Reclaiming My Breasts


I have a confession. I formula fed my babies. I am not ashamed of it. I made the best decision for my babies and myself. When I made this decision, I didn’t factor in the droves of mothers that would judge me for it. I didn’t realize my boobs would be the topic of heated debates as if they weren’t a part of me. As if the only purpose they have is to serve milk.

When we left the NICU with a garbage bag full of little tiny formula filled bottles, my heart broke. I already failed my babies. As I sunk into PPD, the only thing I could think of was the sanctimommies telling me to try harder. Eat these cookies and pump more, get a nipple shield, set an alarm and wake up every 20 minutes to pump. Put those babies to the boob every chance you get. You can do this; it is best for your premature babies. Formula is not the same. It’s the only reason we even have breasts. I was bombarded with articles and tips from blogs from well-meaning mothers all over the globe. (Maybe some not so well-meaning ones too.)

 

But here’s the thing: My babies don’t need my breast to survive.

They don’t need my breast to grow, they just need food and formula is food. And then it happened. People started asking about breastfeeding. Some even assumed it was as if formula didn’t even exist. Instead of just saying, “No they are bottle fed” and leaving it at that, I insisted on telling them my entire breastfeeding struggle, most times making it sound worse than it actually was. I mean I only pumped for two weeks. I started justifying my poor choice so people would judge me less.

 

The thing is, no matter what I told them short of lying, I was going to get judged.

Sounds like you should have stuck with it a little longer.” “Do you regret it?” I wanted to shout “Hell no!” But I always said yes, I wished I could have breastfed my angel babies. I was a liar. I didn’t regret shit. I was barely able to shower twice a week back then. If I had a baby on each boob, I am sure my hygiene would have been even worse. I was thankful I could go out with my husband and have a date night without worrying if my tits were going to explode. I have friends that have pumped and dumped in parking lots and pumped in public bathrooms. No, thank you. But yet I am the one that is judged for taking the route best for me and my babies.

 

Best for me. That seems to get people every time.

I gave my body, my soul and half my DNA to these two children that look exactly like their father. And now, because I didn’t want to give them my boobs, I am suddenly a selfish, bad mom. I respectfully disagree. I am a mom who knows her limits and knows that for me, losing that much of myself would worsen my PPD.

 

For me, it never felt natural.

I felt like a cow pumping my milk to be bottled and enjoyed by the masses. It never felt like bonding or love. I felt angry and discouraged. Returning my industrial strength pumping machine back to the hospital was a weight lifted off my shoulders. I no longer had to stare at the thing that made me feel so inadequate. But I had to deal with those sanctimommies telling me I was not working hard enough.

Today, five years later, I’m publicly taking my boobs back. There’s no more shame, and no more guilt. I love my babies, but I also love my breasts.

 

Related: 
When Breastfeeding Just Isn’t Going To Happen

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Reclaiming My Breasts

I have a confession. I formula fed my babies. I am not...
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11 Comments

  • Thank you! I had a horrible time trying to nurse after my baby was put in NICU for 48 hours immediately after she was born. I tried for hours at a time to get her to latch once we got home and pumped for two weeks for little more than an ounce at a time. It was physically painful and emotionally draining. I beat myself up about it constantly until I realized all the benefits of bottle feeding. (Plus, my pediatrician said just to stop.). Not only was I able to get much needed sleep, because my husband could help with middle of the night feedings, but I could also monitor exactly how much she was eating. She’s been perfectly healthy and has slept 10 hours a night since about 7 weeks old.

    Also, I don’t think the author was being judgemental about pumping in public. She was simply saying it looks like no fun to have that burden.

  • Responding to the last post. To judge in this case is just to hold an opinion or come to a conclusion about something. And everybody who is human and can think for themselves does this. Please, let’s get away from using the word “judge” in this manner. It’s just not accurate. What you really are referring to in your conclusion is that people “condemn” others’ choices to make themselves feel better about theirs.

  • Breastfeeding is hard. My milk was very slow to come in and we had to supplement with formula for the first few days at home. I got some commentary from well-meaning but ultimately judge-y people about feeding my baby the “equivalent of potato chips” instead of exclusively breastmilk. Well, you can’t feed the baby with something that doesn’t exist, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like a failure.

