• Fri, May 9 - 3:00 pm ET

Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot How Did You Choose Between Breastfeeding And Formula?

mom advice

Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot is an ongoing series dedicated to helping one very well-intentioned and dumb future-parent learn about the world of childrearing. Click here to see past columns.

When it comes to the breastfeeding/formula debate, I’m confident that you all made the right choice for your families, because you’re the parent and not me (unless you’re following these recipes). But my question is how did you decide between breastfeeding or formula?

This is one area of parenting that I have given exactly zero thought to, and don’t plan to for a while to come. It seems too specific and was my introduction into the world of nipple butter, so I have been happily staying away from the idea of how to feed my future babies. Honestly, thinking about logistics like this makes the whole parenting thing seem way too close, and I’m just not ready. I figure at some point or another, I’ll dive into some research about this, but in the meantime, I want to know what you guys think, since I trust you all a lot more than the rest of the Internet, anyways.

I don’t particularly understand why (blame my youthful naiveté), but the formula/breastfeeding debate seems to be a rage filled one. I thought it was a personal choice made by each mother, but of course, anything relating to a woman’s body and lifestyle is open to scrutiny. I also know that for some mothers, it’s hardly as easy as choosing between the two. Some mothers can’t breast feed even if they want to for whatever reason, so I know that some parents end up with a situation they didn’t plan on.

So I want to know what plan you used to feed your baby/toddler/eight-year-old, and how you came to that conclusion. Did you take into account how you were fed as a child, or do you prefer not to think about the mechanics of it (you and me both, friend)? Would you do it the same way over again, or did you switch it up for your next kid? Lay it on me.

Photo: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

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  • ChickenKira

    Painful, re-occurring cysts in milk ducts.

    I didn’t like having them and my daughter preferred drinking formula to drinking cyst fluid and blood.

    • Tinyfaeri

      Ouch. :(

  • Larkin

    First, a disclaimer: I’m still pregnant with my first. So, y’know, grain of salt and all that. But, since you’re asking about the actual decision making process and not the actual act of breastfeeding or formula feeding, I figure my input still counts. ;-)

    I honestly didn’t put a whole lot of thought into deciding to breastfeed. My mom breastfed me and my two brothers, it’s healthy for the baby, it’s free, and I like the idea of developing a closer bond with the baby through breastfeeding. There was never really much of a “debate” about it, I just kind of knew what I wanted to do.

    That said, obviously I haven’t jumped into the trenches yet… so, if it turns out to be not possible for whatever reason, I’m not going to beat myself up about using formula.

    • brebay

      I think this is totally the right attitude for new parenting in general! I think people have too much of a plan, and then when that plan doesn’t work for the baby, they feel like something’s gone wrong. It’s hard, you do what works, and if that stops working, you do something else. Goes by fast and you really will miss that tiny screaming, needy person when they’re big! Do whatever lets you both enjoy it most in the moment, good luck!

    • calichick

      Um no, you do not get a closer bond when you BF! That is yet another myth perpetuated by the “lactivists” who seem to think all FF bottle-prop. You get a close bond to your baby when you engage them while feeding, by making eye contact and skin-to-skin contact. Having your boob in their mouth does not make some magical extra-bond that nothing can compare to.

  • The Kez

    I breasted my son for 18 months, stopped when my supply dwindled because I was pregnant with my daughter. She is now 9 months and exclusively breast fed. Certain parts of it I hate (engorgement, waking up in a pool of milk, doing 100% of the night feeds, pumping 3 times per day) but on the whole I’ve really loved it. I feel really lucky that it worked with both kids.

    I know people hate the weight loss myth, but I found it to be true. I eat like six meals a day and am at my lowest weight since highschool. The hard bit will be basically halving my calorie consumption when I stop breast feeding.

  • Angela

    Both have pros and cons. Breastfeeding is free and in some ways more convenient. You can do nighttime feedings without getting out of bed, don’t have to cart bottles with you, or make late night dashes to the store when you realize you’re running low. Plus, while they’re generally exaggerated by lactivists there are health benefits for your baby. On the other hand, it can be frustrating and painful at first and you are basically tethered to your baby (or a pump) every few hours, many moms feel uncomfortable feeding in public, and most jobs are not very accommodating to nursing moms.

    Formula means you don’t have to pump if you leave baby with someone else for more than a couple hours. It also means you can have your partner take turns with nighttime feedings. On the other hand, formula can be expensive (unless you qualify for WIC) and it means that you get to spend more time preparing and washing bottles. Also if you’re disorganized like me then chances are you’ll find yourself stranded at least once with a hungry baby and no food (I’ve forgotten to restock the diaper bag on occasion, but never leave home without my boobs).

    And while you don’t mention it there’s also the option of pumping which I found to be the worst of both worlds. I don’t knock moms for choosing to pump exclusively. If it worked for you then great, but I found everything about pumping to be a huge PIA.

  • Liz

    Honestly, I’m planning on breastfeeding because it’s free and because it may help with losing the baby weight.

    • brebay

      Yeah, it does, but the part they never mention is that you may gain it back when you stop. At six weeks I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans, and 6 months later, when I stopped pumping, all of a sudden I looked like I just had a baby.

    • calichick

      Don’t count on that. I only have had two breastfeeding friends lose the baby weight. I had more friends *gain* weight BF then lose. The weight loss is a myth. Just because it has helped some women get slim fast does not mean it works for all women. If you are larger before getting pregnant it is harder to get the baby weight to go away. I am slender, gained ten pounds more than my ideal during my pregnancy and exclusively FF and lost the baby weight in 3 weeks, and I was still eating like crap and not doing any exercising beyond baby care and very light housework.

    • rachel

      FWIW, I did lose weight from BF. I was thin/fit before pregnancy and am at a lower weight now than before I was pregnant. Every body is different and genetics and how your body was before you got pregnant, etc all play a role.

