Shame And The Mom: A Boob Story

October 7, 2009

Before I had children, I was deeply discomfited by the idea of breastfeeding. Neither pregnancy nor childbirth alarmed me – both would be uncomfortable, I figured, and the latter would involve some extreme measure of pain, but, really, nothing that the ordinary horrors (the monthly bloating and cramping and general misery) of womanhood hadn’t prepared me for – but breastfeeding? A tiny person, feeding off of you? Off of your boobs? Really? It provoked all variety of confusing fears about the psycho-sexual experience of motherhood (you have to expose your boobs? really?), and even though I understood, intellectually, that there was nothing weird or creepy or gross about breastfeeding, and fully intended to nurse my children, if I had them, I still, sometimes – involuntarily, and almost imperceptibly – shuddered when I thought of it. Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding. Eww.

Of course, when I finally did have children, that all changed. Mostly. My personal experience of breastfeeding, apart from the pain and difficulty (more on that in a moment) was – to be maximally gushy about it – transcendent. Nursing my babies, nourishing my babies, holding them close and providing for them – me! with my very own body! – was, to understate it, amazing. But that was in the privacy of my home. Nursing in public was difficult for me: I was anxious about exposing myself, about receiving disapproving glances and unwanted stares. And every disapproving glance or unwanted stare (stink-eyed in malls and libraries, ogled at DisneyWorld, asked to cover up on a plane) just reinforced my shame. It also, however, provoked a measure of frustration and, later, outrage. How was I supposed to care for my children, nourish and nurture my children, when so much of the outside world frowned upon it? And: how dare they?

I’ve written at length about my frustration with the fact that public breastfeeding is still not wholly accepted in Western culture. That mothers – women – are made to feel any measure of shame around the act of nourishing their children is, in my opinion, deplorable. And the fact that it was not so very long ago that I felt such shame – and that I bought into the shame long before I even put a child to my own breast – still hurts my heart. Which is why I didn’t hesitate to support public criticism of Nestle during their recent social media debacle. The calculus was simple: anything that undermines efforts to help breastfeeding become an accepted public norm = bad, anything that promotes breastfeeding = good.

But is any such calculus ever so simple?

A good friend wrote me last week and recounted her experience with breastfeeding her newborn son:

I had the baby one month early… He didn’t latch and I didn’t produce sufficient milk to pump and feed him. I tried for a solid month. I practiced latching with him every day. And every two hours from the time I had a fairly traumatic c-section experience, I pumped in order to try to get production going until (I hoped) his latch would develop. For a month… I took medication in order to help production. Nothing worked. This was horrible for me. I felt like my baby was basically being poisoned (with formula), and that I was failing as a mother. This was made worse by the fact that all information outlets were telling me that it is practically impossible not to produce enough milk. That, apparently, wasn’t a medical possibility. I had a lactation consultant who visited me many time and whom I visited. I talked to La Leche League. In short, I tried. It didn’t work…

So, my baby is formula fed. I resent the fact that formula feeding one’s child is practically viewed as poisoning one’s own baby… I’m suggesting that the mothering climate is hostile to formula feeding. I couldn’t breastfeed, but, really, I think we ought to reinstate formula as an active choice mothers can make without being considered bad mothers –even if they can breastfeed. It’s almost impossible to find good information and advice on formula brands and formula feeding issues, as the parenting industry would prefer that formula feeding just didn’t exist.

She’s right, I think, mostly. The parenting community might not be out-and-out hostile to formula-feeding, but there is absolutely an entrenched and often very vocal bias against it. I’ve been part of that bias. In my experience, that bias is most often motivated by a desire to see breastfeeding more widely accepted in the public sphere – every image of a bottle-fed baby, arguably, reinforces the idea that bottle-feeding is the norm – and to encourage new mothers to overcome whatever shame issues might be holding them back from nursing their children. But if formula-feeding mothers are being shamed in the process, isn’t that a problem?

I had a great deal of trouble breastfeeding both of my children. It was, for the first month or so with each of them, mind-bogglingly painful. With Emilia, I was fortunate enough to have a lactation consultant who told me that I would not be a bad mother if I ended up choosing to formula-feed – her permission to give up was exactly (if perversely) the motivation I needed to keep going, because the knowledge that I could quit if I got to the breaking point was enough to push me to continue to keep giving it another day, day after day, until the pain receded. With Jasper, I was not so lucky. With no formula-friendly lactation godmother, I was subjected to the repeated assertion that if it hurt, I was doing something wrong (I wasn’t. I know this) and that if I quit, I – and my child – would regret it. It made me crazy – literally. My post-partum depression worsened under the constant pain and intensifying anxiety, even as I reminded myself that someone, at some point, had told me that it would be okay to quit. Even as a few sane voices in the blogosphere quietly urged me (off the record, always) to consider quitting, for my sanity’s sake, I was gripped by the conviction that it would not be okay if I quit. It would be wrong. I should be able to do this. A good mother could do this, would do this. I was a lactivist, for God’s sake. And so I persevered.

It never really stopped being painful, with Jasper. He nursed round the clock, and my nipples bled, and I almost never slept. I was sparing with my PPD meds, for fear of contaminating my milk. But I battled the gathering dark, and persevered. I nursed publicly, and proudly: on planes, in front of TV cameras, standing in front of a crowd while speaking at BlogHer. I nursed another woman’s child. I persevered. For ten months. Ten dark months. And then I quit. Exhausted from the lack of sleep, and the pain, and on the verge of falling headlong into the dark, I quit.

And I felt ashamed.

I felt ashamed because, goddammit, didn’t my child deserve to nurse longer? Wouldn’t it be best for him to nurse longer? Weren’t all the other good moms doing it? Wasn’t I just selfish to not want to breastfeed longer, to not keep trying? I could breastfeed; what kind of lactivist was I, anyway, if I chose not to breastfeed?

I was right to stop. I was losing my battle with PPD, and my doggedness with my breastfeeding efforts had a lot to do with that. And an institutionalized mother would have to bottle-feed anyway, so. I quit. I was right to do so.

But it would have been nice to have not felt so strongly that it was something close to bringing upon myself the End Of My Maternal World to quit nursing. It would have been nice to have felt, really felt, and really believed, that it would, really, have been okay to quit nursing. It would have been nice to have felt – to have believed – that to choose to not breastfeed was not a damnable choice. That I could opt-out of nursing, and still be a good mother, a good woman, and a good activist in mothers’ causes. But I didn’t believe that, not really. Even as I told other women that it was totally okay to formula-feed if they couldn’t nurse or if it would serve the cause of managing PPD – even as I insisted upon choice – I didn’t really believe it for myself. Fine for them, I thought, but not for me. And I’m still very much gripped by something of this idea: when I look back on my experience nursing Jasper, I’m proud. I’m proud that I persevered. I’m proud that I set aside my own wants and needs in order to care for him in what I believed was the best possible way. I’m proud, because having done so, I have something that I can point to, during those dark nights when I’m worrying about whether or not I’m a good enough mom, and tell myself, see? You are a good mom! Look what you did!

And this, I think, is both entirely reasonable and entirely unreasonable. I did do something awesome. I sacrificed. But sacrifice shouldn’t be the criteria for being a good mom. And the standards for being a good mom shouldn’t be understood to be uniform. As I’ve insisted in this space ad nauseam, moms can’t win. There’s always somebody, somewhere, who is going to think that your parenting sucks. Co-sleep, don’t co-sleep; baby-wear, don’t baby-wear; home-school, public school; public school, private school; free-range, close-range – there’s no universal truth about what makes a good mother, so why should we assume that there’s one universal truth about how good mothers feed their babies? Breast is best, we know that, but there are a great many factors that make formula-feeding an entirely reasonable choice for a good mother to make. Necessity, for one. Sanity, for another.

It remains, whatever our choices, that there’s still a lot of work that must be done in the public sphere to make breastfeeding an accepted public activity, to ensure that women never feel the discomfiture, the ill-understood shame, that I felt before becoming a nursing mom, and that I was made to feel far too often afterward. The nursing mom should be an established figure in public life and in the culture, and we should work hard toward promoting her as such. 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?

Because it should be about choice. It should. If we make about anything else, we just hurt ourselves.

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    Loralee October 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I love you for writing this.


    This last baby is the first one that I didn’t even attempt to breast feed. Given my history and medical issues, I knew it would end up being a disaster…just like the other times.

    (And as it turns out, I wouldn’t have been permitted to nurse anyway due to a new medical complication and medications I had to take for it)

    I knew it was the right decision, I KNEW it. But I still felt shamed and felt the heat of silent judgment from other mother’s…even if their words appeared supportive.

    Some were outright hostile jerks about it.
    More than one email or comment regarding my decision has make me break down into tears.
    I can’t begin to tell you how horrible it me feel.

    But I have had my share of being judgy about breastfeeding. I think it is BEST but yup…I was one of those “cover up” people.

    I NEVER gave anyone the evil eye or said anything but I would always feel very uncomfortable with open nursing.

    I am a very shame based person and I have to say that I was always one to think ‘please cover up when you nurse.”


    I don’t think that way anymore really. And guess what…your posts about it were a huge changing point for me.


    I think the whole “rent a boob” idiocy really changed things for me. I was sickened by the judgment.

    I just decided to get over it.

    And I really have. It doesn’t make me flinch. Not one little bit. I made a new friend and she nursed openly whenever, whereever and I didn’t have even a moment of uncomfortableness that I used to.

    I recognized it as MY problem and that I had no right to judge another person for my own issues.

