I can emphathize with the comments of the woman who wrote in about
complicated feelings about breastfeeding a short time.
I breastfed my baby until he was 5 months old, although we were using
a lot of formula from about 2 months on. I stopped breastfeeding at 5
months because using so much formula had basically led to my milk drying up.
We introduced formula early because I needed to get back to work several
days a week when my baby was just a couple of weeks old and then full-time
at about 3 months. (I did pump, but found it extremely difficult to
combine with working, even though privacy at my workplace was not an issue.)
My theory now is that to establish breastfeeding, it probably takes at
least 3 months of exclusive breastfeeding, without introduction of formula.
I had no information at all about the possible consequence for milk supply
that might be caused by the introduction of formula -- and the hospital of
course sent us home with a sample of Similac. And even if I had the
information, I don't know if it would have changed anything, because I
just didn't have the luxury of taking a full 3 months to do nothing but
just be with the baby. And, actually, even if I could have taken the time
off of work, I really wasn't psychologically prepared for the restriction
of movement that exclusively breastfeeding a baby entails. I found the
restriction confining and unpleasant. I enjoyed parenting much more
when he got more mobile. Now I love going out on adventures with my
I certainly would have been more devoted to making it work if I felt
like it really mattered for my son's health. What I know about the research
suggests that most of the benefits (immunities, etc.) come in the
first month of so. And my son was just so obviously thriving --- he was
never fussy, never sick -- I think in 3 years we've called the pediatrician
3 times about trivial concerns...
I'm highly skeptical about the recent conviction that extended
breastfeeding is the one right way to parent. It seems part of a
cultural ideology which also promotes the idea that men aren't as good
with newborns, that mother is also the most needed parent, etc... It
exludes dads and non-bio moms and keeps women out of the labor market.
I've noticed over the last few years on this list that most responses
to breastfeeding questions are generally answered in terms of how to
support continued breastfeeding -- in practically all circumstances. I seem
to recall someone writing in about a baby's really negative/allergic
reactions to mom's milk and there was response after response about ways
mom could change her diet --- but no one suggested - why not just try formula
to see if the little one would respond better? Clearly breastfeeding is
great if it works for mom and baby, but it worries me that women might get so
committed to it that they press forward with it even when the baby
isn't thriving and/or it is making mom miserable.
At the age your little girl is at now, a lot of babies are weaned, so
you may be imagining the disapproving glances. As to any disapproval in
the past, that would largely be from those who haven't been there, so I
hope you can shrug it off. While I myself had a very positive
breastfeeding experience, I have several friends who had enormous
difficulties - two woman had babies who absolutely refused to latch on,
ever. They both pumped full-time for a while, indeed, more than a
while, and I have enormous respect for their stick-to-iveness, but they
were not working during this time, and did not have the sleep problems
you detail. The importance of sleep, when you go back to work, cannot
be overestimated, and it's also something that those who have not had to
cope with a new baby and a working life simply cannot understand. I
pumped at work for a long time, but agree with you that it is
time-consuming and highly inconvenient. (If you ever try it again, may
I recommend the Medela Hands-Free apparatus? You may have to retrofit
your bra, but it makes pumping much less inconvenient because you have
the use of your hands.) In any event, you did a lot for your kid and
should try to stop beating yourself up. Most of the babies of my
generation were bottle-fed exclusively, and I don't see that we are so
badly off. Frankly, we don't need new opportunities for guilt.
I hope you are just imagining those nasty looks! My experience was a
little similar to yours except that my baby was a great nurser, but needed
to be fed (REALLY needed it!) every 1 1/2 - 2 hours even by his third month.
I felt guilty too because he was such a good nurser and I had no
problems with sore nipples or anything - it was just too hard. It got
to be too draining towards the end of my maternity leave, and I
couldn't handle the pumping once I went back to work, particularly
not since every minute I spent pumping at work meant going home a
minute later. I've decided a lot of things that are supposedly
possible aren't do-able for everyone -- unless, of course, I'm just
completely deficient. I couldn't nurse in bed, for example, although
everyone told me I could. (If you have tiny breasts, you practically
have to lay on top of the baby, as far as I could tell. Of construct
such an elaborate pillow structure that all thought of sleep becomes
impossible anyway.) Breastfeeding has wonderful benefits, but it
isn't the be-all and end-all of motherhood. One benefit of doing more
bottlefeeding is the paternal involvement. My husband puts the baby
to sleep about half of the time, which is great for both of them (and
helps me a lot, as I can zoom around putting the house in order while
that's going on, which would never happen otherwise). Anyway, maybe you
should stock a bottle of gin in your diaper bag and pull out and take
a swig while you're feeding your baby, if people need something to
stare at. Good luck!
