“Why Formula Feeding Was Best For Us”

When my sister-in-law was pregnant with her first baby, she told me that she wasn’t going to breastfeed. “I don’t want to,” she explained. “Plus, I want to be able to share feeding responsibilities with my spouse.” And that was that! I remember being in awe of her confidence — because I felt so much pressure from friends, relatives, hospitals and even strangers on the street to breastfeed. But FORMULA CAN BE A SANITY SAVER AND EVEN LIFESAVER for many families. Here are a bunch of wonderful mothers talking about their formula experiences…

Photo by Mary.

FIRST, THE STIGMA

A few weeks ago, I republished an old breastfeeding post and noticed a recurring topic in the comment section: many mothers expressed shame and guilt for taking another path — formula feeding. “Breastfeeding is wonderful when it works, but god help the mother when it doesn’t,” wrote Ellie, a pediatrician who wasn’t able to breastfeed her (now thriving, smart, kind nine-year-old) daughter. “You can feel crushed by shame.”

Christine, a military wife, had three sons in less than three years. But while formula feeding worked best for their family, she felt the burden of the stigma: “I’ll never forget being at a ‘spouse coffee’ (an event common in the army) and hiding in a bathroom to mix my son’s bottle. Or the time another well-meaning, over-supplying spouse in our unit offered to pump extra so that I could feed my baby ‘the best instead of formula.'”

The pressure can come from all sides. “I received an unbelievable amount of judgement from people over my decision to formula feed — from the nurses at my OB’s office to friends to literal strangers on the street,” says Mia. Another mother named Bonnie, who lives in Germany, agrees: “I can’t tell you the number of times that strangers (strangers!) stopped me on the streets to ask, ‘Stillst du?‘ (Translation: do you breastfeed?)”

Parenting books don’t help either. Says Suzannah: “It feels like for every 10 pages about the benefits of breastfeeding, there is a small paragraph at the end that says, ‘And if you have to use formula, that’s fine too.’ It’s very challenging to not feel like your child is going to miss out on all the physical, mental and social benefits listed in the previous pages.”

A mother named Hannah felt the same: “I only ever see infographics on yada yada benefits of breastfeeding (which, awesome, there are a ton!) but there are also benefits to formula feeding. What serves one family may not serve another and that is completely okay!”

Photo by Erin.

MANY REASONS WHY FORMULA CAN BE BEST FOR SOME FAMILIES

The “breast is best” mantra echoes through popular culture — and for some families, that’s all well and good — but there are many reasons why formula might be the best choice for other families.

First of all, breastfeeding may not be physically possible. With her first two babies, Alissa had mastitis six times (which led to two hospitalizations), bleeding nipples, and more plugged ducts than she could count. Pumping also took over her life: “I work full-time and have spent over a hundred hours pumping in various windowless rooms,” she says. With her third child, she did every home remedy imaginable (probiotics, sunflower lecithin, cold cabbage, heat pre nursing, cold post nursing, vibrating massager, different nursing positions, nipple guards, etc), and saw three different lactation consultants. “All this work to avoid mastitis culminated with another round last week and a family falling apart along with me,” she says. “Which is when I finally said, ‘Enough.'”

Other mothers may have a low milk supply or find nursing extremely painful. “I was absolutely shocked at the crazy intense pain it caused — gasping-out-loud-tears-streaming-down-my-face pain,” remembers Liz. “My hospital had plenty of lactation and postpartum nurses, and every single of one of them gave us different, often conflicting advice.” Her friends assured her it would get better after six weeks — which felt like an eternity. “Six weeks of gut-wrenching, biting-my-lip pain every hour? Also, my breasts were painful to the touch — I could barely wear a T-shirt or take a shower. I kept thinking, ‘How does the human race go on if this is the average experience?'”

Breast reductions can also affect the ability to breastfeed. Kelly had a breast reduction at age 19, which she credits with allowing her to live an active, healthy, confident life. When her daughter was born last year, she wasn’t able to breastfeed and gladly moved to formula: “I feel proud of my choices, my body, what it’s been through and what it has accomplished.”

Adoptive and foster parents typically bottle feed their children. Megan, a single parent by choice, became a foster mom (and, later, an adoptive mom) to a three-day-old girl. “I was given instructions that formula was the only thing I should feed her and that I shouldn’t pursue trying to get breast milk from a bank or anything like that,” Megan remembers. “So, she remained a very happy, healthy formula-fed baby!”

Past sexual experiences or trauma may make breastfeeding difficult or impossible. “I chose formula feeding because of past sexual trauma,” says Ashley. “I know enough about myself to know that I get touched out VERY easily and that it would ultimately hurt my bond with my child.”

Some parents suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety, which can factor into their feeding plans. “With my first child, I breastfed exclusively for nine months and had a difficult time weaning,” says Caitlin, who was then diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. “I even landed in an ER at 2 a.m. with a panic attack.” When her second daughter was born this past December, she chose to go with formula.

A mother named Sari also suffered from severe PPD and PPA after the birth of her son. “The thought of breastfeeding made me spiral into a deep scary depression.” Formula allowed her husband, parents, in-laws, and friends to feed her son when she was unable to. Thankfully, Sari recovered, and her son is now a healthy, happy two-year-old. “Formula saved both of our lives,” she says.

Other mental health issues may make formula a positive decision. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 21, Charis learned that getting pregnant while on her daily medication — lithium — could harm her future baby. Fast forward a decade: Her psychiatrist gradually reduced her medication and met with her regularly until the birth of her first daughter to ensure her mental stability. “As soon as I was out of the recovery room, I popped my first dose of lithium in nine months,” she says. “Formula feeding was never a negative for me: in fact, I was so grateful to be able to have a child, I never even thought I was missing out. My two girls are happy and healthy, and my mental health is stable.”

Finally, demanding careers can be another factor in feeding decisions. Lindsey began a Ph.D. program soon after her son was born. “Formula was a godsend for us given the tricky logistics,” she says. “It was difficult to set aside the time to pump on campus between classes, seminars and meetings. Once my husband advocated for formula, and we made the transition, I felt so unburdened.”

ALSO, YOU DON’T NEED A REASON

Like my sister-in-law, some mothers simply don’t want to breastfeed, and that’s 100% valid, as well. “I knew from the very start that I would be a formula mom,” says Danielle. “I never had any doubts that it would work best for me and my life. There was the practical side: I was going back to work sooner, I wanted dad to be able to feed her, I was formula fed myself, and I just blatantly did not want to breastfeed. No doubt countless women would say I should get over it and do what is best for my daughter, but I did — she had a happy mom who was rested.”

A mother named Maggie also had no interest in breastfeeding. “My two siblings and I were all formula fed, and it just seemed normal and natural to me,” she says. Her children — now three and six — are healthy and thriving. “I wouldn’t change my decision for anything.”

Photos by Elese and Kelly.

BONUS: OTHER LOVED ONES CAN FEED THE BABY

When you’re breastfeeding, you’re often the sole feeder of the baby. But! With formula, anyone can handle feedings — spouses, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, the list goes on.

“My husband was able to be a total partner; we were equally connected to our babies from the start,” says Ellen. Plus, since you can share the shifts, you can both get longer stretches of sleep. Says Suzannah: “Seeing my husband feeding our daughter skin-to-skin made my heart melt. This is true of anyone who now gets to share in the feeding ritual — grandparents, friends, etc. There are so many arms she can turn to in life.”

Photo by Betsy.

THE PARENT/CHILD BOND WILL ALWAYS BE THERE

One worry parents can have about formula feeding is: What if we don’t establish that bond? “Sometimes I’ll think, ‘I wish I could pop him on my nipple and have that immediate connection,'” says Hannah. “But that comes from an idealized, mother Mary vision of nursing.” YOUR BABY WILL ADORE YOU, NEED YOU, GAZE AT YOU, IDOLIZE YOU no matter how you feed him or her.

Here are some testimonies:

“My turning point came when I realized he really didn’t care what or how he ate, he just wanted to feel safe and close to me during meals. That’s it! He just wanted his mama.” — Ellen

“We have an amazing bond, she’s healthy as a horse and we’re all happy.” — Danielle

“I thought I would feel devastated but instead I feel free. We are so blessed to live in an age of incredible formula. Holding my baby close to my chest while bottle feeding is still very much a bonding experience.” — Alissa

“At first, I worried that we wouldn’t bond as much. However, I quickly realized that wasn’t going to be the the case! I have so many memories of middle of the night feedings where it was just my baby and me, rocking and singing while they ate. Their tiny hand wrapped around my finger.” — Ellen

“My bond with my daughter is unquestionable. Those sleepless nights are the same with a bottle or breast!” — Kelly

“Feeding them at night, holding them close, kissing their cheeks, those are still the sweetest moments of my life.” — Brittni

“And can I tell you? Formula feeding rocked. [With depression ending], I finally fell in love with my son and with feeding him. We had delicious milk and snuggle sessions, epic post-bottle naps, and so much cooing, singing, and gazing into each other’s eyes. Formula connected us in a way that breastfeeding never could have, and I’m endlessly grateful we found it when we did.” — Ellen

CONCLUSION: DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR FAMILY, ALWAYS AND FOREVER

If you need it, this post is here to give you permission: Go with formula, if that feels like the right choice for you, your baby and your family. You are the parent, after all. “Fed is best, and you don’t have to suffer to be a good mom,” says Suzannah. “Your child is only little for a brief moment in time, so enjoy it.”

Sending love to all the wonderful parents out there. You are doing a great job. xoxo

Photo by Bonnie.

Photo by Annie.

Photo by Charis.

P.S. My motherhood mantra.

(Top photo by Ashley.)

  1. Jen says...

    I’m late to the game with reading this post, but seeing it brings up all kinds of feelings and frustrations. My husband and I decided to formula feed both our girls (now 3 and almost 6). It was never a question or a major life-changing decision to me. I knew long before I got pregnant that I didn’t want to breastfeed and my husband was completely and totally onboard with my decision. In his words, ‘it’s up to you and your body to decide what’s best. I support whatever decision you make.’ Both my girls are happy, healthy, and smart. They have had the same number of ‘illnesses’ as my friends’ kids. (i.e. earaches, colds, etc.) My girls don’t have issues with food allergies and my friends who have breastfed have kids that have a multitude of food allergies. I honestly think it just depends on the kid. And to question a parents’ bond with their child whether they have breastfed or not is beyond my understanding….my bond with my girls is unquestionable; as my husband’s bond with his girls. I find it frustrating that in today’s world we are STILL talking about this.

    • Jill says...

      You had me until you tried to connect breastfeeding with food allergies. It is great that you formula fed and it worked for you, but don’t ignore the health benefits of breastmilk while also suggesting it leads to food allergies

  2. Carrie says...

    I bottle fed and feel no shame. People need to mind their own business. I had a c-section so my milk didn’t come in for 4 days after birth. The lactation “consultants” at the hospital were rude and kept trying to push me to breastfeed only. My daughter was screaming her head off because there was no milk, so I asked the nurses for formula. She would have starved otherwise. And of course the consultants kept coming back to my room repeatedly trying to pressure me. Who asked for them? No one. Anyways, my daughter is 11 years-old and doing just fine.

  3. Karina Jutzi says...

    Soooo grateful for this! One of my many dreams is to start a nonprofit feminist formula company. How amazing would that be? Also PS formula should be free!

  4. J. says...

    I’m breastfeeding my 2.5 month old daughter and I mostly enjoy nursing her, but she’s a very hungry little girl and while breast milk is great for babies it seems it’s not as filling as formula. My mother has been a bit disapproving, but we’ve found that if she still seems hungry after nursing (especially later in the day when my supply seems to be lower) it’s a big stress reliever for me to just give her a couple of ounces of formula. For weeks I was so fearful and stressed that I wasn’t giving her enough even though I don’t technically have supply issues. It was an awful feeling and it’s been so liberating to not be afraid of supplementation! Everyone is happier and my mom will get over it. :)

  5. Annie says...

    Ok this makes me want to be a formula mom if I have children some day.

  6. Pooja says...

    This is such a wonderful comforting post! Thank you for this. Like many other women, as already emphasized in your post, I too was a victim of guilt (more than shame) to not be able to breastfeed my now 16 month old son. I suffered from preeclampsia and had a complicated delivery. My recovery was slow post delivery and I did not lactate enough which only added to my misery. No remedies/ consultation/ ideas/ pumping methods worked towards my efforts to breast feed my baby, which only threw me into a downward spiral emotionally. It took some time and self-convincing and all the emotional support from my husband to come to terms with my breast feeding difficulties. Now looking back and looking at the positives, I feel formula feeding saved me from a lot of discomfort and other inconveniences that may I may have otherwise faced. I did not have to deal with any sore nipples, long breast feeding sessions that may given me excruciating back pain, sleepless nights trying to soothe my baby to sleep, so on and so forth. I am not advocating formula feeding here and obviously breastfeeding is the best. But as rightly put, mothers should put all the compulsion of breastfeeding along with social stigma associated with it far behind, move on with power and do what works best for them – emotionally and physically. Because only happy mothers make happy babies :)

  7. Tiffany says...

    This is a huge cultural thing! Coming from France, I never heard anything like “breast is best”. Formula is everywhere, some people do it, some don’t, there is pretty much no pressure towards breastfeeding.
    All my friends who breastfed did it just a few days, weeks or months – very rarely more than 6 months! Turns out stats show only 19% of women in France still breast feed after 6 months. Infant mortality rate is also lower than in the US per capita. Most likely because France ranks a lot higher than the US in terms of access to healthcare. All in all, I am wondering if we are making of the whole breastfeeding vs formula a bigger deal than it is: shouldn’t we focus on access to healthcare as the bigger priority? It seems that this has more dramatic consequences than which type of milk one the parents use!

    • Rachel says...

