Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work”

I feed my baby formula. Exclusively. Here in Brooklyn that’s one of the biggest parenting offenses you can commit. It’s right up there with circumcision and “crying it out” in terms of emotionally scarring your child for life. I didn’t plan to feed my baby formula. Or, I should say that wasn’t my preference. But ever since I had breast reduction surgery when I was 19, I knew that it was unlikely I’d be able to exclusively breastfeed any babies I had. My surgeon told me it was a “wait and see” thing and that I wouldn’t know whether I’d be able to breastfeed until I had a baby and tried to.

When Jackson was born, I didn’t try to breastfeed him right away. The first 12 hours were just so crazy that I can’t remember why I didn’t try. Did I not know I should? Did no one suggest it to me? Was I too tired? Was I scared that I couldn’t do it? I can’t remember. But I do remember about 12 hours or so after he was born visiting him in the NICU, where he was being treated for jaundice and low blood sugar, and attempting to breastfeed for the first time then. Jackson, Drew and I sat in this small private room just off the NICU and with a pillow on my lap to prop up the baby, I tried to feed him. He was so little, though — only 5 pounds — and his mouth so tiny, that we weren’t able to get a good latch. Consequently, that was the first time I failed at breastfeeding.

The nurses encouraged me to pump to increase milk production and to make some bottles we could feed Jackson. But I didn’t pump. Not really. I tried half-heartedly a couple of times after a nurse showed me how to use the electric pump and stood there waiting for me to give it a go, but I gave up after a few minutes. I’m not sure why I didn’t give it more effort. In retrospect I suspect I was afraid to discover my breasts were empty.

It was only when I left the hospital and in the privacy of my own home, I finally pumped for the first time for real (we rented an electric pump from the hospital). And just as I feared, nothing came out. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing — a very little amount of milk came out. We hired a postpartum doula who came to our apartment and gave us some baby care support and instruction. She asked me if I’d tried to breastfeed yet and I told her I had and that it wasn’t going well. She asked me to show her how I was doing it. She told me I had flat nipples (news to me) and that with that, on top of my low supply and the size of Jackson’s mouth, it was unlikely that I’d find breastfeeding easy.

I was able to breastfeed a little bit over the next couple of months, difficult as it was. There were maybe a couple dozen times that Jackson latched on and I was able to feed him the way that nature intended. Those few times never satiated him for long, but we did it. I could say it was profound, the feeling of nourishing my child with my own body, but I was too tired and too frustrated and too anxious to feel relieved. Besides, it wasn’t like my body alone was enough to feed my child. If anything, I was a tease. Here’s a little milk for you, baby, but ha ha, not enough to fill you up! Eventually, Jackson got just as frustrated as I was and began refusing my breasts. I didn’t blame him. It’d be like someone offering me an opened Heineken bottle with only a few warm gulps of beer left. Cruel, almost.

I continued pumping about six times a day — getting only the tiniest amount of breast milk. I’d zip this sports bra looking contraption around my torso and then insert two plastic breast shields into the openings in front and hook myself up to the electric pump and wait 20 or 30 minutes while I was milked. I dreaded the end of a pumping session as much as I counted the seconds until its arrival because it was at the end that my inadequacy was always reaffirmed: I usually got only half an ounce … sometimes a full ounce (and on rarer occasions, maybe two whole ounces if I was really lucky). A newborn baby drinks an average of 24 ounces of milk each day and here I was producing only a small fraction of that, despite guzzling water and “Mother’s Milk” tea by the gallon. I was inadequate. An inadequate mother.

It’s an unbelievably lonely feeling to not be able to breastfeed your baby if you wish you could. Especially here in Brooklyn where you are not only seen as an inadequate woman, you’re seen as a bad mother if you succumb to feeding your baby formula. There’s another woman in my neighborhood whose blog I just started reading who also has trouble breastfeeding her new baby. She writes: “Imagine my surprise when feeding my son a bottle (as I must) in public is for me an act shot through with the sort of shame we are told women in the 1950s were made to feel when they attempted to breastfeed in public.” I wish she and I would have met sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so lonely. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt like such a failure.

I know I could have tried harder. There were things I didn’t do that I could have. Like, I could have hired a lactation consultant or nursed with a special tube taped to my breast that fed the baby formula while simultaneously stimulating my own milk production. But I didn’t want to do all that. I knew that because of damaged milk ducts I was physically unable to produce much milk and I didn’t want to pay someone to make me feel bad about that. I was doing a good enough job on my own already. There was a limit to what I could withstand emotionally and physically and after a complicated pregnancy and a dramatic labor, the only way I could temper my feelings of inadequacy around feeding Jackson was to stick to a routine. And so I pumped six times a day and fed Jack mostly formula with a bottle of my (hard-earned) breast milk occasionally thrown into the mix.

Just before Christmas, I’d decided I’d had enough with pumping. I was exhausted. And as Jackson’s appetite increased, the amount of breast milk I was able to feed him became a smaller and smaller percentage of his daily diet. The benefit stopped feeling worth the sacrifice and so I quit. It’s been about a month since then and motherhood has gotten so much easier. I don’t hate myself six times a day anymore, for one thing. And slowly, the shame of being inadequate has made way for a much kinder emotion: relief.

I’m relieved that I have the time and emotional reserve to enjoy my baby in a way I couldn’t before. I’m relieved that I can leave my baby’s side for more than an hour. I’m relieved that I never have to worry about suffering the consequences of engorged breasts. I’m relieved that after nearly a year of growing and feeding a baby, my body is mine again. Mine, mine, mine. I can eat whatever I want. I can drink a Gin and Tonic without fretting. I can guzzle a gallon of coffee! I’m relieved that because my baby is exclusively formula-fed, my husband and I can share the duty of feeding him. That means that while my breastfeeding friends are up three times a night feeding their babies, I sleep and let Drew give Jackson a bottle.

But what I’m most relieved about is that the love between my baby and me has not been compromised by the way I feed him. The bond we share is, I imagine, just as strong as the bonds breastfeeding women share with their babies. He still eats in my arms, close to my chest. He still feels the warmth of my body against his, hears the beating of my heart. We still look into each other’s eyes and grin like lovesick goofballs.

This morning, I peeked into his bedroom to see if he was awake yet. Just as I stepped inside, he turned his head toward me, opened his eyes and, focusing his gaze on me, lit up and smiled his big gummy smile. I scooped him up, kissed his head, changed his diaper, and warmed a bottle. Then we settled onto the couch, he cradled in the crook of my arm. “You are my sunshine,” I sang, pulling him closer.

And I fed my baby. Like a mother does.

131 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Trixy Minx January 18, 2012, 12:12 pm

    This is so sweet.

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  • mandalee

    mandalee January 18, 2012, 12:12 pm

    Wendy, thank you for being so honest! If it it makes you feel any better, my mom couldn’t breastfeed me either. She could barely produce any milk, and I just wouldn’t take it. I was raised on formula for the get-go, and if I do say so myself- I turned out just fine, I have a great immune system, graduated at the top of my class, and my mom is my absolute best friend. My brother, was breastfed, and my mom always lightly pokes at the fact that he was the “research outlier” in that he’s a barely passed high school jokester, who gets about 10 colds a year, when the topic of breastfeeding comes up lol

    Breastfeeding is a great bonding experience, but it’s not the ONLY bonding experience. You are an amazing mother, and Jackson is very, very lucky to have you.

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  • avatar

    LolaBeans January 18, 2012, 12:15 pm

    oh my god, this brought tears to my eyes.

    Wendy, you are a wonderful mother and I am happy that you no longer let the stigma of bottle feeding Jackson affect how you feel about yourself.

    What a wonderful post.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 12:17 pm

    Beautiful – thank you for sharing! God, I don’t even have kids, but I’m eating up your stories like crack. I can only imagine how helpful sharing your experiences are to new mothers out there.

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  • avatar

    silver_dragon_girl January 18, 2012, 12:18 pm

    This is very heartfelt and well-written. One of my FB friends is a huge proponent of breastfeeding and she’s always posting about it. Honestly, the thought of breast feeding a baby weirds me out. It doesn’t appeal to me at all, so if I have kids I’ll probably formula feed anyway. Or maybe I’ll magically want to do it if I have said kid, who knows.

    Anyway, I’m so sorry that you’ve experienced some judgement based on not breastfeeding Jackson. That’s so ridiculous- there are children all over the world starving and suffering abuse or living in poverty or unloving environments, and people are being sanctimonious about breastfeeding??