  • CW

    My oldest was physically unable to nurse. I tried pumping, but my milk dried up at 6 weeks post-partum despite everything I tried to build supply (medications, herbs, pumping every 2 hours ’round the clock, etc.) I didn’t know about milk banks, and even if I had, I couldn’t have afforded the cost. So she got formula. I *HATED* bottle feeding because it was so expensive and such a hassle. I was very glad, therefore, when I was able to nurse my younger two. One self-weaned at 11 months and the other I weaned at her first birthday.

  • Jessie

    I breastfed our first son for 11 months and hated it. I felt it really isolated me because I never felt comfortable breastfeeding in public or in front of family even. I always went to another room or tried awkward nursing covers. Outings were always planned around his feedings because I wouldn’t go out if I knew I might be put in a position where he would be hungry and I wouldn’t have anywhere to feed him. Kudos to the women who can breastfeed in public and I think everyone should have the freedom to do so, but I never could. I continued to breastfeed because I felt like I had to- like formula was a failure. Plus I had great milk supply and I know many woman struggle with that so I felt like I couldn’t turn down what nature had given me. With my second son I tried again and he had a poor latch (oh darn!) so I pumped for a month before switching to formula. I love both sons but I am in such a better place emotionally and mentally with my new baby and I can really enjoy him. I was so stressed and anxious when breastfeeding that it took some of the enjoyment out of the early months with my first baby. Breast isn’t always best. Babies do deserve the best and nothing is better than a happy, healthy mom.

    • Eve

      I couldn’t breastfeed in public either. DD would get so distracted in public that it wouldn’t have worked anyway.

  • aCongaLine

    I started off breastfeeding my first, as I thought it would be easier/cheaper. It was an awful experience for both of us, and there was no support to be had- I called the LLL in my area, and was yelled at militantly, and the 4 LCs I called never called me back, and my OB was on vacation. After crying and crying (both her and I) we gradually switched from breastfeeding to pumping, and then to formula. I told myself I would never EVER be that stressed out again. With #2, my philosophy was “I’m going to give it a try, but I’m going to do what works best for everyone (meaning myself and my 20 month old, as well as the newborn). I was determined to not stress out and cry over it.

    #2 latched with some issues initially, and I was able to pump and freeze, and all was going well, but then we moved, and it was too much for all of us. I gradually gave it up, because it was way too much stress on my toddler (too many transitions all at once- new baby, new house, new room, etc.), and we also needed to do a significant amount of renovations… it just didn’t fit well, and I couldn’t get the hang of multitasking. #2 was a slow muncher (still is, at 1), and there just weren’t enough hours in the day to attend to the toddler, the new baby, and the house. Something had to give, and I decided that breastfeeding was low man on the totem pole.

    I have no regrets- I did what I had to do to meet the needs of my family, and I’ve made peace with it. I’m sad I didn’t get to breastfeed #2 longer- had we been settled int he house already, and had #1 been adjusted and comfortable in the house, it would have been significantly easier… but I wasn’t going to ignore my toddler, and if I had stuck with the boobs, I would have had to, I’m just not that good at multitasking.

    I did get a significant amount of grief from the other young mom on the street. We’re not friends, since she showed her colors as one of those “If you feed formula, you don’t love your child” people. i told her that it wasn’t her business, and to fuck off, really loudly, and in front of her baby… haven’t talked to her since.

    • cabinfever

      That’s terrible that you couldn’t find anyone to help you when you were having trouble the first time. Your experience reflects what I think might be the general perception about lactation resources – they’re available, but somewhat militant/intimidating.

      At the same time, there are so many of us who are more than happy to share our experience with BF with anyone who wants to hear it. The first few weeks can be absolutely excruciating; without support and encouragement, I totally understand why people would stop.

      There are so many aspects of parenting that are scrutinized endlessly, but when it comes to some pretty common – and traumatic – occurrences for women, like difficulty breastfeeding, or miscarriages, everything kind of goes quiet.

  • TheGirlWhoWoreGlasses

    Formula for both. Of course, I almost died having the first one (HELLP syndrome), and my milk never came in. When #2 came along 15 months after #1, I was too tired to consider anything but a shared feeding arrangement. The knowledge I was going back to work after six weeks with both of them sealed.

  • azy

    Right before I had my second daughter, I moved two thousand miles and had to leave my husbandbehind. We moved into my family’s house so I could help my grandparents take care of their three great-grandkids. Until then, my daughter had been an only child. It was hard on her. When the baby was born, I breastfed for six weeks then stopped. My youngest had a hard time latching even at that point and it took up so much time. I probably could have kept it up but everytime my older daughter asked me to do something with her and I couldn’t, I felt so bad. I know a lot of people would have kept going but with so much upheaval, I wanted to give my oldest as much attention as possible. It helps that my grandma who loves babies can feed her while I take the older kids for a walk, etc.

  • Em

    I wanted to make sure my son got that badass colostrum. After that I just kept going with breast feeding. I almost switched to formula when I went back to work because omg pumping is a pain in the ass! Then I remembered how stinky formula poop is, and I stuck with bf instead. He quit nursing at 10 months all on his own. Stinky poop ever since.

  • kay

    I breastfeed. It worked out for me, it’s awesome. I decided to do it because, you know, my boobs are there, and it burns calories, etc. I’m a SAHM-I don’t know how pumping all day would’ve worked for me. But staying at home it’s been great, I love having a way to pacify her, I’ve always got food with me, never have to wash bottles.

  • calichick

    I chose formula from Day One. I carried the kid for nine months and gave birth to her, I was not going to be the only one losing sleep feeding and caring for her either. i heard too many stories from BF friends where they ended up ding everything because you’re already feeding the baby so you might as well change and soothe it too. I hate the argument that BF is free because it isn’t. That is my *time* I am spending and it makes it feel like people think a mother’s time is worth nothing.

    Luckily I found a pediatrician who didn’t care as long as the baby was fed and loved, but the bitch nurse after I gave birth tried to give me crap. She regretted it dearly…I wasn’t some young thing she could bully, I was 32, used to dealing with people who thought they could bully me in the course of my job and I laid her out. Before I left the hospital another nurse thanked me on behalf of all the other nurses because apparently Ms Know-It-All was as horrible to her co-workers as she was to me and she had been scared into shape apparently. I hope it stuck. Wonder how many new moms she gave PTSD to with that attitude.