      I totally agree, there was no such thing as “breast is best in Ireland”, if fact my SIL was the Only person I knew who breastfed. I was regularly stared at and shamed for breastfeeding (8 years ago) with strangers and family asking when I was going to start on ‘real’ milk etc, and old ladies saying I was disgusting! There is very low stats for BF in Ireland, but I did find support with LLL, where never once did I EVER hear anyone say anything derogatory about formula fed. I always believed that it is none of my business what you choose is best, but please don’t stop encouraging those who are trying to breastfeed, it is not easy!

  8. Jen says...

    It’s so sad how new mothers feel guilty if they formula feed and are also shamed for breastfeeding (told to cover up or that the baby is clingy/spoilt) You can’t win!

    But isn’t the elephant in the room the lack of support for mothers and how that influences our options and the pressure we feel? With scant paid maternity leave in the US, lack of universal healthcare and community support plus societal pressures, no wonder womens’ post natal mental health suffers!

    • CS says...

      Absolutely. This sums it all up.

  9. Isabelle DC says...

    Who cares what anyone else thinks or says… Feed your baby in the way that is best for YOU. There isn’t a right or wrong way, follow your feeling. Try to get some sleep, to relax and to be happy. Your baby loves a confident mommy.

  10. New moms, if you can’t breastfeed, you’re not broken. As a matter of fact, you just made a life. You’re a superhero.

    I remember reading something that said breastfeeding was how mothers bonded with their children and that the bond of mothers who bottle-fed their children was not the same. Well, I disagree. When I started exclusively bottle-feeding my son, it was the first time I was able to actually look deeply into his eyes while he was feeding. There was nothing like those moments, and there never will be.

    When we switched to formula feeding, my husband started helping more. He didn’t know what to do when I was struggling with breastfeeding, and he felt helpless. Now, he could help our family by going to the store to buy formula, mixing bottles and even feeding our son while I caught up on my sleep. Seeing to our son’s needs became a team effort, and I watched their bond grow stronger.

    Moms, if it’s not working, it’s okay. It really is. He or she is going to grow up strong and healthy and smart and wonderful because you are his/her mom. When our children are seniors in high school and we see all of them standing on that stage, we won’t know who was fed formula or breastmilk, who walked at 12 months and who took longer, who talked first, who used a pacifier or who needed a cranial helmet. Absolutely none of that will matter. What will matter is that they are children who feel loved, supported and secure … and, mama, you’ve got that.

  11. Rachael says...

    I love this so much!!! I had six babies and breastfed all six of them with varying degrees of success—two of them (#1 and #5) just couldn’t get nursing to work snd so we did formula for about half their first year. With my first I just sobbed through every feeding for a month and felt like I’d failed her, but with my fifth I was just soooo grateful for formula. Even though I was able to breastfeed the other four until their first birthday, I HATED it the whole time. It was painful and stressful and I couldn’t wait to get to that year mark so I could be done!! Three cheers for formula!

    • Rena Thayer says...

      Me too! I have six children–four of them breastfed for a year, and two (numbers 3 and 6) were (for different reasons) mostly formula-fed. I didn’t hate nursing, but I LOVED the freedom of bottle-feeding. I was so grateful for supportive pediatricians who did not make me feel guilty. And if you line up all six of my kids, there is no way you could pick out which ones were breast fed and which ones weren’t.

  12. Sara says...

    I had a baby eight weeks ago and we have been exclusively breastfeeding – I definitely experienced the nail-biting pain (I was in tears in the hospital following her birth; the nurse on call said she had never seen the type of “nipple trauma” like my daughter caused before – not a phrase you want to hear, extreme pressure from the lactation consultants (we saw six in the first two weeks after her birth), and was put on a “triple-feeding” schedule to increase my supply (breastfeeding for 30 minutes, pumping for 20 minutes, and feeding baby a pumped bottle after every breastfeeding session – every two hours around the clock for two weeks). Breastfeeding is grueling, painful, time-consuming, and contributes to the total exhaustion of the first few months. I am honestly jealous of formula-parents for many reasons: the flexibility, the ease, always knowing how much your baby is eating; there are SO many benefits. I will admit that I was one of those who thought formula was a worse option for whatever reason, but after having this baby, I GET IT.

    • Claire says...

      Sara, I don’t know if you need to hear this, but you have permission to stop breastfeeding. It’s ok to switch to formula and stop being jealous of formula families.

    • Lauren says...

      Hi Sara, I had a similar experience my first few weeks with my new baby, and after “double-feeding” (breastfeeding + then pumping) for weeks, my supply was really well-established, baby finally learned how to latch well, and everything finally fell into place. It was really hard and those first few weeks were so tough with pumping + breastfeeding constantly – it felt like I wasn’t doing anything else! Hang in there, it will get better.

  13. Toni says...

    THANK YOU FOR SHINING A LIGHT ON THIS!!!!

    I wish I heard more formula forward stories when I unexpectedly needed to have an only formula fed baby.

    I had postpartum preeclampsia and was on meds that prevented me from breastfeeding. I pumped and dumped for a few weeks before being so frustrated, exhausted, not to mention sick, that I gave up. I mourned the fact that I couldn’t breastfeed. I cried over it. A lot. My body was healing but my heart was heavy. There were so few resources I could find to help me navigate this situation. I called friends – other moms and women in the medical field. Then I looked at my healthy, thriving, happy baby. Everything was better than fine! At 13 weeks she was sleeping through the night with no issues. She was cheerful and loving and doing great! My husband and I could truly split the feedings evenly. We were actually getting rest in a time when rest is usually impossible, especially for breastfeeding moms.

    Eventually, I forgave myself and decided I would be a proud formula feeding mama. It was liberating. If I have another baby, I’m using formula from the start, whether I have postpartum preeclampsia again or not. And this time I’ll be ready with a formula feeding mantra: no pressure, more freedom, strong body, healthy baby.

    • Sascha says...

      Hi Toni, just popping in to say I had postpartum preeclampsia too and it was such a nightmare! I’m so sorry you went through it. After going through labor and birth, it’s really terrible to then have to contend with preeclampsia.

      I had already decided that I wanted to formula feed because I was so eager to have my body back to myself, and thank goodness I made that decision because those preeclampsia meds make it difficult, if not impossible to breastfeed. Congrats on getting through it all and becoming a proud formula feeding mama! I try to shout it from the rooftops now because I want other moms to know that formula is a great option, whatever your reason for choosing it!

  14. Oh, COJ, I’m so thankful for this! It’s still such a tender subject that it took me all week to work up to reading it. I went from being a die-hard breast-milk only person *before I had my daughter* to feeding her formula almost exclusively — and it took me years to get over the shame. It’s hard to say exactly why, but, despite my efforts, my milk never really came in and eventually I had no choice but to use formula. My hunch, though, is that my birth experience was so traumatic for me (I unexpectedly ended up giving birth in the cardiac ICU and was then separated from my daughter) that my body simply froze up. Even so, I had horrible shame and anxiety about formula feeding–I relate to everything these mama’s said, and I even pretended to breastfeed when family visited! But here are three things that helped me accept the hand we were dealt. (1) I thought breastfeeding was the only way to bond, but in my case, BF was actually an *impediment* to bonding. Attempting to BF with no milk was harrowing–I was sobbing, the baby was screaming, I dreaded every single session and felt useless as a mother. Formula gave us peace. It wasn’t until we started using formula, and plenty of it, that I was able to experience calm, loving, stare-into-your-eyes feedings and began to see “mealtime” as beautiful. Formula helped me open my heart to my daughter and to motherhood in a way that BF simply didn’t. (2) Early on, our pediatrician said to me, “Breastfeeding is a relationship. It has to work for both of you. You count in this equation, too.” I had never, ever thought of it that way, and her words gave me permission to take my own feelings seriously, including the dark, raging stress I experienced every time I tried to satisfy my newborn with my scant supply. And finally, number (3), my favorite: you can walk into a room full of 7 months old or 7 years old or 70 years old and observe them all day but you’ll never have any idea who had formula and who had breastmilk. In other words, people are complex and no single factor is responsible for who we are or who we become, including breastmilk or formula. (Also, for what it’s worth, I worried that with formula my kiddo would not be a curious, sophisticated eater, that her tastebuds would be “stunted” — but this kiddo loves all kinds of foods, from broccoli to bleu cheese, sauerkraut to steak. So, again — we are complex, and so is life!) Sending love to all the mamas out there. Fed is best. THANK YOU coj for this post!

    • Sara says...

      YES – I had a baby 8 weeks ago and I was definitely noticing that our breastfeeding struggles were impeding my ability to bond with her. I felt like our relationship was a constant battle, lots of tears, and it just felt like this one thing (breastfeeding) was standing in the way of me being able to enjoy her. Luckily, things have gotten better, but if they had gone on that way for a little longer, I would have switched to formula, no question. Although I’m exclusively breastfeeding now, I envy formula-parents and the freedom and flexibility they experience when it comes to feeding their little ones!

  15. Jen says...

    Weaning rn. It. Is. So. Difficult. Looking forward to being on the other side of this.

    • Emily says...

      You got this! I weaned all three of my kids cold turkey to formula at some point during that first year. It was so hard and physically painful but SO worth it.

  16. Hollye says...

    Thank you so much for this piece. I had a really (mostly) wonderful experience breastfeeding, and genuinely loved it. (Plenty of other things about postpartum were incredibly difficult for me.) However, I always told myself that formula was an option, and it was an option we used occasionally because although I loved nursing I HATED pumping. (I’m also an adoptee who was formula fed.)

    I have some friends who wanted to breastfeed, but couldn’t for various reasons, and I have a friend who had no interest whatsoever in breastfeeding and always knew she would formula feed. All of these kids are loved, well attached children.

    Emily Oster’s books do a really great job at dissecting all the data. The benefits of breastfeeding are minuscule and studies are fairly limited. It is a cheap, healthy, beautiful way to feed your child, and I think every women should be empowered and encouraged to do it if she wants to. It’s also a massive amount of work that falls completely on the mother’s shoulders and affects her sleep, and ability to work postpartum.

    Formula is a modern miracle that has saved countless lives. It’s so strange to me that women find a way to put against each other on this. Love your kids. Feed them. Be kind to each other.

  17. Karin says...

    Thanks for this. My son is now in college but I have never forgotten meeting another formula-feeding mom in the bottle aisle at BabiesR Us and how we bonded over our guilt about formula. Our brief conversation was a lifeline during the time when my baby (who couldn’t latch on properly) needed to nurse EVERY HOUR and I was always either pumping, feeding or washing things. Formula feeding was so freeing and totally agree how it allows other people to feed and bond with the baby. They don’t care about a boob, they just want to be in your arms!

  18. Steph says...

    Maybe someone else in the hundreds of comments said this, but some people choose options c) both breastmilk AND formula. My wife had really low production and after several trips to the lactation consultant, we started feeding the baby bottles of formula after she nursed for a few minutes. My wife was frustrated and disappointed that her body wasn’t producing as much as she wanted, but she seemed to skip over the shame stage pretty quickly.
    With our older child, whom I carried, breastfeeding was a massive struggle for the first couple of months. He had tongue tie and couldn’t latch so I was pumping and bottle feeding and losing my damn mind. I was subsequently diagnosed with postpartum anxiety, put on medication, and then things “clicked” for us and he learned to latch and we nursed for another three years. I struggle with the “moral” of my story because I suffered so very much, to the point of needing urgent psychiatric care, made worse by the fact that I wasn’t sleeping and nobody told me it would have been okay to stop, that I needn’t sacrifice the shards of sanity I had. I thought it was like that for everyone. But crying constantly (me) is NOT normal or okay and I’m honestly sad/angry the lactation consultant I worked with who presumably sees postpartum women all day every day didn’t clue my spouse in that there might be something worse going on with me. Breastfeeding turned out to be amazing once it was working – convenient, a bonding time for me and my son, etc., but to this day I don’t know that I’d go through what it took to get there again, considering the cost.

  19. Franzi says...

    Thank you for this article.
    The best present for a new mom: a small package ready-to-use formular and a feeding bottle. Whenever she is tired, exhausted or crying, daddy can feed the baby.

    I suffered from PPP and my husband fed our baby while I was in hospital. Later we managed to breast feed again, but whenever I was to exhausted, I know there was a little bottle in the cupboard. This helped us all to recover…
    What ever is best for you, is best for your baby and the family.

  20. Kate says...

    I’m yet another parent that was moved to tears by this article, which would have helped me enormously when my babies were little. I thought I was keeping the guilt of not being able to exclusively breastfeed (due to a reduction years prior) at bay pretty well, but I can still recall with stinging specificity the various comments that doctors and nurses and random people on the street and even well-meaning friends made to me when I revealed (GASP) that I topped my baby up with formula after each feed. The baby’s pediatrician, frowning: “Oh, well, I guess you’re doing the best you can.” The nurse at the hospital, neglecting to consider my personal history (ie. my actual breasts): “You can probably do it, just try”. The BANK TELLER: “Aren’t you breastfeeding?”. It’s amazing that even when you do know intellectually and emotionally that you’re doing the best thing for your baby and your family, these kinds of comments still hurt, and stick.

    There’s no place I trust more than this site to treat such topics with sensitivity and humanity. Thanks Joanna.

  21. Julie says...

    I wish that people (especially mothers) didn’t feel the need to say, “I breastfed/formula fed and my kid turned out smart, healthy, fit, etc.”

    The best gift I’ve given myself as a parent is to acknowledge that no one thing is leading to a certain outcome in my children. When we tell ourselves that doing x equals y, we not only put an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves, but we also delude ourselves into thinking we have more control than we do or should have over our children’s lives and outcomes.

    And I fear that when we focus too much on the best outcomes for our children, we lose the stamina to focus on the best outcomes for people. No amount of organic food, wonderfully engineered formula, or breastmilk will protect our kids against a society that doesn’t care about the health of everyone. The blatant disregard for our fellow humans is far more toxic than anything we put in our bodies.