    I think, though, the formula problem is one that is so ingrained as inferior or even wrong. Even formula commercials say, “Breastmilk is best” for hell’s sake.

    So..I am not sure what the answer is, Catherine, but I WILL say that posts like THIS will certainly help.

    I hope so because honestly…no mom should have the things said to them that I have this time around just for feeding their baby.

    It was horrible.

    .-= Loralee´s last blog ..10 things that have been going on lately. (If I can’t do any better then a bullet list of what is happening in my life for a blog post I am certainly not capable of coming up with a pithy title for it. Just so you know.) =-.

    Loralee October 7, 2009 at 1:44 pm
    Her Bad Mother October 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    test test test

    JIll @BabyRabies October 7, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know… my head hurts too. It is such a delicate balance to strike, to fight passionately for one side while not diminishing the other.

    I, like you, really *sacrificed* to breast feed. I put myself through hell and back, the little wolverine sucked chunks of flesh off of my nipples, it hurt worse than anything I’d ever imagined, and for the first six to 8 weeks of my son’s life I HATED feeding him. Why, then, did I not choose to formula feed? I had told myself prior to having him that I wouldn’t “stress myself out over breastfeeding”, that if it worked, great. If not, I was “totally fine” with formula feeding. But something deep inside me drove me to not give up, that enduring the pain was making me a “better mother” in a sense (and now I realize that that that was crazy talk in the head).

    The thing is, do I think my friends who formula feed are bad mothers? No. Not at all. Truly, from the bottom of my heart, I believe that if they do what’s best for them, then that’s all that matters. But, for *me*, I would have felt like I lost some sort of battle, like I didn’t try hard enough. But is me feeling like this part of the problem? If it’s good enough for other’s babies, why not mine? Why did I have to “sacrifice” ? I don’t know… I just don’t know.
    .-= JIll @BabyRabies´s last blog ..“Mommy Visions” – this is not a funny post =-.

    Della October 7, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Jill, I really hear you on this. That whole thing about having a higher expectation of yourself than of others? That is me, too. I have not (so far) had any difficulty breastfeeding, but in many areas of my life, particularly life with my kids, I find myself doing this.

    I don’t look down on others for doing XYZ thing that involves sacrifice or “being there” for your kids, but I would have looked down on myself for not pushing through and doing it myself.

    I, too, don’t know why. And I don’t know what I think about the cover-up thing, either. On the one hand, if boobs weren’t so damn sexualized, it wouldn’t be an issue. But on the other hand, they HAVE been sexualized in our culture, and I really do not think that we are going to reverse a couple hundred years of that kind of thinking. So I feel that, when in Rome – when in the culture that we ARE in, it is inconsiderate to show body parts willy nilly without taking into account the [dis]comfort of those around you. So someone on the plane asks you[generic] to cover up… why not do it?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do understand how the situation would have been embarassing – for both parties. So who gets what they want? The majority of the people around (some of whom were likely uncomfortable but too shy to say it) or the person who is taking care of their child and shouldn’t be harassed about it?

    It IS really the same question again as the breast v formula shame/support issue.

    I don’t know the answer.

    Her Bad Mother October 7, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Della, my feeling is, if someone asks me to cover up on a plane while nursing, they’re definitely being more inconsiderate. After all, they can avert their eyes. I, on the other hand, will have been shamed for feeding my child (who might not allow himself himself to be covered – Jasper, for one, hated it and refused to be nursed while covered.) Some people are also made uncomfortable by people with disabilities, and same-sex couples – the onus is on them to deal with their issues, to preserve the necessary freedoms of others. Nursing is, I think, one of those freedoms that we need to actively protect against social bias.

    That said, I get that some people are squeamish. I was. It’s why these issues are so contentious.

    gina October 7, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Continute to write these thoughts, make people think about them. Every baby is different, every mother is different. How do we not alienate the formula-feeders by being supportive of breastfeeding or vice versa? We can’t. The perceived alienation of one side or the other is not a logical one, it is an emotional one and emotions are not logical.

    I too nursed my second baby through a great deal of pain and depression, refusing to accept that it was OK to quit. The first nursing experience was great, why could I not make the second work? I pumped obessively when he didn’t want me because he could sense my misery, my complete internal need to NOT be doing the exact thing that I could not quit doing. He tried to make me stop, to take the blame, to try to show me that he didn’t need it or want it like I thought he did, like I thought he should. I pumped and pumped and pumped and I hated myself and I was angry with him for not doing the thing that I didn’t even want him to do, if I was honest with myself. And then I quit. And I felt guilty for quitting and guilty for not quitting and that is the essence of it. For me, at least.
    .-= gina´s last blog ..pick out your own damn clothes =-.

    Karen October 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    When I got pregnant, the ONE thing that I knew without a doubt is that I wanted to breastfeed. My mother was not a lactivist, but she always talked about how she loved being able to breastfeed her babies. That, combined with the knowledge that it so very good for babies, I was determined that I would stick it out no matter what.

    Then I found out I had gestational diabetes, a not-too-surprising diagnosis, considering I have known for years that I have PCOS. I changed my diet and tried to limit weight gain in my last trimester to enough for my little boy to get what he needed. When I was 37 weeks, I had an ultrasound where they estimated my son was 9lbs. I cried. I knew my doctor would push me to have a c-section, which was totally against my plan to have a natural birth without drug intervention.

    At 39 weeks, my last ultrasound showed he was an estimated 9.5lbs. I felt hope that maybe I’d go into labor before my scheduled c-section because 9.5lbs. is totally natural-birthable! A day or two after my 39 week ultrasound, I went for my pre-op appointment. I was emotional, scared and the nurse, who was also a lactation consultant, told me that with PCOS I may have trouble producing milk. I already knew I might have problems in the beginning because of the section. But this was the first time I’d heard of problems producing milk due to PCOS – it just hadn’t ever come up in all my reading.

    I think part of me knew right then that breastfeeding was going to be an uphill battle I would lose. In the end, my son had a perfect latch – it was like he’d been born for it. :) And at 10.5lbs. at birth, my little boy needed supplementation within 48 hours because he wasn’t getting enough from me. And I, unfortunately, never produced more than a few ounces in an entire day, despite taking supplements, prescription drugs and pumping. At three months, I dried up.

    Whoever says it’s physically impossible not to produce enough milk is wrong. It is possible – I’m proof. Yet I did every possible thing that I knew to do to make it happen and still felt the guilt and shame every time I put a bottle of formula in my son’s mouth.

    Yes, breastfeeding awareness and acceptance is hugely important. But that can be accomplished without making mothers who choose to or are forced to formula feed – regardless of circumstances – feel guilty for doing so.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..Returning to the workforce for the second time this year =-.

    Mandi Bone October 7, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    I tried to breastfeed my second daughter. She was adopted at birth. I prepared ahead of time to prepare for milk to come in but it never did. I did use the suppmental nurser with her and that was a great bonding tool for us.I had a women in my MOPS group accuse me of child abuse because I was giving her formula. No mother should be judged of the choices she makes for herself and her child.

    Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba) October 8, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I am so proud of you for nursing your second child for however long you did. I am STUNNED that someone in MOPS had that reaction when you’d ADOPTED her and STILL nursed her. Just STUNNED!
    .-= Rebecca (Ramblings by Reba)´s last blog ..Fall is coming to Georgia, and with it more hikes =-.

    Suzie Q October 7, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    I think we just need to STOP JUDGING each other – period!!!! What gives anyone the right to judge anyone else? People need to start minding their own business!!!!!

    BInkytowne October 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    I think you already know this, but it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, says or does. YOU have to tune out all of that noise. Jasper is a healthy and lovely baby boy. You did a great thing for him. Now that time is over and it’s on to the next thing. There is SOOOOOO much more to being a mother than the boobs. You spend a year, maybe two engaged in the breast/bottle tango and then you have them for the rest of your life and their life. Let go. It’s all good.
    .-= BInkytowne´s last blog ..His Health =-.

    Procrastamom October 7, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Thank you for writing this and thanks to your friend for her thoughts. Because she’s right! She is so right.

    I wasn’t even aware that I’d done my children a disservice by formula feeding them until I joined the Momosphere 5 years ago. I mean, they were walking and talking and they had all their limbs and they were good students and they ate their vegetables and they were wonderful members of society, but I apparently poisoned them? WITH FORMULA???!!! Poison?

    I hate these breastfeeding/formula debates, because there’s no way for us formula feeders to win. We can’t even tie. We can’t get our point accross that our kids are FINE. We haven’t poisoned them, we haven’t lowered their IQs, we haven’t handed them a life of obesity and cancer and doooooom. We fed them formula. The breastfeeders fed their kids breastmilk. And they all survived.

    And to those people who say they can walk into a room and pick out the formula fed children (or the ones with working mothers or the ones who co-slept), I would LOVE to take you down to any school and challenge you to pick them out. Man, that would be the best blogger junket ever!

    red pen mama October 8, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Well put.