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    • avatar

      ChemE January 18, 2012, 12:29 pm

      Yeah, I’m not sure if I’ll breastfeed either. I feel like it would be too weird. Mine are pretty important during other activities, that thinking of them in this context weirds me out.

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      • BriarRose

        BriarRose January 18, 2012, 12:51 pm

        I never thought I would want to either, and I did (albeit for only a few months) and it was not at all weird or uncomfortable like I imagined. It’s just one of those “don’t knock it til you try it things”, I guess.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow January 18, 2012, 12:59 pm

      Dude. I don’t want to either! I’m freaked out about it for soooo many reasons.

      Can anyone who’s breastfed answer some questions for me? 1. If I’m sexually aroused by nipple stimulation, and then I breastfeed, will it then be super-weird for my partner to try and arouse me that way? I would think that having a baby suckle me would ruin the pleasure….forever. 2. Do the nipples go back to normal (normal size/color etc)??

      My boyfriend thinks that all babies should be breastfed and that if I don’t want to either breastfeed or pump, then we should get a wet nurse. For real?! Dang. I was formula-fed and I’M fine. Thankfully we’re talking about these things WAYYYYY beforehand.

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      • avatar

        Kisa January 18, 2012, 1:18 pm

        I did not have a problem, uh, switching between husband and baby. (obviously, not back to back!). It’s really two different sensations. Or it was for me, anyway. When a baby is nursing, they take in more of the breast. Almost like they’re swallowing the nipple. And when my husband, well, that’s none of your business! ;). My sister, the other hand, just calls her boobs off limits while she’s nursing. Her poor husband…she’s an extended breastfeeder! Also, nursing weirded me out until I did it. So, yeah, don’t knock it til you try it. If you’re still uncomfortable, that’s ok, too!

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      • avatar

        Kisa January 18, 2012, 1:19 pm

        Oh, also, breast changes occur from pregnancy, not breastfeeding. By the time the baby comes, the damage is done!

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      • avatar

        Something More January 18, 2012, 4:18 pm

        “the damage is done!”

        Love. It.

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      • avatar

        honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 1:28 pm

        I didn’t know wet nurses were still an option.

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      • JK

        JK January 18, 2012, 1:56 pm

        I breast fed my now 4 year old til nearly 1 year, after that things went pretty much back to normal (I had flat nipples, now they´re more normal), same light colour, everything.
        Now I´m breastfeeding again.
        My husband feels a bit weirded out about playing with my nipples while I breastfeed, but in between babies everything was fine.
        Like I say below, I didn´t find breastfeeding my 1st very comfortable, with my 2nd it´s the easiest thing in the world (and so much more practical than having to carry around a lot of things). But of course, everyone should make their own decision.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom January 18, 2012, 5:27 pm

        I breastfed both of my children and it didn’t feel at all weird. When the baby is latched on properly you don’t feel much of anything so there is no sexual arousal aassociated with it. When you’re with a man and he is doing things they definitely feel different. When the baby is breastfeeding there is more in their mouth than just the nipple and the nipple really isn’t getting stimulated at all.

        When I was younger I would never have breastfed but by the time my son was born I wanted to do it.

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    • avatar

      ForeverYoung January 18, 2012, 4:26 pm

      Wow, as a community we are very sexually charged today. To add to that, I don’t get the whole booby pleasure thing. Just doesn’t do it for me. So if I ever have kids (highly unlikely, especially boligical kids) the weirdness involving repercussions during sexy time would not be one of my reasons for not doing it. Although having a machine attached to my boob weirds me out enough that I feel like if I couldn’t truly do it the au naturel way, as in baby to boob, I would just opt out.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow January 18, 2012, 6:43 pm

        I know not all women (or men) like nipple stuff, but honestly? Since we are sexually charged oversharers on here, haha, I’ll admit that I find it difficult to climax without some type of nipple stimulation. It’s possible to get there without it, but barely. That wouldn’t be my SOLE reason to forego breastfeeding, though. It’s just….weird to me. And the pumps! You’re right, those things are freaky.

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      • avatar

        ForeverYoung January 18, 2012, 9:36 pm

        That’s so weird. Mine are constantly sore and sensitive. If I lose or gain weight it always happens first in my boobs so they are constantly changing sizes. Like pretty drastically from a B to a D with like a 5-10 lb gain or loss, which I think has to do with why they are always sore (plus I don’t get like any other psm symptoms so I swear God had to make my boob soreness intense just to even the playing field). And even if their not, it just doesn’t do it for me.

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  • avatar

    Amy January 18, 2012, 12:19 pm

    This warms my heart!

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  • avatar

    amber January 18, 2012, 12:20 pm

    I shared this article with a friend of mine who had similar issues with breastfeeding this past summer/fall. Her mother-in-law gave her the hardest time about it, telling her all the ways she was doing her child wrong. Definitely not things a new mother needs to hear. Thank you for sharing your stories!

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    • avatar

      ForeverYoung January 18, 2012, 12:23 pm

      Sounds like her mother-in-law needs to turn into one of those “See you next Christmas!” relatives.

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  • avatar

    MissDre January 18, 2012, 12:20 pm

    I LOVE that kitty and I LOVE that baby!!!

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 12:24 pm

      I was actually wondering how the kitties have been post-Jackon! They aren’t featured nearly as much (or at all!) as before. … Wendy, have your cats learned to love Jackson and losing their limelight?

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy January 18, 2012, 12:28 pm

        Oh, yes, yes yes. Simone is like a little mother’s helper. She loves to sit right next to us when I feed Jackson and she just purrs and purrs. It’s the cutest — and most surprising! — thing ever. Miles’ favorite time of day in nighttime after Jackson has been asleep and I’m in bed with a book. He curls up next to me and laps up all the attention I give him. He’s no longer the baby of the family, but he’ll always be “my baby.” I don’t think life has changed TOO much for them. There’s lots of love to go around.

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      • avatar

        Jenny January 18, 2012, 2:19 pm

        I’ve been wondering this too! I’m about to have my first baby and I have a cat. Did you do anything to prepare Miles and Simone for Jackson?

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 4:02 pm

        She probably read them bed time stories about new editions to the family and she probably pulled their tails and whiskers to prep them for a handsy toddler.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 4:03 pm

        Ugh, *additions. Wtf. The “modify last comment” option never works when I absolutely need it.

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      • avatar

        Wendy's Dad January 19, 2012, 2:38 am

        Actually, “editions” would also work in this case. And while I am writing something anyway, isn’t my kid a great writer?

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray January 19, 2012, 6:19 am

        She is. You did good, Wendy’s Dad.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy January 19, 2012, 9:40 am

        Aww. Thanks, Dad.

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      • avatar

        pamplemousse January 19, 2012, 12:20 am

        I vote for more Miles & Simone on DW 🙂

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl January 18, 2012, 12:20 pm

    Wendy this is beautiful.

    Thank you again for being so brutally honest about everything. You write so eloquently about such a range of life events.

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  • avatar

    ForeverYoung January 18, 2012, 12:21 pm

    Ah he is so cute. This is a great story! I’m glad you’ve found another mother to relate too. I hate the breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding bashing that goes on. Everyone knows breast-feeding has certain benefits that bottle-feeding doesn’t, but some people just can’t. Jackson will grow up just fine, i’m glad you are done with the guilt of it all. No bruised boobies + gin and tonic = winning.

    By the way you should write an article if you have time (I know I am getting ridiculously demanding with all the personal things I want to know about your life) about how the cats are dealing with the change. Like if they are curious about him or seem to wish he would just go away. Also is Jackson intrigued by them? Or do the cats just kind of avoid him in general?

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    • avatar

      ChemE January 18, 2012, 12:27 pm

      I too wonder about the cats. That’s one of our concerns when we decide to have a baby, is how the cats will react. Particularly since the one like to lightly bite and paw at us/phone if we’re yelling or have the phone on speaker.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom January 18, 2012, 5:41 pm

        Our cats weren’t at all bothered by a new baby in the house. They really don’t mind until the baby becomes mobile and then it’s a different story. Babies explore everything, including the cat or dog, and babies are rough. The baby will try to gum the pet, will walk on the pet, and try to pick the pet up by the fur or the tail. I’ve seen a toddler “explore” a dog by trying to shove a finger into the dogs eye and I’ve seen a toddler try to feed a dog by trying to force a handful of dogfood down the dogs throat, hand and all. Toddlers have no sense that what they are doing can harm the pet, or just be painful. The pet definitely needs a place to go where the baby/toddler can’t reach them. We had a child safety gate on our stairs and the cats could go over it and sit out of reach of the baby/toddler and they often did. Sometimes sitting just out of reach of baby fingers.