    • Joy says...

      Well said Julie!

  22. Emily says...

    I don’t really have anything to add, but I hope that any mom or parent who is reading this and chose to formula feed or didn’t feel as if she had a choice feels the loving support of a stranger on the internet. I have a 9 month old and I know the crushing intensity of the choices we’re meant to make, the expertise we are supposed to have, and the overall responsibility of someone else’s life being in your hands at all times.
    * Also, check out Emily Oster’s books “Expecting Better” and “Cribsheet” – both awesome for dispelling myths and championing solid research and data when it comes to pregnancy and parenting concerns (including breastfeeding).

  23. Katy S. says...

    Thank you for this. I made a very conscious decision not to breast feed my third after struggling and really wishing I had given up much earlier with my first two. She was a premie who spent 5 weeks in the NICU which made the decision that much more easy, while at the same time bitter sweet. Was absolutely the right one for me and my only regret was that it took 3 pregnancies to have the confidence to make this decision.

    • megs283 says...

      If I have another (which I won’t…), I’ve told myself I would go straight to formula. I’m an under-producer, pumping took me out of my job too much, and my daughters were both allergic to the proteins in dairy and soy. It was just too much. I felt so much guilt with my older daughter and tortured myself. With my youngest one, she was on a mix right from the beginning, and we transitioned to 100% formula at 6 months.

  24. Claire says...

    It’s so important that individual doctors and nurses are mindful of their patients’ particular situations and encourage formula when it’s best for the mother and baby. There are certainly numerous instances when this is the case, and we’re so lucky to live in a time when a great alternative is available for so many of us in developed countries.

    I do think it’s helpful to remember that a lot of our current “breast is best” messaging comes from the advocacy of global health and humanitarian organizations, and WHO and UNICEF have very important reasons for continuing to promote breastfeeding as the preferred option.

    Formula companies have a history of manipulative marketing practices in developing countries, most infamously in spending boatloads of money in the 70s to convince mothers that formula was necessary and superior to breastmilk, and manipulating doctors and nurses to portray it as such. Millions of babies died of malnutrition or diarrhea due to the temptation to over-dilute formula to stretch it longer and unclean water. Some of these marketing practices are unfortunately still going on to an extent.

    Hopefully we can get to a place in the future where every country has the luxury of more nuanced public health messaging— supporting breastfeeding while encouraging and not shaming anyone for needing or choosing a (very good!) alternative.

    • Emily says...

      Another layer of this, which I learned about from my pediatric dietician sister, but am not personally qualified to talk a whole lot about, is the socioeconomic imbalance of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. My understanding is that the “breast is best” messaging that came as a result of the 70s marketing practices was at least partially meant to encourage women in lower income or poverty situations to embrace breastfeeding. It pains me to think about how unpleasant or downright impossible it can be to breastfeed in nearly any job these days, let alone those that are hourly and often low wage. This blog post is not necessarily about any of that, but it upsets me that the “breast is best” messaging, to your point Claire, lacks some nuance and empathy.

    • CS says...

      Thanks for raising these points These are all very true. I struggled with breast feeding, and my way of looking at it is this: If you can breast feed, that is ideal. But you have to take everything into account to decide what is “best” in your scenario. It is true about formula companies manipulating moms and shaming them for breastfeeding. So, yeah… it is a delicate issue and one just has to do the best they can with their circumstances. Hopefully we are reaching a place in history where we can see the benefits of both and non-judgmentally let mothers choose what is best.

    • Abby says...

      Yes, so these recommendations do not always apply for those living in areas with potable water.

      And now, especially in the us, we have an entire industry profiting from the “breast is best” agenda – think lactation consultants, pumps, supplements ,clothing, and other accoutrement.

  25. Julie Mitchell says...

    I was a ‘geriatric’ mother at 42. This was not by choice, my husband and I had never really made a conscious decision to have, or not to have, a child. We were using birth control. Imagine my shock at this age being pregnant, I found out at 14 weeks thinking I needed a blood test to look at early menopause. Actually late pregnancy. After the shock subsided the idea of a child settled with us an we have no regrets. She is now 16 and a delight. I am so glad the universe intervened in our lives to allow us to have her. I had no preconceived ideas about feeding, but I did have milk and so became a breast feeder. My dilemma was that she was only a breast feeder. I expressed significant quantities of milk to freeze only to find that she would never drink from a bottle. I wanted others to help with feeding but what seemed like trialing 600 teats she never took a bottle. I was very anxious about my milk supply disappearing until she started to eat other food and I was not longer the sole source of nutrition.
    I also thought that babies naturally wanted to stop breastfeeding on their own terms at about 12 months. I had no idea about weaning so I breastfed her until she was nearly three. She could speak. And I could not face the discussion with her about stopping. So I went on a holiday with
    a friend to Paris for a fortnight and left her behind. When I returned home she asked if she could have a “drink from Mummy”, I said no because my milk has disappeared. She asked if my friend had it.

  26. Melissa says...

    A friend of mine spent 2 months in the NICU with their son and used formula once they brought him home – we call it “science milk”! No stigma here, just marvel for a modern miracle :)

  27. Anna says...

    Thank you, thank you, for this sensible and kind article, which recognises women as autonomous beings who are entitled to use their breasts as they see fit.

  28. The guilt and shame of not being able to breastfeed is so real, and it tormented me for nearly a year after my daughter was born. I always planned to breastfeed and always wanted to, but after a very difficult and traumatic birth experience and time spend in the neonatal unit, I struggled to breastfeed for three weeks and in the end, I had to choose sanity over breastfeeding at any cost. The regret of that decision tore me apart for a long time, but the proof is in the pudding – my daughter is now two years old, thriving, happy, and hitting every developmental milestone. And our bond could not be stronger. I hope anyone going through the guilt and shame of not breastfeeding will give themselves a break. Parenting is flipping hard work and you’re doing a great job!

  29. Lily says...

    Thank you so much for this. I almost cried when you highlighted that comment from the formula-feeding mom of twins after wincing a bit at the breastfeeding post. I am still working through my (mostly self-imposed, needless) regret at my inability to “successfully” exclusively breastfeed.

  30. Sarah Dee says...

    I have been a NICU nurse for years and when a mother say in shame I’m not going to breast feed her baby, I always ask her one question. “Well, do you plan to feed your baby? Oh with formula? Great! Then you are a wonderful Mother!” Never be shamed by what other people say or what works for them! There are so many other ways to bond with your baby! Do what works for you!

    • Molly says...

      I love this! I’m in nursing school and really want to become a lactation consultant someday, but I want to make sure I keep the non-judgmental “fed is best” mentality. I want to be there to help moms who DO want to breastfeed, not force it on those who don’t! No one needs that negative energy while navigating the postpartum period.

    • Tricia says...

      After having a really terrible experience with the nursing staff over breastfeeding when my daughter was born, I’m really happy to hear you say this. I wanted to give breastfeeding a go and had done research etc, but despite my best efforts, because of a c-section and issues with my thyroid, I was unable to produce. The nurses at the hospital were unwilling to give me formula. My daughter dropped over a pound from her birthweight, which was only a bit over 5 pounds as it were. They kept us longer in the hospital and blamed me for her lack of weight gain. We were at our wits end and my husband almost ran out to get formula and a bottle to sneak in but fortunately a nurse on the night shift took pity and brought us formula as if it were contraband. My daughter took the whole bottle so quickly and I felt terrible. She had clearly been starving. The attitude of the nurses really ruined what should have been a time of bonding . If I were to do it all over again I would not have even attempted to breast feed honestly. My daughter is 9 now and doing just fine. Fed is best.

  31. S says...

    My kids are grown up, but I did a mix of breastfeeding and formula with all 3. My first was early and became jaundiced right away. The lactation advisors were all over me, having me try convoluted methods which my husband finally said no to, explaining to me that this was too difficult with a tiny newborn, and encouraged me to listen to our pediatrician who was calmly advising that we try a bottle, with formula, to get her past this hurdle. Best thing ever – I continued to breastfeed all my kids, combined with formula bottle feeding. They never got “confused”, we both were able to feed her whether via nursing(which was frankly easier in the middle of the night!!), formula via bottle or pumped breastmilk via a bottle – we had the flexibility and resources to do what worked at each feeding. Each family should do what works for them and not have to deal with judgment and guilt. Being a parent is hard enough without being shamed by either choice…and I have 3 healthy kids to show you can mix and match both without issue, if it works for you and your baby.

  32. Jennifer says...

    great post!

    what about the babies who can not physically feed from the breast?

    my 30 week micro-preemie didn’t have the stamina to breastfeed and couldn’t quite get the suck swallow breathe dynamic down even though I could and did produce massive amounts of milk.

    no matter what I did, she wouldn’t breastfeed. in the end, she didn’t even like any kind of milk and was fed for 3 months via a nasogastric feeding tube!

    after all that, I really do believe that fed is best!

  33. Liz says...

    I liked a lot about this post, but the fact that you wrote it without once using the words “female” or “woman” or “women” made it miss the mark for me. To ignore that breastfeeding is a female experience is to ignore the misogyny and sexism that drive the shame, the pressure to breastfeed, the assumption that women’s bodies are public property, the tendency of doctors to normalize women’s pain. I understand why you wrote it the you did, but it came at a real cost.

    • Rachel says...

      This is ridiculous. Breastfeeding or chestfeeding is NOT just a female experience and while all of the issues you listed are true, saying that non-female identifying people cannot participate is untrue and underlines the idea that you are transphobic and not simply trying to discuss the political history of breastfeeding.

  34. Sasha says...

    Another potential, lesser known, reason to formula feed that wasn’t mentioned in this post is DMER (dysphoric milk ejection reflex). It’s an intense mood change that can happen for some people with milk letdown. It’s different from postpartum depression, and until I googled to try and explain what I was experiencing I had never heard of it. It can be very striking — going from feeling fine to feeling intensely depressed or anxious — and confusing and disorienting if you don’t know why it’s happening. Although before I experienced DMER I understood the chemical basis of mental illness, the suddenness with which my mood changed really drove that home for me! Figured I’d post in case someone else is observing the same thing in themselves and doesn’t have a name for it.

    • Bene says...

      I had that too, with my first child. It made be dread each feeding session, but then it went away when my daughter was a few months old. Just like that. And I never experienced it feeding my second. It’s so odd – and awful.

    • Rachel Coughlin says...

      I was wondering if someone was going to mention this! I also suffered from DMER with both of my sons…I felt crazy when I was googling “breastfeeding and homesickness” from my hospital bed with my eldest son. I tried to struggle through it for a month, and it was HORRIBLE. It’s a psychological reaction so you have no control…it’s just like suddenly you physically feel like the world is going to end. Thankfully, I switched to formula after my pediatrician and lactation consultant urged me to, and the whole experience improved overnight. With son #2, I formula fed from the beginning and am so thankful for the luxury of having this option. So to anyone else experiencing this, I second what Sasha said- you are not crazy! And it’s ok to formula feed instead.

  35. Lee says...

    I appreciate the conclusion–do what is best for your family! I’m a breastfeeding mom with mental health issues–PPD and PPA and have felt pressure to switch to formula–but I really love breastfeeding! It’s frustrating to have ppl assume that breastfeeding is what is causing my PPD and PPA–when really it’s having an unsupportive work environment, a past history of mental health issues, and having a baby during a pandemic!

    • C says...

      Yes, the shame and guilt can come from both sides. I felt shame when I kept going back to see the lactation counselor at 4 months, 5 months, 6 months. We were still struggling with breastfeeding but I wanted it to work out so badly. I felt pressure from my family to switch to formula. “She’s not sleeping through the night yet??” (The assumption being that her tummy was not getting filled enough, when in reality there are many reasons that babies don’t sleep through the night.) People said “do what’s best for you. Baby will be fine.” But what does that really mean? What’s best for me… in the sort term or long term? What’s best for me physically or emotionally? I still felt that breastfeeding was what I wanted to do despite how much we struggled. I was able to get to a point where it became easy and I’m glad I persevered despite all the naysayers. So yes… the conclusion of “do what is best for your family” is spot on!

  36. brenna says...

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this article. I saw you asking on Instagram for bottle feeding photos and stories and it almost felt triggering. I was so desperate to breastfeed my children and attempted to with all 3. It just didn’t work and my kids thrived on formula but it took me a long time to not feel like an utter failure for not doing what looked so easy for most women. Thank for sharing these stories and normalising this – you do you is the best message!

  37. Chelsey says...

    THIS ARTICLE!!!

    Kudos this article and the comments are everything. My experience has been like so many – the inability to consider ever having to use formula turned my hormonal rollercoaster of c section recovery upside down when sitting in the NICU realizing I alone wasn’t going to make my baby thrive- just five months ago. This is the best article you (Joanna) have posted in a very long time- making me feel more motherhood community than I have yet going through this adventure during covid.

    • Brittany says...

      I was in a very similar boat! I have 5 month old now who thrives in formula, but only after heartbreaking weeks of trying to make b-feeding work when it wouldn’t. Crying every day and feeling like the biggest failure! But It has Actually been liberating to let go and I only wish I could get those days of heartache back. Hope you and your baby are doing well! Congrats :)

    • Kathryn says...

      There also just hasn’t been the same support to teach women how to breastfeed during the pandemic. But the expectations of women to put baby to breast remained leading to a ton of guilt and confusion, especially for first time moms. After several bouts of mastitis and bloody nipples and lots of tears, I’ve been exclusively pumping for 5.5 months and going strong! There is no shame in bottle feeding whether it’s breast milk or formula!