You are certainly not alone in your feelings. I am the mother of twins
who struggled with breastfeeding. I had incredibly sore nipples, so
nursing was agony. Having twins doubled the pain. I was also recovering
from a C-section and a broken ankle. I was a mess. I consulted my OB, our
pediatrician, lactation consultants - the latter focused on convincing
me I could feed two babies at once and ignored the pain I was
experiencing. I thought I would go crazy if I heard the word
"position" one more time. I settled for a combination of painful
nursing, frequent pumping and formula. Eventually, the pain went
away and I was able to nurse more. But when I returned to work, my
milk decreased and I had to continue supplementing (pumping doesn't
always get it). Also, one baby began to prefer the bottle. Now one gets
mostly breastmilk and the other mostly formula or pumped milk. I still
sometimes imagine that I didn't try hard enough to "work through the
pain." I feel bad when I talk to other twin moms who managed to
exclusively breastfeed their babies. But bottom line, my babies are
healthy and happy despite my imagined "failings." They don't care
where their milk comes from and my husband is delighted to be able
to give them bottles. And to be honest, the baby who's had more
formula than breastmilk has been healthier. Whenever you perceive a
nasty look from a nursing mom, remember that you did what was right
for you and your baby. And remember that there are probably more
women looking at you with envy.
I'm sorry to hear of your experiences. I know from my own
personal experience that breastfeeding, while it may be best, is not
always feasible. When my daughter was 2 weeks old she was put on a
supplemental bottle of formula. I immediately received flack about
that and how my baby's pediatrician was 'old fashioned' and 'out of touch'.
The truth of the matter is that she is an excellent doctor who has my
child's best interest in mind. That's the most important criteria in my book!
I too received the disapproving looks when the bottle came out of the
diaper bag. I've even had total strangers coo over my baby and say something
like, 'how sad your momma doesn't want to nurse you'. Well, I tried.
I dutifully pumped at work from 3 months to 10 months. Regardless of how
much I pumped (usually as long as 1 hour each session!), how much
water I drank, how much Mother's Milk tea I imbibed, I simply did not
produce enough milk for my baby. So, the bottle was an absolute mecessity.
The result? My sweet baby received both bottle and breast milk and she is
I used to feel guilty about this and I used to let the
disapproving and even nasty looks upset me. But I don't any more (now
I'm receiving comments because I'm weening so EARLY! My baby is almost a
year old!). Realize that you are giving your baby the best care possible.
Stop feeling guilty because nursing didn't work out. Contrary to what
all the literature states, not every woman's body produces enough milk to
sufficiently feed her child. And personally, my breast NEVER adjusted
to breastfeeding. Every single time my child latched on I experienced
that toe-curling pain that often lasted throughout the entire feeding. And
YES! I consulted a lactation specialist and Yes! I was doing
I think you made the right decision to bottle feed. Better to
receive disapproving looks than to have a healthy baby damaged due to
poor food intake as a result of difficult breastfeeding. I've no doubt in
my mind that your child feels loved, nurtured, and secure from the care
you've given even if you were not able to breastfeed. You did nothing
wrong. It is not a matter of not persevering enough, it is a matter
of making a choice that ensured your child received sufficient nutrition.
Try to focus on the good aspects of your relationship with your baby.
This period is so very short. Please, don't let those unkind souls
ruin your time with your baby.
I can relate to your frustrating experience trying to breast-feed your
baby. I had a similar experience, and the only thing that kept me from
blaming myself for the fiasco was that it was my SECOND child, and I had
breast fed the first child very successfully! My second daughter just
didn't like to nurse. My pediatrician was puzzled, as were various nurses
and breast feeding experts. I tried everything (and I mean
everything!). I finally gave her a bottle (she was just getting too
skinny), but always continued to try and breast feed her at least a
few times each day. Finally, when she was about 5 or 6 months old,
she decided that she LIKED to nurse (still only about once or twice
a day, and she continued to get most of her calories from the bottles,
or from food), and she continued that limited nursing schedule till
she was about 18 months old. Most people don't recommend both bottle
and breast feeding, but it worked for us.