        I’d also keep a larger dog away from a toddler. I was bitten in the cheek by a dog when I was a toddler and so were two of my cousins and various other children I’ve known. It’s very common. If the dog’s head and the toddler’s head are at the same height and the toddler is doing rough things to the dog the dog will often snap to make the child quit and then the toddler has a gashed face. A few years ago my husband’s coworker had a toddler son whose face was ripped off (like the woman in France who had a face transplant) by a dog that had always been very gentle. That’s a worst case scenario but it happens and it is very difficult to rebuild a missing upper lip, nose and eyebrows. Usually, the dog is also destroyed so it protects both the child and the dog to keep them separated when not being supervised.

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      • JK

        JK January 19, 2012, 9:57 am

        I think it´s very important from the earliest age possible to educate kids about what is OK and what isn´t with pets.
        A few years ago at the vet´s office a guy was telling us how gentle his dog was, that she let the 3 year old put twigs in her ears and everything. My husband and I nearly died when we heard that. Or people who let the toddlers ride their dogs as if they were ponies.
        We used to have male and female dogs, we weren´t completely trusting of the male (he had a tough life), so we kept our eldest away from him at all times. Unfortunately that meant keeping her away from the female dog as well, who is the sweetest thing ever. And also unfrtunately, now my eldest is quite afraid of dogs.
        We had to put the male dog to sleep a couple of years ago, so now our baby and the 4 year old spend a lot more time with the dog, the baby loves her (and she loves the baby), of course they´re never unsupervised when they´re together, but even now, when the baby is only 8 months old I tell her no when she tries to do something that could be uncomfortable for the dog (touch her eyes, for example).

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom January 19, 2012, 12:54 pm

        I never let my kids be rough with pets but some people just don’t seem to get it. I’m shocked at what people think is cute or can’t be bothered to stop. I know it’s exhausting to constantly keep track of a toddler but it has to be done.

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    • avatar

      amber January 18, 2012, 12:27 pm

      i love seeing how pets interact with their new ‘kids’! my friend i mentioned above posted a video of her ginormous golden retriever giving her baby little kisses on the cheek 🙂

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  • avatar

    Vathena January 18, 2012, 12:21 pm

    I, too, was bottle-fed exclusively and turned out fine! (Not sure why – I haven’t particularly wanted to have a conversation with my mom about her boobs – I’m guessing because it was just what was done in the mid-west in the early 80s.) I’m glad you feel relieved and not guilty anymore! It’s so much better for parents to be able to focus on the joy, and not the guilt. It would be nice if there weren’t so much knee-jerk judgment about child-rearing. Not that I don’t indulge in a bit of skepticism of a friend’s continued occasional breast-feeding of her 3-year-old. 🙂 You go, Wendy. Enjoy your gin & tonic – you are earning every sip!!

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 12:29 pm

      I too was bottlefed. Sure, had my mom breastfed me, I probably would have been a little taller and quicker … but meh my life is pretty good. (I kid, I kid!)

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    • avatar

      savannah January 18, 2012, 12:31 pm

      There is a 5 year old who my family camps with every summer, she speaks French, Italian, is learning Japanese and sometimes at dinner she stand near the side of the picnic table and leans in towards her mom so she can breastfeed. Her mom says she so smart because they’ve never stopped. So yeah, we all can be guilty of parental judgment a little bit from time to time.

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      • avatar

        Kristen January 18, 2012, 1:01 pm

        That is beyond creepy.

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  • avatar

    savannah January 18, 2012, 12:25 pm

    Loved this post!
    I can only begin to imagine walking around Brooklyn with a baby and a bottle. *shudder*
    My mother breastfed both us (twins) and my brother 5 years later up until 6 months each and then called it a day. She called it being a slave and while is happy for the moms out there who find great joy in it, she laughs when people ask her if its this mythical bonding time. It has been so glamorized but we have to remember that some of that is political, especially in the US where we have clean water sources. Im glad to have her perspective because it really puts the pressure off if I can’t or if i’m struggling with it (you know, eventually)

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  • avatar

    Kisa January 18, 2012, 12:27 pm

    Long time reader, first time poster! Love this site and the readers! Any who, listen to me. It sounds like you’re ok with with being unable to breastfeed, but just in case there are any nagging doubts, I’m gonna tell you a secret. There are some cra cra folks out there who will tell you otherwise, but breastfeeding does not make you a good mom! Trying to breastfeed doesn’t even make you a good mom. Many women, for whatever reasons, can’t or won’t and have amazing bonds with their children. As women, we should be supporting each other instead of knocking each other down. Feeding your child when they’re hungry makes you a good mom. Doing what’s best for your family and mental health makes you a good mom. Hugging your child, singing to them, keeping them warm and safe, believing in them, teaching them, unconditionally loving them, these things make a good mom. Not the breast verses bottle debate. For the record, I have 3 girls, 5, 7, and 8. They were all breastfed (I was lucky, it was easy for me. Nursing, not motherhood. Medication helped with that!). They are all in school (K, 1st, and 2nd grades). You cannot look at their classmates and tell who was breastfed or formula fed, but sometimes you can see who’s parents really give a good shit about their kids. I so appreciate that you write so honestly about what it can be like to have a baby. Sometimes it’s sunshine, rainbows, and all that crap, but more often it can really suck. Thank you.

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    • avatar

      Kisa January 18, 2012, 12:31 pm

      I should, also, add that while I didn’t hate nursing, I didn’t love it. It was just another baby duty that had to be done. And while I was able to nurse my kids to or past a year, it did not make me feel more bonded to them. Taking care of them, figuring out their needs, playing with them, did that. Well, and the medication. Post partum is an ugly enemy!

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  • avatar

    Flake January 18, 2012, 12:38 pm

    Wendy, you are awesome.. The sad thing is that women still feel the need to justify and explain their highly personal choices (that have no impact on any one else).

    Here’s more food for thought:

    This article raised a sh*tstorm on one of my Facebook forums.

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  • avatar

    redessa January 18, 2012, 12:41 pm

    Oh man this makes me want another baby. I’ve had a breast lift since my last child was born and probably couldn’t breastfeed again but there’s only one way to find out. 😉

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  • avatar

    AKchic January 18, 2012, 12:51 pm

    I feel ya. I am not exactly the “nurturing” type. Even with a chest that needs to be duct taped down to fit into a DD bra (after losing 16lbs recently), I couldn’t breastfeed my first. I produced so little, he ate so much, and he outright refused me. I gave up after a few days and couldn’t afford pumps or anything else. On top of it all, he was lactose intolerant so we had to go soy formula.
    With the other three, I worked so much that I didn’t have TIME (and with two of them, I didn’t have money for pumps). So, all have been bottle-fed. It doesn’t lessen the bond, and in Alaska, we aren’t as anal-retentive about “natural” stuff. It’s “do what you need to do”. Only yuppies and hippies try to change people and things to “natural” and honestly, we all evolve and change. That’s human nature. The bond is still there. Goofy grins and all.

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  • BriarRose

    BriarRose January 18, 2012, 12:55 pm

    I’m so sorry you had to go through this, but I’m glad to see you’re not getting down on yourself. You are providing essential nourishment for your child. End of story! And as you wrote, you two have bonded beautifully. I do understand how hard it when you’re the odd one out….down here in NC (several years ago), I stuck out like a sore thumb when I breastfed in public, and received very little support and encouragment, and gave up after 3 months. Even my own (at the time) husband thought it was weird that I would breastfeed in public. I think every mother should be able to decide what works best for her and her baby, and everyone else can just back the eff off.

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  • avatar

    camille905 January 18, 2012, 12:59 pm

    My mother couldn’t breastfeed me because I was allergic to her milk….something related to me being lactose intolerant. So I couldn’t easily take regular formula either. I think they ended up going with a soy based formula which I still had issues with but not as much as anything else.

    Anyway my point is no one really knows the reasons you’re not breastfeeding but you (and now all of us here at at dearwendy, lol) BUT it’s none of their business.

    Glad you and your sweet baby are doing awesome.

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  • landygirl

    landygirl07 January 18, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Love the photo! Having never had a child, I don’t understand the whole breastfeeding issue but I see no shame in bottle feeding your baby. What’s most important is that you love him and take care of him and nuture him in so many other ways. I think there is a lot of pressure for mom’s to breastfeed which isn’t really fair to them, especially as in your case, where it is too difficult to do. In the end, you have to do what’s best for him and you’ve done that.