    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Light =-.

    makyo October 7, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    thank you thank you thank you for this post. i’m pregnant with my first (24 weeks along) and i have trouble admitting it but i am completely squeamish and weirded out by the idea of breastfeeding. i have never, and would never, tell another woman not to breastfeed her child, because i understand that it’s my own personal issue, but holy heck does the concept of doing it myself make me feel all kinds of icky. i am trying not to make myself crazy over it, and just crossing my fingers that when the baby gets here everything will be “normal” and “natural” and i’ll just get over it and be super mom.


    the truth is, i don’t know what will happen. i personally feel that formula is fine for a child, maybe not “best” but my parents and a most babies born within a certain time period were formula fed without question and turned out absolutely fine. i honestly feel in my heart of hearts that if i don’t enjoy breastfeeding or can’t do it without extreme pain, then i shouldn’t continue because it can’t be good for the baby to feel that vibe coming from me. but that’s MY opinion, and not only is it mine it’s one formed from a complete and utter lack of experience.

    most of all, i’m so glad to see topics like this brought up in an open and honest way. women MUST be supportive of one another, or what hope do we have?

    Kristen October 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I was right were you were 4.5 years ago when I was pregnant with my first daughter. Before she was born I planned on trying to breastfeed but, like you, was completely squimish about it. The whole thing.

    I made the decision to formula feed when the nurse wanted my family to leave the hospital room shortly after I delivered so that I could feed her. I KNEW right then & there that it wasn’t for me. Decided to formula feed & never looked back.

    I don’t have a “good” reason for not breastfeeding, and I don’t care who judges me for it. My daughter is happy, healthy (very healthy) & smart and most of all loved. The last of those the most important.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 7, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Wonderful post Catherine. My head hurts too.

    My head hurts because I firmly believe that we need to support moms. Support the mom, support the mom, support the mom. That involves listening a lot more than speaking. I’m not always good at that.

    What I often find trickiest is correcting misinformation that is being spoken by a woman who was not able to successfully breastfeed her child (or by her partner, friend, mother, sister, etc.). If she continues to share that misinformation with others, she may be responsible for them not being able to breastfeed. If she continues to believe that is true, then it may impact her ability to breastfeed future children that she might have. But if you say anything, then you are not only questioning her knowledge but also questioning whether the reasons she ended up quitting breastfeeding were really valid or not. No matter how you say it, it will come across that way.

    That is where it is hard. I want to support formula feeding moms. I want to tell them that I understand how hard it was and that it was okay to give up. But I also want to break the cycle and I don’t know how.

    That is why my head hurts. That and the bottle/formula ads everywhere. Especially annoying seeing formula ads on breastfeeding articles or under searches for breastfeeding support or help or things like that.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting October 7, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Wonderful post Catherine. My head hurts too.

    My head hurts because I firmly believe that we need to support moms. Support the mom, support the mom, support the mom. That involves listening a lot more than speaking. I’m not always good at that.

    What I often find trickiest is correcting misinformation that is being spoken by a woman who was not able to successfully breastfeed her child (or by her partner, friend, mother, sister, etc.). If she continues to share that misinformation with others, she may be responsible for them not being able to breastfeed. If she continues to believe that is true, then it may impact her ability to breastfeed future children that she might have. But if you say anything, then you are not only questioning her knowledge but also questioning whether the reasons she ended up quitting breastfeeding were really valid or not. No matter how you say it, it will come across that way.

    That is where it is hard. I want to support formula feeding moms. I want to tell them that I understand how hard it was and that it was okay to give up. But I also want to break the cycle and I don’t know how.

    That is why my head hurts.
    .-= Annie @ PhD in Parenting´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Is there a breastfeeding article amongst those Enfamil ads? =-.

    red pen mama October 8, 2009 at 10:25 am

    What about misinformation about formula that is out there ad nauseum? Comparing it to poison or cigarette smoking? I mean, how can that enter the conversation, and we expect it to remain civil open conversation. (I’m not saying you say these things here — you do not. There is another commenter here who does, though.) The misinformation goes both ways. That’s all.

    It’s weird to say this: but maybe the conversation just has to stop. Unless one is directly solicited for her opinion. Nothing brings out oversharing like pregnancy and childrearing! And I mean that in a good way, but it does put the onus on one side or the other.

    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Light =-.

    Kat October 7, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Wow, good points Catherine. I would count myself in the lactivist category, and I nursed both my kids (despite low milk supply, recurrent plugged ducts and more than one case of mastitis…but then, we all have our own breastfeeding battle stories, don’t we?) because I strongly believed it was the right choice for US.

    Did I judge other moms for not trying. Yeah, sorta. But I’ve since learned that as women, we just judge each other waaaay too much, and I’m ready to let that go.

    As my children have grown up, entered school and developed their own strong personalities, I’ve come to realize that there are a lot worse things we can (and many of us will) do than bottlefeeding.

    I’m with SuzyQ. We all just need to stop judging each other. I GET that the personal is political, but can we not depersonalize the dialogue so that supporting breastfeeding isn’t interpreted as criticizing mothers who choose to formula feed? It’s a tough one, for sure.
    .-= Kat´s last blog ..Cougar Prowl =-.

    jen October 7, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    This is such a tough subject. I was able to give C breastmilk for his first year through pumping until he was 10 months. Then I quit pumping and breastfeed until he was the year. Luckily I had a freezer stash that allowed me to quit pumping because it was driving me insane. Like you, I am proud to have breastfed for that long because it was difficult w/ working full time.

    And I do think there is the cultural bias against breastfeeding. Even close relatives would get uncomfortable when I would breastfeed during their visits. So something there has to change in our culture to be more accepting of bfing and I think that is why so many are maybe overly vocal about how great bfing is.

    However, to suggest that formula feeding is poison? That is just ridiculous. Some women can’t bf and they shouldn’t be made to feel horrible about their inability. Some women don’t want to, which is fine too as long as they have the information/education for making an informed choice. There is a fine line to walk with providing information/resources for help and not making formula feeding seem like the lesser (or bad) choice.
    .-= jen´s last blog ..moving on =-.

    Andrea October 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks, C. Really.

    Vicki October 7, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I definitely fall on the lactivist scale of things, but have formula fed. And with one child I really wanted to formula feed, it was so hard!

    I think the judgment thing is a red herring. Formula should exist the way antibiotics and C-sections should exist. Not everyone can breastfeed, just as not everyone can birth naturally, and alternatives should be available. Science and medical technology are wonderful things for those who need them.

    At the same time, breastfeeding should be the norm, and the benefits are undeniable. Women who must feed formula shouldn’t have to feel guilty. The fact that some women must formula feed doesn’t change the fact that breastfeeding is better for kids.

    I look at it like car seats, or cigarettes. Kids rode in cars not buckled in car seats for years. I did. I’m fine. Women have smoked during pregnancy for years, and most of those babies are fine. Still, no one worries about making mothers feel guilty if they don’t buckle up their child, or if they continue to smoke. In fact, doctors will absolutely guilt you if you smoke.

    I realize there is no one who has no other choice but to not buckle up the baby, or to keep smoking. The fact remains that breastfeeding offers many advantages that can’t be gotten by formula. Doesn’t mean that women who can’t breastfeed are doing anything wrong. It does mean that not encouraging women to breastfeed because it makes formula feeding women feel guilty is unfair to babies. Babies get the most advantage from breastfeeding. Not so much that they will be damaged by formula feeding, but that they get the best from breastmilk.

    We all make choices about our kids that are less than optimal, every day. Too much TV, not enough veggies, too much sugar, not enough time outside, plastic teethers, forward facing car seats too soon, whatever. The fact that mothers can’t make the perfect choices every single time doesn’t make the choices less important. Everyone tries to do all that they can do, and they should be applauded for that. But we shouldn’t stop talking about the optimal way to do anything just because no mother can do everything.

    And as an aside, I have 5 children, the oldest is 30 and the youngest is 7. I have decided that even though it shouldn’t be, motherhood really is a sacrifice, if you want to do it well. :-/

    Procrastamom October 7, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Vicki,

    I’m curious as to what “advantages” you’ve noticed in your breastfed children. Seeing as you’ve been at this mothering thing longer than me (my oldest is 18), maybe you’ve seen something in your 30 year-old that a formula fed 30 year-old might not display? What are these advantages of which you speak?

    Thanks, (Another) Vicky

    Andrea October 7, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Not buckling in kid or smoking around kid (or with kid in utero) is being compared (albeit with some qualifications) to having to formula feed one’s baby? Yikes. While this is a troublesome analogy, what you say about encouraging people to do what’s best even when we know the best is not possible for some or even many, makes sense to me. I’m curious, then, why there’s no campaign to ensure that parents don’t fob off their children on television programs unduly? Or, a better point of comparison, why don’t we monitor what parents feed their children in their second year of life and onwards? Is it really more important to breastfeed than to make sure that children’s diets are healthy? It’s now becoming an issue with the terribly high rate of childhood obesity, but still, no great interest in this problem in the blogosphere. Perhaps because it’s obvious that feeding children hot dogs and processed food on a regular basis is bad for them in a way that isn’t the case with formula – which contains things that are actually good for children (if not ‘best’)?

    In other words, I’m all for encouraging what’s best, and in the case of feeding one’s child in the first year, that is breastfeeding. That said, it’s not simply bad to feed children formula, and I have to wonder why temperatures rise and fingers wag disproportionately over the breastfeeding issue. I’d hate to think that it has something to do with the desire to sanctify motherhood once again and to make sacrifice the hallmark of good mothering. Notice that the discussion here is about women who can’t breastfeed rather than women who don’t want to breastfeed. Genuine question: is one a bad mother for not wanting to breast feed?

