The first role we have as moms once our babies enter this world, is to feed them. Most of us plan to at least try breastfeeding. Many of us are a hundred percent committed to do it come hell or high water. A very quiet contingent of us silently doesn’t want to do it at all. You don’t hear those people speak openly about their lack of desire to breastfeed. They don’t want to risk the inevitable fire and brimstone that will befall them for opting for formula.
When they do though - when they choose formula, whether because they want to or have to - moms, almost without fail, say so with an apology. It’s not a blatant apology, and it’s not apologizing to themselves. It's like they apologize to the world for their lack of ability or desire to breastfeed.
“I quit because I was sick/baby was sick/baby was allergic/I couldn't produce enough/blah blah blah.” Women always feel the need to say they would, if they could, even if really, they didn't want to.
Why, though, is it so wrong to not want to? Why is a perfectly healthy alternative not ok, and not good enough?
Somewhere, right now, lactavitists heads are exploding reading this. But I don’t care. “I don’t want to” should be a good enough reason. Women who opt for forumula are not choosing to not feed their babies. They are choosing a perfectly healthy, reasonable, viable alternative. So seriously, just back off.
The fact is, the Breast is Best campaign is shoved down our throats from the first visit to the OB, as if 'best' is EVER one size fits all. Spoiler alert: it's not. It's not something everyone feels strongly about doing, but we all are made to feel like we're bad moms before we ever even have our babies if we're not one hundred percent committed to breastfeeding.
I'm committed to my baby being fed and nourished with a tried and tested alternative to breast milk. I'm housing and cleaning and loving my child. Why isn't that enough?
I know, I will get my ass handed to me by the people who feel strongly that breastfeeding is something every mother is required to at least try to do for their baby; often to the point of needing the help of specialists and natural medicines and all sorts of other methods to try to find a way to breastfeed in the face of adversity.
As if being a new mom isn’t stressful enough. As if we’re all super well rested, feeling great about ourselves and our bodies and our ability to adjust to momhood, we’re also expected to carry the weight of being told we need to care as deeply about feeding our babies from our breast as the La Leche League does.
I don’t. I never did. I was made to feel I should, so I struggled unnecessarily. I had bonding issues with my baby. I was depressed and miserable and stressed. But it was best? No. I’m sorry. That wasn’t best. It wasn’t best for me or for my baby yet any lactavist would have told me to persevere.
I could have kept going. I could have. But I didn’t WANT TO! And when I tell people why I switched, that’s what I say – I no longer wanted to.
I was happy to see that relationship end. I bonded with my baby, finally, once I let that relationship end. My only regret when it comes to breastfeeding is that I didn’t stop sooner.
You can say I'm a quitter or that I didn't do what was best for my baby, and that commitment to breastfeeding is what a 'good mom does.' I can take it. The fact is, I'm not alone in feeling that far too much, UNNECESSARY pressure is put on new moms to breastfeed, but I'm one of the very few willing to say it.
Breastfeeding is great, if you love it. So is every single choice you make for you and your family, which will never mirror mine - not because I'm a bad mom or a selfish mom or an ignorant mom, but because each one of us is different and has different tolerances for all sorts of things. For my own, very personal reasons, I could no longer tolerate breastfeeding. So, I stopped.
I don’t think people should have to buffer that they stopped, with why they stopped. It’s not necessary. It’s no one’s business why. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you chose to feed your baby – as long you feed your baby.