I sympathize with your plight, it is hard to pull out a bottle without
going into a lengthy explanation to your friends, but the main thing is that
your baby is getting the food she/he needs. I think that sometimes people
forget that occasionally breast feeding just doesn't work despite your best
efforts! I think my main advice is just to stay flexible, try and see
if an unconventional arrangement will work for you and your baby. My
daughter is 10 years old now, and the breast feeding fiasco is far in
the past. But it did give me a little preview of how strong minded she is,
and how she has her little quirks!
I, too, intended to breast feed, and, like many, many other women, it
just didn't work out. I tried for a long time, with all the patience
and determination I could muster. Alas, it was not to be. My
daughter, 100 percent formula fed since 3 months, is healthy as an ox,
has never had an ear infection, and at 2.5 years old towers over most
girls her age. Bonding? Please. This shouldn't surprise anyone, since
people in my generation (b. 1964) were all mostly bottle fed. And I,
for one, am normal in every way. Love my mother. Rarely sick. Normal
height, intelligence, etc. etc. ad naseum. My two 6-foot+ surfer
brothers (bottle fed all the way) would pound you for suggesting that
bottle feeding breeds sickly children. I know many women, however, who
persisted with breast feeding to the detriment of their baby, and made
themselves sick and miserable at the same time. It's true that we
live at Ground Zero for the cult of breast feeding, but the bottom
line is that every mother wants to do what's best for her baby, and
doesn't need to suffer dirty looks or endless prosthletizing from La
Leche Leaguers. I think it's another symptom of how sick this
particular area is (and I'm a native) when Moms are more competitive
with each other than the men are. Why can't we focus on more important
issues, like real family leave policies or affordable housing for
middle class families?
I had a really hard time breastfeeding my first daughter - I had
inverted nipples and in 1980 very little support from anyone except a
few people around me. I breast fed her until she was three months old.
My son was breast fed until four months exclusively, until six months
he had a combination of breast and bottle pumped breast milk. At six
months I gave up with the pump and combined breast with formula. At one year
I got tired of the cracked, bleeding nipples and went to the bottle and
I got sideways glances too - for breastfeeding in public! There's no
pleasing anyone. I guess we don't really know what the sideways glance
people are really thinking and maybe we only imagine they are thinking
what we are feeling guilty about.
I think the desicion to breast feed is a good parent desicion. The
inability to implement it either because it is impossible or simply
too stressful for parent and/or baby does not cancel the "good parent".
You do the best you can with your babies best interest at heart, that's
what makes you a good parent.
You are not alone!!! My daughter is 8 months old and is thriving, but
I had a difficult time with nursing. Before she was born I never really
gave much thought to the whole breastfeeding issue. I just assumed
that I would breastfeed and couldnt really understand why anyone would
consider doing otherwise, at least at first. The first six weeks
seemed to go pretty smoothly. My daughter seemed to be a very good nurser
and I didnt experience any real discomfort or pain in nursing. But I
started to notice that she wasnt really getting much bigger and she
slept a lot during the day, but not at night. At our 6 week
appointment it turned out she hadnt gained any weight since our 2 week
appointment. I was completely shocked and it seemed like my little world
was shattered. Overnight I went from feeling good to feeling like I had
failed my daughter and that I wasnt a good mother. All the books and
prenatal classes seemed to gloss over the incredible emotional pain I
experienced when nursing didnt go well. Fortunately my husband was
incredibly supportive and we worked together (along with a lactation
consultant) to try to figure out the problem and to see if I could get
back on track. I used a supplemental feeding system (little bottle of
formula with a tube taped to my breast to encourage sucking) plus
seemingly hours of pumping. I was able to get back to about 2 ounces
total every three hours or so, but we continued to supplement with
bottles of formula from that point on. At about 12 weeks or so I
finally got into a rhythm of nursing and then having my husband give
her a bottle. Now you would never know that she had ever had any weight
But ever since that 6 week appointment my attitude about everything
has changed. Ive decided that every mothering (and really its parenting,
since the father is so important in this whole process) experience is
different and each is just as valid and important as the ideal that we
read about. Ill bet that the dirty looks you think youre getting are
probably in your imagination (but still just as stressful) since it
always seems like everyone else can see your anxiety about things.