    I was formula fed because my mother nearly died during my birth and was touch and go for a few weeks, and the hubs was only BF for a few weeks because he had a very troublesome older brother whom my MIL could not keep an eye on and BF at the same time.

    • brebay

      I don’t know why nurses do that. When my son wouldn’t latch back on after I had to stop nursing for 24 hours when I had anesthesia, they were absolutely militant about getting him back on there. I finally called time out when one was actually forcing him onto me while he was screaming his head off. I was like, That’s it, he made his decision, we’re done, the emotional damage is going to do more harm than the breastmilk is good!

    • LiteBrite

      There was one nurse in the hospital who forced my son onto me too. Same thing, he was screaming his head off and she was almost literally pushing his head into my breast. Thank God my husband was there and said, “Enough!”

      That was pretty much the end of my breastfeeding attempts too.

  • StarHopper

    I was committed to breastfeeding before I even started trying to get pregnant. I think I was influenced most by a blogger I’ve been reading for years. She started writing about makeup/handbags/hair, but transitioned to family issues when she had kids, and I just kept reading her stuff. She wrote a lot about her struggles with breastfeeding, and had no qualms about using formula when she needed it. So I always just thought I would do my best with breastfeeding, and I had that canister of formula in the pantry if I needed it.

    My son is a year old now, and I’ve never needed formula. I’m pretty lucky in that I can pump easily. Pumping at work (I teach high school) is kind of nice, since I put up a Not Available sign, put on some good music, and eat and pump while I read my blogs. I find it relaxing.

    • brebay

      I hated pumping so much, I felt like a cow, and I was working in a daycare at the time, so it was easy enough and people were supported, but I just really didn’t like it. I guess I’m glad now that I did it, because I though it was best at the time, but my formula baby has always been healthier. I don’t think I’ll ever get that electric-pump sound out of my head.

    • Melissa

      I’m a teacher too (middle school) and I found it incredibly difficult to find time to pump during the school day. I only have one plan period and it’s right before lunch so I could only pump once and my supply went way down within a couple weeks of returning to work. I could have made a stink about it and demanded coverage for my classes and a private place to pump, but hated pumping so much I just didn’t have the energy to fight that battle.

    • StarHopper

      Oh, I hear you on that! I always have too much work to do during my planning time to pump. When my baby was younger, I would pump one side first thing in the morning, at lunch, and right after school. Once he was eating solids, I was able to taper back, so now just lunch works. I have a friend who teaches & pumps, too, and she had to get coverage to do so. She still hates it.

  • guest

    My baby’s head was so bruised by forceps having to be used that she screamed bloody murder whenever I tried to breastfeed her because I had to move her around and touch her head a lot. :/ After two days of that, I decided maybe formula would be the way to go…it was a lot easier to let her rest on her little pillow or peacefully in my arms and use a bottle. Also, came in handy later when I developed PPD & had to send her to my mother’s for a bit (I was a danger to myself, not her, but I needed that week long break to get my feet back under me).

    • brebay

      Oh, poor baby! Forceps scare me so much more than a c-section! I know what you mean about the break. I had, probably not full-blown PPD but the “baby blues” with my first. I was in the hospital for 24 hours for surgery when he was 2 weeks old, and just that time off made all the difference in the world! I was never so happy to have anesthesia, I was finally going to get some uninterrupted sleep. I still remember lying there with my demerol pump and watching Cosby Show reruns with nobody crying. I felt completely renewed after that (albeit a little sore). I think things would have gotten worse if I hadn’t had even just that short break.

  • noelle 02

    My mom breastfed me and I thought the pictures were cute. My best friend’s mom breastfed her baby sister and brother when I was in elementary school. I wasn’t around many other babies when I was little, so breastfeeding seemed normal to me. There’s pictures of me as a six year old with a doll stuck up my shirt! My mom was a member of La Leche League while nursing me and encouraged me to join after my first was born. They helped with the few nursing issues I had with my oldest. I loved nursing because I could bring the kid to bed with me and fall asleep while they nursed. I love saving money in order to make my staying home realistic for us, so the no money for formula thing was a huge incentive. Between my three kids, I nursed for seven years because it just seemed natural and easy.

    • noelle 02

      I should add that I speak openly about what a great experience breastfeeding was for me but I think any method of feeding a baby that makes mom and baby happy is perfect.

  • Austie

    I’m absolutely not an AP style parent (my baby is CIO at this very moment and I make no apologies for it) but I love, love, love breastfeeding and wish more moms could at least attempt it. It majorly SUCKED at first, it took over a week for my milk to come in and I had to supplement, baby had nipple confusion, got mastitis, had to use a nipple shield…but, at 8-9 weeks it all resolved itself and has been the most awesome thing ever. When he woke in the middle of the night, my boobs were all I needed and 10 minutes later he was back asleep. And I love that I’m the only one who can feed him but I’m just weird that way.

    • calichick

      Why should more moms attempt it? Their body, their choice. Just because you enjoyed it after overcoming obstacles does not mean others would. I would HATE to be the only one who could feed my daughter, I love that my husband, all four of her grandparents and her doting uncle can all sit down and enjoy feeding her, as she loves to make eye contact during feedings and it is the sweetest thing to see the happiness in her eyes…she is the first grandchild so she is spoiled with attention.

    • Austie

      No one said it’s not their choice. I said I wish they could attempt it. That’s because our society does not support breastfeeding. Our elected representatives pay a lot of lip service to the importance of families, but when it comes down to it they would never support public policies that support families like other developed countries. I had a job that made pumping impossible even though they had to legally allow i, so I decided staying home was more important. I wish our society supported that decision instead of people assuming I’m a lazy housewife trying to get out of working. And no one enjoys overcoming obstacles, it’s just what you have to do to feed your child. Something that annoys me to no end is when people say “we use formula and my baby is fine.” OF COURSE your baby is fine, no one ever said it’s not fine. If it wasn’t it wouldn’t be sold. But there is just no question that breast milk is better. Formula is close, but not equal. That is just a fact.

