Stop Telling Me That ‘Breast Is Best’

Stop Telling Me That ‘Breast Is Best_

By Becky Houdesheldt

I had my first child 6 months ago and no one told me about the secret society of breastfeeding mothers that would shun me if I didn’t breastfeed my child.

Here’s the deal: When I found out I was pregnant, I had no doubt we’d breastfeed. I didn’t save any formula coupons, didn’t even know the difference between brands and types. I bought all the appropriate breastfeeding accessories (who knew there were so many) and had visions of happily feeding my sweet baby boy for at least the first 3 months of his life, thanks to an amazing maternity leave program with my work. I didn’t know a thing about bottle nipples or bottle cleaning, and I didn’t think I needed to. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. Why wouldn’t I breastfeed?

He came on March 12, and the next 4 days were the longest of my life. I had a relatively quick labor and delivery, and then there he was, this tiny human person, depending on me for survival in literally every way. It felt like he was constantly feeding. He apparently had a great latch right off the bat. No one bothered to hear me when I said I was in pain. The second day he screamed and screamed and no one listened when I sobbed to them that I was afraid my baby was hungry.

See, when I was 27 I had a breast lift done after losing about 100 pounds, and the doctor said at that point that breastfeeding might be difficult. I hadn’t considered the consequences then, as I wasn’t sure I’d be having kids at all. Throughout my entire pregnancy I worried about whether or not we’d be able to breastfeed. I lost plenty of sleep over it.

I called in nurse after nurse, their lactation consultant, anyone I could I brought into the room and asked them if he was eating, if they thought he was hungry, if everything was going the way it was supposed to. I was assured that he was fine.

We brought him home, and he screamed and cried when he wasn’t sleeping. He was inconsolable. I kept feeding him, almost around the clock. At one point I held him for nearly 24 hours, barely falling asleep against the back of the couch only to jump awake, sure that something had happened. Because I couldn’t admit that I was failing at breastfeeding.

I struggled for 2 days at home, afraid to sleep because what if I slept too long and my supply dropped? I agreed to supplement with formula, at which point I broke down in tears. I felt like a failure. I was sad that I wasn’t the only person who could give life to my child. Because somewhere down the line, I picked up on the subtle message that if I was unable to breastfeed, I was not as good a mother as I could have, or should have been.

But my baby was fed, and he stopped crying. And he slept.

I saw a lactation consultant because he’d been feeding so much with a bad latch that I was raw and cracked, and I couldn’t endure another second. When I took him in with me, they weighed him before and after a 15 minute feeding, and he’d gotten 2.5 mL of milk – he should’ve had at least 30. I cried. I tried to pump. I tried teas. I tried so many things to increase my supply. I got mastitis. I felt like I got hit by a bus, and was freezing in 90 degree weather. I was absolutely exhausted.

Finally at the request of my husband and my mom, I let go of breastfeeding altogether. As time had gone on, we were supplementing more with breast milk, and formula was his primary food source. There was a grieving process. I had to come to terms with a lot of emotions. And when I passed grief and sadness and loss, there was anger.

Why is it so shameful to formula feed a baby? Why do mothers put themselves through the anguish I went through, when a fed baby is best, no matter how? Even at the hospital, at the breastfeeding 101 class, there was no talk of alternatives to breastfeeding if it didn’t work out. By omission, the hospital presented the message that any way besides breastfeeding is unacceptable. So much so that when it came time to figure out how to actually feed my baby, I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know how my pediatrician would react, or my OB. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was ashamed.

And today I know that’s complete bullshit.

I can guarantee I love my baby just as much as any breastfeeding mom. I can also guarantee that formula feeding is not bad, and it doesn’t make me a bad mother. It doesn’t lead to overweight infants, it doesn’t mean that my baby and I didn’t bond, and it isn’t that inconvenient. A few minutes of planning and we can go anywhere, at any time, and do anything we used to do, or would have done if we were still breastfeeding.

The fact that mom-shaming is a thing at all is absolutely beyond me. I’m fairly certain that we are all doing our best to raise respectful, decent humans who can stand on their own and become productive members of society, without losing our identity in the process.

Today I refuse to listen to anyone who tries to say that one way of parenting is better than any other. Because let’s face it, I don’t know anything when it comes to this whole mom thing. I am absolutely flying by the seat of my pants, with Google at my fingertips.

There is no “best” way to feed a baby. There is a fed baby. And that is best. Period.

Becky is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.

{featured image via pexels}

One thought on “Stop Telling Me That ‘Breast Is Best’

  1. Honest K says:

    Absolutely love this post!

    You are spot on the mark – breast is not always best! I wrote a similar post, detailing how i feel about breast feeding. I had days of tears, weeks of cracked nipples to the point being in a shower was painful, I got thrush in my breasts (due to antibiotics after birth), my daughter fed, a lot. It was a good day if we got to 3 hours before another feed.

    Hard does not do it justice. Despite having a ‘good’ latch and no major complications it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I lost all my baby weight, and then some, so quickly due to sheer exhaustion. Looking back now I can see how easy it was for postnatal depression to take a grip on me. I was a mess, trying to hard to not become a ‘failure’, to be this super mum that can boob feed, clean and socialise. All of it is bullshit. I was encouraged so much to breast feed, I get it, for the baby it is best. Yet they fail to add on to that statement is it only best if it’s best for mum too. My daughter might have gained extra nutrition, fats and vitamins, but she also gained a depressed over stressed and tired mother, that, unfortunately on occasion directed her hate towards the baby. I cried, I forced myself to bond, I hated this thing that took so much of me. I never hurt my child, I kept my feelings very close and I beat myself up about it. My daughter had what she needed from me, but it was in no way best for her! Best would have been a happy mother.

    My heart goes out to you as I read this post. Breast is best is complete and utter bullshit and like you, I am sick of it being forced down mothers throats and I’m sick of this bottle and breast divide. I can relate to this post so much, it has brought up alot of emotion. Still, 2 years gone, it’s hard for me to think of my newborn daughter. I feel I missed the first few months due to stress and exhaustion. I missed my newborn, I counted the days until it got ‘easier’. It’s very painful.

    Breast is not best. Not in today’s society. Not by a long shot.

    Thank you so much for sharing, your post truly touched me, hopefully it will shine a light on the true nature of breast feeding for other women and their partners.


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