  38. Ramona says...

    Extensive research over many decades has gone into identifying a list of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that lead to an increased likelihood of poorer grades, lower earnings, higher risk for mental and physical health problems, and other kinds of instability in adulthood. Not having been breastfed is not on the list of Adverse Childhood Experiences, but having a parent with mental illness is. There are lots of good reasons why a family might need to turn to formula, all illuminated here, and doing so for the sake of mental health is really important. Breast is not best if it means mental illness in the household, and the research bears that out. Moms who recognize that they have gone from coping to drowning and do something about that are absolutely doing the right thing for their kid.

    • Brittany says...

      What a fanatic point, Ramona. Thank you! I had a similar epiphany recently when I realized that I was developing an anxiety disorder around my breastfeeding woes. Luckily I have the professional training to realize it, but not everyone does. Some mothers will just continue to spiral, some sadly until it’s too late.

    • Emily says...

      This is amazing, thank you for sharing such expertise, Ramona!

    • Elizabeth says...

      “Moms who recognize that they have gone from coping to drowning and do something about that are absolutely doing the right thing for their kid.”

      Thank you, thank you, thank you. I went from coping to drowning and did something about it. Thank you for seeing me in that. <3

  39. Sarah says...

    Thank you, Cup of Jo, for posting this article. I have two healthy sons ages 13 and 10- but I will NEVER forget the shame and angst and worry I felt a decade ago when I decided to formula feed both of them. Our culture does a great job at making new mothers- and women, for that matter- feel like they aren’t ‘doing it right’ or well enough, and this topic is a perfect example. Even my pediatrician contributed to the drama, saying, “It’s too early to give up on breastfeeding” when clearly she could see I was struggling to manage. We are lucky to live in a time when good formula is available (although we do need to make sure it is accessible financially to all families who need it). Instead of shaming the decisions of other women, we should support each other and celebrate that we. have. choice.

  40. K says...

    What a great post! I formula-fed all three of my babies and enjoyed many benefits already listed in the article. I also experienced my fair share of judgments, especially with my first baby. However, neither my OB or my pediatrician ever made a comment about it. Now that my kids are 11, 8, and 5 it never comes up. I say that as an encouragement for moms who find themselves in the midst of formula feeding. The shaming and guilt-tripping doesn’t last forever or even the entirety of parenting. It seemed by the time all my kids reached age three, not many people brought it up and it was a non-issue by the time my youngest was three, mostly because as my last, we weren’t around too many first-time parents. Do what works best for you and your family.

  41. Meredith says...

    Oh my goodness, I could have used this article four years ago. I had a pretty solid plan for birth that included lots of options for different scenarios and outcomes. But I didn’t do any research in breast feeding and all the options around it, because hardly anyone talks about it! I just assumed it would be a thing I’d do, and it’d be easy, and that would be that.

    As a result I was blindsided when my son was born four weeks early– I couldn’t make enough milk, not by a long shot. I ended up getting referred to a lactation consultant who I only realized later was a militant La Leche League drill sergeant (read: NOT who I would have picked if I had better understanding of the philosophies or done *any* pre-work on it) and who reduced me to tears in multiple sessions with at best un-empathetic comments and at worst downright cruel invective.

    I was in such a deep hole of shame, exhaustion, pain and grief that even thinking about breastfeeding set off a spiral. I felt like such a failure and I spent those early days in a haze of misery. My husband and my doula couldn’t reach me down that deep and it crushed my husband especially to see me go through this and feel so helpless himself.

    It was a co-worker who broke the damn for me, because I emailed her in a fit of desperation at 3am after several rounds of unsuccessful and painful pumping; she was another mom who struggled with breastfeeding, and she met me right where I was and basically laid out all the reasons why she went out for bottle feeding thusly making it feel somewhat OK for the first time.

    It was still a slow climb for me to get out of the hole after all that, since I quit both the consultant and breastfeeding cold turkey and I think the resultant hormonal crash on top of all the emotional stuff triggered a bad bout of PPD that took me over a year to get out of and required medical leaves from work.

    But, eventually I got to the point where I could talk about it and even tell my pregnant friends without crying anymore. And now, it’s something I bring up any time parenting, childbirth and pregnancy comes up. I did cry after reading this, for the first time in a long time, but this time out of relief and acceptance and sadness for how much my old self had hurt through all of this.

    New mommas out there, you have all of the love and support from me, no matter what you choose. All that matters is you chose what’s right for you and your family, and all the rest will fall into place.

    As a postscript, my son is a happy, healthy loving and wonderful four year old who is no worse for the wear in either direction.

  42. Becca says...

    Formula may well be a god send for many reasons but it cannot be denied that breastfeeding is best.
    It has been proven and the countless information are there for a reason. Why does every failure need to be turned into a success? There should be no shame for not wanting or being able to breastfeed but let’s not portray it now as better because it isn’t.

    • Meredith says...

      Is it safe to assume that you didn’t bother to read any of the responses to this article, or perhaps even the article itself? It seems like it might be the case since this was an extremely tone deaf and highly self-contradictory response. You say there should be “no shame” but in the sentence before you ask “why does every *failure* need to be turned into a success?” That question is a perfect example the problem that’s being discussed both in the text and the discussion below about judgment and shaming, and it isn’t in anyway mitigated by the limp cover of “no shame.” Much like most of the work of motherhood, there is no reason this needs to be set up in the context of failure and doing so is not productive, helpful or empathetic. I’ll leave off for now on responding to your last line, but suffice to say, it’s more of the same.

    • Kate says...

      This is such a thoughtless comment. Should I have let my baby starve because my non-existent breast milk was proven to be better?

    • Ashley says...

      This isn’t a verzuz battle. Just because formula is *better* for some families doesn’t mean anyone is discounting the benefits of breast milk.

    • Lemonade says...

      I won’t rehash what has already been stated in many other comments, but the benefits of breastfeeding are not so black and white, particularly for families who have access to clean water. Breastfeeding in the US is also correlated with wealth, so it’s tricky to to parse outcomes.

      But my main point is to ask why you are framing this in terms of success and failure at all? I planned to breastfeed; I ended up using a combo of pumped milk and formula. This was not a success or failure, it was adapting to the reality of my son’s needs, my body, and my mental health. I also planned for him to sleep in our room, but then when we got home from the hospital, we rearranged his room so one parent could sleep there and the other could get rest in our room. Not a success or failure, just adapting to his and our needs. I planned on not taking him on an airplane for quite a while for fear of germs, then my beloved grandmother got sick and he flew at 2 months old so he could meet her. Not a success or failure, but adapting.

    • Roxana says...

      Becca, I agree with you whole heartedly.

      One of the reasons all these women cannot accept this reality (and your comment) is because motherhood to them is some jacked-up form of achievement, so when the word “best” is associated with breast-feeding (or any other approach to parenting) and they can’t accomplish what is “best,” they lose their minds. They cannot accept that some part of them (even the parts over which they have little to no control!) “failed” at something. I’m looking at you, Meredith.

      Ladies, not everything in your life will go exactly as you’d like it to. Some boobs don’t make milk and some do and sometimes nursing is just really freaking hard (I could’ve fed the entire NICU for a month with just one boob, but I was in the NICU because my body failed and didn’t care for my little one how it was supposed to. See how I did that there?). Pull-up your big girl undies and move on. It’s not some crushing defeat or reason for shame or excuse to lash-out at someone who says something you dislike or pokes at your insecurities. You are the one who decides how you feel about something. No one can put pressure on you or make you feel less-than unless you let them. Blaming “the culture” for your emotional response is not okay; your emotions are on you.

    • CaraM says...

      The problem is the word better – isn’t it so subjective? If a Mother’s sanity, mental health, or a variety of other factors is at stake, is it really better? Isn’t really just having a fed baby best?

    • Meredith says...

      Roxanne, what you went through sounds hard. Congratulations on getting through it the best way you were able. I hope you had the opportunity for people to show you empathy, and in either case, may you one day be able to share empathy with others, especially to other moms who went through difficult things of their own. And to be clear, since tone doesn’t always come through as intended in these forums, I’m not being snarky here, I’m being sincere.

      I don’t view parenting as an achievement or within a success/failure paradigm (*especially* not after my own experience). As for “lashing out” while I might disagree with your word choice, I will push back on and call out thoughtless words (again, especially after my experience) and hold space for other women who are experiencing and working through these challenges and who might wish for a voice in their defense but might not be in a place now to do it themselves. Just as you’re entitled to occupy space here and tell your story, so am I and so are the myriad of women here for whom this article was helpful and validating.

    • Molly says...

      Breast is best for…? Don’t worry, I know and understand the answers. I think you’re failing to see it is a limited set of answers. Formula is also best for many reasons. One is not purely superior to the other.

    • Julia says...

      Wow Roxana was that really necessary? It’s possible that people “lose their minds” over breast is best because it simply isn’t true. Breastfeeding and formula feeding are equal choices, assuming clean water is available. The choice of feeding feels monumental because it’s the first real choice you make for your child, even when it isn’t really a choice for some. It’s okay to worry about it, it’s not okay to shame people over it. See what *I* did there?

    • Lisa says...

      Roxana, get some help with your anger. Why are you so upset at other moms? Telling women of childbearing age that not everything in life will go exactly as they want it to?! Wow, what a news flash. These women ARE “accepting reality” and that’s why they are feeding their babies the best way they can. Get off your high horse and put down your weird anger at strangers. I promise you you’ll enjoy life more.

    • Maureen says...

      I just want to ask Lemonade…who hurt you? Why are you so angry at the women brave enough to share their experience here? If you don’t like it, move on. No reason for you to be so blatantly disrespectful of others’ feelings just because they don’t match your own

    • Erin says...

      “Breastfeeding is best”

      The take away from this post is to question, “For whom?”

      I breastfed for two years, but in the early months hit nearly every issue in the books: delayed supply, low supply, recurring nipple injuries from a late-diagnosed posterior tongue-tie, lack of milk transfer from the same, late-onset reflux, blocked ducts, etc.

      I was able to make it through because my husband had generous parental leave, and so could help me with triple-feeding a newborn for weeks, and our healthcare covered months of consultations with lactation consultants, tongue-tie specialists, etc.

      But it was extremely tough, and I fully recognized that if our circumstances were more “typical” and I’d had less support, I wouldn’t have made it through. Even with that support, there were significant costs to pushing through with breastfeeding in those early months. I complete understand how other couples could weigh the costs and benefits and feel formula was best for their circumstances. (Nor is it a referendum on my choices.)

      What is truly “best” depends on the family and their situation. There is no one “best” that applies universally to every family.

    • lemonade says...

      I wonder if Maureen’s comment was meant for someone else? I don’t see anger or disrespect in my comment–I assume all moms are trying to make the best choices for themselves and their families, based on their set of circumstances. I don’t think any of those choices are successes or failures, just…dealing with what life deals you!

    • e says...

      Lemonade, I’m sure Maureen was speaking about someone else. You’re comment read fine to me :)

  43. t says...

    My baby had two separate brady incidents while I was first breastfeeding her. She stopped breathing, turned blue and I panicked both times.

    I could swear it was my very heavy (saggy) breasts suffocating her although it was probably just her immature nervous system. Ultimately she was fine but I swore off breastfeeding (for me) then and there.

    Here’s the interesting part: I owned formula feeding from then on out without shame and because I didn’t feel any shame I never felt pressure or judgment from other people. That little experience taught me a great deal about the power of confidence.

  44. V says...

    To the whole CoJ team and every woman involved in writing this piece: THANK YOU. My daughter is five months old, and I just returned to work three weeks ago. Nursing was a huge challenge, but nothing compared to the uphill battle that is pumping. My girl is drinking more each day from her bottles than I’m able to pump, and on top of all the feelings of inadequacy that come with that, I’m terrified that we’ve already run out of my freezer stash and she will be left with nothing. I spent last week googling formula brands and sobbing to myself “I just wish there was someone who could give me permission to stop. Someone who would just give me permission to wean and move on from this phase of life.”

    The timing of this piece is just unbelievably perfect. Thank you so much for sending me the sign that I’ve been waiting for.

    • E says...

      You’ve got this! The one piece of advice I give to first-time-parents is to choose a formula before their baby is born EVEN IF they plan to breastfeed so they can have an option in mind ahead of time, when the decision may feel less hormonal.

  45. Emily says...

    Thank you for this article!!

  46. Laura says...

    As I sit here nursing my 10 day old baby, the possibility of sharing feedings and getting longer stretches of sleep at night seems like a dream come true. I will continue to breastfeed my daughter as I did with her older sister because, all things considered, it’s been quite easy for me (albeit demanding). However I can completely see the benefits of formula feeding and say more power to any parent who chooses that for their child.

  47. Veronique says...

    I have the chance of breastfeading my son, but i was prepared to give formula too if it didn’t work. I have a medical condition that affected my milk suply in the first weeks after giving birth., knew it years before getting pregnant.
    The nurses pressured me to breastfeed but I just told them :we’ll see, I’ll try… and one of them had to tell me yes now you need to use formula as your milk is not enough.
    You should have seen her face when i opened my kitchen cabinet full of bottles and formula ;)

    Formula (and hospital delivery) became easily accessible after WW2 and was sold as best that breast. As a result a lot of mother where convinced that formula was best, it was progress, science etc. In the last few years the momentum changed and now it’s breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed, putting a lot of pressure on the mother.
    Check ‘Call the midwife’ and it’s really interesting to see the change in mentality during that time.

    Also there’re always been wet nurse to provide for the mothers who didn’t have milk supply during history. Not every women can/want to breastfeed and it’s ok. I trully believe that Feed is best, whatever work for you and your family will make your child happy !

  48. Mary says...

    I breast fed both my boys until they were a year old, BUT I made sure they would take a bottle if needed. I was not very good at pumping so when I went back to work, they got the bottle (formula) during the day, and early morning and night time feedings were from me. I was an older mom (age 35 and 40) when they were born so I wasn’t going to be guilted into total breastfeeding if that wasn’t something that would work for our family.
    I compare this to the concept of “a natural birth” vs having an epidural or needing to have a C section. If you gave birth to a human being, not an alien, you had a natural birth. This is not a competition, people!