      And I said I’m weird that I like being the only one who feeds my baby. He refuses bottles, and I’ve tried everything – I mean everything- to get him to take a bottle. I had to learn to accept this. It is what it is, and now I like it. I happily live far away from my family and in-laws, and I wouldn’t trust them anyway. I saw my MIL put soda in a bottle for my one year old niece and my mom constantly smokes around my nephew.

  • brebay

    I breastfed the first, but I had surgery 2 weeks after he was born and he just would not latch on after that. He was sickly and I wanted him to have breastmilk, so I pumped and fed him breastmilk in bottles for another 6 months which sucked, because it’s the work of doing both, plus you get the “Oh, so you’re not REALLY bresatfeeding” garbage. Second one I pretty much did formula after the first month, but he still comfort-nursed when he was really tired or not feeling well. Overall the mainly-formula kid was healthier and slept better, but whether it’s related, I don’t know. Babies are hard. Colicky babies are FREAKING hard. You do whatever works.

    • jenstar

      Some serious respect for your tenacity with the whole pumping/bottles. I have a friend who had to do that after the nurses gave her son a bottle at the hospital. It looked like an incredible amount of work!

    • Kat

      Anyone who says that pumping isn’t really breastfeeding should be punched in the face. Repeatedly. Pumping is HARD.

    • brebay

      One was the 17-year-old mother of a toddler, I was like “Bitch, when you’re old enough to vote, you can tell me how to be a mom.” (didn’t really, but I practically had to bite my tongue OFF)

  • Ashley

    I almost bled to death during delivery and have 42E breasts that would not produce colostrum or even milk for my very small mouthed daughter while I was recovering. I had intended to breastfeed but with my baby losing blood sugar and dropping weight fast and me unable to produce, we had to go with formula. After that we had one terrible lactation nurse after another, who looked at my problematic breasts and said that it was normal for breastfeeding to be excruciatingly painful and that if I was dry it just meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. I was shamed and bullied about breastfeeding by the nurses for about two weeks while I struggled to recover the massive blood volume I’d lost and never managed to get her to latch. I got a pump but my milk supply dwindled to nothing in about 3 months no matter what I did. Oh and I live in canada where the healthcare system is supposed to be a lot better and a lot more supportive. Yeah right. In the end I did what I needed to keep my child fed and I’ve become a very outspoken supporter of women who use formula and who are bullied and harassed for it. At the end of the day what matters is healthy, happy babies AND healthy (physically and emotionally), happy moms.

  • EnglishSarah

    I started to breastfeed as I thought it was best for the baby and continued because it was easy, the easiest thing I have ever done. I’m also lazy so the idea of cleaning bottles was horrifying to me.

  • Melissa

    I started off breastfeeding, but daughter wouldn’t latch without a nipple shield, and even then it was a hit-or-miss battle that often ended with both of us crying. She wasn’t gaining weight fast enough, and the lactation consultant who visited me at home made me feel like an utter failure for this and had me doing all kinds of crazy tricks involving (for every single feeding) pumping for several minutes, then giving daughter that breast milk via syringe, then getting her to latch and feed with nipple shield, then immediately pumping again to keep supply up. This was an hour-long process I had to repeat every 2-3 hours for weeks until she gained enough weight, and it nearly drove me out of my mind. Literally all I did was feed, pump, and clean pump equipment ’round the clock. I was exhausted and miserable. When I returned to work after my measly 6 week maternity leave, I only had one time where I could pump during the day (I’m a teacher and only had the time and privacy to pump during my one daily planning period) so my supply went down very quickly, and then the most amazing bit of bad luck happened–our dog got a hold of and chewed up the diaphragm parts of my breast pump and it would have been days before replacements parts arrived, so I was forced to use formula and–hallelujah–I never looked back and never regretted it. My daughter was very healthy on formula and so much happier and so was I. I finally felt like myself again after months of miserable anxiety and guilt over feeding issues. Now I am almost at my due date with my second, and I will give breast feeding another go (formula is so effing expensive and bottles are a pain to clean), but if there are latching issues this time around no way I am going through the hell I went through with my first! We will go straight to formula and feel just fine about it.

  • momma425

    My choice was made easy. I qualified for WIC, and back then we got 9 cans of free formula per month, which pretty much covered what my daughter needed. I am a very modest person and do mot feel comfortable exposing much cleavage in public much less do anything else. What finally sealed the deal for me was learning that breastfeeding can be painful. Pain? No thanks. I chose formula four months before she was born.

    • CW

      I’m a very modest person and discovered that wearing my baby in a sling was great for nursing in public. Nobody could tell that I was nursing because all they saw was the sling covering the baby.

    • CW

      I’m a very modest person and discovered that wearing my baby in a sling was great for nursing in public. Nobody could tell that I was nursing because all they saw was the sling covering the baby.

  • Melissa Lepley

    I have a 13 month old boy, and he was exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and had been (very slowly) weaning as we introduce solids. He still nurses quite a lot.

    I chose to breastfeed because:

    1) All other things being equal (i.e. you are physically capable, and not having issues economically, physically, or emotionally) breastmilk is better than formula. I know there are a ton of good reasons and circumstances that require formula, so I’m not all sanctimommy about it, but let’s be honest – breast is best.

    2) I’m profoundly lazy, and after the first 6 weeks or so, nursing was SO EASY. No preparation, no worries about refrigeration, don’t even have to get out of bed at night to feed him.

    3) Nursing is a (within reason) cure-all for anything that’s wrong with my kid. Teething? Nursing makes him feel better. Sick? Nursing comforts him and makes sure he doesn’t get dehydrated. Annoying the crap out of me? Nursing gives us a little break and improves his disposition.

