Sitting On The Breastfeeding Fence

While I was busy yesterday urging others to fight hate and injustice, two of my best blogosphere friends Gina (thefeministbreeder.com) and Mandy (harpershappenings.com) were making waves on the subject of breastfeeding.

It seems I’ve always been in this in-between classification of “mom”. On the one hand, I can come off pretty crunchy. I cloth diaper, have been known to wear my baby, made all his baby food and breastfed for 13 months. On the other hand, I Ferberized, can’t stand co-sleeping (for us, not judging others who can make it work), and lost all desire to practice extended breastfeeding by the time Kendall turned a year old because I just wanted/needed my body back.

And really, when it comes to breastfeeding I always seem to find myself in a weird spot, too. I believe in the good that comes from breastfeeding, and I believe this country short changes women by not supporting them enough (lack of maternity leave, formula samples showing up in your mailbox multiple times a month, a culture that looks upon breastfeeding as “gross” and something to hide). I believe we should be able to freely nurse in public without or with a cover (and I don’t think a woman who *chooses* to wear a cover should have to worry about what sort of political message she’s sending by CHOOSING to cover up for her own comfort) and not be met with the glares of strangers or security guards at Target telling us we have to leave. I wish every mom would really give breastfeeding some serious thought before deciding if it will work for her or not, and that she could have the education, resources and support going into it to help her be successful. That she would know that it is NOT EASY. Not for many, at least… certainly not at first. You are not failing if it’s hard or if it hurts.

And because of how I feel about breastfeeding, I did want to shout “Right on!” when I read parts of Gina’s post yesterday “When It Comes to Breastfeeding, We Can’t Handle The Truth”. She hit on so many of the things I feel strongly about, including this:

Is it easy to make this milk?  No, not always — but neither was bringing that baby into the world and your body did a fine job of that.  Think about that.  Think hard. Your body created an entire human being inside from nothing more than the joining of two single cells.  Your body is a miracle worker. So what leads you to believe that, after creating a whole person with organs and tissue and a beating heart, that your body would call it quits when it came time to feeding this thing?

I was really open about how hard and painful breastfeeding was for me in the beginning. Make no mistake, it was not fun. I cried and I cussed and I threw tubes of lanolin across the room nearly every time Kendall latched for the first 8 weeks. In an attempt to give my nipples and myself a break, I tried to pump. It was utterly (haha) depressing how little milk my enormously engorged boobs were able to produce after 30 minutes of pumping. And when the two back to back mastitis infections that followed seemed to come each time after I pumped, I ditched the damn thing for a while and figured the temporary pain of breastfeeding was better than a constant fight with mastitis.

But here’s the thing I always remind myself – Even though it was NOT easy for me, I had such a tremendous support system surrounding me. My #1 champion was my husband, and my mom was a close second. I recall calling Scott at work one sleep deprived night, screaming at him, bawling my eyes out (I just came down with my 2nd round of mastitis), telling him, “I’m done! I quit!” and eyeing the sample cans of formula that I’d received in the mail. He listened to me cry, to my frustrations, he soothed me and calmed me and validated me. And then he encouraged me. He praised me for all my hard work so far, and he talked me down from a cliff of desperation. I was SO LUCKY to have that support from him.

My inability to pump continued, and after I got a 3rd, yes THIRD, round of mastitis after pumping, and after fighting to the point of frustrated tears to get Kendall to take a bottle, which he absolutely refused, I realized that I would just have to exclusively nurse him from the breast. I would have to be there for every single feeding. There was no way around it. Honestly? I didn’t mind because after 8 weeks that’s when breastfeeding became wonderful for us… for me. That’s when I was SO GLAD I stuck it out. That’s also when I thanked my lucky stars I was able to stay home with him for the next year. I’ve always said that I if  had to go back to work after having Kendall, I’m really, really not so sure breastfeeding would have worked out for us for very long.

And I know it’s not all about luck, because as I’ve already stated, I had to work HARD for it. But, I didn’t go through every challenge a breastfeeding mom has ever faced. My son latched (even if like a wolverine) and he ate and ate and ate, and he gained weight. Boy, did he gain weight! And I never felt like I was failing at feeding him.

So, while part of me was really cheering Gina on for many of the points she was making, another part of me was thinking about my friend Mandy and her blog post “Let’s Just Feed Them, Shall We?”

I read Mandy’s story of how she really struggled with breastfeeding, how she really, really TRIED. And my heart broke for her when I read this:

MONTHS spent riddled with guilt every time i fed her a bottle. every time i saw another mother breastfeeding. i would hide the formula under things in my cart. feel awful when the checker would scan it. tell myself i was costing our family money because of my inability to make milk.

I champion for breastfeeding rights when I can. I’m proud of breastfeeding Kendall for 13 months, and I really feel like so many women in this country aren’t receiving the right amount of information and support when it comes to breastfeeding. But, at the same time, I know there ARE women who can’t make it work no matter how hard they try, for many valid reasons, and I really can’t fault them for choosing their own sanity over a long, hard battle that they still may not end up winning. I also respect that there are women who ARE educated on the benefits of breastfeeding and they still make the choice to formula feed, again, for many valid reasons.

I find it so hard to walk the line sometimes between supporting breastfeeding and possibly making formula feeding moms feel guilty. Catherine at Her Bad Mother wrote a great post called “Shame And The Mom: A Boob Story” in which she said something that resonates with me still:

But we should be careful, should we not, that when we fight the shaming of nursing mothers, we don’t, in the process, shame mothers who don’t nurse? How do we do that? How do we make this, always, about choice, without giving up ground in promoting the nursing choice…

I’ve been trying to answer that question for myself ever since.

I know that a large part of the breastfeeding issue is the lack of education to allow moms to make an informed choice about breastfeeding, but there are moms who are informed and who have tried and choose to not do it… for many valid reasons.

And while I’m frustrated with the companies getting in the way of the breastfeeding mom, the cultural beliefs that stifle the breastfeeding mom, and many other barricades that make it harder than it should be on the breastfeeding mom, I’m certainly not meaning to guilt the formula feeding mom.

Please know, I’m not at all trying to pit these two inspirational bloggers against each other by writing this, because I think they both come at this issue from different sides, with different reasons, and I think they do a DAMN good job at it. I think they make a difference and lend valuable voices to a discussion that is important. I am proud to call them friends and celebrate their points of view and personal experiences, and I hope they both still love and respect me for the fence-sitter I am.

Kendall is 23 months old.

  • California Girl - See, I don’t see you as a fence-sitter. I’m very much like you. I exclusively nursed my daughter for 12 months. And I went back to work when she was 3 months, so the pump became my unwelcome companion. It was HARD, it was tiring, but I am so glad I did it. I figured, God/nature gave me the ability to feed my child naturally… why would I ever choose to feed my daughter something made in a factory in middle America?

    Of course, I have friends who had a really hard time with it. A number of them gave up a few weeks post-partum. Did they give it their all? Only they know. But do I support them in what they did? Of course. I wouldn’t want anyone judging what I choose to do with my daughter, and I wouldn’t judge what others choose to do with their children (short of abuse or neglect). In the end, if a parent is loving, emotionally available, and there to take care of their kid properly… those are really the most important things.

    I have my second due in 3 months. Will I be as committed to nursing a new baby with a VERY demanding toddler at my feet? Only time will tell. But I am committed to supporting myself either way.ReplyCancel

  • Angela - Thank you for this, this is what really got me:
    “I also respect that there are women who ARE educated on the benefits of breastfeeding and they still make the choice to formula feed, again, for many valid reasons.”

    I’m one of those. I am very much for BFing rights, I don’t have illusions that the formula companies have shady dealings, but it’s not something I tried at all nor would I. I know I get bashed for it, but for me to the best mom for ME and my babies, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know if I’m wired differently, I don’t have any blame or regret. If I were to have more babies, I wouldn’t either.

