UNPOPULAR OPINION: Breast is Not Always Best

My daughter was born in the 14th percentile for weight, and after six weeks she was down to the 1st percentile. At two months old she had not yet reached 7 pounds.
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My daughter was born in the 14th percentile for weight, and after six weeks she was down to the 1st percentile. At two months old she had not yet reached 7 pounds.

If you are a new or expecting mother, you have probably heard the ubiquitous ‘"breast is best" slogan. Not only that, but I am sure you have seen in the media, in the doctor’s office, and in the small groups you have attended, the overabundance of breastfeeding tips and knowledge. And even worse, you may have heard that "if you want to be a good mother, you will breastfeed."

"Breast is best" was something I truly believed in myself, as I had heard it from my own mother, coworkers, doctors, my labor class instructor and of course everywhere I looked in the media.

As a young soon-to-be mother I let these highly knowledgeable outside influences dictate my mindset leading up to motherhood. There are many advantages to breastfeeding and I will touch on them here, while at the same time refuting their overplayed hype in the media and offering a solution for those mothers who may face the same challenges I did.

Baby formula.

Baby formula.

The first and most obvious advantages known to all who have even thought about breastfeeding are the health benefits to the child. These include the antibodies passed from mother to child resulting in fewer sicknesses, lower risk of developing obesity, and of course higher intelligence. These are all fantastic advantages for mothers and children who succeed at breastfeeding. 

But there's another possible outcome: a diagnosis of Failure to Thrive, where the baby isn’t getting adequate nutrition, which can also negatively affect the baby’s IQ in the future, and much worse. 

My daughter was born in the 14th percentile for weight, and after six weeks she was down to the 1st percentile. At two months old she had not yet reached 7 pounds, when my doctor told me to see a lactation consultant AGAIN to address the issues I was having with breastfeeding. 

"They can help you with her latch." "They can recommend teas to help your milk come in more." After leaving that doctor’s appointment distraught and in tears as I looked at my peaceful sleeping baby, I decided to start her on formula that very day and have not looked back since. 

One reason breastfeeding is encouraged is because it is said to increase the emotional bond or emotional closeness you will feel with your baby, which will ultimately decrease your chances of depression.

Is an emotional loving bond with your baby really unique to the breastfeeding mother? I can say 100% that I do not believe this. Sure, there are some mothers who feel a bond with their child while breastfeeding, the physical closeness comforting both mother and baby. But for the most part, this is purely subjective. 

The instant bond I felt with my baby was not when she began breastfeeding, but when I first laid eyes on her and held her in my arms. The emotional bond grows stronger each day I spend with her, and if anything the breastfeeding, with its blood, pain, and struggle, actually strained our emotional bond. It got to the point where I wept every time I fed her because it hurt so badly, and the struggle to keep her awake was a constant battle. 

The last few weeks I breast fed and pumped around the clock to try to give her all she needed, yet it still was not nearly enough. The first time I held her tiny body in the crux of my arm and offered her a bottle of formula, my heart melted with pure joy, knowing I was giving her exactly what she needed.

Also, it may be true that breastfeeding will decrease some mothers' chance of experiencing postpartum depression, but in my case it was the opposite. Breastfeeding caused me to regress into a depression. I felt inadequate as a mother; let’s face it, I couldn’t provide for my child’s most basic need. And the doctors around me made me feel like I was doing something wrong, that I should just keep trying, instead of offering a way out, instead of telling me the plain fact that it is okay to feed my baby formula. 

If only I would have had this reassurance from my doctor, perhaps I would have listened sooner and not been so depressed the first two months of my baby’s life. 

Not only was there the emotional strain on me as a new mother, but there was also the physical toll it took on my body. You might as well just throw out whatever material told you that the pain of breastfeeding will only last a couple weeks. My pain got worse with each passing day and not once did it not hurt. 

For two months I could not dry my body with a towel after showering, as my nipples felt like they would rip off and shred to the ground. My husband could not hug me without me wincing in pain. Everything about it was the worst experience of my life. 

This is not to say that it will be the worst for you. I simply want you to know that if you are having similar experiences with it that I did, there is another way.

Another advantage to breastfeeding are the health benefits to the mother, including a reduced risk of cancer in the future, and quicker postpartum weight loss. 

It is a proven statistic that those mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers in the future. That being said, it meant nothing to me to give up this "decreased risk" in order to save my baby from a Failure to Thrive diagnosis, or worse.

And last on the list is that breastfeeding speeds a mother’s weight loss. I cannot refute this, but I will say that in my experience I didn’t begin to lose any weight until after I stopped breastfeeding. As a breastfeeding mother I felt like my life was consumed by feeding my baby. Everything revolved around a feeding as far as timing went. We couldn’t run to the grocery store as a family without first feeding the baby for at least 45 minutes. I didn’t feel like a real person, nor did I feel like I had any hope of being a good parent until I stopped breastfeeding and went with the bottle. 

This may sound selfish, but when you set aside your happiness as a mother you are not able to give the best for your baby.

Me with my happy, healthy, formula-fed daughter.

Me with my happy, healthy, formula-fed daughter.

There are many advantages to breastfeeding, and in no way do I discourage trying. But this is for those of you who have had experiences like me. The moment I felt like the good mother of a happy, healthy baby girl was the day I decided to stop breastfeeding.