    4) I’m lucky enough to stay home with him for the most part (I tutor on the weekends, but can get home between students to feed him when he needs it.) So nursing is very doable for us. No pumping, an embarrassment of supply, and plenty of time! If I were working or had supply issues, this all might be different.

    I’m pregnant again now (10 weeks, yaaay) and I plan to exclusively breastfeed the next one too. I may even end up tandem nursing, since #1 won’t even be 2 yet.

    Here’s what I’ll do differently this time: give the kid one bottle a day so that he/she will be willing to drink from a bottle when necessary. #1 would just throw the bottle and give me a dirty look. Let the kid use a pacifier for a few minutes each day, so he/she won’t just spit it out. No bedsharing!

    • Melissa Lepley

      FWIW: I have ginormous breasts and had incredibly flat nipples, so the first four or five weeks were a real struggle. Lots of pain, tears, and pumping. But we got through it, my nipple learned to poke out a bit, and I learned the best position for feeding a baby while restraining overly enthusiastic boobs. I think the next kid will be easier, at least from a nipple perspective!

    • keetakat

      Perseverance Of the nipple!!! ( a new book?)

  • shorty_RN

    I tried breastfeeding, and honestly I didn’t like it. So painful. I pumped for 2 months but my supply was not great, so it didn’t seem worth the struggle anymore. Little man is now 6 months old, exclusively formula fed, and doing great.

  • Sara J. Hutchinson Underwood

    I wanted to do it for the usual reasons – it’s cheaper, healthier, better bonding, higher IQ, baby won’t get sick, etc – for my first I did it 4 months and my milk supply gave out, I cried and felt like a total failure and switched to formula. With my second, I said I’ll breastfed as long as I can and I made it to 5 months before I started supplementing with formula and probably around 7 months before I stopped breastfeeding and went to formula exclusively. I think the difference was that I knew enough to just trust my body and my instincts, and be damned about what I’m “supposed” to do to be a “good mom.”

    • WriterLady

      I will always support a woman’s choice to breastfeed. With that said, it has been my experience that many of the “reasons” women are given to breastfeed are scare tactics. I do think breastmilk can provide important antibodies, but the notion that breastfed children have higher IQs and are sick much less frequently is seriously debatable. Much of this has to do with circumstantial data that the studies fail to point out. It’s more likely for women who may not be in a position to do the best parenting (or have the best education and resources, in general) to formula feed. In inner-city areas with high levels of poverty and crime (and their rural counterparts), the statistics on women who breastfeed drops significantly. Because of these factors, the studies may actually be accounting for genetic and environmental factors–not the actual consequences of not breastfeeding.

      An example: All of my family members were formula fed, for at least the past three generations. However, we came from a middle-class family in which both parents were educated and they had the resources and innate knowledge passed down from their own mothers and fathers to know how to parent well. (As an aside, this isn’t so much an income issue, but one of generational problems that abound for numerous people of all races, ethnicities, age groups, and so forth.) At any rate, we all have higher than average IQs, and none of us have been sick much at all. My dad had prostate cancer in his mid-50s, but that’s about it. My brother and I both graduated with master’s degrees at the top of our respective classes, and he only deals with a mild case of seasonal allergies (as with many people who live in the Midwest). I’ve only had a few minor problems (mild endometriosis is the one that stands out), and I rarely get ordinary illness such as the flu. My son was hardly ever sick as an infant and toddler until we sent him to an actual daycare center (as opposed to an in-home provider), but it’s important to note that all of the other kids pass around the illnesses—regardless of whether they were breastfed or not. I completely agree with a woman’s personal decision to decide on either route (or a mixture of both, of course), but I think supporters have misled some people into thinking their children will have a much better quality of life if breastfeed, when, in actuality, it’s really not true in most cases. Outcomes depend largely on genetics, environmental factors, and one’s ability to parent well. Again, though, I do support breastfeeding for those who enjoy the bonding time, the financial benefits, and so forth.

  • LittleBird

    I decided to breastfeed because I grew up around it. My mom and aunts all breastfed around me, so it just seemed to me as normal, another part of caring for a baby. They were also open about the things that don’t go smoothly when it comes to breastfeeding (leaking, painful latches, the potential for the baby to bite you, milk supply issues, etc.) so I was never fed the lie that breastfeeding “should be” 100% perfect, 100% easy for everyone always “or else you don’t love your baby/just aren’t trying hard enough!!!11!” That’s militant BS.

    There are just so many variables that aren’t in your control when it comes to how breastfeeding will work out for you and your baby. Yes, I had to try hard to keep at it but I was also plain lucky. The variables and problems we had happened to work together to allow me to breastfeed my son for one year so far!

    For example, my baby was born severely tongue and lip tied, meaning, he couldn’t suck until that was corrected two days after birth. And on top of that, my nipples are small and flat, which added to the pain and difficulty of latching at first. These problems can generally lead to poor supply and low weight gain. Even before my son’s tongue tie was corrected, he was getting lots of colostrum thanks to my mega over-active letdowns. My LC and nurses were amazed because I could pump OUNCES of colostrum when I was in the hospital. When my milk came in two days later, there was So. Much. I had an oversupply for about the first 7 months of my son’s life and was able to donate my milk.

    I stay home with my son also, which has made it much easier to breastfeed whenever he wanted, which was often! This has allowed me to binge on netflix everyday for months and do little else. I’m currently laying on my ass in sweatpants, on my iPad, while my almost one year old nurses to sleep on my chest. :) As a lazy, introverted sort of person, this has been AMAZING. There were definitely moments in the early days where I felt “trapped” by that situation/by my boobs, and I still get why people switch to formula. It’s not easy or practical for everyone to breastfeed. But I have loved my experience!

  • keetakat

    It was never a question. I always just assumed I would nurse because that’s what I can do… and I’m cheap.