    So, I really appreciate this. It’s definitely a fresh and reasonable outlook on this. Sometimes I think we as moms get so caught up in the versus type fights we forget the commonality!ReplyCancel

  • Renea - I’m a huge supporter of breastfeeding, but I would never want a bottle-feeding mom to feel ‘below’ those who breastfeed.

    My oldest son gave me a horrible time the first week – he just would not latch on at all, but after many mid-night calls to my midwife and lactation consultants we finally got it…but man, it was rough. I think I spent that entire first week crying and feeling like a terrible mom! Thank goodness for the support I had, or it would have been much easier to just give up. He nursed for 2 years though, so I’m so glad I didn’t.

    I wish there was better breastfeeding education out there. Formula companies send out all kinds of literature to new moms, but you never see anything like that for breastfeeding – unless you go looking for info, you’re not going to just find it falling into your lap. (or out of your mailbox)ReplyCancel

  • Poeia - Here’s my problem: I nursed both my kids for 18 months. I nursed 1st for 10 weeks of my pregnancy with Dos. Guess what? I don’t think that is something to be proud of. It is like saying I am proud that I feed them dinner last night. I am supposed to feed them dinner. And when they were babies I feed them when I was supposed to, it just so happened to be with my boobs. Nobody deserves an award for feeding their kid. Unless they are going out and kill meat with their bare hands, because that is some hard core shit right there. I am tired that this needs to be a debate. I am tired that people assume that women don’t give nursing consideration, because I think most do. And for those who don’t, well, I am not sure why I am supposed to care. And I am tired of people being castrated for formula feeding.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - And that’s not what I’m trying to do. When I say I’m “proud” of myself, I mean that I’m proud of enduring the pain that I did to make it work. Does that mean I think other moms shouldn’t be “proud” of feeding their kids, even if no pain was involved? No. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with seeing that you made it through a rough spot and commending yourself for it. And I’m not trying to fuel the debate here because I’m simply not picking sides. Hopefully you don’t think that I’M assuming that all women who formula feed don’t consider nursing, because I think I made that pretty clear, that I know there are a lot of women who do. That’s my whole point.ReplyCancel

      • poeia - OMG, my typos. Pardon me.

        And no, I don’t think you assume that FFers never consider BFing, I was speaking to the larger debate. I was tired of seeing blanketed statements being used on blogs and on twitter.

        I have more, but alas, it is dinner time.ReplyCancel

        • Jill - Whew. Good :) Come back and share the rest later please.

        • Poeia - In the end, I have a problem with talking about how long I nursed for, and my level of success for one reason: comparisons will be made. I would hate to have someone feel like they did less for their child based on what I did as a parent. I can be happy with my decisions without having to have my “stats” out there.

          But as for expressing pride in yourself for powering through the hard parts of nursing, you inherently cease being neutral. You then place yourself, unintentionally as it may be, in the position of being someone who did it, who made it all the way to the other side vs someone who didn’t. I am sure more than one of your readers walks away with thinking, that they didn’t power through, and they are somehow less for not having done so. After reading what you wrote, I am sure that was the opposite of what you wanted to do in this posting.

          What I would like to see is good education, excellent parental support, and a good dash of none-of-your-business (unless directly asked) when it comes to new families making choices about their parenting.

        • Jill - Okay, I totally hear what you’re saying, and I can see how it comes off that way, albeit NOT my intention at all. But that’s the whole tricky, trying to balance thing at play again.

          I am “proud” of running 2 marathons, I am “proud” of putting myself through college. Those are a few of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. Does that mean that I think people who haven’t run marathons or paid their way through college should be ashamed of themselves? Absolutely not, and I don’t think, in either of those circumstances, that anyone would take those feelings away from me saying,”I’m so proud of myself for running a marathon/paying my way through school.”

          But you put breastfeeding in that same context and suddenly you are bragging and making others feel bad? I’m sure there are many personal struggles every mother will overcome, and I hope that after that’s all done she can say she’s proud of herself, whether it was for something she was “supposed” to be doing or not.

          I don’t think me feeling proud should mean others feel ashamed. The two are mutually exclusive. But my apologies if that’s the way it comes off.

        • Suzanne - This? This last part here? PERFECT. And exactly what I struggle with when discussing my (ultimately overcome) breastfeeding struggles with my friends who haven’t made it work.

        • Bethany - I feel the same way. I am so proud of myself for pushing myself and sticking with it. Starting at two months my daughter screamed bloody murder everytime I fed her, and the doctors couldnt figure out why, this went on for two months. I ended up crying everyother day, and thought about quitting everytime I fed her. My husband, seeing me losing my mind, said that I could quit, but I pushed through, she was gaining wieght and otherwise happy, so I knew I just had to figure out how to fix it. Ultimately it was an OVER supply and fast let down of milk issue, and she just couldnt handle it. After two months of craziness, I am so glad i stuck with it, I love feeding my daughter, and I am PROUD of myself, because for me it was an amazing stuggle, but i overcame it.

  • Pippy - Great post!

    It is so hard sometimes to be pro-breastfeeding without coming across anti-formula.
    Every mom makes a choice based on things that pertain to her situation and no matter which side she chooses, she shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Hajer - Thank you for writing this. I completely agree with your view point. I had no issues with my first son. NONE. NO pain, no nipple problems, no latching problems, no milk problems. Could not have been easier to do. Not so much for the next. It was a nightmare. I think the only reason I was able to power through with my 2nd was that I knew that I COULD do it and that this time it was not my “fault.” If my 2nd son had been my first, I’m pretty sure I would have given up much earlier. I don’t think any amount of support would have lessened the stress on my body from 6 months of colic and extreme fatigue that led to lack of milk production. Oh and did I grab that formula for son #2? You bed I did. I did it out of survival. I see both sides. If it works for you then horray! If for any reason it does not work for you don’t be ashamed. We need to support those who do breastfeed cause man is it hard work, but we also need to support those who are not breastfeeding because most of them already have enough guilt from it.ReplyCancel

  • tasha - I have always tried to practice the “live and let live” philosophy, especially when it comes to choices that mothers make for their children and their own sanity. I breastfed for 15 months, while working a full-time job and pumping sometimes 4 times a day! Clearly, that is NOT for everyone (sometimes I can’t even believe I did it). I guess our family also falls under the “crunchy granola camp” since we also cloth diaper, and used to wear Levi, co-slept for a while, etc.. But we felt that each was the best thing for us and for our son. And that’s really the bottom line isn’t it? What we think is best for our family is what we should do.

    But you hit the nail on the head about making an “informed choice”. Mothers need to be informed (not harrassed or belittled or cajoled) about all the options, and make their own informed decision, based on their own needs and situation.

    Sorry for such a long comment! Clearly this strikes a cord with me. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Totty - “… why would I ever choose to feed my daughter something made in a factory in middle America?”