  49. Irina says...

    As I wrote in another comment (in response to someone else’s), I don’t know if I will be able to breastfeed when the time comes, and, if I can, whether I will enjoy it. And, I absolutely agree that mothers should not have to justify their decisions to nosy strangers.

    However, something’s been bothering me about this whole discussion, an echo of what I’ve seen elsewhere, and I’ve finally put my finger on it. It’s the tendency in contemporary U.S. culture to smooth all the wrinkles out and try to turn every failure into a success – because we are so afraid of the word failure, of acknowledging that we were unable to achieve something, that something was beyond our control or turned out differently from how we envisioned.

    My understanding is that most women who give birth want to be able to breastfeed, and if they end up not being able to, it’s OK to accept this as a loss, to regret it, and to grieve for it. You don’t have to immediately try to turn it into something positive by saying, “Oh, but the other option is just as good.” You don’t always have to make lemonade out of lemons. It’s OK if the lemons that life tosses our way remain just what they are, lemons.

    I feel like there is a certain dignity and courage in being able to acknowledge that, yes, I really wanted something that I felt was best, and I couldn’t have it, and I feel sad about it now and will continue to feel sad about it in the future. That’s just the way life is.

    • Kelly says...

      I’m not having kids, so I don’t have a stake in the to-breastfeed-or-not conversation. But I wanted to chime in to say that I’m very much in agreement with your assessment of U.S. culture’s tendency to “smooth out the wrinkles.” I’m not sure what causes it besides a fear of failure, but I see it too.

    • Christina says...

      This!

    • K says...

      Yes. I think it’s possibly/partially an overshoot reaction to being raised by a generation of emotionally immature, unnecessarily/overly critical “get over it,” parents. Now a lot of us are *over*-emotional, i.e. “if I feel bad, I must feel better by saying I’m fine with the status quo, even if it might actually be bad.” Our self-worth is tied to almost everything but personal responsibility.

      Instead of our flaw being too insensitive, we’re more likely to be out of touch with accepting failure and growing from it. These ideas instead become triggers associated with being overworked, overlabored, judged.

    • K says...

      also to add to fruit metaphor, i think you are in part describing sour grapes.

    • C says...

      I grieved the loss of breastfeeding and am reading a lot of comments from others who talk about that disappointment and loss as well. For me this was a very meaningful piece, even years after my experience, because it tends to that part of me that lost something.

    • Jen says...

      “My understanding is that most women who give birth want to be able to breastfeed”

      ^^False! Please don’t make generalizations about all women!

    • Tracy says...

      Such a great point @Irina.

      Another aspect of this article that irks me is similar to that of the obesity movement covering up the unhealthy aspect for “self love.” So if were even to hint that, being 300 pounds is indeed unhealthy for the majority of humans, you will then be called fat phobic, xyz.

      It’s wrong to turn all of this into some kind of defensive battle of overcompensation for others to accept you and your viewpoints (“I’m obese and love it and YOU need to love it also,” “I don’t want to breastfeed my baby so you better accept MY choice”), etc.

    • Roxana says...

      Brava, Irina! Completely agree!

    • Tiana says...

      Hmm.. except, my inability to breastfeed was not a failure, it was a fact. So there goes your whole premise. Also, I don’t regret not continuing with breastfeeding, as if I had a choice being that my only other choice was to continue to starve my baby. I didnt grieve for this “loss” you speak of. I needed to feed my baby so I fed my baby.. with formula because that was what was available to me. In fact it was a combination of breastmilk and formula because I was able to pump a very small amount, and so I did.. that was my reality. There are no lemons in my situation and many others, thats the point. This article is not about making lemonade. You can’t make lemonade if you have no lemons. The point you missed is that women should not feel shame and guilt for something that they have no reason to feel shame and guilt for. It’s really as simple as that. Plenty of women grieve the loss of their expectation of breastfeeding and thats fine, but every woman is different so your one size fits all attempt is the real failure here.

    • Rachel says...

      But formula feeding is a choice. It’s not a failure. For some it is a choice that comes out of failure but for many it’s just the right choice. This comment totally ignores that reality in the conversation. Also, I wonder if you have any real knowledge of infant feeding statistics and individual situations? I can guess you don’t because you seem to be making the blanket statement that breastfeeding is the preferred choice and “best” choice. It’s just a choice. It has minor health benefits.

    • Alex says...

      I wouldn’t use the word “failure.” Rather, it’s just a fact of life that some women’s circumstances make breastfeeding unduely challenging. But otherwise I agree with you.
      A lot of women here had to make tough choices that were best for them and their families, and I give them kudos. I am bothered by the section that says “you don’t have to have a reason.” The health benefits are clear, so if your child won’t get those benefits, then I would expect a sound reason beyond, “I just didn’t want to,” or the old refrain, “I was formula fed and I’m fine.”
      And I agree with others who say that American culture smooths the wrinkles on many fronts. We are straining to accept, respect, and support any and everyone’s decisions, no matter the reason, so that everyone feels accepted in every respect. But we lose our ability to carefully reason, discern, and make evidence-based judgments when people shy away from taking a position on just about anything. These days, it seems like many people only take a position on the black-and-white issues or take the latest socionormative position on an issue, because we fear offending anyone or, worse, being cancelled.

    • Anne says...

      I think you have a point because there is no real reason to be celebrating bottle-feeding mothers versus breastfeeeding mothers and pegging them against each other in some epic mother-battle

      But you have not really done your research about breastfeeding (why would you really). After having 2 kids and being around many many new mothers, I’ve found that there is a misconception that breastfeeding your kid will prevent them from getting sick (not true) and make them smarter and more succesful. As if the very act of breastfeeding instantly squares you away on those 2 categories.

      For someone who tried both things, I would say that I felt much more succesful with the baby that I decided to bottle-feed after 5 days than the baby where I was forced to give up a 12 weeks. I bonded better with baby bottle-baby and felt more at ease when she was an infant while with the breast-baby I was under enormous stress for the first 3 months and that affected my connection him for months after that. It was simply the better choice for my family to bottle feed (because I struggled with breast-feeding).

      NOW? Not a single difference between them in health, intelligence, physical ability. I am still counting on that breast-baby to go to Harvard though:-)

    • Mags says...

      I have a general problem with seeing the choice to breastfeed or not as a “failure”. I don’t live and never have in the US, so it might be cultural, but… why can’t we all just let women decide what is best for their bodies, their babies and their families?

      I see telling mothers that their lack of breastfeeding is not only a failure, but one that they can’t admit, or “don’t have enough dignity and courage” (!!) to acknowledge as form aggression. Yes, I mean it Irina, Roxana and others above. By saying things like that you are adding violence to a discussion around motherhood and putting blame on mothers. I hope you have enough “courage and dignity” to investigate your need to do it.

      Please also note that for some women formula feeding is simply a choice and not any kind of failure. It was for me — I never felt like breastfeeding and resisted the pressure created by people trying to make me feel bad about my decision. I chose to feed my baby formula from the start. It worked out perfectly well for our family and my daughter is now a gorgeous, healthy four year old.

    • Lindsay says...

      I agree with you. I had to have c sections and I still feel very sad that I wasn’t able to experience a normal birth. It’s not that I’m a failure or broken in any way, it’s just I wasn’t able to do it and that’s my reality. I don’t try to say oh well c sections are better or just as good anyway.

    • Abby says...

      @alex, I agree that we should be looking to evidence based arguments.

      The scientific, peer-reviewed evidence does not support any advantages to breastfeeding -aside from ONE less upper respiratory or GI infection in childhood – that cannot be better explained by socioeconomic status. Wealthy, often white, women with supportive partners, paid leave, supports to care for other children, who are less likely to be obese and more likely to be more highly educated – these are the women who can exclusively breastfeed. And the women who are more likely to have well educated, healthy weight, and less ill children.

  50. CW says...

    Before my first, all I knew was that I didn’t want to breastfeed… my plan was pretty much formula/bottles/anything that didn’t require a baby to my boob and me being the only one feeding the baby. Well… my first was a preemie due to severe preeclampsia (born at 29 weeks), and breastmilk became my #1 priority in a way I never imagined it would be. Other NICU/preemie mamas might get this, but pumping breastmilk for her was LITERALLY the only thing that kept me going… getting that gold into her body, even though it was just through a tube in her nose for over a month, made me feel less helpless. IYKYK. Also, because she was so small (2 lb 3 oz at birth), she HAD to have a mix of breast milk and ultra fortified/calorie dense formula, both at the hospital and after she came home. I pumped for six months and had enough freezer milk for a few more months because she consumed so little due to her size (example: she weighed 7 lbs at 4 months old). With my second baby, who was almost full term, I planned on pumping for just as long, with some formula in between if needed, and I even breastfed a little in the beginning. It never crossed my mind that I WOULDN’T pump for 6+ months. Due to post partum preeclampsia, I had to go back into the hospital for several days when he was five days old, and even I pumped during that time like a champ (even though I was terribly sick). Two days after I came home, I got out of the shower and told my husband, “I’m done.” I didn’t know why… it wasn’t even that difficult (I had a great supply, lots of help at home, etc), but I just knew I needed to stop. It took a few weeks to decrease my supply enough to stop pumping, and I felt terribly guilty the whole time that I was “choosing” not to give him breastmilk. Fast forward a few more weeks, and I had developed such horrendous PPD and PPA that I had to be admitted into the hospital again for five more days. Due to the medication prescribed to me at that time, I would have had to stop pumping anyway, so imagine how much WORSE I would have felt mentally if that was the moment I had to stop pumping. I am very grateful that my gut told me to stop prior for both that reason and so that I actually COULD take the meds they prescribed to get the PPD/PPA under control. xo

    • Courtney says...

      Fellow NICU mama here. I exclusively pumped for 3 months, every two hours around the clock, to get my baby home. It was absolutely exhausting and I had plugged ducts weekly. But you’re totally right- it was my mission! My babe grew and I was/am so incredibly proud of her growth. We took her home after 91 days and she’d never had anything but breastmilk. She latched like a champ and we set off on a breast feeding journey but my supply was only barely what she needed. I fell behind when she hit her first major growth spurt at 6 months. My returning to work has only diminished my supply further. I think there’s a lot of space between “exclusive breastfeeding” and “breastfeeding” and we should talk about that more. Sure, I’m breastfeeding now at 10 months but I probably only produce 10 oz a day and supplementing with formula.

  51. Rebecca says...

    “Also you don’t need a reason”

    DING DING DING!

    My heart sang at these words! I felt so guilty not breastfeeding and it took a very long time to accept that I just…. didn’t like it, it didn’t work for us, and it was best to stop. There are a million factors why I disliked it and why stopping was right, but whatever! There’s no one at the pearly gates waiting for you to explain your baby-feeding choices.

    • Meredith says...

      THIS

    • Mags says...

      Yes, exactly! It’s your body, your baby and your family. You chose what was best in your context and it’s enough. You don’t need other reasons.

  52. Charlotte says...

    My baby was born last June (during lockdown here in the UK) and I struggled with breastfeeding which completely threw me as I hadn’t planned for the alternative. I was hospitalised with mastitis when he was 2 weeks old and when he was 3 weeks we moved to formula. I beat myself up for months about it but fortunately everyone I spoke to was so supportive, plus due to lockdown I haven’t had to feed him in front of many people so haven’t received any unwanted comments or questions!

  53. Thank you for this post. I breastfed both of my children, but I’m not confident the benefits to them outweighed the costs to me. While breastfeeding certainly seems like a miraculous invention, it also tethers the mother to the baby every couple of hours. You cannot escape its needs. And then a pattern is established. You are the primary caretaker, by design. You are who goes to it in the night. You are the only one who can feed it. Yes, you could pump and someone else could give the bottle. But it just seems easier to offer up the breast. I needed more breaks from my children than I allowed myself due to breastfeeding. Plus, it is another six months to a year of your body not being your own. It still belongs to your baby. This after they have already lived within you for 9 months. I may still have chosen to breastfeed, but I wish they talked about the costs more, instead of just assuming that is what you should do. Rachel Cusk has an amazing passage in A Life’s Work about how the mother’s needs get subsumed by the needs of the baby: “You may be surprised by how hungry she is; you may find yourself feeding her twenty or thirty times in 24 hours, but don’t worry! It is impossible to overfeed a breastfed baby…I leaf through books on the subject looking for some mention of myself, some hint of concern for me as I sit pinioned twenty to thirty times a day in my armchair. But there is none.”

    • Agnès says...

      I loved breastfeeding, but you are so right. I would add that my I don’t like my breasts anymore, they look like empty old bags. :(

    • Amy says...

      I was very close to giving up on breastfeeding my first baby after a few days of painful raw nipples. I persisted because of the “breast is best” movement (and also All-Purpose Nipple Ointment; what a godsend!). I did grow to genuinely love breastfeeding, and thankfully it was smooth sailing with the next two kids.

      However, I felt tethered to my kids until each weaned around 1.5 years. I’m not sure it was mentally healthy for me. I told myself with the 2nd and 3rd that I would get them used to bottles so I could get breaks, but then popping them on a boob seemed like less work than preparing and cleaning bottles so I just never got around to it. They never slept through the night until they were weaned, and I was always the primary caregiver. I couldn’t be away for more than a couple hours. We’d gotten into the routine of nursing before naps, too; if I had to do it again I’d use the EASY pattern instead.

      I don’t regret breastfeeding. But I do regret not being more intentional about protecting my own sanity during those years. I was sleep deprived and “trapped” for years, and it was basically martyrdom that benefitted no one in our family.

      Oh – and my breasts swelled from an A to a D and back again multiple times. My first is almost 10yo and my breasts have minimal sagging or stretch marks (belly is another story). My sister formula-fed and her breasts do droop significantly. From what I hear, it has more to do with how your ligaments respond to pregnancy than breastfeeding.