But let me also offer the advice that its none of their damned business
and as long as youve been able to find a way to provide good nutrition to
your child and to maintain your own sanity and wellbeing, then you are
an excellent mother and your system is just as nurturing as any you
can read about or that other mothers may describe. Plus, you really are
not the only one whos had trouble with nursing. Since I found out I wasnt
producing enough I joined a mothers club and have since met at least 6
other moms who had similar problems, and I know three moms personally
who gave up nursing and went entirely to formula. I also know many
moms who are still nursing exclusively. The great thing is each of these
many women has beautiful, healthy children!
Please feel free to contact me if youd like to talk in person, plus Id
really recommend finding any mothers clubs or support groups in your
area. Having others to talk and laugh with has made all the
difference for me. Good luck!!
To the mother of the bottle-fed 9-month old:
Believe me, there are many, many women out there who do not nurse
their babies very long either. We all do the best we can. The pumping
thing was agony for me, too, and I wasn't going to torture myself over it.
I nursed my daughter for four months and she weaned herself. She took formula
in a bottle. This was at the time I went back to full-time work. I felt a
little sad, but also relieved. I didn't particularly enjoy the
nursing experience. Guilt feelings? Some, but life's just too short. Like I
said, we do the best we can. It's wonderful that your baby got to
nurse those 12 weeks!
When I saw the entry from the mom who tried breastfeeding and working
and it didn't work, I just had to write. Each family does what works
for them, and I believe that no one should feel guilty about the
decisions they make. You may be getting dirty looks from nursing moms,
but probably not as much as you think! You are doing what works well
for you and your child, and that is the only thing that is important.
Hang in there and have faith in the good decisions you have made.
You are certainly not alone in your problems with breastfeeding. That's why
they used to have wet nurses, or people who could breastfeed when the mother
couldn't. I personally know of at least three other mothers who were unable
to breastfeed due to insurmountable difficulties and many more who had
trouble of one sort or another. I never expected to have problems and was
therefore all the more upset when I did. I now feel very lucky that I was
able to overcome them, because I know sometimes it just doesn't work out.
Even if it does work out, for many people it can be difficult and
frustrating, in spite of the benefits. I would say you have no reason to
feel guilty for stopping.
I used to feel guilty, too, that I would give my daughter one bottle
of formula a day when she was young. I remember being in a mom's group
and one woman actually apologized to the other moms for bottle feeding.
This breastfeeding pressure is particularly intense in the Bay
Area/Berkeley. I just moved out to D.C. and my daughter was the only
baby in her peer group who was still nursing at 6+ months!
Unfortunately, you have to try and ignore the overly zealous/not
understanding people who judge you.
I would like to respond to this comment, as I was the breast-feeding
mom who posted to this list now 10 months ago about my son's severe
difficulty with breast feeding. I was very disappointed with the
moralistic tone of the responses I received (which bordered on
proselytizing). Happily, I ignored the advice of most of the members
of this list, tried formula, and with in a day noticed a tremendous
change in my baby. He regained the 3 pounds (yes 3) he had lost since
since birth (no, I was not having a problem with my milk supply), and
changed from a cranky, gassy, vomitous, unhappy, crying baby who
could not sleep, to the sweet, peaceful, happy baby he wanted to be.
He is the healthiest child I know -- having had just one cold and no
other illnesses as he approaches his first birthday -- and is thriving in
I too sense, and have been told as much by others, that breast-feeding
is THE ONLY WAY. This of course, is absurd. As with most things in life,
there isn't one true way...and if mother or child are not doing well, for
whatever reason, it is antithetical to good parenting to continue on that
course. I too have received side-ways glances as I whip out a bottle and a
packet of soy-formula -- but my son is living testimony that failure to nurse
does not result in irreparable harm. For those who are concerned that I
am not as bonded with my baby as I would have been if I had continued
breast-feeding...a ridiculous proposition. If anything, I learned a
number of ways to comfort, soothe and relax him by connecting with
emotionally, rather than sticking something in his mouth.
