Monday, February 28, 2011

The Guiltless Bottle

Here is a shout out to all moms who formula feed their children. Why you ask? Because I feel that there is just no love sent our way . I wish there was a pamphlet in the OB office that said “If Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out”. I needed this pamphlet. I had a ton of literature and books about how to breastfeed. None of them had any guidance on what to do if it didn’t work.

Regardless of WHY you are formula feeding, I feel there is little support . Society is full of literature about why you should breastfeed. Even on my daughters can of formula it says “Breastmilk is always best”. I’m sure that is on there due to legal reasons, but do I need to see that every single time I make a bottle? Now some people choose to go the formula route right from birth. It’s their choice. However, some people also TRY to breastfeed and cannot.

I tried to breastfeed both of my kids. I wanted that experience as a mother and knew that breast milk is full of essential things that a baby needs. Before my daughter Brooke was born I even went to a breastfeeding class. My husband came too. The woman was very informative and gave us great information to leave with. She did make a statement that threw me for a loop. She said “I only breastfed my oldest daughter and her IQ is 10 points higher than my younger daughter. That just supports that breasts milk helps the IQ”. WHAT? I get what she was trying to say, but is there really a way to prove that is why your older daughter was smarter? I know as a teacher I never looked at a student and said “Wow, Johnny must not have been breastfed. You can tell that Susie was though.”

With Brooke I tried to breastfeed her from birth. I even refused a bottle in the hospital because I was going to breastfeed. No pacifiers either (which would turn out to be ironic as she was in love with her pacifier for many years…) It was not going well. I requested lactation consultants come and visit and help me out. Before we left the hospital my milk had not come in and Brooke was still not latching. The woman showed us how to feed formula down a tube to simulate real breastfeeding. This was a lot. As we went home we had all of our supplies I was overwhelmed. I remember doing this at 1am the first night home with Curtis helping me and I looked at him and said “what are we doing???”. I started pumping immediately. Finally my milk came in but she still would not latch. She was so cranky and would not sleep at all (was up pretty much the entire time we were at the hospital. My husband finally convinced me to give her a bottle and she guzzled it down. I felt horrible. She was starving. I continued to see lactation consultants and by the time she was 3 weeks old I could feel myself feeling so guilty over it. I was crying and wondering why this wasn’t working for me. I realized at that point that I just needed to pump and bottle feed and be the best mother I could be.

The weeks that followed I felt SO GUILTY. Should I have tried harder? Why can my friends do it and I can’t? I would get jealous if I saw other moms breastfeeding in public. When Brooke had a check up they would ask if I was breastfeeding and it felt devastating to say “no”. I ended up pumping for 10-12 weeks until I went back to work. Brooke got formula from that point on. As the months passed I moved on. She was thriving and my guilt slowly faded.

With my second daughter Madeline, I decided to try again. I thought “I will have learned from my mistakes and get this right”. My husband was leery since he knew what had happened the last time. I went to see a lactation consultant before her birth to discuss my concerns and they reassured me it would be fine. Out pops Madeline and she tries to breastfeed right away. “How great” I thought. Already so much better than Brooke. Then the nurse takes her from me and feels inside her mouth and says “oh wow….super high palette. Let’s see how she does”. Of course. Of course there was an issue. The lactation consultants were great at the hospital. They got me a nipple shield (which I was familiar with) and Madeline was doing great. Then her latch changed and even the lactation people could not get her on right. When we got home I tried for about a week to get it right. Then I saw myself falling into the same pattern I did with Brooke. I had a really good cry with my husband about it and decided to bottle feed. I just knew it was right for me. I also had a second child at home so getting to the lactation person a few days a week would be impossible to manage. I felt relieved. I knew Brooke had formula and was totally fine. Madeline would be too. I would be a better mom if I was not stressed out and crying about breastfeeding every day.

I am in no way saying that breastfeeding is wrong. If it works for you that is fabulous. This was the right decision for ME.

As I have moved around and met other moms, I have heard tons of different stories. I have had friends that breastfed their children for a long period of time. Some friends were in the same position I was in. I had some friends that went straight to formula feeding. There are many stories. We may not hear about them but they are out there.

So here is a shout out to all of you formula feeders: It’s okay! There are a lot of us! You are not less of a mom because you didn’t breastfeed. Or less of a mom if you only breastfed for a short time. Your child will bond with you. They will be healthy and smart. Don’t feel guilty. When you child is 21 are you really going to be dwelling on it? I doubt it. Be the best mom you can be. That is what will matter in the end.

(Feel free to pass thing along to another mom who might need to hear it too!)


