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Deciding Not to Breastfeed
To the woman who is expecting and apprehensive about breastfeeding: if you don't want to breastfeed then don't. Certainly there are some marginal benefits to breastfeeding, but the baby will receive excellent nutrition from formula, as well. No one can tell you that you have to breastfeed your baby if you don't want to, and you shouldn't have to feel guilty about deciding not to. You are going through a tremendous time of change with your body and yourself. You have a right to assert yourself about this issue.
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I thought I wanted to breastfeed, but after she was born she and I had so much trouble with it that, in spite of lactation consultants, and trying my best, my baby and I just did not do breastfeeding well together. Every session we both ended up in tears and frustration. I hated it. My husband, who in other respects is a fine person, was a jerk about it, saying that if he were breastfeeding he would do a better job (!) and was such a little twit that a visiting nurse told him off royally one day. My baby and I never got into the swing and I finally asserted myself and refused to nurse her anymore. We were both much happier when she moved to the bottle.
OTOH, when I had my second born, I felt entirely different. Baby #2 loved to nurse, and I loved breastfeeding her. She refused to have anything to do with a bottle, and I resented anyone trying to bottle feed her. The experience was a 180 degree turnaround.
So each baby, and each situation, can be different. You are the person who has to decide how to be the best mother for your baby. If you don't want to breastfeed, simply assert your position, and stock up on bottles.
Anyway, either decision you make you WILL bond with your baby. Getting colostrum into him/her is probably a good thing, and there are documented correlations of various health benefits with breastfeeding, but it absolutely is your decision and you should do what feels right to you -- if you try it and it's not for you, don't force yourself -- the baby might also sense your mood and not nurse as happily as if you were snuggling her and holding a warm bottle while fully relaxed.
For me, though, it was not just a matter of modesty. I also did not want to be so confined. It is really difficult when you are your child's sole source of food. I already felt that I had given up my life--so many hopes, dreams, plans, and goals had to be permanently given up when I found out I was pregnant--I did not want to be further constrained. As it turned out I did decide to breastfeed, but only after reading the long discussions on whooping cough and the debates over immunization. I had it as a child and I had hoped to pass on some of my immunities until my child was vaccinated. But, I also enjoyed some freedom since my daughter started using a bottle at two weeks. From the discussions I had with the other mothers in my group, they wished they were able to leave their babies with someone for more than two hours. Since their babies were exclusively breastfed, they never learned to take a bottle and then refused it as they got older--even if the bottle contained breastmilk.
Breastfeeding can be the best option but it is certainly not the only option. If you are so apprehensive about it, then you should seriously consider not breastfeeding. Whatever decision you make, it should be the best one for you and your baby. Whether a woman breastfeeds her child or not is not the hallmark of a good mother. It is how a woman raises her child/ren that determines whether she is a good mother. And at the end of the day, it is more important that a child is fed than the means by which that feeding is delivered. Breastfed, bottle-fed, or a combination of both (as was my case)--is not so much an issue as long as the child is loved, nurtured, nourished and is able to thrive. You have so many issues to contend with now, feeling guilty about not wanting to breastfeed, in public or otherwise, shouldn't be one. And if you do decide to try breastfeeding, bear in mind, it may not work out. You may experience terrible pain or you or the baby my not like. Also, you may never experience that 'zing' as one mother described it. I know I never did. Or, it may be the best experience of your life. Whatever the outcome, be good to yourself and don't blame yourself.
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