Why You Shouldn't Be Ashamed About Not Breastfeeding Your Baby
Parents of young children have enough stress to deal with already; being criticized on their choice to feed their baby formula should not be another one. Everyone knows that in most cases, breast is best, but sometimes, it really isn't.
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Some of my friends think it's "nasty", but I had heard about all the health benefits that breastfeeding gives both a mother and her child, and I knew it was the best thing to do. I wanted to give my baby the best nutrition, reduce my chance of cancer, and create a bonding experience between myself and my child. I told everyone that my decision was final: I was going to breastfeed my baby until he could drink milk. Then, my OBGYN asked me if I took any medicines.
It turns out that the three medicines I had been taking for years would poison my breast milk and probably affect my baby. I decided to stop taking them during my pregnancy and to re-start them when my child could start drinking cow's milk. It seemed like an easy decision.
In about the middle of my second trimester, I knew I had to start taking them again. I was having horrible withdrawals and starting to get terribly depressed. I talked to both my doctors, and they said that it would best for me to get back on my medication before anything got worse. At the time, I still wanted to breastfeed, so I asked if they could switch me to a different brand that would allow me to do so. I was told that it would take too long for the chemicals to kick in, and that no medicine that could be prescribed to me was completely safe for a baby to consume. That was when I knew I had to use formula.
I was disappointed when I found out it would be bad for me to breastfeed, especially with all the radio commercials and people I knew making me feel guilty. For a few days, things like "Breastfed babies are smarter, healthier, and better behaved" would echo in my head. Then I started to think about it.
- I was adopted as an infant, so I wasn't breastfed. Most of my friends weren't either. Many members of my family didn't breastfeed their children because it was looked down on in many areas at the time. Same with famous scientists, authors, and artists from history. And you know what? All of us turned out perfectly fine.
- Some people don't produce milk, or don't make enough milk to fill their baby up completely. This isn't always the case, but when it is, it's much better to fill a baby up on formula then it is to have them starving with a little milk.
- My medicine would be poisonous to my son. There were warning labels on the bottles, and the doctor who prescribed it to me told me that too much could even cause death. Usually, breast milk is healthier than formula, but not in this case.
- Some mothers work long hours and can't pump enough milk to satisfy their baby's hunger. Other mothers have to travel far from home for their jobs and can't bring their babies with them. Think of women who have business trips, or who are in the Army.
- Postpartum depression is common right after giving birth. A friend of mine tried so hard to breastfeed her daughter that her nipples hurt and bled. She cried the whole time her daughter was feeding. Feeding should be a bonding experience, but she confessed that she was miserable. After a few weeks, she switched to formula. She and her daughter have never been happier.
On April 14, 2010, my son Damian was born. The second I saw him, I knew I had to be the best mother I could be. If this meant I couldn't lose extra weight quickly and that I had to spend my extra money on formula, fine. I told the nurses that I wasn't breastfeeding.
Damian ended up developing colic, and sometimes during those long nights where he screamed for hours, I wished that I could be a good mother like some of my cousins, curled up in bed, feeding my little boy the natural way. By the next morning, I'd realize that I am a good mother. I sacrificed doing something that I really wanted to do for his health, and even though a few people criticized me, I realized that most people understood.
Today, I have a happy and healthy almost-2-year-old. He is smarter than most kids his age, probably partially because he loves to read so much, and he is almost never sick. Even though he was never fed by my breasts, we have a great bond! (And for some reason, he still loves boobs.)
Now that he's been drinking regular milk and eating table food for almost a year, nobody asks me how I fed him as a baby. I rarely think about it myself. Sometimes I see a new mommy with their baby under a "boobie-blanket" feeding, and I wish that my son and I could have had that experience. But I've accepted the fact that we didn't, and that I will probably have to formula-feed all my future children. But you know what? Damian could care less! All that's important to him is that I show him that I love him every day.
I'm not denying the breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your child. If you can do it, more power to you! If I was able to breastfeed my son, I would in a heartbeat. But for those who can't, please don't feel guilty or ashamed, and don't allow others to let you feel that way either. No matter what your reason is, breastfeeding is a personal choice, and the important thing is being the best mother you can be.