It strikes me that several of the least nurturing parents (translated:
WORST) I know have nursed their children for extended periods of
time, mistakenly believing that nursing is tantamount to good parenting. I
regret that we live in the epicenter of the cult of breast feeding, and feel
that the high degree of intolerance on this issue is amusing, particularly
when expressed so vehemently by those who profess liberalism as their world
The first lesson of good parenting is to trust one's own instincts --
a special thanks to those few voices who encouraged me to do what seemed
best for my baby.
In response to the "mother of a now bottle fed nine month old", I
have raised 5 children who are now between 13 and 27 and attempted to
breastfeed each one, with probably more determination each time. I don't
know what REALLY contributes to success, but I suspect it's not any one
thing. I imagine that involvement of varying personalitites has
something to do with it.
With my first baby it was suggested I return to birth control pills
to prevent pregnancy soon after I gave birth and in the days of much
higher dosage pills it did not take long before my milk supply diminished
dramatically and my baby was continually crying and not gaining
weight. I was advised to start supplementing with formula and soon my milk
supply was gone altogether. In those days (1972) breastfeeding moms were
in the minority so there was not much guilt tripping associated with bottle
feeding, but I considered myself a failure because I wanted to success
so badly. After all, breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed one's
young--that is why we are called mammals, so why shouldn't it work?
With my second baby (1974) I knew better. I didn't take birth
control pills and was determined not to supplement with formula. But my
second little girl had other ideas. After a couple of months or so it came
to a battle of wills and she would REFUSE to latch on, turning her head
away angrily each time I tried. Both of us got so tense and her weight
didn't go up so again formula from a bottle. I was not happy about this,
In 1981 my son was born and after the first six weeks or so it just
seemed like the let-down reflex wasn't happening and he would get annoyed
when the milk didn't flow. We tried pitocyn nasal spray to help with the
let-down. It worked sort of but not for long. I still couldn't understand
why I was unable to breastfeed.
I breastfed my daughter born in 1984 for about 4 months without any
problems (we were both incredibly relaxed) but when I went back to
work supplemented with bottles (they didn't have all those great pumps
readily available then) and gradually my milk decreased.
My 5th child, a boy born in 1985 was breastfed for a while, tried the
pitocyn again and finally just decided it wasn't worth it. I am glad
that I tried each time--would do so again--and keep thinking that if
we lived a less complicated life in which we could just relax and
devote all our time and energy to feeding our babies, it would be
easier. My first grandchild was born in December, was breastfed for
about three months with increasing difficulty and after many consultants,
trials and errors, happily took formula from a bottle. Although my daughter
was disappointed I think mom, dad, and baby were relieved of a lot of
tension. But whatever happens, guilt should not be associated with feeding
one's baby because I really believe that most of us have the best interest
of our children at heart.
Breastfeeding didn't work out for me either, plus I had to return to
work soon without any privacy for pumping. Although I was set on definitely
breastfeeding my baby, I ended up changing my mind and stuck to the decision.
The most important thing was that my husband felt the same way about our
We agreed that the rest of the world does not matter and we didn't get
criticism or weird vibes from friends. What we did have to watch out for
were those well
-meaning and concerned colleagues at work you deal with on a daily
basis. My husband simply decided to lie after the first strugglesome
"How is the breastfeeding going?" "Going great. Thanks for asking!"
"No problems. Thank you." When I got back to work I just left the
inquiring to colleagues under the impression that I had just stopped
breastfeeding, because of
the inadequate facilities (which are obvious). I never got down on
myself for not following the breastfeeding dogma. What's good and what's bad
bad changes all the time. 40 years ago we would not have felt like outcasts.
So, I looked at my own good health and my husband's good health (we
were both not breastfed) and trust in that. So far my small child has
had the flu nor an ear infection and I'm quite happy about that. A
peaceful home environment can also strengthen immunity, I guess.
We never doubted ourselves for the decision we made.
We switched our son over to the Playtex Avance bottles, which have
vented bottoms that also unscrew for easy cleaning, and special cross-cut
nipples to keep bubbles away from the baby. He has found it much easier
to get good flow with these and doesn't have to interrupt his sucking
pattern to let air in. They come in small and larger (9 oz) sizes,
and cost $4-$5 at Longs, more at the supermarkets and Rite Aid you can
this page was last updated: Aug 10, 2003
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network