    Its statements like this that made me hide my formula in my grocery cart as well … and why blog posts like this are necessary. Thank you Jill. <3ReplyCancel

    • Angela - Wow. :(ReplyCancel

    • Jen - It’s sad that people think that way Totty. Who cares what you feed your kid as long as you are feeding them!ReplyCancel

    • Mandy - i agree with Totty. it’s why i did that, too. it took me forever to stop, but it’s little stingers like that that make formula feeding moms feel bad.

      i’m not starting anything. it’s just another example of how i think some people don’t even realize that they are hurting moms who weren’t successful at BFing.ReplyCancel

      • Mandy - because obviously the rest of her comment was agreeing that we should all do what is best and what works for us and our baby.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - And that’s why I really think that open, level headed discussion is so important when it comes to this issue. We all need to know how to best support the other side, and the only way we can find that out is to talk about it. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I have no idea what to say to formula feeding friends when it comes to this topic because I truly want to support them, but I worry they will take what I say the wrong way (like the discussion Poeia and I are having about me saying I’m “proud” of myself).ReplyCancel

      • Mandy - exactly. it is often hard for this kind of topic to stay level headed because it is so personal. but i agree it must otherwise it can blow up fast, which is counterproductive if we all want to support each other. it’s easy for a FF (who wanted to BF) to take offense to comments like these, (no matter how small or insignificant and non-intentional) because it’s likely we DIDN’T want our babes being FF. constant little reminders anywhere of the fact that formula is not as good as breast milk is hurtful (yet unavoidable, i get that). and don’t get me started on the big reminders, like articles that use scare tactics like saying formula will kill your baby. THIS is where the months of regret or guilt comes in for an unsuccessful breastfeeder.

        for me, and i said this in my comment section when asked the question of how to help be supportive of friends who end up having to formula feed, words never helped. it was only time. absolutely, the supportive words from friends and family were welcome, but nothing anyone said (“she will be fine!”, “you did the best you could”) made a bit of difference to how i was feeling – like a failure. only many many months of seeing Harper grow healthily and happily made me feel better. and ultimately, here i am. if it isn’t glaringly obvious, i still have strong feelings on the matter :] yet i came to grips with the bad feelings on myself long ago.

        sorry for that ramble.ReplyCancel

        • Jill - You can ramble here any day :)

  • nicole - I think most women feel like you do, but that is not as interesting to read about. :) I nursed my first for six weeks, then went to formula and it was the best decision for us at that time. I nursed my second not at all, due to circumstances surrounding her birth. I nursed my third for 4.5 months, then switched to formula (I supplemented the entire time). I nursed my 4th for a year and a few weeks. I nursed my 5th for just about a year. My 4th and 5th would not really take a bottle, so I couldn’t leave them for a long time until they started eating baby food. I was more determined to fight through the pain with the last two kids, and I had more support. But I also knew that if I decided it wasn’t working for us, that we would all be fine. I’m about to have my 6th child and I admit that a part of me is dreading breastfeeding. The demanding-ness of it in those first few months is overwhelming to think about. Thankfully, I now have the confidence in myself to make the decision that is right for ALL of the people in my family. This shouldn’t be an issue that makes women feel like they are less of a mother, but it has been made to be that way, unfortunately.ReplyCancel

  • Jess - All these posts have really made me think about breastfeeding lately, and the realities of it.

    With my first baby due to arrive in about 2.5 months, the only thoughts I’ve had about breastfeeding were, “well…of course I’ll do it.” I mean, I’ve got these big ol’ boobs that have just been a pain in the ass my entire life, so it’s about time they serve some purpose, right? And it’s free, which as a total cheapo I totally appreciate.

    But the formula vs. boob debate always seemed so silly to me and it has always been so unbelievable to me how worked up people get. We are parents, we are raising these children the way we see fit, and unless someone is endangering the life of their child, why must we sit in such harsh judgment of each other’s decisions? Because so many women don’t simply say, “If I were her, I wouldn’t give my child formula”. They say “She is a BAD MOMMY for giving her child formula.” We all make different choices that we all might not agree with, but why must we decide that someone is somehow an unfit mother because of this one little choice?

    Anyway, all these posts have really opened my eyes to the debate that still rages. And they’ve also opened my eyes to the struggles that so many women face with breastfeeding, and it has given me a more realistic perspective of what to expect when my own baby arrives.

    So basically, great post!ReplyCancel

    • Erin - “I mean, I’ve got these big ol’ boobs that have just been a pain in the ass my entire life, so it’s about time they serve some purpose, right? And it’s free, which as a total cheapo I totally appreciate.”

      I very much felt this way, and reading this made me laugh.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - The best thing you can do is go into it educated. The Nursing Mother’s Companion is an excellent book with a lot of great, sound advice. I’m glad you’re seeing so many perspectives now. Hopefully, no matter how you end up feeding your baby, you will know that you’re not alone on your path.ReplyCancel

      • Jess - I’m going to the library tomorrow to pick it up. Thanks for the tip!ReplyCancel

  • Brie - What Mandy said really made me think back to those first few months with my son, almost 3 years ago.
    My son could not latch on his own. I believe he was tongue tied but my pediatrician was hesitant to investigate it and handed me a can of formula. I pumped and used a nipple shield for 3 months when my supply dried up. It was horrible. I felt so bad every time I spent $20 on a can of formula. My son also suffered from horrible ear infections that resulted in him needing tubes. I blame not being able to breast feed on that.
    Now I am pregnant with my second and I REALLY want to make breastfeeding work. I am afraid that it wont AND afraid that this fear will keep me from being able to let down.
    I am literally on the fence, I just dont know which way I will fall.ReplyCancel

    • Poeia - This breaks my heart. I just wanted to tell you that I nursed, while I was still nursing my son had his 1st set of ear tubes put in. He is on his second set now. Please, don’t for one minute think that your bebe’s ear-infections somehow relates to how long your son was on the bewb juice. Some kids are just made with small eustation tubes, and even slipping ‘roids into your BM wouldn’t make them grow. That is simply a matter of time. GL with your new bebe!ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Oh, that sounds so stressful. I’m so sorry. I hope, no matter what route you take, you don’t have to endure so much stress and guilt with the next one.ReplyCancel

    • Molly - Just my 2 cents, but I say give it a whirl :) I have 2 kids – both were completely different to bf’d…besides I think you’re much more relaxed (at least I felt like I was) the 2nd time around and maybe that makes bf’ing a little more easy. Best of luck to you!ReplyCancel

  • Rebekah Cooksey - Great post. I am also on the breastfeeding fence. I am a Mom of 3, and I had varying degrees of success with breastfeeding with all of them. My first was very difficult; we both got thrush, we were sent to an ENT because he had such a weak suck…we lasted 12 weeks and I was so proud. My second was the best nurser EVER, a true natural, and I had difficulty weaning him. My third was an OK nurser, but I was so busy running after the other two that I couldn’t keep up breastfeeding – the bottle is just so much faster.
    I don’t think any Mom should judge another. Each of us are different and every baby is different. We all do our best.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren @ In the Pudding Club - Oh I am so 100% with you on this. While I am happy to be breastfeeding (well, sometimes happy, other times I want my damn boobs back) I also feel that people (especially the health visitors we have in the UK) are so over the top with the pro breastfeeding that they are adding unnecessary guilt onto mothers who formula feed. Especially those mothers that are unable to nurse or unable to nurse for as long as they would have liked. I am aware that I am very lucky that I am able to breast feed and that I live in a country that gives me adequate time off to dedicate to exclusively feeding my child (who refuses to take a bottle – seriously kid went 20 hours without eating) and would accommodate my need to pump at work if I had to.

    It’s a tricky line to walk. Good for you for bringing it up.ReplyCancel

  • TheFeministBreeder - I only want to say two things.

    1. That super chuck is the cutest freaking thing I’ve ever seen (besides my own super chunks at that age) and that picture should be in magazines!!!

    2. It’s perfectly okay to stick to safe topics and leave the really terrifying, polarizing stuff to people like me, whose whole purpose for blogging is to talk about the politics, who spend their days and nights researching this nonsense to make heads and tails of it, and who truly believe it is a matter of public health (i.e. everyone’s business). My whole blog is dedicated to this, and when people come throwing daggars at me (though quite the opposite happened yesterday!) I can take it because I KNOW I write about polarizing topics.

    But you shouldn’t feel the need to pick sides (about breastfeeding or annything else!) This isn’t your passion, and that is totally okay. Not everyone has to come down hard on either side of this. But I do, because, well, health law is my career path.

