Monday, October 14, 2013

My Breast Is NOT Best

This is the second installment of the Motherhood Mondays series here on Outsmarted Mommy. Today's post is brought to you by the awesome Jenn of Something Clever 2.0.
Jenn Rose is a staff writer at In The Powder Room, and stay-at-home mother to one boy in Massachusetts. When she's not writing or parenting, she's watching way too much TV and drinking a little too much wine (not chardonnay). She hopes to become a zombie when she dies.
Connect with Jenn on her blog Something Clever 2.0, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

My Breast is NOT Best.
Sorry, Gisele, breast feeding is still not mandatory in the U.S., although so very many people like you wish it was. I'm going to tell you all something that might make you mad. And if it does, you can suck it...

I fed my son formula. And I am not ashamed.

I made the decision to formula feed all on my own. I was not given a free gift bag at the hospital. In fact, the only pressure I received at the hospital was pro breast feeding. Here's my story.

I never planned on breast feeding. To me, it always seemed kind of weird. Wait! Before you scroll down to the comments and vomit a bunch of all-caps on me, hear me out. I don't care if you breast feed. That is your boob, and your kid. If it works for the two of you, I'm happy for you both. But I felt weird doing it. With my boob. Okay?

I had a c-section. After my son was extracted, we were briefly introduced, and then he was spirited away to the nursery for his grooming and distemper shot, or whatever it is that they do in there. My husband went with him. Meanwhile, I was getting reassembled.

They put me back into the labor room (which I guess turned into the recovery room at that point), and the boys showed up a few minutes later. A nurse handed the baby to me without a word, and walked out. My husband sat down in a chair next to my bed. We stared at the baby, then at each other...

Neither of us really had any baby experience. It was only about 9 months prior that we'd even held our first baby. I asked my husband, "What should I do with him?" He didn't know. I wondered if he was hungry. He'd just been through quite an ordeal.

Have you ever done something that was purely instinctual? Like turning away from a skid instead of into it, or maybe punching a bear? Maybe not. Anyway, I got this weird feeling that maybe I should breast feed him. Like the cro-magnon inside me was telling me, "Baby no eat berry. Give boob." I don't know. So I said to my husband, "Maybe I should breast feed him..."

He was surprised. He knew my plan had always been to formula feed. An aside- yes, I said "he knew my plan," rather than "our plan was." Because although the boy was ours, my cans are mine. He never questioned my choice on that, or on the c-section (yes, it was elective). I hope you all have partners like that. Back to the story. So he knew I was planning to use formula, and he was confused, but supportive. I think he said something to the effect of, "Really? Uh, okay, if you want to."

A nurse came in a few minutes later, and I asked her, "Is he hungry? Should I feed him?" She said "Sure," and in one quick motion, opened my johnny, grabbed his head and my tit, and stuck them together like a couple of Legos. Or, more accurately, like a Lego and a Mega Blok, since they didn't seem quite right together. It felt weird and wrong. Again, I'm not saying that breast feeding in general is weird and wrong, it was just weird and wrong for me. But I thought I might get used to it, so I tried.

I decided that I'd try giving him both breast milk and formula, alternating them at every other feeding. A couple of hours later, when I asked that same nurse for some formula, she gave me guff.
"You're breast feeding."
"I tried breast feeding. I'd like to alternate between that and formula."
"You can't do that."
"I'm pretty sure I can."
"He'll get confused. He won't nurse."
"Then he'll drink formula."

This nurse was a real piece of work, and fought us tooth and nail on everything while we were there. Eventually, my husband had to take her out in the hallway and lambaste her. That was awesome.

The rest of the staff was fine with my plan (this includes actual doctors). I alternated every other feeding in the hospital for three days, and for the next two at home. It started to hurt more and more. Men (or squeamish women) may not want to read the next couple of sentences... My nipples started to crack and bleed. And scab. It was disgusting and ridiculously painful. And then I had to worry about my baby swallowing blood, or a scab.

I used ointments and such, and relied on the formula more often until I was somewhat healed. And then came the straw that broke the camel's back. This part is even grosser than the stuff about scabs... One night, I was half asleep, breast feeding and watching TV, and for a split second- and I mean like one eighth of a second- it felt... Good. Not like some beautiful, magical, bonding type of good. Like, inappropriate good. Ewwwww! Please don't think I'm a creep. It was an involuntary reaction and it was awful. I pulled him off of me right away, and it was formula from there on out.

I do expect to get some flack for this. People are going to comment with 101 reasons why I was "wrong" to give him formula. In anticipation of some of the most common arguments, here are my responses:

"It helps the mother bond with the baby."

That's complete and utter bullshit. Do you think I didn't hold him while I fed him his bottle? Do you think a robot raised him while I was out drinking every night? We're plenty bonded. Just like he bonded with his father, who was, sadly, born without breasts.

"Breastfed babies are less likely to develop diabetes, asthma, SIDS, or allergies."

He's perfectly healthy. Also, he's never had an ear infection, his immune system is the best I've ever seen, and his pediatrician flat-out told us at his one year checkup, "He's an ectomorph, like his parents. You won't ever need to worry about him being overweight."

"Formula-fed babies have lower I.Q.s."

He is very smart. Smarter than a lot of adults I know, in fact.

"It helps you lose the baby weight faster."

I'm not giving any numbers, because I don't want you to hate me, but I did not need any help in that department.

"It's easier and less time consuming than formula. And it's free!"

This argument was made up by someone who has no breasts or children. It was not easier for me at all (maybe for some people it is, but not me). It took about the same amount of time (mixing water and powder is not difficult, and did you know you don't have to heat it up?). And yes, your breasts are free, but then there are the ointments, bras, pads, pillows, pumps, coolers, shawls... I'm not doing the math, but even if formula feeding was more expensive, it was a price we were happy to pay.