    Her Bad Mother October 8, 2009 at 9:20 am

    My fast answer is no, obviously – but I’d say that most moms who choose not do so because they’re impeded in some way. Some of the discussion here involves the issue of ‘can’t’ – some it also involves the issue of ‘was/would be too hard’. None of it (so far) involves the issue of, ‘meh, not my bag.’ Which is not surprising, given that the community involved in the discussion is, to some extent, self-selected to include mostly moms who worry about the best choices for their children. So I wouldn’t really expect to hear from someone who hadn’t given the matter a lot of thought and made the choice with difficulty and/or in the face of obstacles like inability, pain, depression, needing to work (one thing that’s rarely discussed – nursing is a full-time job, and so to some extent involves a certain degree of class privilege – you need to be able to stay home, or work in a field that indulges – ! – your desire/need to nurse.)

    But end of the day… while I would probably shake my head a bit at someone who just decided to not do because boobs squicked her out, and think it was unfortunate, I wouldn’t necessarily think she was a bad mom. Feeding our kids is just one component of parenting. But that’s another, thornier issue – how do we separate disagreement over parenting choices (“I wouldn’t make that choice”) from ideas about what it is to be a quote-unquote good mother?

    (On the issue of other issues that are perhaps under-interrogated in the so-called momosphere – issues like childhood obesity are discussed less often among mom-bloggers (although you can find some discussion at larger sites, like BlogHer, or big parenting sites) because most mom-bloggers have very young children and haven’t yet confronted the issue personally or aren’t yet worried about it.)

    Jessi October 9, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    This attitude, though, is part of the problem. Why should I feel like I have to justify my reasons for formula feeding to you? Why should there be a line between “can’t” and “would be too hard?” Neither of those options really fit my reasons, by the way, and I find it really insulting that the only other option is “don’t care about my baby’s well-being.” I made a choice. Period. That’s it. Why isn’t that good enough? I listened to the rhetoric and read the studies and engaged in the debate and made a choice. I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for that choice.
    .-= Jessi´s last blog ..The Breast Debate Ever =-.

    Another Suburban Mom October 7, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I had challenges nursing both of my kids. With my 1st it was latching issues, I think due mostly to my nerves and general lack of coordination.

    My second was a biter, but the wonderful lactation consultant took one look at my marked up breasts, put a finger in my daughter’s mouth, hugged me and said, “Shes a biter, you poor thing”.

    Then she gave me the magical silicone nipple hat and all was well.

    That said, I really hate when people do the mommy police on breastfeeding. The advice I give id that if you feel that breastfeeding is not for you and your anxiety about it is going to interfere with your enjoyment of your child than don’t do it.

    They are only that little once, and you should savor every second if possible. No one will remember in 5 years if you bottle or breast fed.
    .-= Another Suburban Mom´s last blog ..A Day for Dick =-.

    Headless Mom October 7, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I also think that it’s crazy that women (or men) say horrible things to women about how we feed our children. 99.9% of the time we are doing what we feel is best for our children in our circumstances. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Breast, bottle, don’t they both give our kids what they need? Why does this have to be a fight?

    My husband and I chose to breast feed our children-to the tune of “they wouldn’t ever take a bottle”, and went straight from breast to a cup. Those years were very difficult for me. Am I proud of what I did? A little. Why? I had ZERO time to myself, which, I think, might have made me a better mom in the long run. Do I think any of it matters 7 years later? Not one bit. My kids, and the kids of moms who bottle-fed, sit next to each other in school and have the same successes and failures as one another and it doesn’t matter one hill of beans how they were fed as infants.

    At the risk of sounding all ‘kum-by-ah”, can’t we get past this and support one another in whatever choices we make as mothers? If we don’t, then who will?
    .-= Headless Mom´s last blog ..By The Numbers (EDITED) =-.

    verybadcat October 7, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Obviously, breast isn’t always best- sometimes, for various reasons, self care of the mother is best, and isn’t possible while breastfeeding.

    I think I will breastfeed. I’m not a mother, none of my friends are mothers yet, and we’ve talked about it all- public nursing, does breastfeeding ruin a great rack, etc.

    If you’ll allow me… You mothers are one hell of an exclusive group. There was trouble here in Asheville over a public breastfeeding incident, and thusly, a “nurse in” was staged. An invitation was not extended to those who have no one to nurse but want to show support for nursing mothers. So there’s that.

    Women as a whole have a bad habit of judging and denigrating the choices of other to justify their own. A good friend of mine had an abortion once. When we discussed abortion, I said “I would never do it myself, but I support a woman’s right to choose”. She called me out on what was essentially a judgment of her and her decisions. Something that subtle, something I had said 40000 times and never been called out on- it was an epiphany for me. So now I say “I support a woman’s right to choose”, without qualification, without judgment. Truth told, I don’t know what I would do. I don’t think anyone does until they’re facing the decision.

    So it’s the same, I think with “breast is best”. It’s a statement that judges, and a false one at that. If a mother needs PPD meds to keep her and her baby safe, and she doesn’t take them as prescribed because she’s breastfeeding, then breast is NOT best. Breast is a dangerous decision that puts her and her family at risk.

    It all sounds a little too utopian to wish for, but I wish women would support each other. That we could say to ourselves, to each other and to the world: “my decisions are my decisions, and they are what is best for me, and my strength of conviction in my decision does not weaken my support of my friends and fellow sisters because their decisions are what is best for them, and I trust their ability to determine what is best for them”.


    But we don’t. We say things like “I could never stay at home, I would be so bored”, or “I guess if working keeps you from resenting your kids”, or “breast is best”, or “I don’t want to watch you pop a tit out while I’m eating dinner”, or the no-kids-ever women that call the mothers “breeders”, or the mothers who call the no-kids-ever women that they’re selfish and vapid.

    Worse still, we sit in silence while our fellow women are mistreated. After your blanket airplane post, I promised myself that if I ever witnessed a woman being shamed, I would come to her rescue. I support public breastfeeding, but even if I didn’t, I will not stand by while someone is shamed for making the best decision they could under their circumstances.

    Great post. Again.
    .-= verybadcat´s last blog ..Award and the Grossest Thing Ever =-.

    Heather October 7, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for this post. It’s nice to know people are thinking about this issue. I also tried so hard to breastfeed my first born, but she would not latch properly and it was so painful. I’ll never forget when she spit up blood and I called the pediatrician in a panic thinking she had internal bleeding. I too had lactation consultants who all said “you can do it you just need to be patient, it will happen. And in the meantime don’t supplement that will make her never do it.” In the meantime, I was at home alone all day with a baby who would not eat and screamed in my face, a husband who would come home and say I don’t know what the problem is the lactation lady said you should just keep trying, and family/friends who kept insisting that breast is best (they kept sending me books about it, I must have gotten two or three copies of “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”). At the same time I developed a major case of postpartum depression and was on such a low dose of meds that they weren’t helping. It was finally my therapist and psychiatrist approaching me and saying “look, you can formula feed, your daughter will be fine, once she is eating well she will stop screaming all the time and you will actually bond, you can also take a proper dose of medication and get better. If we have to put you in the hospital you will have to formula feed anyway.” I finally said enough and much to everyone’s horror broke out the formula. But things got better right away and my baby and I actually started to bond. It took me a long time to feel like I was a good mother for doing this but I finally decided that having a healthy, happy mother is what is best for your child and that means if you have to formula feed then that’s what you do.

    Because my depression was so bad with my first baby when I had my second I was afraid to cut back on my meds and go through the same thing. So my husband and I decided to formula feed from the get go. While I got some nasty looks at the hospital I still feel good about this decision.

    I wish women would just be supportive of each other. I know I would have enjoyed my first month as a mother so much more if someone had just said to me “you are not bad if you feed your baby formula.” Sorry for the long comment!

    Procrastamom October 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Heather, I practically starved my firstborn for the first two weeks of her life because I was so determined to make the breastfeeding thing work. It didn’t. I got bad mastitis and she basically didn’t sleep or stop crying for the whole two weeks. The day I finally gave her formula she turned into a calm, content, sleeping infant. When I think of Mom-Guilt I don’t think about the fact that I fed her formula, I feel horrible for the FOURTEEN DAYS OF STARVATION she experienced. I agree with everything you wrote. Great comment.

    (and now I will go back to work and stop hogging Catherine’s comment box)

    Jessi October 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    I just posted about this. See the link below. I am a formula feeding mom. A proud, formula feeding mom. I have felt demonized through most of my kids’ lives. What bothers me the most is women who call formula poison or child abuse. And there are more out there than you think. Those women not only make my life and the lives of every formula mom out there, more difficult. They also confuse the issue of child abuse. They trivialize it by calling responsible behavior abuse.
    .-= Jessi´s last blog ..The Breast Debate Ever =-.

    AmberMc October 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Thank you for writing this.
    I made the decision not to breastfeed before I became pregnant. My sacrifice was coming off of my 5 medications for Bipolar slowly, one at a time, to become pregnant. My will to become pregnant being my medication. Thankfully I was one of those woman that felt wonderful (mental-health-wise) while pregnant.
    I asked my Doctor if I could breastfeed. He gave me a choice:
    1) Breastfeed. Take a chance with PPD/Psychosis. Do not take any meds.
    2) Formula-feed. Guarantee my son a healthy mommy.
    With my history… I gave my son a healthy mommy.
    I might have been impossible to breastfeed anyway. I was so sick I couldn’t even have alone time with my son for 5 days.
    I’m still the woman that smiles at a breastfeeding mom and cheers her on. I’m still the envious mom that wishes I could have had that special closeness I hear about. I’m still the mom that types this red-faced because I feed my son formula.
    .-= AmberMc´s last blog ..Pneumonia, Fails and Puppy Dog Tails. =-.

