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.