This World Breastfeeding Week, we’re going to hear a lot about how ‘breast is best’, and while we agree it’s a fantastic choice if it works for you, sometimes ‘fed is best’ too. We’re sharing stories from people who’ve struggled to breastfeed, chosen not to or for whom it wasn’t an option, to acknowledge that it’s not always an easy journey...if it’s your journey at all.
The following post first appeared on thepostpartumparty and is published with permission from author & Paediatric Sleep Consultant, Amy Motroni.
Fed is best is a message many mums need to hear. Many mums struggle to breastfeed and decide it’s not for them for a variety of reasons. Here’s a collection of mums who decided fed is best, with links to their personal stories.
Fed is best.
I hadn’t heard the phrase before I gave up breastfeeding. But when a friend said it to me after I told her why I wasn’t breastfeeding anymore, a wave of relief washed over me.
When I couldn’t breastfeed Evelyn, I felt extreme guilt and shame. I felt like I had already failed my baby. As a new mom I was constantly worried about messing up. When my milk supply never increased, I contemplated switching to formula but worried about Evelyn’s health and development.
Breast is best is all I had ever heard.
After all, if you Google things like “Fed is Best” you’ll see that people also ask questions like:
- Does formula cause Autism?
- Are formula fed babies more likely to get sick?
- Does formula cause SIDS?
There are so many misconceptions when it comes to the whole breastfeeding versus formula discussion. It’s no wonder that I and countless other new mums struggled with guilt around formula feeding.
Why ‘Fed is Best’
I’m not knocking breastfeeding. That liquid gold is AH-MAZING! I’m in awe of our bodies and how they can bring life into the world and then provide for that life immediately.
But for women who struggle to produce enough milk, or have other issues with breastfeeding, then breastfeeding isn’t so amazing. If you’re in tears every time you have to feed your baby, that’s not healthy—for you or for them.
Your mental health as a mother is the utmost importance. And if formula feeding your baby takes a weight off your shoulder or fills you with relief, then it’s okay to do that.
Your baby will benefit more from having a mentally healthy mom, than it would from breastfeeding.
I always find it therapeutic to hear other women’s struggles with breastfeeding and how they decided fed is best. I’ve gathered up several stories from other mums who struggled with breastfeeding. Some of them had low milk supply, some hated breastfeeding. Each one made the decision that fed is best. And all of them have children who have grown out of the baby phase and are now thriving as little toddlers.
Low Milk Supply
Like me, a lot of women have low milk supply. Sometimes they just can’t keep up with their baby’s demands, no matter how much Fenugreek or Blessed Thistle they take.
I cried as I read Michele’s story about her struggle to breastfeed. It all resonated with me—her low milk supply, the hesitancy to introduce formula, and the shame that came with not breastfeeding. I felt all of it. It was a dark time indeed, but now she has a healthy, smart, preschooler and you’d never even know she was 100% formula fed.
Becky was determined to make breastfeeding work, but she struggled to keep up due to a low milk supply. In the end, formula feeding her baby made her a happier and healthier mom. That’s all our baby truly needs from us anyway!
Kim’s inability to breastfeed contributed to her postpartum depression. She was told she would never bond with her baby if she didn’t breastfeed. It’s those kinds of comments that bring on the mum guilt. Today, her five year old is active and happy—and fully bonded with both of her parents.
Lindsey learned that whether or not you breastfeed has nothing to do with how good of a mum you are, or how much you care about your baby. She goes on to say her healthiest child is the one who never breastfed at all!
Many of us have this notion that formula is poison. Andrea thought the same thing until she couldn’t breastfeed due to low milk supply. Now, she urges mums to respect one another no matter how their baby is fed. Her formula fed little girl is thriving.
Yes, breastfeeding is amazing, if it works for you. But that doesn’t mean that breast is always best.
When babies don’t latch properly it can hinder mum’s milk supply from the beginning. It’s also extremely painful. Some babies are pro latchers while others really struggle due to a lip or tongue tie.
Jaime felt like a failure when she quit breastfeeding after two months. Soon after that though, she felt free and now has a happy and smart little girl who was mostly formula fed.
When Alissa’s son couldn’t latch properly, she turned to pumping exclusively. She calls the pressure to breastfeed “breastfeed bullying” and reminds mums that they know what is best for their baby, despite what anyone else says.
An overbite and lack of appetite meant breastfeeding didn’t work for Kelly. She pumped and formula fed for months before switching completely to formula.
When You Hate Breastfeeding
Even with a strong milk supply and latch, many women just don’t like breastfeeding. It’s not the sweet, beautiful, bonding experience they hoped it would be. Breast isn’t always best when it brings you stress and anxiety and interferes with your relationship with your newborn.
Hannah was able to breastfeed but hated it. She was diagnosed with postpartum depression and put on medication, which meant she could no longer breastfeed. After feeling like she had failed, relief finally set in, knowing her baby was fine and she was a good mum after all.
Meghan shares how breastfeeding made her feel resentful and guilty and led her to hate breastfeeding. She disliked breastfeeding so much that when she delivered her second child years later, she made the decision to go straight to formula feeding.
There’s a lot of physical and emotional pain from breastfeeding. This mum felt weirded out, anxious, and generally uncomfortable each time she tried to breastfeed. Despite really wanting to love breastfeeding, she ended up hating it.
One of the best sentiments I found on bottle/breastfeeding came from a mum who reminded others that deciding whether to bottle or breastfeed is not a life-or-death decision. In a few years, no one will be able to tell the breastfed children from the formula fed children.
After having four children, this mum feels more confident in her decisions, loves bottle feeding and sees so many benefits to it.
I wish I had read Kate’s open letter to formula-feeding mums when I was struggling to breastfeed. I think it would have helped me with the guilt and shame I felt at that time. I hope it helps you!
There are so many women who decided that fed is best. All of these women gave up breastfeeding and guess what? Their kids are fine! I was so worried that Evelyn would turn into a sickly child due to my inability to breastfeed her. Now she is two and a happy and healthy little girl who is smart and funny. I promise your baby will be fine if you don’t breastfeed. In a year or two, no one will even know the difference.
I hope some of these stories brought you hope or a reminder that you aren’t alone in all this. It really is okay to formula feed. Remember, fed is best...it’s going to be okay mama!
For further resources and support with breastfeeding, contact:
New Zealand: https://www.babyfriendly.org.nz/about-nzba/
Disclaimer: Modibodi does not provide medical advice, services or treatments. If you are concerned about a medical or emotional issue related to you or your child, we urge you to please contact your doctor for professional advice immediately.