    Regina October 7, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    My favorite parts her are:
    “But if formula-feeding mothers are being shamed in the process, isn’t that a problem?” & “But sacrifice shouldn’t be the criteria for being a good mom.”

    I wish I had read this when I was pregnant, or when I was having a hard time breastfeeding.

    Thank you for showing how this is not a black and white, right or wrong issue. It is so complicated and it should be about individual choices and THAT IS OK.
    .-= Regina´s last blog .. =-.

    Wendy Armbruster Bell October 7, 2009 at 4:57 pm


    I have recently become involved with the Best for Babes Foundation. Have you heard of them?

    I think they are on the same track as you are and boy is it a good one:

    Their Credo:
    ALL moms deserve to make a truly informed feeding decision and to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt.

    ALL breastfeeding moms deserve full institutional and cultural support to achieve their personal breastfeeding goals.

    Read more here:

    .-= Wendy Armbruster Bell´s last blog ..Driving Without a Seatbelt The Blinders of Our Cultural Norms =-.

    Michelle Pixie October 7, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    It is such an intimate choice for each woman and I think if we just come from a place of love we can’t do wrong. I never want to be the one to judge a fellow mom on how she chooses to nourish her child. Each situation is so different. I’ve had three babies and all three were breastfed but two out of the three made it to the year mark. I don’t have a single regret with what I had to do for my child including giving her formula. I have to say being in my thirties and breastfeeding was so much easier then breastfeeding in my twenties… A whole lot less pressure that I put on myself now when it comes to the whole breastfeeding in public.
    .-= Michelle Pixie´s last blog ..Move That Bus =-.

    Nel October 7, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I think you expressed yourself perfectly and I am glad that you did.

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer here and that is just something people need to accept. Not everyone is comfortable with seeing boobs exposed in public in the name of breastfeeding, but it doesn’t mean they are against it. And some moms feel like blacksheep because they can’t breastfeed. That saddens me…a lot.

    I think people should mind their business. Do what they want to do and support their fellow moms.
    .-= Nel´s last blog ..Please forgive me, for I have sinned. =-.

    Sugared Harpy October 7, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Thank you!

    I think this: it does no good to put down boys in order to uplift girls. Our goal for our children is to make all of them feel empowered, able, and proud.

    To me, it’s the same for how we feed our children. We can empower breastfeeding and normalize it without penalizing formula feeding. It’s about trusting parents to make the best choice for their families. I trust them. I would have appreciated if they trusted me while I breastfed my boys.

    Normalize trust in parents (mothers in particular) and you will normalize breastfeeding without demonizing bottle feeding.
    .-= Sugared Harpy´s last blog ..Dear principals of my son’s middle school, =-.

    Lisa October 7, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I think the shame – on both sides – is not as much induced from the outside, from society, as it is from inside.

    Nursing is a biological imperative. If we didn’t feel we MUST feed our infant At All Costs, who would do it? What cavewoman would have put up with it? None. She’d have rolled over and gone back to sleep and there goes the human race.

    So instead we are hard-wired to feel compelled to feed our children. We are little more than animals in the wild, operating on instinct, doing whatever it takes for our offspring to survive.

    That animal-mom does not respond to reasoning. Sure, we can tell another mother it’s okay to give up breastfeeding, and we can even believe it. But that is not about OUR child. It’s not about valuing our child over another – we’d probably risk our life to save another child without thinking. It’s about trying to fight our instinct for the survival of our child.

    You can’t reason with instinct. You can’t comfort instinct. You can’t reassure instinct.

    Bettina October 7, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    This issue makes my head hurt and my heart ache. I was a mother that was freaked out by the idea of nursing, and couldn’t even say the word “breast” comfortably (and now I have to say it every 5 minutes). This post, and the book “Unbuttoned,” should be required reading.

    There are a lot more hidden layers here though, such as exploring how all this judgment came about, how the pitting of mother against mother is being purposefully perpetuated. There are lots of experts who have been writing about the language of Breast- and formula-feeding–Weisinger, Newman, Bartick, Walker–but too much of their work is isolated in the academic realm. We are working to bring them into the mainstream. I think that the sooner we ALL–no matter our feeding decision–work together to take the pressure and the focus OFF moms and put it ON the “booby traps,” the quicker we can neutralize the breeding ground for judgment, guilt, anguish.

    Oh yeah, and the day the slogan “breast is best” was coined …like alliteration? …the formula marketing machine wept for joy. Ask me why, and I’ll tell you!

    Her Bad Mother October 7, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    You’re going to make me beg? ;)


    Juliette October 7, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I know the answer to the “breast is best” question above but I’ll leave it for Bettina to explain. :)

    However, just wanted to say I agree. Let’s take the pressure off individual mothers – give them the confidence and the knowledge to weigh their options and make the best decisions for their family.

    Instead, let’s (somehow!) take away the power of the formula marketers to subtly make up people’s minds for them, with carefully crafted “supportive” wording and subliminal campaigns. Just like with tobacco advertising, we should be raging against the fact that we’re targeted when we’re so vulnerable as new parents, and convinced to make decisions that we otherwise might not have made.

    Formula isn’t poison… but I’m beginning to think that some of the marketing around it is poisonous…

    Candace October 7, 2009 at 7:07 pm


    You are one of my favorite writers because you let us into your thought process in a way that is so raw and yet so beautiful. It is art without the artifice.

    I think there are a few issues wrapped up in this which is way when we poke at it at all, other things come oozing out.

    Modern, educated moms…we seem to wrap so much of ourselves and our identities up in mothering.

    I think that the #NestleFamily issue, in part, is so clear for me because it is not about choice–it is about those who, because they have no education, no alternatives are effectively without choice.

    But any time the word “formula” comes up, it brings up a flood of emotion and personal experience for so many of us…even when it is clearly not about us, not as individuals, at least. An individual mama’s choice in the West isn’t at issue when we talk about a health crisis in developing countries.

    Yes, we do need to create a culture in which a woman can exercise her choice without being bullied or shamed. And I also wish we had a culture where breastfeeding was the norm, without denigrating those who choose to or must bottlefeed.

    And I agree with Annie’s point that it is hard to correct misinformation without appearing to blame or shame and that is one of the toughest parts.

    I hope we can come to a place where mothers are, as a group, as a culture, supportive of one another’s valid choices and seek systematic change, rather than bullying individuals.
    .-= Candace´s last blog ..Yes, I’m THAT Mother (Already) =-.

    resrie October 7, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    …….so many thoughts….for me, the breast/formula debate should be driven by which will give baby a calm, happy, GUILT FREE mum. I fear the debate is overtaking the babies. Wouldn’t all this energy be better spent in support of the mothers, however they need it?

    Judy October 7, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    When I had S back in 1963, breast feeding wasn’t the “in” thing to do. La Leche was just getting a foothold in my midwestern community, and they came to some birthing classes I was taking, and I became very excited about breast feeding my child. I massaged and pulled at my nipples for months during the pregnancy to “toughen” them. I read everything I could find. And then I had the baby.

    The nurses in the hospital were not supportive. They’d feed the baby formula and then bring her to you to nurse, and of course she wasn’t interested. But then she’d be hungry before the next scheduled nursing (every four hours, and no babies sleeping in your room) and she actually managed to suck a blister onto her own hand. I was in hysterics. First time mother, my 21st birthday, my milk was coming in and my usual C cup swelled to a DD, and my breasts were hard as a rock, I suspect there was something wrong, but nobody in the hospital seemed to care. Their solution to my hysteria about the baby sucking the blister on her hand was to shove her arm elbow-first into the sleeve of her shirt, which made me more hysterical. Nobody helped me nurse. It was supposed to be a natural thing. I could not even get my huge hard swollen nipple into her mouth. I cried a lot.

    We went home from the hospital after four days. I didn’t like nursing. I was very shy, and it embarrassed me to bare myself to nurse. Mostly I didn’t like that it hurt like hell, and that the baby was crying constantly. I would nurse on each side for half an hour, and within an hour after feeding, she was awake and screaming. But I wouldn’t be a real woman if I quit, would I?

    When S was about 2 weeks old, we were going to visit some relatives for the evening. I decided to make a supplemental bottle of formula for her. I was clueless in that I didn’t know it was too soon to do that, and I didn’t know that a baby that age will take only 2 ounces of formula or so. I had sterilized 8 ounce bottles of water, and put four scoops of powdered formula in and shook it well – it was probably close to 8 ounces of formula. She took every drop, and then she slept all night.


    I called the pediatrician, who seemed to think I’d be better off to stop nursing. So I did. With clothes tied on my throbbing breasts to bind them, in pain every minute for two weeks – but the baby slept and ate and was much easier to take care of.

    I didn’t even try to nurse her sister, born 18 months later. Right on the bottle from the start. And 7 years later when my boy was born, I toyed with the idea of trying to nurse, but the necessity of medication made that impossible.

    My kids did fine. They all grew up healthy. But it took a long time for ME to get sane again, because everyone had convinced me that nursing was the ONLY way to feed your baby, and I felt like such a failure.

    SuzyQ is right. We need to quit judging. You know, when I was pregnant, we thought nothing of smoking while pregnant. In fact, my OB/GYN would examine me, then we’d go into his office and smoke together while he wrote me a prescription for amphetamines to try to keep my weight down to the 15 lb. he wanted me to gain (I still gained 40 with each of them). This was the norm. And yet all babies born in the 50′s, 60′s, 70′s are not low birth weight retarded little creatures. All three of mine were over 8 lb. , and the nearest to prematurity anyone came was a week after the due date – one was even three weeks after the due date.