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    • mandalee

      mandalee January 18, 2012, 1:29 pm

      I also don’t have a child yet, but I spent over 2 years working a nursery at a daycare center and I also never heard the debate there either. I’d say the split was about 60/40 (bottle fed/breast fed) and no one really said anything.

      However, once I moved to NYC then Boston, it seems like there’s a million articles, blogs, groups, etc obsessed with the breast feeding topic. As far as I’m concerned, my future children and especially my boobs are my own damn business. If there’s a bottle or a boob, hell at least the child is getting fed!

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      • avatar

        honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 1:38 pm

        Everyone seems to think that they know best for everyone else’s life/family/kids. What works for one doesn’t always work for another. What fits in one person’s life doesn’t always fit into another person’s. I’m with you – its not really anyone’s business what my boobs are doing.

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      • mandalee

        mandalee January 18, 2012, 2:03 pm

        Exactly, to each their own. I don’t preach my “who gives a crap if you breastfeed your baby or not as long as you take care of it” view to the world, I give it when asked, listen to other views, and go on my way. I wouldn’t force it on anyone, and I should as hell wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and start berating their choices. I don’t get the superiority complex that people have these days in regards to their lifestyle/exercise/baby/relationship/etc choices. Live your life your own way, exercise for you, raise your own children, and take care of your own husband/wife/partner and shut the hell up. lol

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  • avatar

    niki January 18, 2012, 1:14 pm

    Wendy, thank you so much for posting this. I just had a baby on December 8 and had always intended on breastfeeding. However, I had a very difficult pregnancy that ended with a c-section due to pre-eclampsia and low blood platelets. My blood pressure remained extremely high following the delivery and I was so anemic that I required a blood transfusion a couple days after giving birth. At that time, trying to breastfeed was too exhausting to even fathom, but I did it. My nipples were also flat and my baby couldn’t latch. Lactation consultants and nurses were in my room every hour or so to tell me everything I was doing wrong. I had to start supplementing with formula so she could get some nutrition. Because my health was deteriorating, my doctor had to put me on medication that completely dried me up. Six weeks later my baby is happy and healthy, and I am on the mend.

    It is unbelievable the judgment I have received because I am not breastfeeding. It is apparently my fault that I didn’t take the time to discuss with the lactation consultant whether there were different medications I could take that wouldn’t dry my milk supply. I was sick. My priority was making sure I was better so I could take care of my daughter. The worst is feeling like I have to justify why I’m not breastfeeding.

    I am so glad you wrote this article. It makes me feel much less alone in this. Thank you again Wendy.

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 1:33 pm

      I’m glad to hear you and your baby are doing well now. I know it can be so hard to have a difficult pregnancy/birth/postpartum. Congrats on your baby 🙂

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    • cmary

      CMF January 18, 2012, 1:48 pm

      “My priority was making sure I was better so I could take care of my daughter.”

      Right there should be the end of the argument! How dare people make you feel bad! How dare they consider what you do with your breasts their business. Wow, what the eff? I am outraged on your behalf.

      Congratulations on your baby girl! And hooray for you feeling better too!

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    • avatar

      AKchic January 18, 2012, 2:13 pm

      Ask them if they would be willing to breastfeed as a wetnurse for you since you are unable to. If they get indignant, tell them that if they aren’t willing to help you out, they need to clam up about the subject. Period. It’s what I did to anyone who had the audacity to bring the subject up to me (there are a few nutters here who did, and they never did again).

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    • avatar

      Yammy January 18, 2012, 3:12 pm

      I’m sorry you went through that and people are still giving you a rough time. It drives me bananas how many people seem to have the attitude of “if you had just tried harder” or “if you’d had a better lactation consultant.” These people are usually not doctors. They are usually not familiar with your medical history. They are just overflowing with smug.

      You are definitely not alone! And it’s my opinion that no one worth talking to would ever make you feel like you need to justify yourself.

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  • JK

    JK January 18, 2012, 1:34 pm

    Love this.
    Luckily I didn´t have many problems breastfeeding, my eldest hurt me so much win the first 2 days that I had to use nipple protectors for the first couple of months, and I was scared to stop using them.
    With my second I had no trouble at all, and of course find it so much easier. Thank goodness because she hardly eats, she just wants to be latched on most of the day (she´s 8 and a half months now).

    I sing You are my Sunshine to my girls as well, and it always makes me tear up-

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    • JK

      JK January 18, 2012, 1:36 pm

      OH, and if it makes the non breast feeders feel any better, in ARgentina so many people bottle feed it´s not funny (out of my friends there are more bottle feeders than breast feeders), and I sometimes get funny looks in public, even though I cover myself up as much as possible.

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    • avatar

      Sarah January 18, 2012, 1:57 pm

      Not to be a Debbie Downer, but isn’t it odd that “You are my Sunshine” is a much sadder song than most people realize? I was raised old school Irish so the mothers in my family didn’t mind singing that dark as sh*t lyrics along with the good ones. I remember being young and my mom singing to me with a smile on her face the “when I awoke dear I was mistaken and I hung my head and I cried” verse and I remember being like “Jesus, mom, turn it down a notch, that got f*ckin emo.”

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      • avatar

        ForeverYoung January 18, 2012, 2:32 pm

        My husband had me listen to the R rated version of that song about two months ago, and it kind of traumatized me. Did you ever watch *MASH* when you were little? The lyrics are like, “suicide is painless, it brings on many changes”. I was like WTF?!? is with all these songs I grew up with being super dark?

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      • JK

        JK January 18, 2012, 4:35 pm

        ON Cracked.com there´s an article with the origins of the song from MASH, you should look for it, it´s really interesting.

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        AKchic January 18, 2012, 5:35 pm

        In the 6th grade for orchestra, they teach all the kids to play “The Sailor Song”. Every time they play it at concerts, I start laughing and have to get my kids to shut up. We know the lyrics. They are:
        “What would you do with a drunken sailor
        What would you do with a drunken sailor
        What would you do with a drunken sailor
        Ear-lie in the morn-in”
        Then there are different pranks/remedies for dealing with a drunken sailor in the verses. Put him in bed with the Captain’s daughter, tie him to the mast, etc. Not exactly elementary-school friendly.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 18, 2012, 6:24 pm

        We sing that song at girl scout camp, except it goes “What would you do with a cranky counselor” instead. It really makes everyone laugh.

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        Rachel January 18, 2012, 8:34 pm

        We did that song when I was in chorus in 5th or 6th grade. There was a dance…sigh.

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      • avatar

        iseeshiny January 18, 2012, 3:15 pm

        My mom only ever sang the happy verse to me, and had to come pick me up from preschool one day because we listened to the whole thing and I was inconsolable because “I… i… it’ssss…. ssssoooo….. sssSA–A–A–AD!” Like, I was crying so hard I was almost throwing up. I remember it, too, the feeling that this song that had always made me happy turned around and punched me in the face with melancholy.

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      • JK

        JK January 18, 2012, 4:41 pm

        For what it´s worth, I only actually remember the chorus. I seem to remember that the rest was sad so I never bothered to google the lyrics. 🙂

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      • Dear Wendy

        Wendy January 18, 2012, 5:59 pm

        Me too, I only sing the sweet part.

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  • avatar

    honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 1:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Since my husband and I are in the discussion stages of having babies, I’ve been looking into a lot of these issues. I also thought I wanted to breastfeed (and at this point I still want to), but it seems that in my family either it is really easy or downright impossible. Many of the women in my family do everything they can and still can’t succeed at breastfeeding, but they still love their children and have amazing bonds with them. To me, it doesn’t matter whether people breastfeed, bottle feed, pump or do a combination of these. I wasn’t breastfed and I grew up to be smart, healthy, and extremely close with my mother so no bonding issues there. And just the fact that you were stressing about this is a key to knowing you are a good mother. The way I figure, when people stress and worry about whether they are good parents, whether or not they should do a, b, or c with their babies/kids etc, worry about raising healthy, happy children, etc are good parents. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t worry about these things.

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  • Shell

    Shell January 18, 2012, 1:37 pm

    Wendy, this was a great post and personally a possible glimpse of the future for myself. I had breast reduction surgery at 24 and although I’m not close to having kids, it’s something that I definitely want at a later date and sometimes worry about my potential to breast feed. I also work in the healthcare field where not breast feeding is considered taboo – however I always reflect on when I made the decision to pursue surgery that my mother chose not to breastfeed simply because she didn’t want to, and we could not be closer. She shared that when she told my father she wasn’t interested, he said that he didn’t blame her at all and personally would have no desire to do it given the situation were reversed. He appreciated being able to partake in the feeding process, as I’m sure Drew does!

