Breast Isn’t Always Best


My pediatrician from childhood, Dr. Fox, told my mom that the best thing you can do for a baby is be the best mom you can be. “What’s best for baby is whatever is best for mom.” It sounds selfish but I can see already how right that is, at least when it comes to mom’s emotional health.

I just wanted to take today to reassure any other women out there struggling with the decision I’ve been struggling with that switching from breastfeeding to formula is not the end of the world. In fact, while many experts argue that “breast is best,” that hasn’t been the case for me and Evan. It’s only been two days but already I feel happier, Evan has stopped seeing me as one large boob there for the feeding (we’ve had so much more quality time together and he doesn’t even go straight for my boobs at all anymore), and my body is beginning to heal. It was an extremely difficult decision to make because it’s one that’s so hard to reverse (but not impossible), but it was definitely the right one for us. Evan’s making the transition to formula just fine; weaning’s harder on my body than on his. He’s spit up a few times as we’ve had to figure out how much to feed him from the bottle (that myth that babies will only eat until they’re full has been disproved here already), but other than that he has barely even registered the switch. Most of all, though, I feel so different. I’ve stopped crying, I’ve stopped dreading picking Evan up for fear that he will need to eat, and I’ve even started feeling like I’m doing my fair share of the parenting and housework. Before I was doing all the feeding, which was a lot of work, but I wasn’t doing anything else because I was in pain and exhausted from feedings. Now I am able to contribute so much more and I feel so much more like a parent than a meal. My whole mood has changed. This was definitely the right choice.

And thanks to all my friends, family, and even my lactation consultant for the support. No one has said anything like, “Oh, that’s too bad.” Rather, people have been saying, “Oh, I’m so glad.” It’s really nice to feel like I tried breastfeeding, gave it a fair shot, decided with Brian that it wasn’t working, and now get to feel so good about the decision without anyone second guessing us.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, of course. When I was about 28 weeks pregnant, my OB-GYN asked me whether I intended to breastfeed. I said, “I don’t want to, but I know that I should.” Her response was, “You really sound like a Ph.D. student.” And she was totally right. From the beginning, I approached breastfeeding like I approach everything else: I did the research, weighed the experts’ advice, and made the most rational decision. But all along, my brain was in it but my heart just wasn’t. Breastfeeding really hurt me physically, but it also never felt right emotionally. Deciding not to breastfeed was a matter of deciding to listen to my gut rather than subscribing to guilt that I was generating in response to feeling like there was a right and a wrong answer to the question of feeding a baby.

I guess that’s probably always true: guilt is something we make, not others, and sometimes you just have to let guilt go and do what feels right.


2 Responses to “Breast Isn’t Always Best”

  1. 1 Deb

    Good for you. What a good mom you are to be self-aware and make the right choices. We should all beware of any “one-size-fits-all” message.

  2. 2 Christina

    You have to do what is best for both of you, and if breastfeeding isn’t working out for you, then it makes sense to not do it.

    Breastfeeding didn’t work with my first daughter, and so we used formula. My second one now is a breast-lover, and since I’m not having any problems now, I’m happy to oblige.

    It’s not like formula is rat poison – if you want to use it, your child will grow just as well as a breastfed baby. My older daughter is a healthy toddler who is actually bigger for her age.

    I’m really happy to breastfeed now, but I’d never try to say that it’s something everyone should do.

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