    When you do feel passionate about something (like you did with your I Will Never post) then you go to bat, HARD, for the things that you think are ruining society. When you’ve got something you’re truly passionate about, you’ll pick sides, and that’s totally cool. There are LOTS of things I don’t pick sides about! It’s cool.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - I love you Gina, seriously. And thank you for sparking such a passionate blog post for me, because I WAS passionate about sticking to the middle here :) Like I said, it’s a balancing act I’ve been trying to figure out for almost two years now, and the posts from the 2 of you so perfectly showed those 2 sides I’m always teetering back and forth on.ReplyCancel

  • Carlie - I really like Freda Rosenfeld “The Breast Whisperer” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/nyregion/21freda.html) Credo: “Rule 1, enjoy the baby. Rule 2, feed the baby.”

    My struggles with breastfeeding were heightened in that I didn’t reach out for help. I descended into this dark, lonely place trying desperately to make what I thought was right to work. I was scared of being judged for what I was doing…either that I was doing too little or too much. I think I could have used a moderate, loving, informed voice to gently coach me through. I think no matter what our pet passion about parenting may be, we should ultimately be cheering each other on. We are first and foremost mothers…second, we are breast or formula feeders.

    BTW, I survived. And I’m proud to say that I have successfully breastfeed my 7 mo. old and we’re going strong!ReplyCancel

    • Jill - 1. That article was GREAT. Thank you for sharing! Wow. I’d love to meet that woman some day.

      2. Your story, unfortunately, is probably common, and another reason why this discussion is so important. I’m glad to hear you made it throughReplyCancel

  • Mandy - wow, thanks lady!

    i don’t have a lot to add (because you did a wonderful job, and like i said, you are always compassionate). i really had no idea my post would blow up like it did (in a good way [not that it’s good so many women had the same problem, but good that they don’t feel alone]). it broke my heart to see so many women carrying around the same guilt. the comments, the tweets, the emails even. hundreds of women who like me, WANTED TO BREASTFEED.

    i don’t think you’re on the fence so much as you are an amazing woman who supports what we are all trying to do: mother our children. and feed them.

    love you.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - What a great post. I’m a huge nursing advocate, I’m currently bfing & pumping so I can work part-time, and I’m a milk donor. I find myself blogging about breastfeeding and milk donation to get the word out that it’s a great choice to make for babies, but I don’t know that I’m always conscious of the guilt my writing could evoke in ffing moms. And I totally support all Moms– we all need support.

    My own mother truly struggled with supply issues, and she always impresses how lucky I am to breastfeed. I’ll definitely be keeping those who can’t or who choose not to breastfeed in mind more often when I write– it’s easy to get caught up in the advocacy sometimes.ReplyCancel

  • Hannah - Fantastic Post! I consider myself very pro-breastfeeding. Like you, I had a lot of problems in the beginning when I was nursing my first. I am proud that I stuck it out and made it work, and I would love to share that experience with friends who need the support. I also have a friend who can’t breastfeed for medical reasons and I have a hard time expressing my feelings about this to her, and around her, without the feeling that I might be coming across as judgmental. I wish I could do half the job you just did in expressing these feelings.ReplyCancel

  • Leslie - This is a great post. I also read Gina and Mandy’s posts yesterday. All three are great posts offering some really good perspectives. So well done, ladies!

    I reeeealllly wanted to nurse my son. Even though I read a lot of horror stories, including yours, about how hard breastfeeding was, I figured that it was something I’d just figure out. I felt the same way about birth. I’d go in and some way or another, the kid would come out and he’d start nursing. None of it felt like a big deal to me, because I assumed that things would just work out and that I’d be okay. I mean, you just get the epidural and it all works fine, right?

    Fast forward to my son’s birth, which was a failed induction that landed me in the OR under general anesthesia for a C-section. It was one of the most awful, traumatizing, horrific things that has ever happened to me – and my husband. Still, after I woke up, I started nursing my son. He did pretty well for the first day or so in the hospital, but soon he wouldn’t latch on at all and spent a lot of time screaming at my boobs. We HAD to feed him so we had the nursing staff bring us some formula. In the meantime, we had lactation consultants coming by to help with the problem, but even so, when we were released, my son was still not nursing.

    Once we got home, I started pumping like crazy. I called an LLL contact I’d made so that she could give me a good recommendation for a lactation consultant. We spoke on the phone at length, during which time she basically criticized me for letting my OB induce me (which led to the C-section, which leads to greater difficulty with breastfeeding) and she also criticized me for giving my son formula. Her exact words were “Giving your baby formula is like giving him medicine. Besides, formula is for babies whose mothers are dead.”

    Her words, which were entirely uncalled for, absolutely devastated me. I had called her for support, and she had basically decided that spouting her rhetoric was far more important than helping me out. I stayed far, far away from the breastfeeding clinic she recommended, because I was too afraid that the people there would be just like her and that I would be judged for giving my son formula. I was recovering (both emotionally and physically from an unwanted, and, as it happened, an unnecessary C-section. I didn’t need that negative crap.

    So I continued pumping, and we supplemented with formula. Gradually it got to the point where we were basically supplementing the formula with breast milk. Once my husband went off paternity leave, it was really difficult for me to pump and feed, especially once my pump broke. My son got breast milk for a month, but since then, he’s been on formula. He’s 10 months old now and very healthy.

    I really suffered over this. I often beat myself up for not trying hard enough, but the truth is, after my C-section, I was so destroyed that I knew that something had to give. That something was breastfeeding. I didn’t have the strength or energy to fight to do it like I could fight for it now. I did the best I could under those really awful circumstances.

    I honestly think that moms need more support and acceptance when it comes to breastfeeding, but I think moms who feed formula need it just as much. I don’t know how to find that balance, but I think a lot of it will really require a paradigm shift where we don’t see breasts primarily as sexual objects, where people don’t judge us for having a hard time with either breastfeeding or formula feeding, and where pregnant and laboring women as well as new moms are truly taken care of and nurtured.

    That’s my two cents. Okay, so it was more like $5. ;)ReplyCancel

    • Mae - Leslie that is appalling and I am in tears for you.

      I am so sorry that happened.ReplyCancel

    • Beth - What a jerk.

      Honestly, the first thought that ran through my head was “is formula good enough if the mother is intubated and in the ICU?” because that’s how my daughter started on formula. I wonder if near death would have been acceptable for her?

      This is the kind of thing that makes me uncomfortable with all the pro-breastfeeding rhetoric. Some folks get so wrapped up in “breast is best” that they forget there are HUMANS attached to those breasts with feelings.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Wow. I am SO sorry for your experience. She was completely out of line, and I’m so sad that you had to hear all that. And your last paragraph? Perfect. Thank you for chiming in.ReplyCancel

    • Miranda - Aside from your incident with that horrible LLL person, we have almost the same story. I was lucky enough to be able to stay home for four months after having my son, so I was able to fight through the difficulties and make BFing work for us. Had I not been able to make it work, I think I would’ve been institutionalized because of the PPD/PPA that I STILL have because of my unnecessary C-section.

      I really, really just want to hug you right now, because I was completely destroyed after my surgery, too. Serious hugs to you.ReplyCancel

  • Beth - I wrote this the last time the boob vs. bottle debate came up: http://adjunctmom.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/why-i-feed-formula/

    I feel strongly that feeding the baby needs to be the priority. I don’t care how it gets done, just so that it does.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - What a terrible ordeal to have to go through. I am really glad you are okay, and I’m really saddened to read what’s been said to you.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - I have been BF’ing B for 8 months now and I am really surprised at how many comments I get about the fact that I am STILL breastfeeding. When was I supposed to stop? At what point did me nursing my son become eye roll worthy? On the other hand I get loads of comments about how I should keep nursing until he is 2+.