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 1:40 pm

      My mother told me she didn’t breastfeed because she knew she couldn’t (wouldn’t) eat a good enough diet to provide me with the nutrients I needed. And she is my absolute best friend. Right now we’re renting a house together (she lives in the upstairs “loft” type thing and my husband and stepkids get the bottom floor) and we’re in the process of buying a duplex so we can always be neighbors.

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    • avatar

      cdubs January 18, 2012, 8:48 pm

      I also had a breast reduction at 25, and I also wonder if I will be able to breastfeed in the future. It’s something I’m interested in, and I was stressing out a little at the thought that I might not be able to. But this article, and all of these comments reassured me that it’s OK to bottle feed, and LOTS of people do it. Thank you 🙂

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  • Tracey

    Tracey January 18, 2012, 1:44 pm

    My mom told me how she tried to breastfeed me a handful of times. She said I latched on…hard. She couldn’t deal with the discomfort (I must’ve had tough gums) each time, and went to bottle feeding.

    She told my sister about how, while in labor, she panicked and (for lack of a better term) pulled instead of pushed, contracting her back instead of pushing her out. Why? Because of fear. You see, she’d lost a baby to SIDS three years before, and she was terrified of losing another. They finally got her to relax and give birth to a healthy girl.

    Neither of these experiences made her a bad mother, nor did it damage the bond between us. In fact, we’re very close and love each other very much. Good, loving mothers do what they have to do to make their babies healthy, whole, and nurtured. Good, loving mothers sometimes get scared or insecure about whether what they’re doing is the right thing. Good, loving mothers find a way to get past that fear and insecurity to keep doing the right thing.

    And Wendy you, like my mom, are so doing the right thing. Hold your head, Jackson’s head, and that bottle high, feed your baby, build that bond, and tell anyone who dares to feed into your fears or insecurities to go suck an egg (or whatever you want for them to suck on).

    All will be well, and you will be surrounded with love. Thank you for sharing your stories about life with Jackson. They, and you, are an inspiration.

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  • avatar

    Marie January 18, 2012, 1:48 pm

    The main health reason for breast feeding is the transfer of maternal antibodies that goes between the mom and the baby via breast milk. Your baby’s immune system is severely compromised during the first year of life and the supply of maternal antibodies can protect them from contracting certain diseases during this time before their own immune system kicks into gear.

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    • avatar

      camille905 January 18, 2012, 2:47 pm

      Yeah and I’m sure Wendy (and most of us ladies who have thought about having children, have children, or who have friends/family that children) already knows all of that so this comment isn’t really very helpful nor pertinent to the discussion. Thanks.

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      • avatar

        Marie January 18, 2012, 2:59 pm

        The health benefits and cons of breast feeding to Wendy’s baby isn’t pertinent? As a heath professional I find many woman don’t know about the disease protection conferred by breast milk, of course it’s likely Wendy does I just thought I’d write it in the small chance she didn’t to maybe one variable to add into the equation and something to keep in mind. Why the attack?

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      • avatar

        callmehobo January 18, 2012, 3:06 pm

        Well, you kind of sound like one of the judgmental mothers from Wendy’s piece.

        Yes, everyone knows that there are nutritional and health benefits to breast milk. Wendy’s piece was about her feeling judged by her choice/inability to breastfeed. Your comment sounded a little condescending- like “oh, if Wendy only knew the benefits, she would DEFINITELY change her mind”.

        Choosing not to breastfeed doesn’t make you a bad mother, and it doesn’t mean that you love your baby any less. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your child’s health. It just means that you don’t breastfeed.

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        honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 3:15 pm

        I was going to respond, but I don’t think I could have said it any better than you.

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      • avatar

        Marie January 18, 2012, 3:27 pm

        Oh dear . . .of course I’m not judging Wendy! If she can’t breast feed, she can’t breast feed! I just not a big fan of infectious diseases (having devoted my whole life to studying/curing them) so being extra conscious of other ways to prevent infection would be really important (good hand washing, limited contact with sick people being sick etc.). I’m looking at this as a purely “best way to keep the baby healthy” perspective. I wouldn’t think that’s judgmental, just good health care/disease prevention.

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      • avatar

        camille905 January 18, 2012, 4:37 pm

        Yeah it sounded super judgmental considering she was sharing how hard it was for her to breastfeed.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 18, 2012, 6:31 pm

        If this had been a post about whether or not breastfeeding or bottle feeding is better, then your comments would have been well-received. But because this is a post where Wendy is saying that she tried but really couldn’t, it comes off as mean-spirited. I doubt that was your intention, but that’s how it came across.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant January 18, 2012, 7:46 pm

        Perhaps you should have phrased this differently, more like “Hey, sorry you can’t breast feed. I know how heartbreaking it can be to not be able to breast-feed when you want to, but it doesn’t make you any less of a mother. As a health care provider, I just wanted to encourage you to be really mindful of infectious diseases. One of breast feeding’s functions is to strengthen your baby’s immune systems, so if you don’t breastfeed be extra conscious of preventing infection by good handwahsing, limiting exposure to sick people, ect.”

        Your first couple comments did not get that across at all; instead it sounded like you were still judging her for not breastfeeding and providing additional reasons she should beat herself up for bottlefeeding.

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      • MELH

        MELH January 18, 2012, 3:29 pm

        This would be helpful information if Wendy was debating breastfeeding. But she’s not, and not only that, it isn’t really a “choice” in Wendy’s situation. That’s why I found the comment to be a little inappropriate. She can’t breast feed, she struggled with that, she doesn’t need someone making her feel bad again for the situation.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 4:00 pm

        What MELH said! Also, Marie, the title is “When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work.” Which would suggest breastfeeding was her first option.

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      • MELH

        MELH January 18, 2012, 8:57 pm

        Addie, is it sad I saw you replied to my comment and agreed with me and I was like “Yes!!! I’ve made it!”?

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 10:56 pm

        Is it sad that I just saw this comment and did a little happy dance in my underwear on the couch? Hell no! 😉

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 11:37 pm

        Also, this is probably inappropriate to say but all day long I have been wondering if my nipples are flat or not. How can I tell? I mean, they don’t look flat.

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      • JK

        JK January 19, 2012, 7:30 am

        If they don´t look flat then they mustn´t be (believe me there´s a difference!!!)
        For those with flat nipples, if interested in breastfeeding there are special massages to do and nipple former thingys to help.

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      • theattack

        theattack January 18, 2012, 6:31 pm

        Oops. Commented before I read yours.

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      • avatar

        Addie Pray January 18, 2012, 3:21 pm

        Marie, no one is advocating the bottle over the breast. I think you’ve missed the point of this piece.

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      • avatar

        Flake January 18, 2012, 3:27 pm

        There’s a link to an article I posted above. You should take a look at it.

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      • avatar

        Painted_lady January 18, 2012, 4:30 pm

        Yes, let’s add in the one small variable that she might not know – which everyone knows, actually – so she can start beating herself up again. What a fantastic idea. Aside from this being a rather well-known fact, reading a post about how a new mom finally let herself off the hook for something so out of her control despite how much she wants to do it, and then you giving her one more reason to feel inadequate is really tacky.

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      • avatar

        DramaQueen224 January 18, 2012, 11:28 pm

        As a heath professional I find that your body + your baby = your decision. It’s only my place to give you the pro’s and con’s if you ask for them, which Wendy clearly didn’t ask from you.

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    • avatar

      ForeverYoung January 18, 2012, 4:29 pm

      Haha, thank you Marie, I knew someone would have to take this irrational interpretation of her article. I was just waiting for it. I think Wendy made it pretty clear it wasn’t her first option. But, um, thanks for the lesson?

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  • avatar

    kittyk January 18, 2012, 2:53 pm

    Cutest picture ever!!

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    • avatar

      kittyk January 18, 2012, 2:59 pm

      Also, great post. Very raw and honest look at the reality of things for you. I’ve enjoyed reading all of your updates on motherhood thus far because they are so real. You’ve done a wonderful job of conveying the joys and the struggles you’ve encountered.

      You should print some copies of this out so next time those judgy Brooklyn moms make you feel inadequate for having a bottle in your hand you can hand them one and say suck it.