    My milk came in eventually and we’re taking it one day at a time with nursing, but if my milk dries up or it gets too challenging to pump at work anymore, then formula it is. I’m not going to torture myself and our baby chasing an ideal number of months for nursing. All we can do is our best, and sometimes formula is the best choice.

  • I didn’t read this as she was offended by people breast-feeding in public or try to insult people. I think she just stated that she is able to go out and not be interrupted by the need to pump and the author’s statement was more of sympathy (not a bad one) for those whose evening is interrupted. I nurse but a good friend of mine, whose child is the same age as mine, bottlefeed’s and I have to admit I am slightly jealous at times when we go out and I have to excuse myself from our evening out to go pump. It takes a little bit more (or different) logistical thinking sometimes when you were breast-feeding. Are we going someplace where I can bring a pump easily, will there be outlets, will it be inconvenient to carry pumped milk after.

  • Thanks. Had so many struggles with breastfeeding, and the guilt associated with it not working out for us. Need this to be more normalized. Fed is best. Support each other in the many ways we care for our children.

  • I was nodding in agreement with this woman (even though I nursed my son) but she lost me when she insinuated that women who pump in public should be judged. You felt judged….yet feel it’s okay to judge moms who breastfeed? I truly don’t care how anyone else feeds their baby. Why tear someone else down to make yourself feel better? Let’s all stop judging each other for feeding our babies whichever way we choose.

  • I agree with the previous comment. I wholeheartedly believe that fed is best, regardless of how a mother chooses to do achieve this. I’m just not sure why there needed to be judgemental undertones about mothers who choose to breastfeed or pump. Each feeding method has its perks and its downfalls. I don’t see the need to use the “negatives” of one feeding method to justify choosing another; it’s simply a choice that every mother is free to make based on her and her child(ren)’s specific needs. I have two children and I have been everywhere on the feeding spectrum; from exusive formula to exclusive breastfeeding to exclusive pumping, so I feel like I have a pretty sympathetic outlook on the issue. While there are undoubtedly people out there who will push breastfeeding to a fault, I didn’t feel the need to justify my feeding choices to anyone other than myself and my children’s doctor. I didn’t chose to feed my children the way I did because it was more or less convenient than another way of feeding them, I fed them in the way that made the most sense for them and me at the time. There is a huge perceived pressure to breastfeed, but moms shouldn’t feel they need to point out the negatives of breastfeeding or pumping to validate their choice to formula feed. As the article states, formula is food. Moms shouldnt feel compelled to use any explanation other than that when it comes to their choice in feeding method.

  • Well, I think this issue continues to be controversial, and it really does not have to be. Ultimately, what a mother chooses to do is her choice. In my opinion, I echo your take that ‘my babies doesn’t need my breasts to survive.’ I think it doesn’t matter if baby is fed and happy and emotionally stimulated. Importantly, follow what’s best for mom and baby, though this may vary from one party to the other. However, everything is worth listening to, it guides you and informs you, especially what experienced women say, women who had children or work with them. It’s worth noting that formulas don’t provide the same protection from infections as breastfeeding. Evidently, it’s time consuming to prep the bottles sanitize and ensure correct milk temperature. We can also not understate digestive problems such as constipation that are highly associated with formulas, but as I said, ‘what a mother chooses to do is her choice.’

  • Jesus! She didn’t say there was anything wrong with it, she says she knows people who do it. We all do. So stating that fact is wrong? If you took it as, or “insinuated,” that she’s saying it is offensive, then who is actually doing the judging? You. You took that statement personally because you were looking way to deep into that phrase, instead of taking it as just a statement of an experience. How about next time just saying, “great article. I understand your point of view much better now,” and go on your merry way.

  • Good for you! Love this post – so tired of people making it seem as if a mother is only truly doing her best if at the end of the day she is physically, emotionally, psychologically depleted and wrung out. At the end of the day, the kids will be fine (and will likely have no blasted idea anyway if they were breastfed or not, much less any value judgments for you on what it all means). You sound awesome.

  • Formula feeding is great, good and fine…but what do you find so wrong with pumping in parking lots or public bathrooms?? You seem to insinuate that is somehow worth judging and perhaps more worthy of judgment than formula. Surely, there’s nothing wrong with either and all should be exempt from judgment. But I guess that gets to the heart of the matter: people ultimate judge to make themselves feel better about their own choices and paths and has nothing to do with the person on the receiving end.

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