    Seems like we as woman are our own worst enemies. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.ReplyCancel

  • Joanne - Is it bad that I still kind of feel like breastfeeding is still put on a pedestal here? I want to re-read your post, I am sure, I KNOW, you did not mean to offend, but I do still feel it slightly.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - It’s not bad, it’s the way you feel, I guess. I did my best to support both sides of the issue.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - I definitely agree with a lot of what you said here. I tried to breastfeed my son and only succeeded in doing so for one week. I had an unplanned c-section and my milk didn’t come in until I was 10 days postpartum. Even then, it was barely a trickle. Nursing sessions resulted in 3 people crying – my son, me and my husband. We were all miserable because it just wasn’t working. The day I decided to formula feed was the day I finally felt like a mother. This isn’t to say I didn’t feel any guilt (or that I still don’t), but formula ended up being the way to go with us.
    I’m a huge supporter of breastfeeding, and I’m honestly undecided if I’ll try to breastfeed our next baby. The hard fact I learned is that breast isn’t always best. It sure wasn’t for me.ReplyCancel

  • Suzi - I couldn’t agree with your post more!

    I have 2 little girls. With my 1st I had the easiest time nursing. We were naturals… she latched perfectly and although I had some pain it wasn’t bad. We made it happily and easily to 12 months. I like you weaned her because I was ready to have my body back. She did great with the weaning and I have no regrets about our nursing experience.

    I figured that #2 would go just as well, maybe easier since I knew what I was getting into. She latched great in the hospital but once we got home had a hard time. Turns out that was the beginning of our problems. 8 days after she was born I became ecplampic (like pre-eclampisia only after the baby is born)… with VERY high blood pressure I seized twice and was hospitalized. I don’t remember most of my hospital stay and didn’t pump for almost 2 full days. Needless to say it had a huge impact on my supply. Luckily my baby took a bottle of formula or we would have been in a world of trouble.

    With the help of a GREAT lactation consultant I managed to get most of my supply back. She is supplemented with some formula but is mostly breast fed. It has been A LOT of work but totally worth it. I am proud of myself (and my little family) for getting through this.

    I like you could not have gotten my supply back if it wasn’t for the support of my amazing husband. It is next to impossible to nurse a baby, feed her a bottle, and pump all while taking care of her and her 2 year old big sister.

    I guess my point is it can be super easy or next to impossible. I don’t regret all that I have been through with my 2nd daughter. It is just really important to have amazing people around you if you want to breast feed & be very successful at it.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - It’s really interesting to hear how much breastfeeding experiences vary from one child to the next, and is certainly good to know when I try with the next one. I’m sorry you had to endure so many difficulties with the second, but I’m glad to hear you’ve been successful at working through it. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Upstatemomof3 - I am with you. I cannot tell you how many people who knew I wanted to breastfeed Little Sister have given me an awful lot of flack for the fact that it did not work for us. But she HATED it. I mean HATED it. It has been three months since I tried and yet she still screams bloody murder when she sees me without a shirt. It was awful! Now, I am glad that she gets breastmilk. I worked hard for that. It was worth it for me – because I had hope that she would breastfeed and because I was mistaken about when she would get here and how long Big Sister would nurse for. If I had known then what I know now… I would have done things differently. And I do not know where we would be.

    My point is. I think so much needs to change but making a mom feel guilty for giving her baby bottle is not actually going to do anyone any good.ReplyCancel

  • Mae - Jill, thanks for writing this. It’s a difficult fence to sit on isn’t it?! I nursed Piper and pumped after I went back to work until she was 8 months old. A lot of that time was wonderful AND a battle. It was really hard.

    But just because I say it was hard for us doesn’t mean I think other people didn’t try hard enough, just because their story didn’t go the same way. When I hear those stories, I just think how easily that could have been us. It’s not about skill. It’s not about worthiness.

    Just, feed your babies. And love them.

    Repeat as necessary.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Good point about saying it was hard, Mae. I made sure to point out that it was hard for me because I think that’s something really important to stress to women who haven’t been through it yet, that it can/most likely WILL be hard. I think this misconception that it should come so naturally really hurts women in the long run, because so many, when it gets hard, feel like they are failing or doing it wrong.
      BUT me saying that it was hard for me does NOT mean that other didn’t try hard enough.
      I’m really glad you brought that up because I definitely want to make that distinction.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne - Jill, this is pretty much the exact post I had in my head last night but you said it so much better than I could have. I am a devoted reader of both Gina and Mandy and felt so conflicted yesterday. But I got over it. Ultimately I think they’re talking about two different issues.

    Mandy wants some compassion. She wants credit for all she went through to TRY and do what she thought was best for her daughter. She wants to know the secret handshake to the breastfeeding club so people will stop glaring at her formula in the checkout aisle. As someone who also stared at the formula samples on my counter as I cried through the pain of thrush, engorgement, bad latch and nipple shields, I can’t even IMAGINE criticizing someone who switched to formula. Where are these women whose babies latched so effortlessly and without a single issue that they feel every mother should be able to do it? CLEARLY no on the internet I read.

    Gina wants the medical community, the doctors, the hospitals, our employers and the formula companies to stop undermining breastfeeding. She wants women to STOP being blamed for their struggles and instead get the support they need. She wants the information that breastmilk IS BETTER than formula out there to counteract all the lies in the parenting magazine ads. She wants paid maternity leave so every mother can have the time they need to establish a nursing relationship. Yes she is pro-breastfeeding but she is also pro-mother.

    But I think everyone can agree that these? Should never ever happen:

    WRONG
    Mom: Doctor, I’m having some pain when the baby latches. And I’m not sure I’m making enough milk.
    Doctor: Well, let’s switch to formula then. Here are some free samples!

    WRONG
    Baby is crying in a restaurant. Mom begins to breastfeed.
    Stranger: EW! DISGUSTING! NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THAT!

    WRONG:
    Mom is buying formula.
    Old Lady: Oh honey, that is so bad for your baby. It’s practically poison. I hear it’s made out of dead horses and cyanide and rotten corn and OTHER BABIES. FORMULA IS PEOPLE.

    WRONG:
    Mom: Hi I’m Amy, this is my baby Bob.
    Other Mom: Ew, is that a bottle? Why aren’t you nursing?

    Never and never. Amen.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - GREAT breakdown! You’re right, the 2 posts aren’t about the same exact issues, but they happened to demonstrate, just like you talked about feeling, that internal struggle. Thanks for the Cliffs Notes :)ReplyCancel

  • Erin - I think a lot of the tension around this issue comes from the way that people approach defending BF rights. Instead of approaching it as a woman’s right to choose how she feeds her child many people come to this debate with a list of reasons why breast feeding is better and why formula feeding is sub-par at best if not borderline child abuse. I think everyone can agree that it is a woman’s right to choose how she feeds her child and that she should have the freedom to exercise this choice wherever and whenever she wants to.ReplyCancel

  • Lauren - I stand behind the fact that babies are born to breastfeed. Our bodies are designed to breast feed. If you choose not to breast feed that’s totally up to you. It can be very stressful and heartbreaking. I struggled with it in the beginning because I was set up for failure but I persevered. I had ideal conditions and the time to sit on my sofa and nurse all day. If I had to go back to work I would have most likely pumped at first but given up because pumping SUCKS. Obviously formula isn’t poison like some people think it is but there are plenty of studies to back up the theory that breast is best. But if you choose not to breast feed then good for you. Just don’t glare at me when I nurse my one-year-old at the park.ReplyCancel

  • Toni - Great post. There were so many times in those first couple weeks of breastfeeding that I wanted to throw in the towel. I don’t know how many times I stared at that sample of Similac and thought about giving up. I also had a very supportive husband, who reminded me how far I’d come. I swore I was only doing it for 1 month because I was exhausted, and frustrated because he wouldn’t latch or my nipples felt like they were on fire. I stuck it out, and I’m glad I did. I pumped for 3 months after I went back to work before my supply tanked from the pumping. It was a difficult decision to stop, but I’m glad I made it to 7 months.