  1. I have one kid of each - formula fed and breastfed. It was a big deal to me both times and by "it" I mean the WHOLE feeding thing, EVERY last aspect of it. They're now 3 and 2; ask me if I think about their sources of nutrition as newborns on a daily basis. Um no. We've moved beyond. There is a hilarious line in Didn't I Feed You Yesterday: A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett.

    "Why on earth would a complete stranger ever ask you whether you breastfed or not? I might be a throwback, but I think who sucks on me and how often in the privacy of my own home is my business."

  2. Katie, back when my first was born, there was the whole pressure thing to do a totally natural drugs! I tried and was unsuccessful so I felt like a total failure. On top of that, I wanted to breastfeed and I tried that too...unsuccessfully. Since I had to go back to work after 6 weeks, I concentrated on trying to get my son on a schedule and didn't worry about the fact that he was being bottle fed. He was a big, hungry baby who needed his bottle. I'll be glad to forward this blog to my daughter in law (if she needs it in a few weeks) when my grandson is born!

  3. Hey Katie! Thank you so much for writing about this! I could have just as easily written it myself. I had the exact same experiences with both of mine. I never admitted this to anyone but I too felt jealous when my friends were breastfeeding their babies and felt like there was something so wrong with me. After weeks and weeks of tears, pumping 8 times a day with two kids, and constantly feeling awful about it, I finally decided to just bottlefeed my second formula also. I had someone say to me "What did you just give up?" right after that. I thought I would just burst into tears right there. It is okay to use formula. My kids are both thriving and ahead of schedule developmentally.

  4. This is great, Katie! I had the same struggle when attempting to breastfeed. I stressed a lot at not being able to BF and even wondered what was wrong with me. It took until she was off formula for the guilt to completely wear off. I'm so glad you posted this. There's nothing wrong with formula feeding. Thanks!

  5. So true Katie! Love hearing your perspective. There is so much GUILT placed on us moms for EVERY.SINGLE decision we have to make and I think feeding is the biggest. I actually did breastfeed both my guys, but let me tell you the guilt I felt when I CHOSE to stop was enormous. HUGE. I thought I was being a failure because I could still do it, but chose to end it. I mean, I'm past it now, but at the time it just eats at you! I love this post!

  6. Love it Katie! You know my issues. Poor girl was ravenous! The guilt surrounding this topic is beyond frustrating. Guilty mom doesn't equal healthy mom. For us - we were both much better off in the mother / daughter relationship that was so precious and brand new when I decided to stop focusing on what I didn't do and instead looking at how awesome this was! Thank you or posting.

  7. Ummm, Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto! I couldn't agree more, and got a bit teary reading this post. Ugh, that pain of seeing your newborn baby hysterical, knowing she is HUNGRY and that this is the one job you are supposed to be doing above all others. When I made the decision to just pump and then, eventually, to introduce formula, I guarantee that the relief I felt gave Maya and I a greater bond than the struggle we went through the 1st month of her life. And BTW, I just read an article saying that these new formulas with DHA have pretty much closed the "IQ gap" they used to talk about!

  8. sharing this on FB! Love it! As a FF feeder, you're right, there isn't enough "love" for the FF- it's all BF is best.....

  9. Great blog post! I loved reading this!

  10. Great post Katie! I'm all for doing what WORKS for you and your family. Sometimes breastfeeding just isn't it. And that's OK!

  11. Well said and I love Dana's quote!

  12. Great post!
    My experience was almost exactly like yours. I tried EVERYTHING with #1... SNS tubes, pumping after every feeding, refusing bottles & pacifiers. I just didn't make milk, not enough anyway. Talk about feeling like less of a mom! My body couldn't do the one thing that was supposed to be so natural. I hung in and EBF for 3 months with 0 pumped stash because there just wasn't any extra. But I was miserable.

    I've been a happy bottle feeder ever since (a month BF with #2 and 2 weeks BF with #3). I had to give up the guilt because it wasn't doing anyone any good.

    And as for your instructor... I was formula fed from day 1 (adopted) and I had the highest IQ in my entire grade level in elementary school. So it's definitely not fool proof!

    We moms need to be nicer to each other about our choices.

  13. Fantastic post, Katie! No one should feel guilty about how they choose to feed their child(ren). I also attempted to breastfeed and it was a nightmare from the beginning. Finally allowing myself to switch to bottles and formula was such a relief and I never regretted it. I was a much better mother without the added stress.

  14. I BF'd all three boys and I whole heartedly agree with you! Sometimes BFing doesn't work. Sometimes mom doesn't want to BF. IT's OK!!



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