    Granted, smoking while pregnant is not a good thing – smoking at all is not a good thing. Taking “black beauties” to keep the weight off while pregnant is not a good thing. But it’s also not a good thing to worry and fret and feel inadequate or wrong because someone else is judging you.

    I firmly believe that it’s our purpose on earth to love and support each other. We need to get on that.

    Alexicographer October 7, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Thank you for writing about this.

    I breastfed. Except for week one, I never breastfed exclusively because I could not produce enough milk. I did the pumping stuff, I had a great LC, the first month was really hard (though I didn’t realize it at the time), but I just stuck with it, and supplemented (and pumped to up my supply) when I was out of milk. It never occurred to me to stop trying. In the end, he nursed (non-exclusively) through month 13 and then self-weaned. I loved nursing him. I was sad when he quit.

    I am wonderfully blasee about who sees my breasts 98% of the time (the one group within which I felt a tad awkward was male coworkers, and I did cover up the few times he nursed in front of them), which no doubt made matters simpler. I also live in a great community where public breastfeeding is common and supported.

    But, yes. We should support women regardless of how we feed our children. If you haven’t already, in terms of getting your head to stop hurting, it might be worth reading Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s book Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species. Among the many wonderful points she makes is that for the first time in history, some women (only those of us living in places with sanitary water supplies) have the option of not breastfeeding yet still feeding our babies a nutritious, safe diet. This is a phenomenal novelty and something for which, really, I think we should be grateful every single day. I was struck again by Hrdy’s point, and the related gratefulness, recently when listening to a report about how an anti-AIDs drug seems to reduce the transmission of HIV from HIV+ mom to breastfeeding baby, and (per the report, I think on NPR) how this is a wonderful thing since women in sub-Saharan Africa, far too many of whom are HIV+, often must breastfeed their babies, having no safe substitutes … no sanitary water.

    Honestly? I’d like to move away from “Breast is best.” Breast is wonderful, and it may be best, but it isn’t always, and no mom should need to explain why for her, it wasn’t the right choice, any more than she should need to explain why it is.

    Katie October 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    There is so much I want to say about this post. And I want to read each and every comment more thoroghly. But I’m exhausted and my baby is likely to wake up to nurse in a couple of hours so I am missing a rare sleep opportunity.

    But, I will say this to start off. WHY does this myth persist that breastfeeding does not hurt? That if it hurts you are doing it wrong? WHY? I can’t tell you how much heartache and headache this myth has caused me and every nursing mother I’ve known.

    But, I bottle fed my first son for sanity reasons because the PPD was becoming too much for me. I nurse my second son and while I am awestruck by my ability to nourish another human being from my own body, I am exhausted. I think about quitting, but I am scared. Scared of what it will do to us to break that special bond we have. Scared of losing the magical antibodies on the verge of a bad flu season. Scared of trying to wean him onto a bottle (which he HATES). Scared of the pain of engorged breasts.

    So, I keep going. And I’m tired.

    Dani October 7, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Once again you seem to articulate all the things I would like to say but so much better.
    My oldest was an 11 week preemie and I pumped every two hours for three months until he was healthy enough to come home from the hospital. He breastfed when he came home but with much difficulty as I never produced enough for him. I took prescription meds, herbal meds, ate the “right” foods and made myself insane over breastfeeding. Part of it for me was that it was the ONLY thing I could do as a mom while he was in the NICU. It made me feel like somehow I was contributing to his survival and not just staring at him in an incubator. I managed to nurse for ten months and had enough milk frozen that he had breastmilk only for his first year.
    Part of me is so proud that I was able to do that for him and the other part is so angry that I convinced myself that there were no other options. My memories of breastfeeding him are tinged with tears when I couldn’t produce enough and giving him a bottle of expressed milk after each nursing session.

    My daughter is six months old now and we’ve had a much better breastfeeding experience. But this time I supplemented with formula and I promised myself I wouldn’t beat myself up over it. We’re going to make it until seven months. then I’m going away on a girls weekend and I’m going back on much needed anti depression medication. I am doing my best not to feel guilty. And I’m mostly winning that battle.
    Thanks for talking about these things. We need to be more supportive of one another and more responsive to all of the different needs that each child and each mom are presented with.
    .-= Dani´s last blog ..Thank God the laundry was in the car =-.

    Artemnesia October 7, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    I think it’s important to be careful about using a term like “bias.” Artificial milk carries risks to mothers and babies. That’s not a bias, it’s a fact. Time and time again I have seen mothers accuse lactivists of judging them when nothing of the sort actually happened! It gets tiresome. At a certain point I feel like saying, “Can’t you see that I would do anything to take away your guilt, if only so that you’d stop blaming it on me??”

    The truth about infant feeding MUST be spread. It’s too important to hush up because we’re afraid it might make some people feel. The health and wellbeing of babies comes before adult feelings. Women have a right to know about the possible consequences of their decisions. Withholding accurate information isn’t being caring or considerate, it is being patronizing.

    Criticizing a product or a practice is NOT the same thing as criticizing an individual who has used that product or made that decision. So why don’t all resolve to start being intellectually honest about that from now on.

    Her Bad Mother October 8, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I *sort of* agree – the issue I have is that to talk about ‘risks’ can carry a unnecessary connotation of danger. In the developed world, formula-feeding doesn’t really involve any risk – that it’s not as good as BM doesn’t mean that there are ‘risks’ involved (and, broadly speaking, BF can involve risks – if, say, the mom is HIV-positive, or, arguably if the nursing mom is really struggling with PPD and on medication.) I think that this is what my friend meant when she talked about formula being characterized as poison – talking about formula-feeding as a ‘risky’ choice unfairly characterizes formula feeders as having made a potentially dangerous choice – which, in the developed world, it just isn’t.

    I totally agree that moms should be given as much info as possible – ALL the info. But demonizing formula doesn’t help the cause – it just causes needless anxiety. (And anxiety can affect the health and well-being of babies, so ‘moms’ feelings’ are absolutely NOT an irrelevant factor here.)

    Artemnesia October 8, 2009 at 11:09 am

    The idea that formula feeding does not carry risk is absolutely false. Breastfeeding is the biological norm. Substitutes significantly increase a child’s likelihood of getting sick and in the United States raises the mortality rate by 21% for the first year. Breastmilk is part of the child’s immune system. Knock that out and there are consequences. Piles of studies bear this out. And the consequences don’t just last the first year or first few years. They last for life as with chronic diseases like breast cancer, obesity, asthma and the like. You have been sold a bill of goods by a culture that sees formula feeding as the norm. Dirty water (among other conditions) raise the risk but this does NOT mean formula is equal to breastmilk in developing nations.

    This kind of explanation, and nothing short of it, is the info people need to make a truly informed decision. Whether it “demonizes” formula is not the point. Whether it is true or not is the point. By all means women should weigh that info and if they think formula still comes out on top then it’s their child and their choice. But don’t expect people to try to change reality so they can sleep better at night. That’s not fair to the mothers who are in need of straight talk.

    Artemnesia October 8, 2009 at 11:13 am

    I also forgot to note that I have a few friends who, for various health reasons, could not breastfeed. The fact that they were not given the choice to feed real banked milk instead of artificial milk is a product of a culture that thinks formula is fine and that it is better to spend $3.6 billion a year fixing health problems due to formula use than it is to set up more milk banks. Spreading ignorance doesn’t really help anyone. If people are angry or feel bad about their choices they should get angry at the corporations and the culture that encouraged them to do something that they wouldn’t have done if they had had all the facts and the appropriate level of support.

    Her Bad Mother October 8, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I think most mothers know that breastmilk is superior to formula. That’s no longer news. I don’t think that any mother chooses formula because she thinks that formula is the better foodstuff. She makes that choice because of other considerations. My issue is with making moms feel guilty for that choice. Formula can be a valid choice not because it’s nutritionally superior to breastmilk, but because nursing is impossible or difficult for a mother or compromises her health or well-being.

    Every choice involves ‘risk’ of greater or lesser degree – my point is that mothers should feel free to consider *other* risks (such as those associated with PPD, untreated or otherwise, and their psychological well-being generally) without being made to feel that the so-called risks of formula outweigh every other consideration. So many moms here and elsewhere have said that the pressure to nurse – and the purported evils of formula – caused them to set aside other considerations – even the obvious well-being of their babies, at times. Is this not a problem?
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..Shame And The Mom: A Boob Story =-.

    Artemnesia October 8, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Thinking of breastmilk as “superior” is in fact a problem. Actually it’s just the normal food for a baby. By selling it as an extra-credit endeavor that has “benefits” damage has been accidentally done.

    The facts have the potential to cause guilt. I do not dispute that. But I take serious issue with the idea that the facts (which most people are not at ALL familiar with) should not be shared far and wide even if it causes guilt. There is a bigger issue at hand.

    Generations are getting unnecessarily sick and even dying. Which do you think is a greater risk to a child’s life– never being breastfed or never being put into a carseat? Do you know what the numbers actually say? Do you know how many lives could be saved if all babies were provided at least a few months of all breastmilk, whether from their mother or in some other fashion? Please, go and find out.

    I demonize no one for feeding formula. It is a product I have used myself. But this is a tactic that is used to shut up breastfeeding advocates, not stop people from being bullied. No such thing happens. How the hell could it. Most people in the US use formula, after all. I believe the “StrongMoms” website quotes it as 9 out of 10 and I am inclined to believe them. This isn’t a case of a bullied minority getting shamed by a majority that is just being mean. This is a case of generations of mothers being misled and left unsupported by a very large and very powerful industry. And industry which counts to some extent on having a lot of mothers defending it because to accept the truth instead would be personally painful.