    On the other hand, I do not look down upon formula feeding. I have a very good friend that tried and tried – had lactation consulants at her house, and her son just would not latch properly. She was devastated. And like, Mandy, I know it wasn’t her choice not to breastfeed. I try to keep that in mind when I see bottle-fed babies out there.

    Apologize for the rambling!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - I too am a fence-sitter! Ha! Can’t we just feed the babies?!

    That being said I did breastfeed for 9 months–we’ve just completely weaned actually. After reading the post and all the comments I kept thinking that I was neutral on the topic. But I was still proud, and didn’t that somehow make breastfeeding superior. I was still feeling like I was a part of “the club” even though I was arguing with myself over the existence of a “club”.

    I should thank my son for his middle of the night wakings because really it’s when I do my best thinking! ;)

    I realized that I am proud of the fact that I breastfed. But it’s not the superior kind of proud that most people think. I’m not proud because I fed my baby, I’m proud because I set a goal and it was a challenge and I pushed myself to do it and I did it. I challenged myself and that’s what I’m proud of.

    Just my small novel of thoughts! Thanks ladies for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • bethany - I feel like Breastfeeding is like going through Med free natural childbirth….It isn’t for everyone, maybe some people might shoot for it and then choose not to do it, maybe some people will choose the less painful route from the begining. I wanted to do both naturally, the way that I knew my body was made to be able to do it, it was extremely hard, and I understand why people do it the other ways. It makes me proud of myself that I did what I wanted no matter how hard it was. I would have been just as proud of myself if I had wanted to formula feed or get an epidural, because either way I would have stuck with it and done myself proud.ReplyCancel

  • Law Momma - I am with you on the fence. I breastfeed my son and have since birth. He’s almost eight months now. I think it’s okay to say you are proud of that fact… it’s a chore! It is hard work to breastfeed that long. And it was painful for me at the beginning and then again when he came off the nipple shield at 3 months.

    I absolutely feel that women should be educated on the benefits of breastfeeding. But there ARE women who can not breast feed. It’s a fact. And it upsets me greatly when breastfeeding advocates forget that fact. As women, we do a pretty good job of tearing each other down for a lot of reasons… it’s time to stop letting breastfeeding be one of those reasons.

    Support fellow moms. Help them with breastfeeding when they are new moms. Teach them about the benefits. But when they use formula… don’t judge them. Support their right to feed their baby in the best way that THEY can. You don’t know the circumstances that lead to a woman giving her child formula any more than you know the circumstances leading to a c-section. If you don’t know the facts, you just CAN NOT and SHOULD NOT judge.

    I just wish we could support each other a little more, you know? Sorry… I get on a soap box about this sometimes. Good post, Jill… as always.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica - This was a great post, Jill. I have been exclusively breast feeding my son for almost three months. The main reason I chose to BF was because I really WANTED to. I didn’t feel pressured by society (though it is prevalent, for sure), I wanted to have the closeness and provide for him myself, if I could.

    However, I would never judge another mother for choosing formula over breast. That’s why it’s there! BFing is not for everyone. It’s not only a food choice, it’s a choice in the type of lifestyle you’re going to lead for the next x months. Your life ends up revolving around when and where your baby has to eat.

    I have been lucky to have no major problems (aside from the obligatory horrid first six weeks). Yet, once I started, I put unnecessary pressure on myself to keep at it. I found myself hating to allow my husband to give my son a bottle (of my own milk, mind you) because it made me feel like a failure for not being able to do it every single time. Didn’t matter if my nipples were raw or he’d been screaming for hours for no reason, I hated to do it. I was ashamed of not being able to be Super-mom every second of the day. If my supply seemed to diminish, I would have a total panic attack over it. Breast feeding became a sort of obsession, and in so, became less enjoyable and more stressful.

    I’ve since chilled out and am once again really enjoying BFing, but it’s amazing how many women feel ashamed for one reason or another over the way they feed their children. Just wanted to say that there are pressures on nursing moms, too, even if they are self-inflicted.ReplyCancel

  • quazydellasue - I’d like to comment, as someone who is on the anti-formula side of this issue.

    I don’t have a problem with people using formula as a last resort, using it when they have no other choice. Of course that happens. MY PROBLEM, what troubles me, is either:

    a) Women using formula because they have been convinced they have no other choice, when they actually would, if our society would offer adequate support, and;

    b) Women who never consider breastfeeding, think it’s gross, and give formula from the word GO.

    Before anyone attacks me, let me be clear: I do not blame the mothers, in either situation. Ever. Whether we breastfeed or use formula isn’t always (or even often) a personal choice – it’s a product of our culture. Women don’t think breastfeeding is yucky because they were born that way. They’re TOLD it’s yucky, in a million subtle ways, every day.

    Although I nurse a 2-yr old, very happily, I’ve never looked down on a mom using formula. But I have felt very, very sad when I’ve heard stories of moms never even trying after they leave the hospital. Which is much, much more common than the mom who tries and tries and tries and then gives up in agony (even though that happens a lot, too).

    I certainly don’t want to hurt any mom’s feelings. I have good friends who use formula and I would never want to insult them. But I stand firmly for the position that we NEED MORE BREASTFEEDING in this country, and I’m more concerned about that than I am about potentially stepping on someone’s toes. Someone who should not feel insulted if she made the choice she believed was right, or necessary, in the first place.ReplyCancel

    • Joanne - I see youre trying to be nice about it and kind. But saying we need more breastfeeding in this country, really?
      Hurful. No way about it.ReplyCancel

      • Jill - Joanne, I agree with that statement, that there needs to be more breastfeeding in this country, and I don’t say that to be mean or slight formula feeding moms at all. It’s why I think we need more and better education and support for women when it comes to breastfeeding. I think, while there are many women who take this decision very seriously, there are also many more who don’t even give it a single thought because they’ve been taught to feel it’s “gross” or an inconvenience. I think that’s the point quazydellasue is trying to make.ReplyCancel

        • quazydellasue - Yes, Jill is totally correct – that is the point I was trying to make. When I say we need more breastfeeding, I do NOT mean that the moms who have tried and failed to breastfeed are doing the wrong thing. I mean that the large numbers of women in this country who do not even CONSIDER exclusive breastfeeding need to start considering it – but that they will not do so until many societal changes take place.

          I live in LA, and there are entire communities in this city where no breastfeeding goes on at all. That’s not because the moms can’t do it – it’s much sadder than that. And I’d like to see that change, all over America.

          I’m truly sorry if my statement came across as hurtful. I think any woman who even TRIES to breastfeed exclusively is amazing, and deserves my respect and admiration. Actually, i feel that way about all moms, full stop. It’s our culture’s responsibility to get breastfeeding into the mainstream.

  • linda - I am all for breastfeeding. I am all for formula feeding. I am all for feeding your baby however it happens to come about! :)
    I refuse to judge anyone on their choice, make snide remarks, raised eye-brow looks, or even give it a second thought. Until I have walked in their shoes…I will not judge.
    I am an adoptive mom. I wanted to breastfeed my daughter. I knew others had been able to stimulate milk production, but I was unable to. Nothing hurt worse in my life than discovering my infertility. Then finally I was a mom and nothing hurt more than to be made out to be an awful person because I formula fed her. People who did not know my journey judged me. It hurt. Even people who did know judged me. That really hurt. I refuse to do the same to anyone else.
    I am so thankful for those who never gave my formula feeding a second thought.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - once again, you have posted something that hits seriously close to home for me. I still bf my nearly 10 month old son and plan to do it… well I don’t know how long yet. but I have several good friends who were not successful breastfeeders and I try so hard to make sure that things I say cannot be construed as judgement or as superiority. I know how they struggled. I know the decision to stop, or not to start, didn’t come easy. And I know that it was right for them.

    what I love most about your blog (besides laughing out loud and your adorable son) is that you often highlight the fact that, as mothers, we should be SUPPORTING each other as we move through this absurdly difficult, and unimaginably wonderful time. Instead so many of us are hell-bent on tearing each other down. THANK YOU for continuing to champion sisterhood, support and tolerance above all else.