      Ok, that might be over the top, but would probably give you some sort of temporary satisfaction.

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  • avatar

    Britannia January 18, 2012, 2:54 pm

    I love that you’re giving a voice to frustrated and/or unhappy women who are often silenced because of the zealousness of pro-breast-feeding camps. My mother was a lactation consultant while in school for nursing, and honestly there really are some situations where it’s better for both the mother and the child to use formula. Sometimes, the stress caused by the continued failures when trying to breastfeed creates too much negativity and it ends up causing the mother’s body to completely stop milk production…

    I really hope that you never have to deal with someone who has the audacity to chastise you for using a bottle to feed Jackson. And I really hope that if you do, you introduce her face to your palm! From what I read on this site, you’re a really good and loving mother, and Jackson is lucky to have you as his Mom.

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    • avatar

      honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 3:06 pm

      My cousin called the lactation consultants at the hospital where she had her youngest “boob nazis” because they were obnoxious about it. She tried to breastfeed her first and was completely unsuccessful after about 1 month (she wasn’t producing milk anymore) and was willing to try with her youngest but they made her feel like she was a bad mom for not breastfeeding her first and she said that stressed her out to the point that she couldn’t bring herself to try with her youngest. After she got home and settled in, she tried again and was able to do it for about 8 months. I think the stress of being harassed about it is extremely detrimental.

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      • avatar

        Britannia January 18, 2012, 4:16 pm

        Lactation consultants aren’t all like that. My mother definitely wasn’t; she was more often an emotional therapist for stressed out mothers than just a “boob coach”. Sounds like your cousin had an unfortunate experience with a couple bad eggs, but I hope that her one experience doesn’t deter anyone else from giving it a try, because lactation consultants can be incredibly helpful and supportive.

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        honeybeenicki January 18, 2012, 4:28 pm

        I know they are 🙂 She was just the one that sticks in my head. My best friend’s lactation consultant was awesome and extremely supportive.

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      • avatar

        AKchic January 18, 2012, 5:40 pm

        *shudder* When I had my first, all of the mothers were rounded up and taken to the WIC office to the “Lactation Coach”. Regardless of whether we qualified for WIC or not, we were all taken, and photos were done and we were interviewed and all given advice on how to nurse and what to eat, etc. A few days later, an article came out and turned out – the consultant was the older sister to Scotty Gomez, the Alaskan hockey player who had just gotten drafted to the NHL right out of high school, so the paper was doing an ass-kiss piece on her to try to get to her brother.

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  • avatar

    callmehobo January 18, 2012, 2:59 pm

    I don’t have children, but I just wanted to let you know how beautiful this piece was.

    Wendy, I have always been terrified at the prospect of being a mother. Everyone else seems to represent motherhood as this ecstatic state in which you never need help or advice. I always worried that I wouldn’t be able to do that.

    But reading your posts makes me not so scared. You are so honest, and it takes the mystery away. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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    • CatsMeow

      CatsMeow January 18, 2012, 6:47 pm

      agreed.

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  • avatar

    amanda January 18, 2012, 3:05 pm

    thank you so much for this Wendy! i too had a reduction @ 18. i wasn’t able to breast feed any of my 3 daughters for longer than 2 months. and i still had to supplement over half of their feedings then! so many times i have been made to feel horrible and a terrible mom for having to use formula. it is just really refreshing to have someone like you in the exact same situation i am in again.(my youngest is 4 months)
    i have always liked this site, but this article totally made me fall in love with you and here!
    thank you again!

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady January 18, 2012, 3:09 pm

    When my mom had my brother who is 9 years younger than me (so I remember his infancy pretty well) she was pretty intense about her conviction that breastfeeding if physically possible AT ALL was the only way to go. My poor brother had a milk allergy that didn’t show up as such until he was nearly a year old, but looking back at how often he threw up after she fed him and how often he was collicky, it was probably that he was mildly allergic to her milk because she has a lot of dairy in her diet. I know she went to several breastfeeding coaches and endured a lot of stress because she was part of the hippie culture that insisted that was the only good and natural way to feed a baby. I wish she’d eased up on herself because I remember the couple of years after he was born as being exceptionally miserable for her.

    I don’t denigrate anyone who breastfeeds, don’t get me wrong, but so many of the breastfeeding zealots talk about it almost if it’s some sort of mystical quasi-religious thing. It’s great, of course, but so are about a million other things that you can do for your kids.

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    • seven7three

      seven7three January 18, 2012, 7:07 pm

      I was going to mention that in my post down-thread too, but I feared it would be too long and rambling.  My son is also allergic to dairy and soy.  They gave him hypoallergenic formula in the hospital and that’s what we got sent home with.  If I had nursed he probably would have been all gross feeling, farty and bloated because post-pregnancy all I wanted to eat was red meat, asparagus, cheese, ice cream and more cheese.  And peach milkshakes.  

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      • avatar

        Painted_lady January 18, 2012, 8:19 pm

        Yeah, my bro was really grouchy and irritable, and he threw up so much they thought he had some major intestinal issue that would have required surgery (I was 9, I don’t remember that specifically). He ended up more or less acclimating to breastfeeding, though I don’t think feeding him was ever easy – I would wake up at 3 in the morning to him screaming bloody murder, and he seriously needed like six feet of clearance when he was burped (no exaggeration, seriously). Then one day my grandmother was visiting and gave him some milk-based formula while my mom was out shopping, and within a minute he was covered in hives, raspy breathing, throwing everything up. All of a sudden everyone went “OHHHH,” and then he went on soy-based formula and had no problems after that.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie January 18, 2012, 4:49 pm

    Along with millions of other babies in the 40s I was a bottle baby and it turned out not exactly perfect but not all that bad. I love the way you sharing your experience with us Wendy. (hugs)

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  • seven7three

    seven7three January 18, 2012, 5:16 pm

    Forgive me because my comment is probably just as long as your post Wendy but here is my (non) nursing story:

    I couldn’t nurse my son either.  It was a combination of things, the biggest “thing” being that I died for a bit after my emergency c-section due to a uterus on the verge of rupture but what made me dead was an unknown, extreme morphine allergy.  The meds they had to give me when I was not dead anymore weren’t safe for me to pass to Little Seven.  And you want to know who made me feel like I was a total mom fail?  Two nurses from maternity.  Before the whole me dying for a few minutes business, I was clear that I wanted to breast feed.  Well, after being shocked with the paddles, given all sorts of medication to get the morphine out of my system, new pain killer (Demerol) and a bunch of other crap, I was SO out of it that I don’t think I even knew where I was.  They also gave me Valium so I would keep still because of the size of my incision (big, BIG baby, little tiny gal).  I had just been taken back to my room from recovery (6 hours post birth) and these two nurses came in.  One says to me “I know that you seem “tired” or whatever, but your baby is STARVING and you need to feed him NOW”!  The other stood there, arms folded, foot taping, looking at me like I was a total monster.  Then the vocal one went on a rant about how I owed it to my son to nurse him, how there was obviously “nothing wrong” with me and that he’d be some frail little creature if I didn’t nurse him RIGHT NOW.

    All I could do was stare at them while Mr. Seven dabbed up the drool from my chin.  I started bawling because, holy testicle Tuesday!  I had a baby and I’d not even been able to hold him yet!  My mom came unglued and I guess the nurses didn’t know what I’d just gone through because of a shift change and didn’t bother to read my chart or ask my doctors any questions.  The fact that I was covered in hives, had a swollen face and had two extra IV bags seemed to look totally “normal” to them?  I gave the go ahead for them to bottle feed with my inhibited language skills.  Also, I never saw that duo again.  I suspect my mom had something to do with that.   

    Was he *starving*?  Probably not, but he was a 10 pound kid who was three weeks late.  But anyway, he probably WAS hungry as hell.  Still, I wasn’t just tired or being lazy.  I had died.  For 3 minutes.  I kept cracking jokes (when on Demerol, naturally) about being “dead tired”.  Oddly, I was the only one who found that SUPER funny.  Mr. Seven just frowned and shook his head. 

    Later I found out that my favorite nurse, Deb, had already been bottle feeding him because my husband said it was fine and no one had any idea when I’d be out of recovery.  That made me VERY angry.  He’d been bottle fed and was doing JUST fine when the wonder twins decided to storm in to my room and berate me.  Awesome.