    Her Bad Mother October 8, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Artemnesia (this is in response to your last comment below – couldn’t synch up this reply) – I am not for one minute suggesting that the facts – such as they are – not be discussed. Quite the contrary – my whole struggle here is figuring out how to balance open discussion of the ‘facts’ with avoiding shaming mothers. I don’t have the answers, I just think that it’s an important issue to discuss. Shame can lead to anxiety which can compromise the health and well-being of families (mothers and children) just an insidiously as any other toxin. I’m saying that we shouldn’t let our concerns in one area cause us to neglect serious concerns in another.

    Again, I don’t know how. Hence the aforementioned headache.
    .-= Her Bad Mother´s last blog ..Shame And The Mom: A Boob Story =-.

    Sylvie October 7, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    I was a breastfeed baby and never thought I would do otherwise. Breastfeeding never scared or intimidated me or grossed me out in any way at all. Nor did I feel the need to proselytize about how wonderful it was. It just was.

    It worked well for me. A little bit of time needed to learn latching. No pain. One blocked mild duct. Lots of milk. No problems.

    At the same time, I saw friends go through agony to try and breastfeed. Friends who’d gone through natural (drugfree — how’s that for loaded talk?) while I’d begged for the epidural.

    My conclusion after seeing what I thought were the absolutely crazy, painful lengths women went to to breastfeed was that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Formula gained its foothold not because the pharmaceutical companies were evil incarnate but because breastfeeding is difficult and stressful for a great number of women. And, duh, guess that’s why there were wet nurses back in the day.

    Anything that causes this much pain and disappointment is a highly problematic process, far from the wonderful force of nature its advocates make it out to be.

    I wasn’t at all surprised to read Hanna Rosin’s article earlier this year about how the benefits are massively overrated. Makes perfect sense to me.

    I also remember a discussion I had, way back when, with the mother of twins. One she was able to breastfeed, the other just would not. Who was the healthier baby? The formula one. Yes, yes, it’s anecdotal but still.

    I honestly have no idea why women put themselves through this pain. I don’t think I would have if I hadn’t been able to breastfeed easily. I wanted a natural childbirth but when that didn’t work out, I didn’t beat up on myself over it.

    In the end, I just find this masochism rather peculiar.

    And yes, I acknowledge that’s a whole lot easier for a successful breastfeeder to say, but I still think my opinion counts.

    makyo October 9, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    i read the article you linked to and was completely blown away. you hear “breast is best” so often that you stop questioning where that information came from. thank you for providing such a fantastic resource.

    Jessi October 9, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you so much for that article. I had long noticed the small differences and contradictions in medical studies, but assumed I was missing something as no one else seemed to see them.
    .-= Jessi´s last blog ..The Breast Debate Ever =-.

    Momily October 7, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Can i just say that what you said in the other article:
    “I’ll always insist that breast is best. But that only holds in the arena of infant nutrition, and sometimes, you have give a little in one arena to keep a hold of things in another. Bottle-feeding and formula might not be as super-awesome-fantastic as breastmilk, but they’re certainly pretty good, and if it comes to a toss-up between giving your child the best nutrition and losing your mind, or giving your child excellent nutrition and maintaining your sanity, well, the choice should be pretty straightforward. You can’t take care of that baby if you’re sobbing, helpless, in a corner. Better to get some rest and slip her an occasional – even a frequent – bottle than to sacrifice yourself at the altar of Breast Is Best.

    Breast is best, but healthy, happy moms are better.”

    is so super awesome. I could have used this 18 months ago . . . i just couldn’t see it and needed to. I was truly sacrificing myself and my family’s happiness at the altar of breastfeeding. . . mostly out of guilt and shame and wanting to do the right thing when i should have at a certain point done the “good enough” thing to preserve some sanity and sleep and physical well-being. I agree totally that breast is best and moms should try their hand at it, but it is not possible for everyone.

    As for “Artmnesia’s” comment “Criticizing a product or a practice is NOT the same thing as criticizing an individual who has used that product or made that decision.” Well, it kind of it is one the “products” are boobs or not boobs. . . it feels that way anyway.
    .-= Momily´s last blog ..tweet tweet tweet =-.

    Denise October 8, 2009 at 12:45 am

    What really jumped out at me about your post was your point that “sacrifice should not be the criteria for being a good mom.” I agree with that wholeheartedly. Some have said that we have a culture of “child worship,” and I think that is true to a certain extent. Somehow it seems the line between love/servitude has been blurred. Yes, of course, parents have to sacrifice when they transition into parenthood, but there is no need to suffer in this sacrifice. It is a double-edged sword: to be considered a good mom, we’re supposed to sacrifice mightily, and we’re supposed to make it look easy. Oh, and we’re supposed to be joyful about it, too. Otherwise, we are not “good” moms.
    .-= Denise´s last blog .. =-.

    Val October 8, 2009 at 1:08 am

    On the plus side, I think part of the reason that we all agonize and shame ourselves over these decisions is that we really want to do our best for our children. If childrearing were easy and the decisions were easy, we wouldn’t care about those first steps, first words, first day of school, etc.

    On the minus side, I think women that shame other women regarding breastfeeding are as insecure as 6-year olds who call each other names. We all want to feel like we belong and we all want to feel like good people. Some people have to put others down in order to acheive this.

    Personally, I always thought I would become the quintessential Earth Mother somehow and give birth naturally and breastfeed proudly. I took a class, I read books, I read articles. But, after feeling physically and emotionally traumatized by a long labor and delivery (with drugs), and staying awake for 4 days trying to nurse, I was wrecked. My husband drove me sobbing to the psychiatrist while my son stayed in the hospital.

    I made the decision that I had to cut down my anxiety so I could try to be there for my son rather than crying day and night. The challenge of breastfeeding had to be tabled. Could I have perservered and eventually been able to get him to latch? Probably. Would it have been better for him healthwise? Possibly. But here’s the thing. I could not possibly be more proud of the little boy he is becoming. I could not feel more love for him or for his father who helped me bottlefeed him through many a long night. So I can’t possibly regret a thing.

    Daffodil October 8, 2009 at 1:11 am

    I think this hurts so much, because it is so very personal to every mother. As a mother all we want is the best for our child. The very essence of parenting is the instinct to put your child’s needs ahead of your own (whether that is right or healthy or necessary is another conversation).

    I have many regrets in parenting, as in life. Many things that, in retrospect, I would do differently, or that I wish had gone differently. Whether there were circumstances beyond my control, or I was just making the best decision possible at the time… is not perfect. Parenting is not either.

    We all do the best we can – and we all have some level of regret I think. Guilt too. It’s natural to worry that you have done the right thing, the best thing, that you did all you could do. This is not limited to the first year of life, by the way. I’ll bet there are 60 year old mothers who worry about their adult children, still wondering if things would be better had they made a different decision about breast v.s. bottle.

    The decisions I made about feeding my child were the right ones for us – which in the end is all you can hope for really. I breastfed the first, bottle and breastfed the second. And yet, even with my own very different experiences, and knowing that there are myriad extenuating circumstances of everyone’s backstory….I still have a tiny voice inside of me that reacts to this topic – even when my common sense knows it is not my place to judge.

    So there it is. I don’t feel good about it. I don’t like feeling judgemental, nor do I enjoy being judged.

    The woman who is all worked up about how you feed your kid may have made decisions in other aspects of her parenting that you would NEVER choose for yourself and your child. That woman who insists that breast is best may be using (gasp !) disposable diapers or (gasp !) had a scheduled c-section or (gasp !) works full time and has her kid in day care 5 days a week or (gasp !) vaccinates.

    See ? See how many different ways there are to piss people off ? How many things there are that you may feel shame or judgement about ? The breast v.s. formula debate is just one of many. So while I have a LOT of opinions, I am trying to keep them to myself, and to adopt an open-minded attitude about life in general and parenting in particular. Because really, we’re all gonna be juuuuuuust fine.
    .-= Daffodil´s last blog ..In which I take two children to Disneyland and we all lived to tell the tale =-.

    Amber October 8, 2009 at 2:13 am

    The thing that pains me is that there really isn’t adequate breastfeeding support, still. It’s one thing to SAY ‘breast is best’, but it’s another thing to actually help a mom who needs it.

    I would like to see less effort going towards convincing moms to breastfeed, and more towards helping them to succeed. We need more qualified and knowledgeable lactation professionals in our hospitals and communities. Most moms try to breastfeed, they don’t need to be sold on why it’s good. They need help down the line.

    That way, maybe, it’s less about a value judgment of what MOMS should do, and more about what we should be doing as a community to support them (which doesn’t have to stop at breastfeeding). We can unload some of the guilt from the heaping maternal plate, because really, it’s the last thing we need. However we choose to feed our babies.
    .-= Amber´s last blog ..No More Belly Button Blues =-.

    Teresa October 8, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Wow – *I* could have written that… except not so eloquently. The death of breastfeeding came for me when a family member fell ill and I had to care for her, leaving little time for breastfeeding and pumping. But for the first eight months there was that torture. I felt victory when I could nurse my son for a day without supplementing with formula. By the end, my PPD was so overwhelming, and exacerbated by the fact that I could barely eke out enough for a single feeding each day.