    Whenever I find out someone I know and love is pregnant, I send them to you for what I consider a very good primer to pg, childbirth, and motherhood. :)ReplyCancel

  • Stacey - I’m going through this right now. When I had my son, 15 months ago, I was on the BF bandwagon. I never gave it a second thought. I desperately wanted to BF. My 9lb. 7oz. boy was delivered via c-section and was ready to eat as soon as we rolled into recovery. I held him to me, and the nurse helped me get him to latch…and boy did he latch!

    I happily BF him in the hospital, enjoying the bonding I was feeling…even though he seemed to be screaming non-stop when not attached to my boob. He was a big boy after all. I was told by the Lac consults it was normal for him to want to eat ALL THE TIME.

    After we came home and he was checked by the home nurse and my 9lb. 7oz boy was now down to 8lbs 3oz. He was not having bowel movements, his urine was almost non-existent. The only inclination that he even urinated was what the home nurse referred to as ‘brick dust’ smudged on his diaper. He screamed and cried non-stop. I moved to BFing him every hour…and still he screamed. My nipples hurt, sure, but he was latching perfectly, even the home nurse watched and agreed he was latched correctly. At 7 days old he saw our pediatrician who immediately sent us for a heel stick to check bilirubin. The level was extremely high and she had him admitted into the hospital immediately where he was put in an incubator under blazing blue lights and wearing little goggles to protect his eyes. And he screamed…and screamed. He thrashed his little body around, breaking the skin on his hand. He was after all used to being held and nursed all the time…not left to lay down in a crib or Bass on his own. When I couldn’t hold him to BF him…I pumped…getting an entire 1/2 oz. of BM…total…from both breasts.

    Huh? 1/4oz each boob? WTH? But I was assured by the LC at the hospital that my son was much more efficient than a pump and that he was getting enough to eat. Really? Constant crying…no pooping…no peeing…high bilirubin (which is shed in the stool)…sounds like not getting enough food to me. But, what do I know, right? I’m just a new mom who is exhausted from nursing my kid every hour on the hour and watching him still lose weight. They tried to convince me to continue to pump and BF, but after my son lost another ounce I finally said enough is enough and put him on formula. I continued to pump and get 1/4 oz of BM…which I would mix in with formula until I eventually dried up. I even took Reglan in hopes it would boost my milk.

    I cried…no, I sobbed on a daily basis because I felt like a complete failure. I had starved my son. I couldn’t even do the most basic natural thing…provide nourishment to my child.

    When I became pregnant with my 2nd…I made the choice to FF her. I was not going to put her through what my son went through. I did decide to pump though…in hopes that perhaps I could get my milk to come in and this time be blessed with a good supply and then be able to convert her to BM exclusively. I don’t care if she gets it straight from the tap…I’m more than happy to bottle feed her BM.

    Well Claire was born 2 weeks ago. And I’ve been pumping since day one…and I’m getting 1/4oz from each breast. And yes, I’m disheartened that this has happened again. And I still feel somewhat like a failure. But there is nothing else that I can do. So I feed her formula, I pump and mix in what little BM I can muster and will continue that until I completely dry up.

    I think a lot of mothers, like me DO try…even when it is hard and exhausting. And I went through 2 c-sections too. It does yank my chain when I see women who have been blessed with the milk supply that I can only dream of, come down and accuse non-BF moms of harming their children or being self-centered and careless of their newborns.

    Until you’ve watched your child starve for the first 10 days of his life, and know that YOU did that to him…that YOU were the one who didn’t make enough milk and so YOU starved your newborn…then just shut up. Making blanketed statements just makes you look like an insensitive idiot (Not you, Jill….I mean those who are Nipple Nazis). Be supportive and encouraging to BF….don’t make those of us who FF feel like we are doing a disservice to our babies. Some of us have tried…and have done the hard work…and it still didn’t work out for us.

    Thank you for this post, Jill.ReplyCancel

  • julie - Really wonderful post, Jill. I loved it (as usual!). It was coincidental, too, considering I’d been ‘stung’ during the day yesterday, at work, unintentionally, by a colleague who just returned from maternity leave. She was explaining to me all of the reasons she is SO happy to be working only part-time now, one of the main reasons being, if she weren’t working part-time, breastfeeding would be more difficult and she’d have to feed her baby the dreaded FORMULA (in her words: “ugh, can you IMAGINE?!”).

    Uh yes, yes I can.

    I immediately felt a lump in my throat, remembering the day I sat in the pediatrician’s office trying to answer questions about why my son hadn’t gained more weight at his 2-week appt. (he had ‘only’ gained back his birth weight), feeling inside like I’d already failed as a mother. Spending hundreds to see a lactation consultant, buy fenugreek pills, tea, oatmeal, beer, ANYTHING to produce more milk. Watching in AGONY as 15 minutes of pumping produced <1oz of milk. In the end, I didn't really have a choice about whether or not to feed him formula – I had to. But oh, was I ashamed. Depressed. Inadequate.

    Ultimately, I did learn that providing nourishment for my son, first and foremost, came from my HEART, not my breasts. And choosing breastfeeding over supplementing over formula-feeding would only be the first in a loooooong legacy of decisions I would make about what's best for MY son. And probably more importantly, I learned that in this chaotic, emotional, awesome adventure called motherhood, we are all on the SAME team. We're all just trying to do our best.ReplyCancel

    • janetlansbury - Jill, this is a fascinating post, thanks!

      Julie, you stopped me in my tracks with “Ultimately, I did learn that providing nourishment for my son, first and foremost, came from my HEART, not my breasts.” That is exactly the way I feel. Babies are extremely sensitive beings and are fed by our worries, sadness, pain, and guilt along with the nourishment we choose to provide for them. If we’re not lovin’ it, the baby’s not lovin’ it. WE are the ONLY ones who should be “on the fence” about our OWN choices. No one else is our business at all, except as a recipient of our loving support. When we decide what’s best for us, we should be able to proceed with confidence, and without a smidgen of guilt.

      I am in awe of the way many of you persevered through pain to try to breastfed. I breastfed 3 into their 2nd year. It was much easier and more convenient for me than the thought of warming up a bottle, otherwise, I doubt I would have stuck with it. It was a time to carve out a moment of togetherness and attention for my baby — just as ANY form of feeding can be.

      Take care, all you dear mommies.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - Formula saved my son’s life. Without it, he wouldn’t be here today.

    I read the books. I attended the classes. I was going to be ‘that’ mom that never gave her child a drop of formula. And then, after the first week of pure hell (baby wouldn’t latch, my milk came in late), we got the call that my son’s bilirubin levels were dangerously high, he was extremely dehydrated, and we needed to call 911 RIGHT NOW.

    How’s that for making you feel like a bad mother?

    All of the those crazy pro-BF women (and consultants) need to understand that FEEDING the baby is the most important part. And this extremist idea of ONLY bm is downright dangerous. There needs to be better maternal support, less shame about formula, and less judgment overall.

    And probably the worst part, is that I was still drinking the Kool-Aid after he got out of the NICU (i.e. felt awful about giving him formula) and so I forced myself to pump for seven months to ensure he got breast milk. It was like my version of self-flaggellation.