I know, I know, there's some magic ingredient in breast milk that makes it superior. That's great. But it's not the end-all, be-all. Sooner or later, a kid will eat other foods. They will live on planet Earth, wearing things, touching things, breathing, and not every circumstance in their life will be of optimum value. Maybe they eat cheeseburgers from McDonald's, maybe there's smog in your city. I don't know. But they'll survive.

I'm not trying to convince anyone not to breast feed. I'm trying to convince everyone to do what's right for you and your kid, and not to feel bad about your choice. I read a quote when I was pregnant that I wanted to share with you. Unfortunately can't remember the exact wording, or where I read it, because I had pregnant-brain at the time. But it goes something like this:

It is better to offer a bottle lovingly, than to offer a breast begrudgingly. 

I wholeheartedly agree with that. I hope you do, too. And if you don't, guess what? I don't care. They're not yours.


  1. Bravo for putting this out there. You love your son. Period. Does not matter how you fed him, just THAT you fed him. I breastfed all of my boys, because for some reason it just worked for me. Did I LOVE every minute of it? No, but it went pretty well for us. I was not breastfed as a child, and my mom says I was her healthiest baby. Her smartest, too. (Okay, she didn't sat that, but it's true.) This debate needs to be over. We have enough history under our belts to know that both feeding methods grow perfectly wonderful humans. Thanks to you both for a great post!!

    1. Thank you Kathy. I totally agree with you and I think it's great that Jenn is willing to be so honest about it. What works for some doesn't work for others and vice versa. In the end as long as we love our kids we're doing it right. :)

  2. Good for you, my dear! That nurse was full of shit. Lots of moms supplement their breastfeeding with formula and they do just fine. Also, there is nothing worse than feeling forced to do something you would rather not, ESPECIALLY when it comes to parenting.

    I've always hated breastfeeding propaganda. Yes it is cheaper and easier than formula but it takes almost a year to get to the cheaper easier part. In the meantime you have to be physically tortured (maybe lose a nipple but whatevs) and leak all over the place.

    Yes, you will lose the baby weight faster but that doesn't happen until you're nursing a toddler (yes, I said "toddler"). Sometimes you gain all the weight back because you got used to eating like a football team because of all the extra calories you used to be able to burn before you weaned. At least that's what happened to me. I would have breastfed without all the propaganda. With the propaganda I felt lied to and that pissed me off. And the IQ thing? I have a feeling that in 20 years we're going to find out that was also bullshit. IQ tests are so subjective. There is no way I could pick out of a room of kids which ones were breastfed and which ones weren't. If IQ matters, I have a feeling it has so much more to do with your genes and environment than it has to do with the source of your dairy in the first year of life.

    1. Damn right! Causation and correlation are NOT the same thing!

  3. Amen!!! I agree!!! My baby has formula and he's just fine! Smart and no one would know the difference unless the saw someone make him a bottle!!! And I had a nurse very similar to yours...I hated her!

  4. As long as a baby is fed and nurtured I don't care how they get it. I BF all 3 of mine b/c that was MY plan and it worked for us. Sounds like your plan worked great for you and yours as well.

    1. Robbie you are so right as long as a baby is fed and nurtured the details don't matter. That's great that breastfeeding worked so well for you. :) Thanks for stopping by Motherhood Mondays.

  5. When your nipples resemble raw hamburger meat and feel as though they are being sliced by rusty razor blades, it's time to stop....

    1. I am laughing so hard at this. Although it's easy to laugh when your nipples don't resemble raw hamburger meat. I do remember a time that they did though. Thanks for stopping by Motherhood Mondays.

  6. I got a lot of crap at the hospital too. I did nurse for a short time but, due to multiple issues including bleeding, didn't last long. I absolutely do not understand trying to shame new moms into nursing by telling them that there's only one way to bond with their babies. That's just a load of bull.

  7. I didn't nurse my first. I tried but due to complications he didn't latch on good and that was fine. He had issues with formula too and it was months before we could get him comfortable with formula. With my second, I gave it another try and it worked!! He was breast fed for 7 months and is now on formula. I see absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in their health. What works for one doesn't work for another. I work with a woman who is pro-breastfeeding, to the point that she nurses them until they are 3!!!! They can actually ask for it! (Which to me is just a bit too much). Good for you for doing what's right for you! Isn't there enough pressure on new moms as it is without the pressure of telling them how to feed their babies??

  8. I'm a nurse and I bottle fed my kids. Not all nurses are alike, but the one's that put that kind of pressure on you are not taking into account the big picture. If mama isn't happy, the baby won't be happy. You want a beautiful bonding time and if your child is projectile vomiting like mine was everytime I breastfed, and didn't with formula - it's an easy decision. Shame on that gal, but good for you for standing up for yourself and your child. Mama bear needs to do that from the beginning, right?!

  9. So, the higher IQ thing seems to be correlated to and not caused by BF. It actually appears to be related to responding to your child's emotional queues and reading to them.

    They don't assign people to BF and not in studies which means that it's all self selected. Some of the benefits could be because people who BF tend to be more likely to do something else and it's that something else that's actually beneficial (like the higher IQ seems to be).

    What ever is best for you is best for your kid. A happy mama who is emotionally invested makes a better kiddo regardless of how the calories get to the bebe :)

  10. I realize I am really late to this party but I had to comment. When I got scabs on my breasts, I went to my kid's father and said, "would a guy ever put up with scabs on his junk when there was a perfectly good alternative?" He said there was no way in hell and that was the end of me breast feeding. I believe that was like day 3.