    But I’m glad that – perhaps out of ignorance or maybe ambivalence brought on by the new hormone levels – I decided in the hospital, just hours after my son’s birth, that formula was not just okay but a good and necessary thing. Even the well-meaning lactation consultant couldn’t convince me otherwise. Or my cousins, who had experienced difficulty breastfeeding but persevered. Or every single piece of baby-feeding information provided by anyone other than the formula companies themselves.

    I do feel strongly that breastfeeding is the best way for a healthy mother to nourish her baby because, for all our research, we don’t have the knowledge or the technology to replicate – let alone improve upon – the full nutrient value of breastmilk. That said, using formula as a substitute offers a coping mechanism for mothers as much as it offers nutrients for babies. I was able to remove the stress of having to produce more milk than I was capable of because I knew I had something I could give to feed my son. I don’t know how I would have handled that extra stress on top of everything I actually went through, so I hope that the anti-formula crowd can understand that there are a lot of personal reasons why mothers may choose to bottle feed. I agree that we should all be supporting each other’s choices in this.

    I hope that the discussion about formula vs breastmilk gets separated from the discussion about nursing in public. I hated nursing in public – everything about it – but that is because of my own relationship to my breasts. I personally feel that women who are comfortable doing so ought to be allowed to go topless – period. I *especially* feel that nursing mothers should be made to feel comfortable about feeding in public. The harassment that some women experience is unacceptable. Men will never have to face that same dilemma – if they did, it would be a non-issue by now. But they will never have to worry about unleashing some great taboo to calm their hungry child in the grocery store, or at a restaurant, or at a family gathering. They can hand the kid off to Mom for her to deal with, or grab a bottle without judgement. It is a women’s issue, and there really needs to be solidarity, even on the part of mothers who wouldn’t publicly nurse themselves.

    Tracy October 8, 2009 at 5:34 am

    It’s really sad to me that a person cannot get the info you need to breastfeed successfully at the hospitals or clinics. When I went for my anti natal classes I was concerned about not being able to breastfeed my baby, so I asked the nurse whether it was possible that a mother doesn’t have milk, because my mom never had milk. She said that it was absolutely 100% impossible that I would not be able to breastfeed. When the time came I had no milk…or so I thought and also tried for a month, with medication etc. The thing I realized afterward when I did some research was that the nurses give the wrong advice. I was able to breastfeed there was actually nothing wrong with me, I just didn’t know how! And I think there are so many moms out there who give up and think that they are incapable of breastfeeding, when in actual fact they just don’t know the facts.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..Oct 6, Working and breastfeeding =-.

    pixielation October 8, 2009 at 6:18 am

    Breastfeeding information was freely available to me via the NCT when I was pregnant, but not everyone has that luxury. Even after a breastfeeding clinic, when I had number 1 I couldn’t get her to latch on. A nurse grabbed my nippled and stuffed it in my baby’s mouth because she didn’t have time to help me.

    Eventually we got right. And then I was the queen of public breast feeding, no-one even noticed me doing it. I had a bright floral oversized muslin that I draped over one shoulder, and then I could scoop baby in and latch on without having to flash breast pads whatever other paraphanalia was living down there.

    But even I felt guilty when I gave up breast feeding number 2 earlier than number 1. Just a little. She was a biter.

    A friend of mine gave up breast feeding her first one after a few months of continual pain and mastitis. She was in tears about it, feeling very wretched and upset that things hadn’t gone as expected. Feeling very guiltly about not doing the best for her son. My advice to her was that breast feeding really IS about what’s best for baby – even if that means NOT doing it. If she’s stressed, in pain, tensed up and hating every minute of what is supposed to a wonderful bonding moment – then how is that best for baby? A relaxed and calm mother is a far better gift to a child. What’s best for baby includes what’s best for the mother too.

    So no mother should ever beat herself up if she has to formula feed when she’d wanted to breast feed. And similarly, no mother should ever feel pressure about breast feeding in public. It should be all about having the freedom to do what’s best for your child.
    .-= pixielation´s last blog ..on being a crummy mummy =-.

    Nicole October 8, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Okay, so breastfeeding. Yes, I do it. I also supplement with formula because if I didn’t, I would spend most of the time on the couch feeding her. Did I mention I’m on zoloft for ppd? Yes, my supply is fine – she just happens to be really hungry. It runs in the family.

    Re: supply. Personally, I think low supply is more common than what is published. I have a relatively small circle of friends and precisely two of them have kids. The one took domperidone (sp?) to increase her milk supply – it worked for her. The other, with her first, took fenugreek, mother’s milk tea, domperidone and breastfed 14 hours a day with her first son. He got urine crystals because he was so dehydrated because of low supply. After 5 weeks, she finally gave him some formula and he finally slept comfortably. I find it hard to believe that if two of my small circle of friends have low supply, it is that uncommon.

    Re: breastfeeding in public. I have never been subjected to scrutiny and I nurse in public often. I have done it at restaurant tables, in offices, in cafe’s. If anyone stared, I never noticed. Its not about them.

    That said, my health unit pushes breastfeeding like crazy. Great, right? Well, a friend from my prenatal class ended up breastfeeding for precisely 13 days. It wasn’t working: her husband had just been transferred at work and was working long hours, her inlaws didn’t understand and weren’t helpful, she has no other family here. She was overwhelmed and she switched to formula.

    After that, any assistance from the public health nurse dried up. I got numerous phone calls asking when I’d be bringing the Poptart in for her 2 month shots – even though I told them my doctor would be doing them. I finally got off their call list by asking to be taken off. My friend got none of that. Now, it may have been the nurse assigned to her. Or not, because as it turns out, we had the same nurse – who was okay with me not exclusively breastfeeding, but not okay with straight formula feeding.

    So I don’t know – my theory is: whatever works for a happy mom. But when someone can’t get help from a public health unit? I ran into her at a talk on ppd – yeah, we’re both on zoloft. She told me that the support she got from us on formula feeding was, aside from her husband, the first non-judgmental support she got.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Overheard: The Prime Minister Does the Beatles =-.

    zchamu October 8, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Oh Catherine. I want to hug you.

    Breastfeeding is freaking HARD. I spent three days in the hospital with a baby who was latching but apparently getting nothing. When I had to give her formula I felt like an abject failure; watching the bottle drain in to her mouth was almost horrible to me. Then after we gave her the bottle, she outright rejected the boob. Now, I pump, and she gets the good stuff still, and I am relieved. RELIEVED. Putting her on the boob was *hard*, and this is easy in comparison. Yes, easy. It doesn’t hurt. I have no nipple issues. Anyone can feed her and I can get a precious nap. So why do I still feel lingering guilt, lingering judgment? Sigh.

    Hugs. You did what was best for you and J, don’t ever doubt that.
    .-= zchamu´s last blog ..And it all smells vaguely of sour milk. =-.

    red pen mama October 8, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Look, I don’t mean to simplify things. Catherine is eloquent, and these comments are eloquent.

    Here are the important elements: Happy mothers and happy, healthy babies. There are no medals awarded for natural childbirth, epidurals, hours in labor, c-sections, breastfeeding that is easy, bf’ing that is difficult, bf’ing that is torture, and/or formula feeding.

    I think the fact that formula-feeding mothers are treated like criminals by lactivists and/or those who went through hell to bf is wrong. We do not live in each others’ lives, and we should not judge how another parent parents. It’s none of our business. We are allowed to make our choices for our child(ren), and that’s it.

    Culture be damned; judgey mcjudgersons be damned. You keep your nose where it belongs: on your face.

    It’s not even a matter of needing to be more supportive. If we didn’t judge, we wouldn’t need to be more supportive. Your choice is yours, and mine is mine. That’s all.

    For the record: bf’ing came pretty naturally to me; I supplemented because I didn’t appreciate being used as a pacifier; my girls weaned themselves at 10 months; I’ve done the WAHM thing, the SAHM thing, and the WOTH (work outside the home) thing. I know what is best for me, my girls, and my husband. And no one else does.

    Kudos, Catherine, for bringing this issue into the light in such an eloquent (that word again!) way.

    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Light =-.

    Shannon October 8, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Having been through the experience of nursing two colicky babies I can look back and say that, while I did enjoy the closeness of nursing when we finally broke through the colicky period (9 months of colic with the first, 4 months with the second), I should have quit breastfeeding. Feeling like I shouldn’t quit, even though it was making me completely miserable and taking away a lot of much-needed sleep and contributing to PPD, was wrong. I shouldn’t have felt that way. I can’t blame other people for my choice but I know that the breastfeeding culture really affected me. There was only one nurse in the hospital who reminded me, after I had to supplement my first with formula when I wasn’t producing enough milk after a very difficult c-section delivery, that babies whose mothers can’t nurse in the wild, are left to die. Only in humans do we have the amazing knowledge and ability to feed our children in another way. We should be grateful and proud of that. I should have quit. For my sanity and my health. I should have quit. I can tell people that I nursed both my babies for a year so they think I’m a good person/mother. But, my life would have been so much healthier and happier in my babies first years if I had quit. I just didn’t feel brave enough to do it.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..Overheard at McDonalds =-.

    Beth October 8, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I’ve written on this from the side of someone who didn’t have a “choice” and yet is treated as if a) I did and b) I am damaging my daughter for giving her formula.

    I’ve also written a comment that was forwarded to me by a “well meaning” lactivist:

    I’m really over it. For reasons that are clear from the first post, my daughter is my last child, so I won’t have to deal with this again, but I’m sure there’s something else I do that people would be happy to shame me about :) .
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..And on with the show . . . =-.

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