    Anyways, the whole subject is tired to me. The important thing is the baby is fed, cared for, and loved. How that happens is up to the mother.

    (and for those of you that are not aware, there is a very serious disease that results when bilirubin is too high called kernicterus. Bilirubin can cross the blood barrier in the brain and it results in mental retardation, hearing loss, blindness, cerebral palsy, even death. It is CRITICAL to make sure a baby is well-fed during the first few weeks of life. Go to http://www.pickonline.org for more info.)ReplyCancel

  • aurie - After reading your post and all the responses, all I can say is ‘wow’. Thanks for writing an intelligent post with both “sides” of the story.

    I have 2 girls – a 2 year old and a 5 month old. Both girls have been formula fed from the beginning, due to a medical condition I have. I too have endured the stares and the thoughtless comments that “well-meaning” people have made when they see my healthy baby girl having a bottle. I’ve had the lectures at the grocery store & also hidden formula in my cart. I used to try to explain to everyone who made a thoughtless comment why I chose to formula feed.

    By the time I was pregnant with baby #2 I realized that I was responsible for nourishing my baby….and for us, the best choice is formula. My baby girl is healthy and growing. Our pediatrician is happy. Our baby is happy. We are happy. What more can I ask for?ReplyCancel

  • Kate - Thank you so much for this post and all of the comments it has generated. My son turns 6 months next week and I was able to breastfeed exclusively for 3 months during my maternity leave, but since returning to work the pumping has been difficult, and my supply continues to drop. I only pump 50% of what he eats at daycare and his weight was low at his last check-up. I’ve been going through extreme amounts of guilt and agony over deciding to wean him off the breast, even though ultimately I think he really won’t mind as long as he is getting plenty to eat. It’s amazing to me though that all the other mothers I talk to either feel like I should stick to it – (and give me death stares like I would be insane not to), or think I am crazy for having stuck with it as long as I have. I think I’m going to really start the weaning tomorrow – reading these comments is helping me a bit with my guilt, but I really wish I didn’t feel so much pressure.ReplyCancel

  • Shannon Kieta - Well, but of course, I have to put MY two cents into this one!
    I, a mom of two, who tried to breastfeed my firstborn son, had agonizing pain and could not produce enough milk to satisfy his 9lb frame. I tried, and tried. Cried and cried. I would literally work myself up 20 minutes before it was time to breastfeed knowing how much pain I was going to experience and he wasn’t going to be satified anyway. My child was screaming in hunger and I was failing as a mom to provide nourishment for him. This made me very depressed. I had no other choice but to turn to formula. After the satisfaction that formula gave him (and I couldn’t), I had a hard time accepting that I was a good mother. Because of all the negativity thrown at mother’s who do not breastfeed, I thought my child was doomed. It so turns out that the formula’s created today are so close to breastmilk that the babies are getting just about everything they need as if they were being breastfed. It should be the mother’s decision to wether or not she wants to BF her child/children. It’s a personal decision that no one else should slam. When my daughter was born, I had the type of formula ready that I wanted to use. Without any guilt, I started bottle feeding her from birth. 9lbs 5oz. would never have survived my skimpy breast milk! Both my kids are happy, healthy, and big and smart! And it has not a damn thing to do with wether or not I breastfed them!ReplyCancel

  • Meghan - Jill-
    As usual, I love your blog, I love this post, I wish you lived on my street.

    I think the only thing that I would like to add to this discussion is that I would like to see more women just out & out OWN their choices. Maybe this is just me, but when I make a decision, especially a fundamental childrearing decision, I own it. I’ve evaluated the pros and cons, and made my choice. I know that whether I picked A or B, Formula feeding or breastfeeding, there will ALWAYS be people who disagree with my choice. I can’t ever get around that. I would like to see more women stop caring about what others think. Stop feeling guilty. Stop hiding the formula cans, justifying the extended breastfeeding, whatever. Just stop. And acknowledge that you are the MOTHER, you are IN CHARGE OF THIS LITTLE BABY, AND IN CHARGE OF YOUR OWN LIFE. and the best example you can set for your child is not breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, it’s having the assertiveness to make a choice one way or the other, to own that choice, and to proceed with confidence.ReplyCancel

  • Amber - For me, you hit the nail on the head early on in your post. I breasted my daughter for nearly 3 years, and I’m currently breastfeeding my 20-month-old. I consider myself a lactivist. But, I don’t think this is about other moms and judging them. I think this is about the lack of support society shows breastfeeding moms.

    Here in Canada we have access to a full year of paid maternity leave. We have access to free medical care. While our breastfeeding support could be better, it is not accessible to only those who can afford it. Our breastfeeding rates are not ideal, but they are higher than the US rates. I think, at least in part, it’s because moms don’t have to make the same choices and face the same struggles related to working and breastfeeding.

    I don’t want any mom to feel badly for her choices. I think that many parents are left out to dry, and it’s so sad. We, as a society, owe new parents far more support than we give them. Our healthcare providers need up-to-date information. When people are overwhelmed, they need someplace to turn. And that’s true whether we’re talking about breastfeeding, or any other aspect of new parenthood. Having a newborn is overwhelming, and most of us are doing it with only our partners for support. We deserve better.ReplyCancel

  • Jill - Thank you for this. I am a supporter of CHOICE, whatever works for the mom and baby, just feed the baby. I tried breastfeeding and feel like I gave it my all, it did not work out, I started using formula, yet found myself feeling oh so guilty for it. Even now with my son being 13 months old and off formula, I find myself skating around the fact that I formula fed my son to other moms in playgroup when they discuss breastfeeding. I’m so afraid of being judged by them and not being part of their breastfeeding circle. I’m not even sure why I do this, I should be proud of my intelligent, thriving, and healthy formula fed son but instead I still feel guilty 13 months later. Sad some mom’s who choose formula have to feel this way. We should just be proud of creating a human life and making sure they get the proper nutrition whether it is with breastmilk or formula, instead some of us find ourselves hiding formula in the bottom of our shopping carts so other mom’s don’t give us the side eye.ReplyCancel

  • CollieJade (Katie) - Thank you for this post. I really appreciate that you see both sides of the situation. I have to admit, however, that I am one of those moms that reads the first quote from your blogger friend and wants to go egg her house, because she clearly doesn’t acknowledge people like your OTHER blogger friend who try to the point of insanity to BF, and can’t.

    I spent 6 1/2 months of my life and my daughter’s life trying to BF exclusively, but was never able to, and had to supplement with formula. I pumped every 3 hours AROUND THE CLOCK FOR 4 MONTHS, had extensive testing, saw 5 different doctors, took every herb known to man, had acupuncture, lymphatic massage, chiropractic treatments, and even took non-FDA approved pharmaceuticals to try to bring my milk supply in further. It never happened.

    While I appreciate what your first blogger friend was saying about lack of support and education for women who chose to BF, she needs to realize that there are a LOT more women out there than she may think that are truly not able to BF no matter how hard they try.ReplyCancel

  • Beyond Bottles And Breasts – The Key To Whole Baby Nourishment | Janet Lansbury - […] Block at Open Salon; An Open Letter to My Fellow Breastfeeding Advocates by Megan at Sorta Crunchy; Sitting On the Breastfeeding Fence by Jill at Baby Rabies; and If You Plan to Breastfeed, Educate Yourself  by Fearless Formula […]ReplyCancel

  • gadgets (be/nl) - Hi! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa? My site covers a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other. If you’re interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Wonderful blog by the way!ReplyCancel

  • Elf on the Shelf Light Boy cyber Monday deals - I really like what you guys tend to be up
    too. Such clever work and exposure! Keep up the great works
    guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.ReplyCancel

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