  • Mama of 4

    I chose formula after 9 days of trying to breastfeed a tongue tied baby. We ended up at the midwife’s office with baby and I both exhausted from sleeping no more than 20 minutes at a time, and me hysterical about one of my nipples hanging off of my body and the fact that my son was vomiting blood (mine, not his, which apparently makes it okay), hadn’t pooped anything but meconium since his birth and had urine that was bright orange crystals. Got given the option of supplementing with formula or taking son to the newborn ICU. We chose the bottle, much to the midwife’s disgust. Son didn’t need to go to hospital in the end, I taped my nipple back down for the next 6 months and we’re both much happier for it.

  • AG

    Every mom should breast feed in America b/c baby formula is really getting worse.

    I realize not every mom can breastfeed & it is difficult for many including myself. I keep at it, got breast milk from the area milk bank, & bought Holle’s formula from Germany to supplement. I even use herbs from Herb Lore & took advice from Pam, the owner who is also a certified Lactation Consultant. I found an OT, a great lactation consultant who was encouraging, & always said “Do what’s best for baby & you.”
    I truly empathize will moms’ struggles to breast feed but beg them to keep trying b/c it generally gets better after a couple months, seek an encouraging Lactation Consultant, & even see an Occupational Therapist since OT’s can provide exercises for baby’s mouth to improve shape to get a better/ comfortable latch.

    USA baby formula is a disgrace & corporations should be disgusted with the things they do to our baby formula.

    There are many lawsuits against formula manufacturers & even Whole Foods for failing to honor their commitment to sell natural foods since Earth’s Best contains GMOs like DHA & AHA.

    Last September 2010, Abbott Laboratories recalled more than five million
    containers of its Similac baby formula because they may have been
    contaminated with beetles or beetle larvae (http://www.naturalnews.com/029835_Similac_re…),
    which prompted at least one individual to file a lawsuit against the
    company for deceiving the public about the wholesomeness and quality of
    its formula.

    But US District Judge Virginia Kendall, who presided
    over the case, recently dismissed it, claiming that Abbott never made
    any claims that its product was “safe,” but only that it is nutritional
    and wholesome, which Judge Kendall basically purported is true
    regardless of whether or not the product contains bug parts.—-
    ALL Manufacturers SHOULD PROVE their baby formulas ARE SAFE!

    The US courts say it is O.K. for Abbott Labs to sell bug infested baby formula.
    Why do consumers trust Abbott Labs Similac formulas?

    Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/033263_Similac_baby_formula.html#ixzz31MZ9MbiS

    Please read about all the additives in baby formula & your choices here:


    • KarenMS

      For all the scary articles people find to post about formula, there are an overwhelming number of perfectly healthy formula fed people out there, now spanning generations.

    • Kelly

      If I had “keep at it” for a “couple of months” my child would be dead. Explain to me how it would be better for me to kill my son than feed him formula without sounding like a monster. Go ahead, try.

    • AP

      1) Most bugs aren’t harmful to eat. At worst, it’s just icky. At best, it’s a good source of protein.
      2) Natural News is not a valid source.

    • whiteroses

      If you want to talk beetle larvae, I take it you’ve never heard of the cochineal beetle- which is a main ingredient in red food coloring and red lipstick.
      If my options are my baby starving to death and them eating a bug, I know which one I pick.

  • LiLi

    I am a little over 2.5 months into breastfeeding my baby boy. I keep formula in the back of my mind as a supplemental option, but I would really like to keep him on breast milk only until we introduce solids and end breast milk at a year old. I am fortunate to:
    1 have an abundant supply
    2 little personal issue with feeding in public,
    3 14 weeks of paid maternity leave
    4 no problems with pumping
    5 a baby who had no problem switching between the bottle and breast
    6 an employer that is very supportive of nursing mothers and has comfortable lactation rooms

    As long as I don’t run into supply issues once I go back to work I don’t see why I can’t carry out my plan.

    That said, I’m going to be separated from my boy for 4 days in September due to a convention, and while I hope to have a stash large enough to take him through, I will also be leaving formula to supplement in an emergency. I have no issue with formula, just isn’t for me unless I have to use it.

  • Annie Berkowitz

    My daughter died a month ago breast fed or not that would have made no difference. Just do what you want to your FXXXING kids it makes no difference if they die

    • Gangle

      I don’t know what to say. I am so very sorry.

  • Mama

    With my first, I was 100% committed to breastfeeding, come hell or high water. The first five weeks were nightmarish. His latch was horrible and I was in extreme pain, with cracked and bleeding nipples, and I dreaded every minute of feeding. While we eventually got the worst of it sorted out with the help of a LC, I never did enjoy it after that. I always felt irritated, and never felt any of that lovely bonding stuff you’re supposed to feel. Nonetheless, I nursed him until 21 months, when I was a couple of months pregnant with #2, and realized I really needed to give myself a bit of a break before going full bore again.

    The first few weeks with #2 were challenging, but not nearly as bad as the first time around. I just didn’t like it and I hated being chained to a bed or chair all day, and being solely responsible for night feedings. I told myself I would nurse exclusively for the first six weeks, and then if I still felt averse to it, I’d supplement with formula overnight. Wouldn’t you know it, after a few weeks, his latch was great, he was stretching his feedings to every 3-4 hours, and he was fairly efficient. By two months, he eliminated night feedings on his own. I actually started to enjoy breastfeeding. He’s now four months old, still exclusively breast fed, and I don’t feel any inclination to change things. Two kids, two very different experiences!

  • CleaK

    My 1st is 18 mo old and he was formula fed. I was raised by women all around me who breastfed and I was breastfed myself (as were all 5 of my siblings.) When my son was born that was what I was going to do. He latched fine and fed fine but it was so incredibly painful. I bruised terribly and everytime he latched I just wanted to cry. I began to be resentful of this beautiful creature and his incessant need to eat all the time. On top of the pain, my supply was terrible. We went into the pediatrician’s office almost everyday for a week after we got out of the hospital because he was not gaining his weight back. I tried supplements, drank about a gallon of water a day, and ate foods that were supposed to boost supply-nothing worked. After about a week of that it was suggested that start supplementing with formula. It felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I still attempted to breastfeed and would pump until he was about 8 weeks old but at that point he was eating 4 oz in a sitting and I was pumping that much in a full day at work. It just stopped making sense for me.