  54. Calla says...

    I love this post! I especially loved the quote
    “No doubt countless women would say I should get over it and do what is best for my daughter, but I did — she had a happy mom who was rested”

    I am not a mother but this really speaks to me. One of the reasons I’m unsure if I ever want kids is the common narrative that being a good mother means doing the best of everything for your kids to the extent of giving up your own well being. But it’s so important for kids to not have a burned out exhausted mom! I had a very happy upbringing but I think if anything my mom leaned a little too much into this narrative as well and I would have been happy to see her do more for herself growing up.

    • Danielle says...

      Hi Calla! You’ve made my day because this was me! My daughter is 18 months now and she’s the light of my life- but I work really hard to still be me and care for me. It’s not always easy, but choosing formula did help me retain a bit of my own personhood by not giving over more of my body than I was willing or able to. Mama is my favourite role, but it’s not my only one- a lesson I learned from my own mama

  55. Sara says...

    I have 3 kids, two breastfed, one I pumped and fed, and I feel like this article could have talked about the intense stigma of moms who DO breastfeed. The comment above about choosing formula because it seemed “normal and natural” disappointed me, like it missed the point about formula feeding because it’s what works for you and don’t mom shame either way. She could have chosen to say something like “it seemed easier,” or “less stressful.” By phrasing it that way it made me feel like breastfeeding is not “normal.” So many people seem to have the opinion or reaction that breastfeeding is gross, anything to do with breasts is sexual, etc. I get that the article was primarily about formula feeding, but the overwhelming stigma in my opinion is against breastfeeding. Breastfeeding requires SO much from the mother: sleepless nights, altering what you eat and drink, hormone changes, weight changes, what you wear, pain and discomfort, feeling judged when you nurse in public, trying to pump when you’re away from your baby. I wish the article had celebrated that more.

    • Calla says...

      I read the “normal and natural” comment a little differently, it seems to me to imply that formula feeding is not abnormal or unnatural, as opposed to the only normal thing. I guess it seems like the point is that it is AS normal as breastfeeding, not better.

    • moxie says...

      Saying something is normal doesn’t mean the alternative is abnormal. There are a million articles about the benefits of breastfeeding. I’m grateful this one celebrates formula feeding – something that saved my sanity and possibly my baby’s life.

    • Rose says...

      If you want something that celebrates breastfeeding, simply look up “breastfeeding” and you will find a myriad of content and zero pushback.

    • claire says...

      Echoing Calla, Moxie and Rose’s comments, one of the reasons I cherished this piece was that, when I really needed it, I had a very difficult time finding any articles or essays dedicated to formula feeding. There are a handful of pieces in the past decade from the NY Times, one each in the Atlantic and Motherly, a few in the Guardian; I’ve tracked down only three books. (Interestingly, almost all of them were written by women who had breastfed.) So breastfeeding information and support is everywhere else. Understandably so, it’s a complex and intimate experience, to say the very least. But no one seems to acknowledge how formula feeding is a very complicated and intimate experience too: what kind of formula is best for your baby at any one time, where is it made, what are their reactions to it as their bodies change (are they constipated? have a new rash?) at what point are you supplementing with formula vs. supplementing with breastmilk, what do the ingredients mean and why are different, what can you afford, is organic necessary, do you trust that your pediatrician isn’t forcing samples on you, do you trust the FDA, do you trust international formula markets, how easy is it to get another canister if you run out (does every grocery store carry the brand? do you need it to be shipped? what if their supply runs out?) if you have a formula mixer how can you be sure it’s mixing it properly or should you just do it by hand, how do you transport milk while you’re out if you only have 3 hours after it’s mixed (do you mix it later? what if you forgot the water? what if the actual formula powder amount became uneven and your water:powder ratio is off?) and what happens if you’re away from more of your supply when your baby gets hungry again and you have nothing to give her? And a million other questions. And without places to congregate to find community — like with La Leche League, or a lactation consultant, or whatever — and with pressure from not only other people but also actual policymakers to breastfeed, it’s easy as a mother who formula feeds to feel a little alienated and a little lonely. Please understand that the title of this piece called out to us because it feels really really good just to once in awhile find those people who have shared a powerfully emotional, physical and sometimes confusing experience and finally talk about it. I think all parents are looking for that but this just might not be the one about your story.

  56. Stacy S says...

    This! I could have used this in my life 2 years ago, when I would sob every time I breastfed my son. I never did much research on breastfeeding while I was pregnant, went into with the “if it works, it works” mentality, but somehow still pressured myself into breastfeeding way longer than my mental state should have allowed. I hated being a mother the first 6 weeks of my son’s life (which I realized afterwards was PPD). I felt so guilty that breast feeding was such a dread from me. I never lacked milk, once his tongue tie was taken care of, he latched well enough. I just absolutely hated it. Once I switched to combo pumping and formula, it was such a weight lifted from me. The pumping schedule started to feel like too much
    once I went back to work and we switched to fully formula. It was life changing. If I decide to have more children, I’ll try breastfeeding again, but will absolutely switch sooner if I start feeling that way again.

    • Meredith says...

      Amazing work getting through this, Stacy. I had a different but similar experience and I can relate to how hard that must have been to make the decision and I’m glad it got better for you.

  57. Jas says...

    We don’t make difference between IVF babies and babies conceived naturally. We don’t say “natural is better” when we meet a couple going for an IVF procedure. This is why I cannot understand why there is so much stigma around formula and so much pressure to breastfeed. Both are great! Formula is a scientific discovery with immeasurable benefits for us as humans and for the survival of our species.
    It is far better to be happy then to breatsfeed at any cost and be completely miserable. You don’t need to be a martyr, you don’t need to prove anything. If the breastfeeding is going great and you are enjoing it – perfect, but if i doesn’t, switch to the formula, you don’t need to struggle.

    • Calla says...

      I couldn’t agree more! As a scientist, I am always wary of any sort of idolization of what is “natural” whether that pertains to diet, childbirth, products, etc. It’s such a vague term that has nothing to do with what is best for someone.

    • Liz says...

      We don’t make that difference, in the same way that no one really thinks about whether an adult was breast or formula fed. But I’d argue that there is still a weird stigma around IVF and infertility. And people are similarly nosy and opinionated about it. I have twins and people love to ask if they are “natural” as though IVF is unnatural.

      Really this is nobody’s business, but as a PSA, if you have to ask the right term to use here is spontaneous.

    • Colleen says...

      Oh believe me…women and couples who go through IVF are very much judged.

    • Annie Green says...

      That’s a great point. Same with adoption. Life happens, in so many forms.

  58. Maggie says...

    It also doesn’t have to be either/or. When my brother and I were babies, pumps weren’t really readily available and my mom worked full-time so we’d get formula during the day and would nurse at night. I drove myself crazy pumping at work for many months with my first baby. With my second, I stopped pumping at work a couple months after returning from maternity leave, but continued to nurse in the morning and evenings. Not everyone’s supply/lifestyle would allow for this but for moms trying to decide what to do – there’s a whole spectrum of possibilities!

  59. Ellen says...

    I like the conclusion—do what is best for you and baby. And fed is best. But! I have mixed feelings. I agree with so many points here—bonding, socioeconomic reasons, sharing the feeding tasks. But one big topic left out is the biology of breast milk. There is a valid argument that breast milk, biologically and immunologically speaking, is superior. Via breastmilk, mothers (or donors) confer passive immunity during the first months of life, when infants are susceptible to pathogens because of their immature immune system. Breast milk is adaptive—the mothers body can identify bacteria in the baby’s saliva and the go about creating the right antibody for it, delivered in future feedings. And there is growing evidence of breast milk’ role in reducing allergies and immune conditions, the implications of which are extensive. I’m a healthcare provider, and I think it’s important to support the moms choice, and also provide education. If a healthcare provider didn’t provide education about the benefits of breastfeeding, they would not being doing their job, just the same as if they didn’t give information about formula feeding. I don’t think of this is “pressure” but rather medical advice.

    • Katrin says...

      Yes, that‘s an important difference, I agree. It always comes down to how people say it, and to tact. The information you mentioned is important, and I think it should be given. But it has to come with respect and knowledge that it should never turn into pressure.
      For me, it was the opposite problem: I‘d have liked the freedom I would have gained if one of my kids had ever accepted a bottle, but they both flat-out refused, regardless of whether the content was pumped breast-milk or formula. I tried it all, to no avail.

    • Tricia says...

      The research didn’t come to bear for my son, with regard to food allergies. I nursed him for 8 months (and ate dairy throughout). Formula bottle number one: instant anaphylaxis. The vague mentions of “evidence says breastmilk prevents food allergies” can be triggering for families who have lived the opposite.

    • Calla says...

      I think you are right. I also think what can happen is that this one benefit comes to totally dominate people’s internal monologue on the matter. They can get so guilt ridden over not providing this that they feel like they are not being a good mother if they don’t choose it. When in reality, it should be just one part of the decision.

    • Rebecca says...

      But this article doesn’t have to be responsible for providing education – it’s okay for it to provide empathy, and that’s it. For someone who uses formula (like me) a disclaimer that says “but don’t forget that breastmilk is better” would feel like a slap in the face on an article like this.

    • Sarah says...

      I think this is a fine statement to make in a baby care book, but in the context of unsolicited advice by friends, family, and strangers on the street, people should just butt out on the subject of breastfeeding. My cousin was in a coma for 2 weeks after delivering her baby via emergency c-section. She nearly died and it took months to fully flush her system of the various medications she was on, and obviously she was unable to breastfeed. When I think of someone giving her any grief about formula feeding after all she went through I have to clench my teeth and swallow my rage. Any modern American mother has already internalized the pervasive “breast milk is best” message. They don’t need someone to remind them when they’re just going about their business.

    • Sierra says...

      You’ll also find plenty of people, myself included, who breastfed and then ended up with a child with an auto-immune disease with no family history. It’s not a magic protection potion unfortunately.

    • Erin says...

      Yes, there are various biological benefits to breastfeeding.
      However, it’s not clear that the effect sizes (the magnitude of the differences between breastfed and formula-fed) are very big for many of them. And it’s also not clear how many benefits are long-lasting. Some benefits exist, but are they big enough to warrant the level of judgement and shaming that new moms experience? If you look at a class of first graders, it’s not like you can tell who was breastfed and who wasn’t.

      Even the immunological impact is more complex than it sounds. I was formula-fed, and have no allergies, food or otherwise. I breastfed my daughter for two years, and she *does* have an allergy–to something I consumed throughout my breastfeeding time (but just that one thing). Another friend was told to eliminate her baby’s food allergens from her own diet while breastfeeding, because they were upsetting his system rather than building resistance.

      No one is saying that healthcare providers shouldn’t provide some education. But the stigma and nosiness around how people feed their babies comes mostly from outside doctor’s office. Interestingly, my daughter’s pediatric group *proposed* switching to formula entirely when I had trouble with low supply. They are very much in the “fed is best” camp…more so than the general public.

    • Abby says...

      This doctor would like to point out, in addition to Erin’s points, that over 90% of the immunologic benefit is achieved in the first 2 weeks or less of breastfeeding. And even then, that benefit comes out to mean one less upper respiratory or GI illness in childhood.

  60. anothermomma says...

    I think about the history of ‘wet nurses’ and people feeding other’s babies. Bottles and feeding baby other things besides breast milk has been a thing for generations. It makes me assume that there has always been issues with people breastfeeding and not producing, etc., etc. etc. Take that to heart when you (or someone you know) considers using formula.

  61. Minati says...

    Great Post!! I formula fed my first one due to complications with my delivery I was in the ICU after and my son was in the NICU and was unable to breastfeed. Despite the circumstances I was judged at every turn and corner for not breastfeeding and I was only given a little bit of an out from the judgement because of my circumstances. I Sincerely hope there comes a day when the decision to formula feed does not need a justification to go with it and more power to the women who made the decision to formula feed just cause that was what they thought was best for their child and family.

  62. Kelly says...

    Thank you so much for this post to help normalize formula feeding! One other group you didn’t mention – breast cancer survivors or those who have undergone a preventative mastectomy. Thanks for helping inform and educate readers :)

  63. Christy says...

    Breastfeeding was brutally hard for me and added a lot of stress to what was already a stressful experience. I was pumping at work, scared to leave the baby ever because I was her literal food source, terrified that we’d have a power outage and all the frozen milk would go bad. I tried to stop but my daughter had a lot of allergies and just would not accept the hypoallergenic formula. I’m 100000000000% on board with anyone foregoing breastfeeding, but honestly no one has to be on board. NO ONE knows what’s best for your kid and your family better than YOU. Don’t forget that YOU are the world’s top expert on your child! If your doctor makes you feel bad about formula, then your doctor can go f*** herself. Period. You’re doing amazing and everything is going to be ok!

  64. katherine says...

    Thanks for this! My daughter was born with a cleft lip and palate so couldn’t breastfeed. Thanks to formula and Haberman feeders (special bottles for cleft babies) she thrived and is a healthy college athlete today. Despite that I still feel judged by some women because I didn’t pump!
    I will comment that I find the shelves of locked-up formula at the grocery store deeply saddening. No one is shoplifting formula for fun or pleasure. Its such a tragic reflection on society that some families are so desperate they have to resort to stealing to take care of their baby. I wish for a country where that isn’t the case!

    • Jeanne says...

      I agree with you. I think formula, diapers and menstrual products should be price fixed by the government. If you want the fancy kind, you can pay a higher amount for it but the very basics should be affordable to all. But then I’m crazy and believe in universal healthcare, lol.

    • Jessica C. says...

