As I believe is the case with most expecting mothers, throughout my pregnancy I constantly thought I would be on the ‘breast is best’ train with everyone else. Not only did I imagine how beautiful and special it would be, hearing stories about how some mothers would be so sad when they would have to start weaning their babies, I also heard from countless friends, family members and doctors that my child would be healthier, smarter, more successful (and the list goes on) and that it was the healthier option for me as well. As pregnancy and my hopes of breastfeeding progressed, with all of this information in hand, I registered for the best breast-pumps, the bags and all the breastfeeding gear I thought we might need.
Fast forward to Edward’s birth and things were magical for the first few days. My supply was sufficient and came in right away but then REALITY hit, hard! Despite seeing a lactation specialist and trying a number of new products along the way, I gave it about two weeks and quickly said NO THANKS one evening. Despite it being a quick decision in the moment, we spent the following days researching the topic and ultimately decided that the benefits of breastfeeding failed to offset the downsides – for us.
Breastfeeding just wasn’t for me but I know that some people absolutely love it and have the best time with it. Note that this is my personal experience and whatever you choose to do (or did) is amazing. Fed is truly best and it doesn’t matter if you choose breast or formula or both. Despite this being a polarizing topic, by writing this, I hope to share my story and perhaps shed some light on the alternative to breastfeeding that is so rarely discussed.
Here is a breakdown of all the reasons we ultimately chose formula over breastfeeding:
Save the nipple. I breastfed for two weeks and WOW, that hurt. My nipples were bleeding. Actually bleeding. The supply was there, Edward had no problems latching, but I just couldn’t do it. I used all the nipple cream, the nipple shields, the cooling patches, the warm hot things, all of it. Mom friends would be like “yes it hurts but it gets better”… gets better when? And why suffer through this when there is a great alternative and you’re already trying to recover from delivering your baby, not to mention the sacrifice over the prior nine months. I was over it and I was ready to have my body back to myself. And I deserved it!
Save time. Putting the pump together, pumping, taking the pump apart, cleaning, sterilizing, drying, and then doing it all over again… how do you get anything else done when the majority of your day is feeding and pumping and cleaning pump parts? I never even had to deal with the whole pumping while at work or while trying to travel or anything like that, so for all the women that do, bless you. I honestly can’t imagine. And don’t even get me started on maternal and paternal leave policies in the US….
Luke (and others) can help. The minute we chose to formula feed, Luke got to step in and help so so much. It was so sweet seeing Edward get fed by his daddy and it was so helpful for me both mentally and physically. Instead of feeling solely responsible for this tiny beautiful new human, we were now a team, doing it all together.
Science suggests that the benefits are largely overstated. A key consideration for us was the benefits we would potentially be foregoing by choosing formula over breastfeeding and what we found was surprising. Despite all the wonderful reasons to transition to formula, any evidence suggesting a move to formula would put Edward behind his peers from a physical or mental perspective was something we couldn’t overlook.
One of the numerous books we ultimately read (Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting by Emily Oster) had a fantastic section on this specific decision and we found it to be very helpful. Long story short, there are breastfeeding benefits for mom (20-30% lower long-term cancer rates) but the benefits for baby seem to be limited when focusing on causal effects rather than simply looking at correlation. I can’t do this book or argument justice in this short section but please check out the book and/or articles by Emily if you want to understand this in more detail.
Happy Wife Happy Life meet Happy Mom, Happy Baby. The minute I said goodbye to breastfeeding, I felt so much relief. There was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I got so physically and emotionally stressed and tense when it was time to feed Edward… and I didn’t want him to sense or feel that. To be the best mother I could be, I needed to be in my best mental and physical state, and formula feeding helped me do that 100%.
As I said before, fed is best! If nothing else, I hope that this post gives you some additional insight into an alternative that isn’t discussed enough so you can consider this option if you think breastfeeding may not be for you. For us, the decision to choose formula was the best one we could have made.