    I will probably try to breastfeed my next one and hopefully it will get better but I was able to bond so much better with my son when I wasn’t feeling so stressed from his eating. I was starting to move towards some post-partem depression issues and I think the formula feeding helped stem some of that. I loved that my husband could be more involved in his care and bond with his son too. My son is smart, a healthy weight and developmentally perfect so I don’t think the formula hurt him.

  • Ashlea Phenicie

    I want to breastfeed just because it seems like a nice bonding thing and saves money on formula. I don’t have very sensitive nipples, so it should be fine, but if I end up hating it, I’ll just switch to formula. I hate when people act like it’s so unhealthy. Millions of kids were brought up on it without significant problems. Get over yourself.

  • footnotegirl

    My plan was to exclusively breast feed for at least the first three months (6 weeks of being home with her and 6 more weeks of only working part time in a breast feeding positive work environment). My mom had breast fed us during the 60′s and 70′s when it was actually a choice she had to fight for, and I wanted that for my child too. Plus it seemed cheaper! Easier! Awesomer!
    My body had different ideas. Ideas that involved the fact that I have almost no milk ducts and was never able to produce more than 1.5 oz of milk IN A DAY and that was at my height of production at 8 weeks in. Ideas that involved having to take my dehydrated and severely energy-less 6 day old into the hospital.
    We started supplementing at 7 days in, using first a tiny little cup for her to lap from and then moving up to a pendant feeder after seeing our third (and first actually helpful) lactation consultant. We continued that for the first three months, at which point my daughter weaned herself and it’s a testament to how little milk I was producing that my daughter stopped cold turkey and I never had a bit of pain or swelling afterwards.
    So it was formula feeding after that, and we found it could be equally easy (our doctor noted that there was no need to boil water or sterilize anything as long as we used our very good city water and washed our bottles in the washing machine) as breast feeding, with a lot less pain. Our daughter is two now, and is healthy, happy, active, and whip smart.

  • etbmm

    why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? lol… seriously, though, that was my reasoning and I just hoped I would be able to make it work. I was fortunate enough to be able to EBF and although pumping for 9 months was a huge pain and my 1.5 year old still nurses for comfort at night, I’m still grateful I was able to nurse!

  • Danielle

    It was just assumed that I would breastfeed, but I wanted to be prepared with bottles in case it wasn’t possible. My husband thought that was giving up before I’d even started and disagreed with the idea of ff completely. We ended up having a preemie who spent her first two weeks of life being tube fed, so I then started pumping (thankful for the bottles) and I attempted breastfeeding when she was able. She never ended up gaining weight on my bm and we needed to fortify the bottles with formula from the get-go. Just recently we’ve switched exclusively to formula (with the occasional bf when she’s fussy) and thankfully my husband has realized that it’s what’s best for our dd.

  • telepanda

    I breastfeed and pump because **all else being equal**, breastmilk and breastfeeding is a better option. (NB: As outlined by so many below, I’m well aware that all else is rarely equal, so that’s not a judgement.)

    With both babies, had a rough start to breastfeeding because I have very sensitive skin on my nipples and developed terrible skin wounds that wouldn’t heal because how can you heal if somebody is chewing you open again every two hours? The Motherlove olive oil based ointments helped a lot more than lanolin, in case you are in this position. They’re crazy expensive but I only ended up needing one little jar to get through the worst of it. I had to use a nipple shield with the second baby, as well, which the lactation consultant was pretty pissy about, but it was that or quit.

    ***Assuming your baby is actually getting fed and you don’t need surgery/medication/whatever***, I think it’s a good idea to try to tough it out for six weeks or so to find out if it’s for you. It’s such an easy fussy-baby solution. Baby is sick/sad/tired? Shove a boob in it.

    Also, don’t settle for this crap of “Oh, you’re already up so you might as well…” Learn to nurse in bed. Then enlist your partner as the delivery service. Baby’s crying? You go get ‘em and I’ll be waiting right here with boob locked and loaded. OK, all done, take ‘em back to bed. (Also, new parents who are using disposables: unless it’s a poop diaper, you almost never have to change baby in the middle of the night.)

    Now baby’s several months old, and I pump at work (lucky to be able to do that and lucky to have decent supply). She gets two long breastfeedings on weekdays, in the morning and at bedtime and the rest is bottles at daycare. It’s a nice balance between feeling chained down, and getting in the really awesome snuggles. And oxytocin really does make you feel better.

    • brebay

      That’s great if it settled your babies! It isn’t the magic soother for every baby. And six weeks is a long time to try something you don’t like that isn’t working. It does seem like it was smooth sailing for you, and that’s great. For many, bottle feeding works better, and breastfeeding can be painful, messy, difficult, and cost some moms and babies more sleep. I’m glad you did what worked, everybody should. For some that will be breast, for some bottle, and for some a hybrid.

    • whiteroses

      Also- sometimes, babies pee a lot, so you DO have to change them even if the diaper isn’t a poop one. Just for the record.

    • brebay

      True. Also too bad bottle-fed babies never get “really awesome snuggles”

    • whiteroses

      Apparently. I mean, my formula fed baby (up until age one, after which it didn’t really matter) loves and loved to be cuddled more than pretty much anything, but what the heck do I know.

  • Dramatic Anti-Climax

    My child isn’t born yet (8 more weeks!), but I was recently told that there is a possibility that I won’t be able to breastfeed because of medication that I’m on. I did choose breastfeeding, but not because of any health benefits to my children. I chose it because it may help me loose the baby weight, it’s super easier when you’re tired because you’re feeding every two hours, and you don’t have to wash those damn bottles. I’m really lazy. I do care about my child’s health, but my cousins were raised on formula because they were adopted, and they aren’t sicker or less smart than my siblings and I, who had breast milk. And the WIC program I’m on definitely promotes breastfeeding, but only really cares about the safety of the baby. They don’t pull any BS about milk not coming in or being literally poisoned by medication.
    If I do have to use formula, I have a really good comeback to those women who think it’s poison, because my breast milk is pretty much poisoned by medication.

