and we try to do the best for ourselves and our families in between. When I’m on my death bed will I be worried about the fact that my mother didn’t breastfeed me got me there? NO. You sound so radical that the next thing out of your mouth would be that its a form of abuse because a mother doesn’t breastfeed and that CPS needs to kick in. Who am I to judge a mother on how she feeds her child? As long as the child is feed and brought up in a healthy loving environment what business is it of yours? You have a lot of audacity to try and reduce mothers who formula feed into monsters that don’t care for their children. Its sad because the worst thing about being a mother is other mothers like you who think its there responsibility to judge what others do. In the end some of you need to calm the heck down. If you breastfeed, great, if you don’t great. Each mother has the right to make their own choice. Calm down!

jan December 7, 2010, 5:09 PM

when i was breastfeeding (or failing to) my daughter 20 years ago and called the dreaded LL Leaqgue, they told me DON’T GIVE IN! Use an eye dropper before you put a bottle nipple to her mouth! GOD! It was my third kid, two boys had survived with ONLY 6 months, ok 3 months of breast feeding…and I grabbed a glass of wine in one hand and a bottle in the other. Thank the lord! Peace…came. :) to all.,

Pamala December 7, 2010, 7:42 PM

Breastfeeding would have killed my oldest daughter. Plain and simple. She had blood sugar issues due to an unknown genetic disorder. The high calorie count of the formula helped keep her stable, although that didn’t totally do it, she had to be on a dextrose drip as well.

Sometimes it’s easy to sit back and judge. My ultimate question is, what does it matter to you?

I think it has everything to do with feeling superior. Making oneself feel better about their parenting decisions, obviously ones they’re doubting themselves.

I’m sure we could look at everyone’s parenting and find something we find totally wrong or harmful.

But hey sometimes people need to bring down others to validate that they are good parents themselves.

A December 7, 2010, 9:18 PM

Just another “empowering” post masking your guilt and disservice to your child. Way to go, “mom”, you picked an inferior method and stuffed your baby with chemicals and sugar. I’m glad you don’t feel guilty, you are such a martyr for the cause.

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