      Yes!! And I LOVE Jeanne’s proposal, as well. It’s a great rallying cry we can organize around…

      There are other structural challenges for women without financial resources or “good,” or just plain flexible, jobs. (Try getting Amazon or McDonald’s to let you pump…) Heck, there’s just so little support for parents (especially moms) of all stripes that I’m proud of ALL of us for doing whatever we do to keep our families well and our Selves intact! And while I do think programs like WIC and SNAP offer parents supplemental support for formula and diapers, the stigma for anyone needing help *to feed and clothe their family* is still so high.

      The truth is that it’s pretty dang expensive to be poor, more so if you have something “extra” to work around. If you don’t have the money to buy what you need, you pay in time and stress and sometimes poorer outcomes instead.

      This became personal for me when my second baby was born with neuromuscular conditions that meant he wasn’t taking in enough breastmilk even though he seemed like a nursing champ. He also developed a severe dairy allergy around four months of age and fell off the weight chart at his five-month appointment, during the early days of COVID. We made the move to specialty formulas at that point. There was just no way I could maintain a schedule of breast/pump/bottle every 90 minutes AND keep my first grader on Zoom. (I’d also had to do that routine with my first in his early months, and it’s no joke.) I keep thinking about the stress that I would have felt if we hadn’t had the resources we did to make the switch to formula. It made me super grateful for my community health center’s CHWs and their pediatric team, who kept asking if and what we needed. They are WARRIORS for their mamas and babies.

  65. Liz says...

    Thank you for this article – it is so important! Just a reminder that bottle fed doesn’t always mean formula fed – there are many women who pump/exclusively pump breastmilk. It is hard, lonely work that is often unacknowledged in all the bottle vs breast discussions.

    • Christina says...

      Ah Liz, thank you for this comment. I exclusively pumped for both my kids due to breastfeeding issues, and often feel a vague mourning in these discussions of not being able to relate to either experience. Reminds me of a feeding version of the joke “if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound” haha. That being said, I grew to appreciate the many benefits of exclusive pumping over time and say stay strong to any of you mamas out there who are on that path, by choice or circumstance!

  66. K says...

    Breastfeeding is not a panacea. The parents still have to be mentally and physically healthy, be kind people, discipline their children, etc. But, the benefits of BF should still not be overlooked either… this is a complex system. If one cannot breastfeed, that’s that. Try and not be bogged down by judgement from others. However… there is also a fine line between the cases that are difficult vs impossible…

    TL;DR I don’t think anyone should feel guilty if they are literally going crazy from not being able to breastfeed due to circumstances. But we shouldn’t swing so far to the other side and declare that both are equal only for the reason of making half the parents feel better if it isn’t scientifically true. 1. We aren’t dealt a flawless hand in life and we have to accept the tradeoffs. 2. To convince ourselves that x is always the better decision simply because of choice is counterproductive. Choices have consequences.

    • Calla says...

      I hear what you’re saying, but I think sometimes the (very real) benefits of things like breastfeeding can dominate the decision making. For example, someone might know that breastfeeding or pumping is going to impact their own well-being or mental health and decide to go straight to formula.

      While it seems like they are declining (or not “trying”) the benefits of breastmilk, in reality they are choosing to be a happy, attentive, stable parent to their child which maybe they couldn’t be if they were breastfeeding.

      I guess what I mean is that breastfeeding itself can have costs to the child (having an overtired, stressed, or anxiety-ridden parent) but we tend to only focus on what they are losing by being formula fed. So for many, its a matter of balancing the nutritional/biological benefits with other real costs and benefits that are maybe not as immediately tangible but are no less important.

    • R says...

      I wonder if you believe in a woman’s right to choose what to do with their body. Based on this comment I can only assume you don’t?

    • Isla says...

      Are you really trying to cancel her now? Always trying to out woke each other, it’s so ridiculous. Please stop creating such divisiveness.

  67. Amanda says...

    I feel seen! I hope this gets shared a billion times. So much judgment and stigma and guilt. There is some really bogus information in popular breastfeeding books, which try to tell you that formula-fed babies will be sick more often and have lower IQ. That’s untrue and no study has ever born that out. My mother’s generation had no problem switching between breast and formula. Again, “nipple confusion” is a bogus idea. I hope the propaganda cools down and hospitals will take a more measured, realistic, and holistic approach to postpartum care and infant health.

  68. Isabel says...

    i love this post! go mamas!!! and women supporting each other and not judging another persons choice <3

    • Neela says...

      And I love this comment, because really, that’s what it boils down to, isn’t it?!

  69. Danielle Williams says...

    As a new mom struggling to survive this breastfeeding journey, I’m grateful for this post. Thank you for sharing these stories and reminding mama’s everywhere of what’s most important.

  70. Kayla says...

    I was barely able to breastfeed either of my children, and we had to supplement formula from the start. They were both born about a month early, and under 5 pounds, but otherwise healthy. The doctors and lactation consultants told me the milk would eventually come. I did all the crazy things to only get an ounce or two of breastmilk a day. I recall the moment I finally gave up the game at about 5 months in with my first born. I was at my first ‘girls night’ and watched two of my best friends pump and watched how quickly they filled up their bottles. TEN ounces – EACH SIDE – in MINUTES. I knew at that moment I was done – I couldn’t compare to what they could do and seeing it first hand, how easy it was for some made me realize that there was no need to drive myself crazy anymore, because that simply was never going to happen for me. It was such a sad but freeing moment. A few years later, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I had no symptoms. It came up with a routine blood test with a new doctor that it was a possibility and confirmed with a colonoscopy. At this point in time, I learned it was extremely common for those with Celiac to give birth to pre-term, underweight babies, and to struggle with breastfeeding because I was already so malnourished from my autoimmune response. Sure, there are times where there is no reason why it’s hard to breastfeed when you want to. But I think there needs to be more awareness out there about some of the real health issues that can be underlying when someone cannot produce they way they want to. If I had been diagnosed earlier, I might’ve been able to carry my second child to term, and to experience the wonder of breastfeeding a child. I feel some bitterness there. But all that said – MY KIDS ARE FINE – FORMULA LITERALLY SAVED THEIR LIVES AND MINE. They were fed, and my body didn’t need to get pushed any further while already having been so depleted of nutrients to carry my children for as long as I was able to, and my mental state was repaired, once I accepted my fate. Thank you, thank you, thank you formula.

    • Erin says...

      Yes, yes, yes to this and all the mothers who struggled–physically, mentally, emotionally, whatever it is. I felt intense pressure and guilt to breastfeed my first–who could NOT NURSE (she too was underweight and preterm). I tried nipple shields, a tube of my own pumped breastmilk into the shield, numerous lactation consultants–and was doing this every 2 hours for 3 months to get her weight up. It was horrific and massively impacted my mental health. If you have not struggled—DO NOT COMMENT on the benefits of breastfeeding (we all know…that is why we are tying ourselves into knots over this).
      I had an amazing OBGYN (who also had a preterm baby), who–when my second was born and I was still struggling to breastfeed–I overheard instructing the (lovely) nursing staff to NOT PUT ANY PRESSURE on me. I was able to nurse my son for a couple of months, but again, when it became clear to my pediatrician that he was not gaining weight, encouraged my to supplement with formula.
      Thank GOD for formula. Nothing more important than the health of the mother and that baby is fed. I also wonder if this would even be a discussion/point of public shaming if men gave birth to babies. I think not.

  71. Emma says...

    Like many women, I assumed breastfeeding would come naturally and didn’t give it too much thought while I was pregnant. When my son Caleb was born, the nurses in the hospital pointed out that I had flat nipples right away (something I had not paid much attention to before) and it may not in fact, come naturally. Once home from the hospital a lactation consultant came to the house to assess the situation and hopefully help. She brought to our attention that Caleb was dehydrated and urged us to give him a bottle of pumped milk right away. This was so upsetting. New parents with no clue, sleep deprived and recovering from an unexpected C section, I had not noticed my son was not getting what he needed from me. After I watched him guzzle back a bottle of pumped milk, I continued to pump and supplement with formula where needed. I grew to really, really, really hate pumping and started to get major anxiety about it. I felt trapped by the pump and almost claustrophobic. I still cringe when I think about pumping. We switched to formula exclusively at 6 weeks and it was such a relief. I was happier, he was happier. My son is now a healthy 2 year old. The truth is that breastfeeding was not that important to me and I would like to think if I had another child I would have the confidence to exclusively formula feed by choice from the start. But I already feel the pressures (whether these are all in my head or not, i’m not sure) to try breastfeeding and pumping again, at least for the first few weeks.

  72. Tricia says...

    A comment that has always stuck with me was along the lines of: Why so much concern for whether they are breastfed or take formula as a baby? In a year or so they’ll be eating endless goldfish crackers and discarded food off the floor.

    • Jenna says...

      HAHA! I’m rolling on the floor with how true this is. My first born drank water from a muddy puddle next to a storm drain when she was 18 months….that wasn’t the end of her weird behavior and at 5 years old she’s awesome.

    • Calla says...

      hahahaha so true! You could drive yourself crazy obsessing over every thing that goes in their body (and unfortunately many people do)

    • Rebecca says...

      LOL, not to mention drinking bathwater and eating sand at the beach and mulch at the playground!

  73. Sarah says...

    This is such a tricky issue.

    The history of formula feeding is fascinating. Large corporations started heavily marketing formula for profit, and basically convinced mothers that breastfeeding is disgusting. Then public heath and the world health organization had to do a counter campaign that was probably almost as judgemental.

    In reality, each of our lives are unique and complicated. What is best practice for one family may be detrimental to another. At the end of the day, the only journey that matters is our own. Nobody else can truly know our lives and we have to be very selective of what advice we take to heart.

  74. Emily says...

    In short: mind your own damn business about bottle vs. breast. I’ve done both, and believe me…breastfeeding takes practice, gritted teeth, patience, and determination for a lot of women.

  75. Marie says...

    Not only should YOU not feel ashamed to formula feed, but the the person judging you should – for being uninformed, sanctimonious and judgmental. It literally has nothing to do with anyone else except you and your baby.

    I am a survivor of abuse and sexual assault. Going through pregnancy and giving up autonomy over my body was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I knew early on that I did not want to breastfeed and spent many weeks researching it and discussing it with my therapist. I was STILL shamed by lactation consultants and medical professionals. They pressured me in the hospital after giving birth, which only lead to me thinking about my past trauma during what was supposed to be one of the most beautiful memories of my life. Shame on them.

    In the era post #metoo, you would think that people would be more educated about consent and respect what a women chooses to do, or not do, with her body, which includes breastfeeding.

    Also, if you have read Cribsheets, you know the benefits of breast feeding aren’t as magical society likes to make them out to be; they are shockingly minimal.

  76. Laura says...

    I love the photo of the shirtless dad feeding his baby with a bottle. But could you imagine the outrage if it were a breastfeeding mum with a nip slip?! Oh, the drama!
    I breast fed both my babies but I wish I had had the courage to formula feed — particularly on those days and nights when I just needed a break and needed my partner to share the load. Moms: you are doing great.

    • Alex says...

      I feel the same. Two plus years without a proper sleep :/ sigh…

  77. Jen says...

    I had every intention of breastfeeding but got very ill and delivered 12 weeks early. I never made enough by pumping to feed baba so switched to formula. Had to be done. It would have been lovely to breastfeed but had to be realistic.

  78. Flic says...

    I honestly wish I’d seen this a year ago! I had what I now know is a low supply – my exclusively BF daughter just stopped putting on weight from 4 months. At 5 months, it was recommended I wean early. Instead, I went home and made a 12oz bottle of formula which she had, down in one. I struggled with PPA (exacerbated by lack of sleep for sure) and I remember holding the bottle and looking into my baby eyes… and I just felt that warm rush of relief. That SAME flow of oxytocin. I was satiating her thirst, her hunger, her need for nourishment and it did not matter whether it came from my body or a bottle. Combi-feeding was absolutely necessary during our journey.

    My daughter went on nursing strike a few months later and was happily formula fed until we switched to cows milk at 13 months. She’ll be 2 in July and she’s happy, healthy and incredibly robust!

    The nursing strike caused a big surge in hormones for me which left me with depression – in so many ways I felt I failed at breastfeeding and it took me a month or two to really come to terms with it all. Now I have a toddler, my whole outlook has done a complete 180 on breastfeeding – especially when I weigh up the option of a second child.

    So much of modern parenting seems to punish the mother and place the child on a pedestal – it’s unrealistic and unsustainable. I’ve learned that what you choose must be what works for you as a family unit, not raising any member of that family above another, realising that the health and happiness of the unit is key to the health and happiness of each individual, too.

  79. Allie says...

    Great post! My second daughter was born about a week and a half ago. My first took to nursing very easily. My second was very sleepy in hospital so we were advise to supplement with formula (or pumping which was a hard no for my mental state). Since we’ve been home, baby has gotten much better at nursing and no longer needs the formula. However, my husband and I have decided to supplement w formula over night when it is his “shift” to watch baby. This has been saving my mental sanity by allowing me some small amount of guaranteed sleep. I have been feeling a little guilty over this decision (why?!) so its nice to see articles like this one!

    • Sage says...

      50/50 worked so well for us, that I wish it was more talked about! I thought it was an either-or situation and it so is not.

    • Rebecca says...

      Yup combination feeding is what we do and it has worked out beautifully. I recommend it to everyone who is interested, I actually like breastfeeding (this time, NOT with my first) but sharing duties with my husband is really important for a million reasons.

    • Lauren says...

      Things weren’t always like this, with all-or-nothing approaches to breastfeeding or formula. Our moms in the 70s and 80s just did what worked for them and didn’t question it, magical! It’s only more recently that breastfeeding dictators have cornered the market on shaming new mothers to promote an ideal. Do what works for you and your baby, always!