    • brebay

      You don’t owe them sharing your personal medical information, a simple “my baby my business” should do. Breastfeeding is easier for some, but more complicated for others. It has its own downsides. Either way, baby will get fed. Best of luck!

    • Dramatic Anti-Climax

      I know I don’t owe them. I just think it’s a great comeback to the view that formula is poison. I like to have witty responses prepared in advance.

  • newbie

    My daughter was born a bit early and spent the first 4 days in an incubator. For this and many other reasons, my milk came in slowly and she never figured out how to latch. I spent 8 weeks trying to perusade her, by which time I dreaded each feed and it made both of us cry. Since I’d been pumping so long already it seemed sensible to try to get to 12 weeks, and by the time we got to 12 weeks pumping was so much part of my life that I didnt stop. She is 8 months next week. It is weird, formula got her out of hospital, kept her alive til my body caught up, and would be a much more sensible way to feed her, and yet I cant bring myself to stop pumping.

  • Nara

    Late to the show but…
    I exclusively formula fed my first and then my twins from birth. I didn’t even try to breastfeed. I was hoping to breastfeed a least a little bit with the twins, with supplementation two feeds at night, just to save money, but in the end even that was impossible. I was diagnosed with a really severe medical disorder during my pregnancy, and the “breastfeed with supplemental formula” became “formula feed with a breastfeeding supplement” which became “formula feed only” during my hospital stay prebirth, which became “thank God you’re not trying to breastfeed, because then we couldn’t give you the meds that saved your life”. Not to mention that my milk didn’t even remotely come in.
    So formula feeding all three! Its expensive as hell, but hey, I’m not dead.

  • whiteroses

    I ended up choosing formula after my mother sat me down and said, “You have two options. You can give him formula or you can watch him starve to death, because clearly breastmilk isn’t working.”
    My husband knew how badly I wanted to breastfeed. He held me on the couch while I cried- but you know who wasn’t crying? My son, because for the first time in three weeks he was full. Breastfeeding is great. But in the final analysis what matters is your baby, right?

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    I decided to breastfeed because it seemed easier and cheaper. My mom breastfed my oldest sister but was told by her doctor that it caused colic (and it clearly didn’t have the birth control effect she had been hoping for either since my sisters are 10.5 months apart) so the rest of us were formula fed. My sisters all breastfed their kids.

    I also got a year of mat leave (canada), so I didn’t need to worry about pumping really. I did pump for a few months after going back to work, but my kid never took my milk from anything but the tap, so I didn’t bother after a while, and by then she only nursed 2-3 times a day (morning, when I picked her up and before bed). She pretty much self-weaned at 26 months because my supply dropped and she wasn’t getting much anymore, so it seemed like a good time. It was bittersweet. By that point, I was feeling ready to get my body back, but at the same time, it really this lovely quiet time we shared together and I still miss that closeness sometimes.

    It didn’t take me too long to get the hang of it at first, and while there were times that I felt completely drained and touched out, I’m completely happy with how it all went.

    • Idigia

      I wish I had 6 weeks. I went back to work with my first son when he was 2 weeks old.

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  • Cybershoes

    I am very lucky to live in a country where we get a year payed parental leave (10 weeks reserved for dads, but many take more than that) + reduced hours (unpayed) after that to keep breastfeeding. The reasoning behind this generous “right” is both making it easy for women to breastfeed, provide all parents and babies the oppertunity to build a strong attachment and boosting birthrates.
    I was home with my two kids untill they were 11 months before returning to my job (as an excutive vice president), then my husband took over for 3 moths before they started kindergarden:-)
    (yes we pay a lot of taxes:-)

  • Danielle A

    I started out exclusively breastfeeding. I had a lactation consultant at the hospital who taught me how to do it and “trained” my baby how to do it too. She did also recommend formula once a day bc my milk hadn’t come in yet (only colostrum) It was fine and I always had just enough, but not really anything left over to pump. My son was fine and happy and healthy but he looked a little skinny so I gave him breast milk all day except I switched one feeding a day to formula. Very soon after this modification he looked great. That became our routine and I was happy t9 allow a family member to feed him during his afternoon formula. I was lucky that I was never pressured to only breastfeed 100% of the time, and I was never pressured to give it up, or made to feel bad for supplementing.

    At 4.5 months I switched to organic similac full time for medical reasons. I needed to stop bfing (for my hormones to return to normal) in order for my pelvic floor injuries to heal

  • Idigia

    I wanted to breastfeed for 6 months, but knew I would fail because my mom did, and she told me all the horrors of it and how my nipples would get dry and I would get mastitis. So I gave it a go and my mom left within a week. 2 and a half years later, I had to stop due to pregnancy (and it was a perfect time to wean anyway). Now with the second, we’re close to 2 years as well (and counting). The key was simply good luck, it just worked! I think you should examine what practicality means to you and take a choice upon that. For me, it means having food ready wherever and whenever, not having to wash dishes and being able to work while feeding the baby. For others, it means no having to be with the baby all day, not having to get up at night and not having to pump while at work. Think of what is more practical and easy for you and the asnswer will be waiting for you

  • Brandy Bisson

    I tried to breastfeed my daughter, but after so many latch issues, I ended up having to pump. I ended up running dry due to pumping and had to switch to formula

  • Sherry

    Before having my son, I honestly was grossed out by the thought of breastfeeding. I planned to pump for him until I actually had him (free baby food, right?). Then, mommy hormones kicked in and I realized breastfeeding wasn’t icky at all. I tried quite hard to breastfeed, but due to various issues, it wasn’t in the cards for us. I have pumped for almost a year now, and it has not been easy. I’m committed to pumping for him as long as I can stand, but I think if breastfeeding doesn’t work with my next child, I’ll formula feed. I love my son, but next time, I think I’d rather spend the ~3 hours a day enjoying my baby instead of trying to coax out a few ounces of milk.

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