    When we got home three days later, I started pumping to keep my supply up for when I could start to nurse and I was really excited about it.  But then my reaction came back.  Well, turns out it didn’t come back.  In the hospital I was given Vicodin and Demerol.  When they sent me home, a different doctor gave with Tylenol with codeine.  I’d never had codeine before and it was bad.  Not morphine bad but bad enough.  The allergies started all over again.  I had to go to the ER.  I didn’t die that time but my eyes & nostrils swelled shut and my back was covered in hives, so it was scary.  Again, I couldn’t nurse with all of that other crap in my system that I was given to get the codeine out.  I became good friends with hospital grade  diphenhydramine and narcotic inhibitors.

    As “out of it” as I was at the time, I will NEVER forget the two nurses, their judging looks and how they made me feel.  I won’t forget the comments made by strangers, comments by family members and comments from a few friends who were also new moms.  My son isn’t less healthy because of formula.  My son does not have a lower IQ because he was bottle fed.  And our bond was and IS just as strong.  Today he’s an outgoing, kind, very healthy, very smart toddler with a singing voice like you wouldn’t believe (he gets that from Mr. Seven, I can hardly carry a tune in a bucket) and Little Seven tells me every day that I’m his “best mama” and that he loves me.

    Wendy, you’re doing a great job with baby Jackson.  Breast or bottle, you’re a GOOD MOM.  And holy crap, he is so freakin’ cute!  

    (Avid reader here but I’m shy so I just mostly lurk.  I’m also a bottle fed micro-preemie and turned out great, if I do say so myself.)

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      Painted_lady January 18, 2012, 5:38 pm

      Holy testicles. I’m keeping that.

      Also, what a couple of bitches for nurses. My mom – a teacher as well – gave me one pearl of wisdom for working with students that I keep as a mantra almost: you never know what they left this morning, and you never know what they’re coming home to this evening, so choose your words wisely. I think it works in its intention for many walks of life, and nursing is most definitely one of them.

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      • seven7three

        seven7three January 18, 2012, 6:53 pm

        I mean, I’d been in the hospital a few times before I had my son and I’d always had great nurses. I have several family members who are nurses and doctors.  My grandparents had been frequently hospitalized and every nurse was so wonderful and kind.  I think that’s why I was caught so off guard.  I just didn’t understand where their judgement was even coming from.  

        But of all of the nurses I had from my four day stay, everyone else was amazing.  The lady that helped me take my first shower was so great.  Even though the two were pretty nasty to me, I didn’t complain.  When I came out of my drug induced haze, I just assumed she was having a crappy day and didn’t know what I’d been through but it did hurt my feelings.  My mom?  They made HER baby (me) cry and she didn’t want them anywhere near me again.  My husband and mom went through 30 minutes of hell when I coded.  They didn’t know if I was dead or alive.  We had all been through a lot that night and to be treated so coldly because I couldn’t nurse my son just seemed so wrong. A nice and soft “would you like to try and nurse now if you’re feeling up to it?” would have been so much better than the “ZOMG!!! He’s starving and he needs the boob now!” approach, especially since he’d already been bottle fed.

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        Lark March 1, 2013, 10:49 pm

        OMG I am sooooooooo ANGRY on your behalf.

        I went through a horrendous experience with militant LaLeche League reps in the hospital under similar circumstances.

        The worst are those that insist we are mammals, and every mammal on earth nurses their young. They fail to understand that even animals have young that fail to latch, or mothers that fail to produce milk – and THOSE animal babies just die and that’s why you think you see successful nursing in animals.

        There’s a reason there have been ‘wet-nurses’ since the evolution of mankind; and ‘formula’ concoctions for the same length of time.

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    Sonia January 18, 2012, 5:33 pm

    Wendy, this was beautiful…I remember when my friend could no longer breastfeed not because she couldn’t, but because right after giving birth she was diagnosed with PKD. She felt awful and people – without knowing the circumstances – woukld cast judgemental looks her way. Sometimes you don’t know the circumstances, but you should NEVER judge…

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  • Amybelle

    Amybelle January 18, 2012, 5:59 pm

    I had trouble breastfeeding my oldest, for whatever reason he just wouldn’t latch, and over the next few months I managed to make myself completely exhausted trying to pump and bottle feed, and wound up depressed and miserable. To be honest, I was the one who was putting pressure on myself, and tearing myself up with guilt that I wasn’t giving my baby “the best” if I went to formula. My mom finally stepped in and said the “best” thing for a baby is not a stressed exhausted and depressed mother and persuaded me to give up pumping and switch to formula. Both my son and I were much happier. Three years later when I found out I was carrying twins, I decided I would try breastfeeding again, but if it became too overwhelming I would stop and not beat myself up about it. I nursed them exclusively for about 2 weeks, then once or twice a day for a few months with formula making up the difference. I would use a hand pump if I got too full (I loathed that electric pump so much and didn’t have a problem with milk production) The point is whatever works best for you is fine, whether it’s bottle, breast, or both! In fact, we’re lucky to have so many options (side note I just finished reading The Wet Nurses’ Tale about a wet nurse in Victorian era England, great book and would be a good one for book club). I’m also a visiting nurse and sometimes do post partum visits; and I try to really help new moms feel supported with whatever choice they make for feeding their baby. Mean, judgmental nurses piss me off!
    ps seriously that is one adorable baby!

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom January 18, 2012, 6:17 pm

    Wendy you should never feel bad about making decisions in the best interest of your baby. Anyone who knows you will know that you couldn’t feed the baby and it doesn’t matter what strangers think. Feeding your baby is what counts and that’s what you’re doing. Besides, if someone sees you feeding the baby a bottle how do they know what’s in the bottle. How do they know if it’s formula or expressed milk. Sometimes a mother is on a medication and can’t breastfeed. It is never a strangers business to judge you on how you feed your baby. Besides, if you were breastfeeding you would still be judged by people who think you should only feed your baby at home or in a bathroom. There is always someone who will dislike pretty much any decision you make so make the best decisions you can for your baby and don’t worry about all those judgemental strangers. What do they know. If you didn’t feed your baby formula he would go hungry and he’s not going hungry so you’re doing the best thing for him.

    Besides, as Jackson grows up you will make decisions about him and sometimes look back and wish you could have a redo because hindsight is always better. So when you find yourself wishing you had made a different decision know that you did the best that you could and don’t beat yourself up even knowing that things would probably be better if you chose differently. I chose a school for my son that took him from being way ahead to being behind and if I could remake that decision I would, but I can’t, and I feel bad about it but I also know that I did the best that I could at the time and that I can’t change it now. It is what it is and that’s it.

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    Elizabeth January 18, 2012, 6:26 pm

    Beautiful post Wendy. My first daughter would not nurse – every nurse tried something different and nothing worked. I cried often feeling like I was a failure. My doctor told me not to worry about it and be thankful that I lived in a part of the world where formula was an easy (though expensive!) option. Still, I stressed over it. I don’t think I fully forgave myself until our second daughter came along. She nursed – and guess what – I didn’t love it, I didn’t think it was any more special, I didn’t want to do it forever, it didn’t bond us more than with my first daughter. I was so relieved to see that I hadn’t made a huge error with my first daughter. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your choice – you did what was best for Jackson and for you (and for Drew). Happy wife – happy life! 😉

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    Meredith January 18, 2012, 6:30 pm

    Great essay! I decided to only breast feed my daughter for 6 weeks for many different reasons , and once I started bottle feeding my daughter and I were so much happier! I was finally able to get (a little) sleep, heal from my c-section, and felt like I finally bonded with my baby. It was the right decision for both of us. Luckily for me, no one tried to make me feel guilty for it, it stinks that you have to deal with that.
    I just can’t buy into the whole shaming mothers for bottle feeding. I know breast milk is better, but I was bottle fed from day one and I turned out just fine…

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    belongsomewhere January 18, 2012, 7:23 pm

    My mom couldn’t breast feed me because I’m adopted, so I was exclusively bottle fed. And I’m excellent.

    I hate all of the judgment around the choice to/not to breast feed. I doubt I will, because it took me long enough to come around to actually giving birth to a baby (still not totally convinced I’ll be doing that!), and the idea of breastfeeding totally skeeves me out (not for any sexual reasons…I just hate the idea of liquid coming out of my boobs, or my nipples being chapped. Yeah, I’m so not doing that). Anyway, it’s an extremely personal thing, and I think the “concern” people have over other people’s choices re:babies in general is terrifying and gross. I swear, if I’m ever pregnant and anyone touches my belly without consent, or gives me one of those “Oh, you’ll change your mind about [breastfeeding/religion/co-sleeping/making your own baby food/whatever the new, trendy, “it’s the right thing to do for the baby!”-thing is at the time, etc.] once the baby is born” speeches, they’ll be getting knocked out.

