A few years ago, I got a message from my friend Tracy from college. I hadn’t talked to her in a while, just some social media interactions here and there. But when she messaged and asked if we could catch up, I felt something was happening.
As it turns out, she was feeling guilty about not breastfeeding. She’d had a difficult birth and said she felt forced to be giving up on breastfeeding for a low milk supply.
During our conversation, she lamented about feeling guilty about stopping breastfeeding. I stopped her right there with a big hug as she cried, saying she felt like a bad mom for not breastfeeding. She most certainly was not a bad mom. And if you have formula-feeding guilt right now, I want you to know that you’re not a bad mom either!
Yes, breastfeeding indeed has some remarkable benefits for you and your baby. But whether you couldn’t get that latch down and had trouble nursing your baby or simply just wanted to use the formula from the start, you are not a bad mother because of it.
What are the consequences of not breastfeeding?
Experts say that exclusive breastfeeding is best without the addition of any other supplemental liquids or solids until the first 6 months. The WHO is just one of many of these authorities that advises you to breastfeed for at least 2 years.
Of course, feeding your baby is crucial, but you must remember that it’s not the best for the baby if you wean them before 12 months. If you feel it’s just not possible to carry on, I recommend you speak to your pediatrician to discuss a formula option because you can’t give cow’s milk to babies under the age of 1.
As for consequences, your baby has an increased risk of diseases, childhood obesity, diabetes (types 1 and 2), and SIDS, among other things. And for you, you will have a greater risk for certain types of cancers (like breast cancer and ovarian cancer), type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and myocardial infarction.
There are no guarantees in life, but breastfeeding does have incredible benefits for you and your baby. But if you decide not to breastfeed for whatever reason, you’re not a bad mom.
Is it okay not to breastfeed?
According to Natasha Burgert, M.D., 10% to 32% of mothers never even start breastfeeding. And 4% of those who begin breastfeeding stop within the first week of life. A whopping 14% of mothers stop breastfeeding before the baby turns 2.
It is certainly ok if you choose not to breastfeed your child. I think women need more support through it. With proper support, the challenge of breastfeeding becomes easier with every passing day. I am so grateful to my breastfeeding coach for having helped me through. I think that is the key to success – having someone that knows to breastfeed and can support you through the process.
Does formula feeding make me a bad mom?
Oh, mama, no! Of course, you’re not a bad mom for feeding your baby formula. You’d be bad if you didn’t feed your baby and let her starve. Anyone who judges you is a jerk or has issues.
Moms get judged for breastfeeding. They get judged for formula feeding. They get judged for staying home with the kids. They get judged for working. We get torn apart whatever we do.
Know this – as long as your baby is healthy and growing in weight and length, you are a good mom. If you have to use formula or you simply decide you do not want to breastfeed at all – even if you never even try to breastfeed – you are not a bad mom.
Shame on anyone who passes judgment. Everyone lives in their own glass house, and none of us should ever throw stones.
If you feel overwhelmed with breastfeeding, please get in touch with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding coach. Ask your doctor too where to find people near you that can help. Take care of your baby the best way possible, even if you don’t breastfeed.
Is it selfish not to want to breastfeed?
Let me pose another question to this…is it selfish to go back to work? Is it selfish to take time to yourself? Who the BLEEP gets to decide this for you?
What WOULD be selfish is you not ever feeding your baby a drop of formula or breastmilk. While China had that issue with the tainted formula, that instance aside, it is not a bad thing to give your baby.
Breastmilk definitely is the better choice, but you’re not selfish or a bad mom for choosing formula. It is nutritious and was developed to help moms feed babies who could not get the help they needed with their milk.
Some mamas just don’t want to breastfeed, which doesn’t make them selfish. This is your choice. Sometimes, we are lucky to have more options to look at. For example, one of my roommates and I teamed up to make lunch in college. While she worked on something else, I set about making our grilled cheese sandwiches.
I put butter in the pan and started putting the sandwiches together when she screamed and snatched the pan from my hands. “No! What are you doing?!? You can’t make grilled cheese like that! You have to butter the bread first!” she had screamed at me.
Back then, I’ll admit I was hardly a decent cook, but I learned how to make grilled cheese from my family members that did know how. And this was how I’d learned.
My roommate never thought there might be another way to make grilled cheese.
And thus, I’m telling you this because there is more than one way to feed a baby. And it’s not selfish if you choose to feed your baby by making her formula instead of breastfeeding. It does not make breastfeeding moms better than you. We are all mamas here and should love and support one another.
As long as we feed our babies either breastmilk or formula and they are growing and thriving, we should remember we’re all on the same team – TEAM MAMA! And we all deserve praise for all the hard work we’ve done.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.