Best Perhaps, But Not Always an Option

August 19, 2006

The following started out as a comment on Jeana’s post at Days to Come, about expressing acceptance to those who make different choices than us (homeschool vs public school, large family vs small family, etc.). The more I started sharing about my experience, the more I felt that I needed to share. So here’s the full blown thing, which I am reluctant to share because I know certain people will read it and may be hurt (although I hope not because I love them!), whereas others will read it and think they’ve just discovered a bit of juicy gossip about me. However, I’ve said from the beginning that I’m not blogging for anyone but myself, so here goes….

babybottle.jpgI bottle fed my daughter from the very beginning of her life, and I bottle-fed my son from the age of 2 months. However, I was a bottle feeding mom not so much by choice as by necessity. A breast surgery had rendered me incapable of producing enough milk to feed my baby, something that I discovered after two long and miserable months of unsuccessful attempts.

I was astounded when, during my second pregnancy my very close friend said, “I totally disagree with your decision not to breastfeed. I just wanted you to know that.”

Um… thanks?

Her comment put me in a sticky situation… do I reveal the very personal fact that I’ve had surgery on my boobs (something that I would really prefer to keep private) or continue letting her think I’m a horribly selfish mom for choosing the bottle? I ended up telling her the reasons behind my decision, but I felt like I’d been forced to walk down the street in my underwear.

When Sophia was born, I was even more astounded to get attitude from the nurses in the hospital about my choice. I can remember only one kind woman who came into the room to check on us. She asked if she could hold my daughter and try getting her to take the bottle. It was the only time I ever felt like anyone outside of my family was okay with me bottle feeding. The other nurses made clucking sounds with their tongues whenever I said I wasn’t breastfeeding, made foreboding comments about how miserable I would be when my milk came in, etc. Any time the subject of feeding Sophia came up, a negative comment was inevitably made. The message was clear: no one should opt out of breastfeeding. Ever.

And later, when the same friend mentioned above was visiting us, her son saw me fixing a bottle for Sophia and he asked me why I was giving her something that was “bad for her.” Yes, apparently even six year olds can condemn bottle-feeding moms.

As I began composing my comments on Jeana’s post, I was surprised by how much this collective experience still hurts me, four years later. To be honest, I still feel a twinge of defensiveness when I see those “Breast is Best” ads/billboards/brochures/news articles. It may be best but that doesn’t mean that formula is bad, and it doesn’t mean that I’m a bad mom for choosing to go with formula. Breastfeeding simply wasn’t an option for me, and that does NOT mean that I don’t love my children or that I don’t want what’s best for them.

I think it’s great that so many women want to breastfeed, and I don’t have a problem with them doing so in public. No, what I object to is the pervasive holier-than-thou attitude that anyone who doesn’t breastfeed does not have their child’s best interests at heart when that is simply not the case.



  1. Excellent post. Thanks for reminding me that I don’t always know the situations behind other people’s choices, and it’s no business of mine anyways. 🙂 I’d never SAY anything to a bottlefeeder, but as a breastfeeder (and I’m shocked that you have had people say those things to you!!) I have to admit that I usually wonder why a mom chooses to bottlefeed, assuming that her reasons may not meet my criteria, which is a very self-centered and prideful, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am pregnant with my first child, and people talk down to me because I will not be breast feeding (also due to a surgery, but why should I have to explain that) It is almost like there is no other option available, and I’m often nervous about telling people that I am going to bottlefeed for fear that I have to listen to the “breast is best” speach one more time. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. You couldn’t have said it better.

  3. I thought you might like to know that your grandmother tried breastfeeding her first born, but was told she didn’t produce enough milk and was “starving” her son. She didn’t try with me. I tried breastfeeding you, but only for a couple a months due to similar problems. When I made the decision to breast feed, I was met with the same sounds of disapproval that your met for NOT breastfeeding. Only one nurse gave me positive feedback. During that period, breastfeeding was the exception, not the norm. Fathers were still not allowed to be in delivery rooms. Delivery rooms were cold green tile sterile places like ORs. Times do change and will change again.

  4. You never know what someone’s been through.. I did start out breastfeeding but was forced to stop as my body didn’t produce enough milk to keep up with our son’s growing appetite. So, I can relate in part to what you’re feeling. Many of my friends coldn’t believe I’d stopped breastfeeding so early (mind you, our son was 5 MONTHS OLD!!) And there were lots of comments about how I must have been doing something wrong. What helped me when I was about to lose it on the next person that commented on me, my baby or my breasts was to remember that God is concerned with and in control of EVERYTHING that happens to me. So, if it was ok with God that I was unable to breastfeed anymore then it was ok with me. It was not as easy as it sounds, and I had some really bad days, but God loves me. And I love Him. And what he decides for my life is ok with me. Thank you for sharing your experiences. And stand strong. How dare someone question God. Because that is exactly what they are doing.

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