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    AnotherWendy January 18, 2012, 8:47 pm

    I have a 14 year old and this story brought back memories of the mommy judges: breastfeeding, day care arrangement, sun screen application, always something. Now its judgement on internet freedom, hair coloring, heel height. Why do women do this to eachother? Makes me crazy.

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  • katie

    katie January 18, 2012, 8:52 pm

    i think its very interesting to see how as a society, we are reverting back to “old times”. not only with the crazy that is around breastfeeding but in other areas… the movement to grow your own food in your own backyard, or trying to walk/bike everywhere, ect.. i just think its interesting to see how things are coming back in cycles. what i dont get about the breast feeding thing is that back when it was the only option, women also died in childbirth all the time, babies died all the time, women had like 18 kids but only 11 of them would survive, ect- it wasn’t exactly a great time to live, you know? and now that we have all these advances in medicine to keep people alive that otherwise wouldnt have made it- now breast feeding is the only good option? i just dont understand that logic…. i do think that breastmilk has some magical stuff in it that is probably better for the baby, but you know what? there is a TON of stuff that would be better for us, as humans, to do for our bodies. the human body is pretty resiliant and it is possible to be just fine without whatever stuff is in breastmilk.

    i kind of understand why you would be mad at someone for not breastfeeding just because- kind of. to me, i see it as buying your kid mcdonalds vs. taking the time to make them a healthy meal. you always want whats best for the baby and so you should make that choice… but if a woman honestly cant? i mean come, how can you get judge-y at someone for that? that situation i see as a woman going to mcdonalds still (maybe its all she can afford, i dunno), but having her kid eat the apples and skip the frys. you are still doing the best you can with what you have.

    besides, if breastfeeding really were the only good option, the developed world would have been severely affected by that… and were all still here, right? lol

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom January 19, 2012, 1:00 pm

      One tremendous advantage I found to breastfeeding was that my kids didn’t get sick. As infants they didn’t have colds, or the flu or fevers so we weren’t up through the night taking care of a sick baby and we weren’t paying for doctors visits and we weren’t paying for medications.

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        Something More January 19, 2012, 1:28 pm

        Neither of my children have ever been prone to get sick. Sure, an occasional head cold now and then, but in all of their lives (11 and 13 years) they have each been sick MAYBE three or four times. They both have the (mostly) perfect attendance records at school to back it up. My 13 year old was born 3 weeks early, weighed 4lbs 12oz and is now a perfectly healthy, high school credit taking (in middle school), wonderful, bright teenager. Who was exclusivly bottle-fed, just like her sister.

        Trust me. It doesn’t matter.

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    Foots January 18, 2012, 9:14 pm

    Wow. Wendy, thank you so much for writing this. The very same things you wrote about also happened to me, and for years, I have felt like a failure and a bad mother b/c I could not breastfeed. You have set me straight and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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    DramaQueen224 January 18, 2012, 11:33 pm

    Beautiful article, Wendy! You seem like a great mom.

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    _jsw_ January 19, 2012, 11:32 am

    My brothers and I were all bottle-fed, and aside from a caffeine allergy that one of them has (which I’m guessing breastfeeding couldn’t have helped with), we’re all exceedingly healthy and have no allergies.

    My daughters were both bottle-fed and are similarly healthy, although one has a slight case of asthma, but there have been some mold issues in my home and I suspect that’s the true cause.

    A friend has breastfed both her children, and they’re both sick all the time.

    Another friend also breastfed both her children, and they’re really healthy.

    To me, this strongly implies that there’s no huge difference between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. We’re not talking having children becoming Olympic decathlon gold medalists vs them being sickly, feeble, welfare-dependent leeches on society. There are definitely benefits to breast feeding, but, as formulas improve, they’ll diminish. I agree that antibody transfer is one of this benefits, but I’m not convinced that the advantage is significant. Unless you do a study with identical twins raised in the exact same environment where the only difference is breast vs bottle, you can’t really know, because of that whole correlation ≠ causation thing.

    On the plus side, I was able to care for my daughters as much as my wife could, and that was a very bonding experience for us. I wasn’t the secondary caregiver, dependent upon her to use a pump so I could contribute. I was an equal partner. Also, the girls are very close to her, so it didn’t adversely affect her bond either.

    If you can breastfeed and want to do so, then by all means breastfeed. It’s better in almost all ways. But it’s not enough better to justify doing it if you aren’t able to or comfortable doing so, and using a bottle helps the father be more involved. You’re not less of a mother or less of a woman if you don’t breastfeed.

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    Mwalt January 19, 2012, 3:13 pm

    Wendy, seriously, girl. Stop feeling bad hun!!!! I never understood all that nursing crap, and you shouldn’t buy into it either. Formula is awesome now days. Get some rest and give Jacksona hug for us here at DW.

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  • MELH

    MELH January 20, 2012, 11:21 am

    Also, I just wanted to say this picture is so cute. Jackson looks like he can’t decide if this is fun or if Miles is going to eat him!

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    Erica January 21, 2012, 8:52 pm

    Thanks, Wendy, for your post. Many of us who have had reductions approached our first attempt at breastfeeding with an extra measure of anxiety because we knew that we might not be able to produce enough–or any–breastmilk. Though I ultimately was able to breastfeed my now four-year-old daughter for her first 14 months, I never produced more than 50 percent of her need. And I found pumping to be demoralizing and exhausting. (The SNS that you described worked marginally well but was cumbersome to use, didn’t lend itself to being used in more public settings, and contributed to my breastfeeding angst. Once I internalized my [now deceased] mother’s words to heart that my ability to breastfeed did not define my success as a mother, I just accepted what my body could do.

    By the time my son came along, I was still in the throes of grief from the loss of my mother three months earlier, I was recovering my my c-section with a toddler in tow, and my son couldn’t latch. I later learnedly he had a tongue-tie that we got corrected when he was three months, but by then, he was a 100 percent bottlefed, formula fed baby. Though I had more than a few well-meaning moms share the merits of breastfeeding as a means of cajoling me back into it, I had already made peace with my badu’s capacity and chose not to defend my bottlefeeding at every turn. (Sometimes the bottle had some expressed breastmilk in it, but again, I didn’t feel compelled to justify my actions.)

    I think breastfeeding is a wonderful thing indeed that has the ability to impart physiological and psychological benefits to mother and child. But that doesn’t mean that mothers who cannot (or choose not) to breastfeed because of a damaged or otherwise compromised milk supply should feel inadequate or defensive. Motherhood and being a conscienscious mother is about so many more things than breastfeeding. As a dear friend who’s a physician said to me, even though breast is generally best, formula is a very good alternative. In motherhood, Erica

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    Laura Lofaro July 18, 2012, 6:58 am

    Rock on! Doing what’s best for your baby outweighs any and all negative looks, feedbacks and feelings given to you by others, who will never attempt to understand you. Your baby is being fed. Period. Thank you for a beutiful story. I bottle fed my 3 children, after one half-hearted attempt at breastfeeding 17 years ago. I tried only so I could say I tried, knowing it really wasn’t for me. Fortunately, here in mid-Westchester at that time, no one made a really big deal about it, and it was still a bit taboo to ask someone if they breast-fed. Also, fortunately for me, I am sometimes hard to approach, giving off a fairly “don’t even mess with me today” sort of vibe, so I wasn’t ever asked, or made to feel one way or the other about bottle feeding. Kudos to all of us, who do what needs to be done.

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    Riefer December 18, 2012, 3:12 pm

    This is fantastic. My sister went through a similar thing, although she also did the lactation consultant, the little tube, EVERYTHING! And she felt like a horrible mom. But realistically, she was fed on formula (as were my three brothers and I) and we’re super healthy. So while it does seem to give some health benefits, I don’t think anyone can say the benefits are so drastic that breastfeeding is an absolute must. Eventually my sister did what you did, gave herself a break, and started exclusively bottle feeding. In her situation, as in yours, it was way better for everyone involved.

    And can I just say, the part I teared up at the most was when you said your body was yours again. I’m pregnant for the first time, and it’s so tough. Thinking about the consequences of every little thing you put in your mouth, every exercise session you choose to skip, every time you don’t get enough sleep or you have to lift something that might be a little too heavy. I mean, people think of those things anyway, but usually it only affects you, not potentially someone else! I cannot WAIT to have my body back to myself!

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