  80. Elisabeth says...

    Thank-you so much for this post!
    I wasn’t able to breastfeed my two kids (each for a different reason), and it was heartbreaking. The benefits of breastfeeding were drilled into me, and I associated it with motherhood and bonding. I still feel resentment to the pressure and judgement (both internal and external) that exists around this issue. I imagine how much more I would have enjoyed the first 6 months with my baby if I didn’t have this overwhelming hurt and disappointment.
    I’m glad you’ve posted this today! We need to encourage a more supportive and inclusive view of varying approaches (whatever works best for you and your families)
    Love to (all) mamas!

  81. C says...

    This is such a wonderful post. I carry a lot of… feelings… about my feeding journey with my son. Of all the things I envisioned about becoming a mother, being a badass breast feeder was at the top of the list. I really looked forward to it. And then I had an emergency c-section and was just so out of it and in so much pain that it did not work out the way I had hoped and imagined. I was lucky, though, to have SO much support from everyone around me to do what was best for me and my son. I never received one single comment about how I chose to feed him, all of the pressure and judgement came from within. I tear up thinking about the kindness of the lactation consultant I met with – first though a breastfeeding class while still pregnant, and then again a few days after my son was born. She was so calm and amazing and normalized all of the feeding options without making formula feeding seem like a consolation option. I still feel a tinge of sadness (jealousy?) about not breastfeeding when I see someone at the park doing it or a friend mentions something about breastfeeding. But gosh I am thankful for formula and breast pumps and bottles and all of the snuggles my baby had with me *and* his father.

  82. Candace says...

    I wish I had allowed myself to supplement with formula earlier. My stubborn, I can DO this, I will FIGURE IT OUT mentality didn’t help. We had some issues with our son losing weight / not gaining fast enough after he was born. My OBG/his pediatrician told me I should feed him **every two hours** to make sure he gained ok…… Cut to 4 WEEKS later when I still haven’t slept for longer than 45 minutes at a time, am setting alarms to wake myself up to feed him, am delirious from sleep deprivation, and am losing my mind sobbing from frustration/exhaustion/worry, and I tentatively (at the encouragement of a friend) asked my doc if I should be worried about my mental health. She looked at me, asked me if I wanted to hurt my baby, and said, let’s just focus on getting you some sleep.

    What I needed then was an article like this with a chorus of women saying – IT WILL BE OK. You need rest, you need support, and your baby will BE OK.

    Thank you CoJ. xo

  83. Mikayla says...

    I have no children, but I wonder if this will help some people who do: My parents both work in medicine – my mother is a nurse with special training in labor and delivery and my dad is a doctor with 10+ years experience in pediatrics. If anybody knows the science behind the benefits of breastfeeding, it’s these two. Well, I asked them once what they decided to do with their 3 kids regarding breastmilk vs. formula. And the short story is NEITHER OF THEM EVEN REMEMBER WHAT THEY DID. My mom waved her hand and said something like, “I think I breastfed for a few months, didn’t I? And then switched to formula?” In response, my dad shrugged and said, “They obviously turned out fine.” And I think he’s right. I might be totally biased, but I think it’s significant that all three of us turned out to be (mostly, hopefully) kind, sociable people with meaningful relationships and healthy bodies (despite whichever option my parents ended up choosing – we may never know, haha!). My parents did so much to help shape us into who we are, and while nourishing infants might be a part of the puzzle to raising kids, there’s so many, many things parents can do and be to influence their kids for the better.

  84. Lesley Costello says...

    Reading this article, I was waiting for the point: “Also, you don’t need a reason.” I think this is the most important point at all. You don’t need to justify to anyone what is right for your family!

  85. Leslie-Anne says...

    With my first daughter I had to return to work at 3 months and so I needed to wean her from the breast to a bottle. I was so stressed about it and felt so guilty. She drank the very first bottle I gave her like it was the best thing she’d ever had and it was that simple. I wept the whole time she drank it but it truly was the thing that my family needed to work and it worked.

  86. Holly says...

    Thank you so much for this. I struggled with my decision to have children and knew that if I had them, I just didn’t want to breastfeed. It never even occurred to me. I wasn’t breastfed, and most of the women in my family weren’t either. I didn’t feel pressure from anyone, thankfully, but I still felt alone. The thing that gets me is all the articles about breastfeeding that make it seem like that is the brave choice. I swear I never see articles like this one that point out that formula is good too (no qualifiers!). I LOVED that this article basically said, “you don’t need a reason”. You don’t have to qualify your choice – it’s ok to feed your baby any dang way you want to. My two children are happy and both slept through the night at 11/13 weeks. I had very difficult pregnancies and post-pregnancies (emotionally), and formula feeding was a life saver for me.

  87. Marie D says...

    I had my first baby 6 months ago. It’s so stressful to know what is best in some circumstances. I want my baby to thrive, to be well, happy, and safe! Those “trust your gut, mama!” comments have me eye roll, like …my gut says I don’t know what a baby needs to get them to where I want them to be (safe, healthy). We have experts for a reason, to advise us what to do.

    There’s so much information out there about breastfeeding v formula. I sometimes feel like I’m doing the wrong thing depending on what factor I’m looking at, e.g. my time, my sleep, my mental health, time I want to spend with the baby, caretaker’s patience, ease, up front money cost, etc.

    Articles like this are important to add to the conversation and help destigmatized choices that parents are contemplating or struggling with. And, I think it’s OK to acknowledge that big choices parents make about their children are hard, and might never feel 100% right. And what to feed your baby < 1 year old is one of those choices.

    • Molly says...

      First, congratulations on your sweet baby!

      But also, I agree with everything you wrote. The “trust your gut” refrain was very damaging for me during my early parenting days. I struggled with intense PPA and my “gut” was leading me to wild places. I needed advice, not a mantra.

  88. Catherine says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you CoJ! This post meant the world to me!

  89. Hannah M says...

    Loved reading the header “Also, you don’t need a reason.” Anyone that figures out how to feed a baby is a rockstar. Thanks for this wonderful post!

  90. Kealy says...

    Thank you so much for posting this! There is SO MUCH societal judgement out there, including from medical professionals (and even the information sheet the pediatrician passes out). Breast feeding was fairly easy for me and so I did it and will again with my next baby due in June. But, I was struck by all the seemingly congratulatory messages that exalted breast feeding and put down those who fed with formula. I feel strongly that it’s our responsibility as breast feeding mothers to call out judgmental statements from others about parents who use formula. We are all just parents, trying our hardest on little sleep and loving our tiny helpless creatures, no matter how we feed our babies. To everyone with a newborn right now – hang in there and enjoy those cuddles – you’re doing a great job!

  91. Rosie says...

    I hated breastfeeding but a big part of it was that my wife was able to be home with me for the first two months of my maternity leave, but I resented the hell out of the fact that she wasn’t working and still got to sleep through the night. In a fit of postpartum hormones I told her this during a fight and she just looked at me and said, “fuck breastfeeding. Let’s just do formula!” And that was that. The next feeding was my last and we were able to switch the formula feedings with each of us having one night on one night off. It was amazing. It also meant that my dad was able to come stay with the baby and my wife and I went away for the weekend about 7 weeks after I gave birth, something unheard of by most couples. If we had a second I would just start with formula.

  92. Julie says...

    I gave birth to my son at 32 weeks. I was in the hospital for 4 days before he was born and given medication to stop the labour. It did not work, bit it did of course stop my milk production. As soon as he was born, my son was rushed off to the NICU. I was not able to hold him until 4 days after he was born. And I was told I had to pump milk, but of course, I had little to no milk so a NURSE told me that I had to find a solution to produce more milk because it was a question of life and death for my son! And when one week later, I had no more milk and we had to only use formula, another NURSE told me that if my son had leukemia when he was 7 or 8 years old, it would be my fault. Hard to believe but a true story that happened in Canada! So this is indeed a subject that should be talked about and thank you for raising awareness to this.

    • Anna says...

      Julie, that breaks my heart and makes me so angry! The medical community needs to do better— comments like those are so harmful for the whole family.

    • Calla says...

      Julie that is so so horrifying! No one should have to hear something like that, but I can’t imagine what it would be like ON TOP of what sounds like an already scary and traumatic experience!

  93. Cameron says...

    I have Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT) and never produced more than a teaspoon or two of breastmilk with both my kids. So formula was the only real option for us. We do live in a community that has a robust breastmilk donor network so we were able to supplement formula with donated breastmilk from several mamas for the first 6 months. I think my babies have really gotten the best of both worlds! and, like so many other readers have said my partner and I are better able to share the parenting/feeding responsibilities AND get more sleep. They are both healthy, delightful kids.

    I want more new mamas to know that they have a choice and they are not failing or letting their kids down if breastfeeding isn’t the right path for them. Thanks for this post!

  94. Amanda says...

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this! I tried everything – eating, drinking tea, fenegreek, brewers yeast, every wives tail idea, power pumping – and still could not produce enough to feed my daughter. I went into a deep depression. I felt like a horrible mother because I could not do what women were made to do. I couldn’t bond because I just freaked out during each feeding. I cried when I would pump 5 times at work/day and still only make 4 ounces total. I was a mess. I finally allowed myself to formula feed thanks to encouragement from my sitter and my husband. I felt a freedom and a love for my baby that was hidden under all of the anxiety and shame from not being able to produce. Some of us try so so hard and it doesn’t work. Thank you for this article – I hope it helps other moms struggling and gives them “permission” to formula feed if that works best.

    • Meghan says...

      Amanda, I could have written the exact same thing. Almost word for word. I’m so glad we showed ourselves grace and compassion ❤️ If you felt how I felt (and I’m sure you did), then I am so so happy for you ❤️

  95. Amanda says...

    Love this post! I am a few years away from having kids but in my gut already know I want to formula feed and will be grateful if it’s more normalized when my time comes.

  96. Jillian says...

    Thank you for this really important post. My son had trouble latching, the consultant at the hospital totally traumatized me, and I never wanted to see her or another one again. My son was starving the first day we brought him home, and my husband insisted on giving him formula. I totally relate to Alissa in that I pumped and pumped, tried every single remedy out there, and eventually spiraled into out of control OCD. I got plugged ducts over and over, was in constant pain, and spent three hours in urgent care the day after Christmas with mastitis and a fever of 103. My mother would look at me and say quietly, you don’t have to do this, you know. My husband kept telling me to stop. And when I finally did and the milk dried up, I realized I had been in the throes of PPD and didn’t realize it. Like, it’s not normal to cry uncontrollably all the time and feel like you’re dead inside. Now, if I hear even a whiff of frustration with breast feeding from a new mom, I tell her my experience. Because it was a few kind women who told me they didn’t breastfeed that helped me to break out my personal hell.

    • anothermomma says...

      Similar situation here – I felt such pressure to breastfeed and made the PPD/PPA/PPOCD worse! It was terrible. I did have a husband mother-in-law who supported and encouraged formula feeding. I didn’t come out of it right away, but stopping breastfeeding definitely helped. Turns out my son has food sensitivities/allergies and the specialized formula was a God send for us! He started gaining weight and sleeping better and became a happy child. I started getting better, too (with lots of help). Good luck, mommas!

    • Nan says...

      I have three children. Each one I breast fed for approximately 4 months, and each time I switched to formula my PPD lifted. It still took a year to fully leave but the difference was amazing to me. I’ve heard other moms say they felt good while breastfeeding and struggle when they quit… So I don’t understand all the reasons behind it but I agree with everyone else here saying only you know what’s best for you and your baby. The info is all good to know, but if mama is not coping, everyone around her (baby included!) is affected and it quickly outweighs the pros of breastfeeding.

  97. Christina Copp says...

    I love this.
    I’ve been very much like your sister-in-law. There was nothing that interested me in breastfeeding, I get it’s ‘natural’ but it would feel unnatural to me. I’ve known always that I would formula feed, and I found making that very clear with my midwives and doctors, there was never a hint of pushback. I even asked for and received pills the next day to stop my milk (I don’t think they wanted to give them to me, but I knew they existed so I asked) I have absolutely no regrets about it. My baby began sleeping through the night around 11 weeks, she’s healthy, she’s happy, she’s meeting all her milestones, she seems reasonably clever and both my husband and I got to experience that bonding time. Absolute win-win!

  98. VVeronika says...

    Looks like shaming mothers for not breast feeding is universal. Ha! It’s very common here too (in Hungary) to judge mothers for it and what is even more upsetting: mothers judging other mothers for it. But not just this: Caesarean vs natural birth. Some really crazy ones even say that you cannot say you gave birth because you didnt, they “just” cut the baby out. seriously.
    Coming back to breast feeding how come people (even total strangers) feel like they can refer to my breast in any way ?! It is just not OK. Also nobody’s business, really. Why do they care? How is it relevant info to anyone? I agree probably breastmilk is better (the natural is always the real thing if you think about other stuff) but formula is a great thing and many generations have grown up with it.
    Me, struggling with infertility, going into my 4th IVF round couldn’t care less which way I will give birth or feed my child since my only wish is to be able to carry a healthy child in the first place. The other issues are totally insignificant to me and I cannot talk in the name of others going through infertility but I can guess they feel the same.

    • MJC says...

      Hi Veronika, I feel exactly like you described. Currently pregnant after multiple failed IVF rounds and my only focus is on delivering a healthy baby.
      Wishing you the best of luck for your IVF round!

  99. Susan Keogh says...

    Thank you, thank you , thank you, thank you!! I appreciate this post so much. I am a paediatrician who always thought I would breast feed well beyond six months, but it just didn’t work for me (thrush, mastitis, pain etc) and my now 7 month old is thriving and happy on formula. I am so glad this piece exists so I can direct other Mums to it if they are struggling. I love that you explored the medical side i.e. not being able to feed for whatever reason and then also just making the best choice for your family. I find myself justifying my choice to stop breastfeeding to people but it is actually none of their business and doing what is right for your family is ultimately always “BEST” for baby. Love this article so much. Thank you for all your wonderful work, making me feel less alone through miscarriage, early motherhood and all the challenges that brings.

  100. Julia says...

    I did formula and breast for both my girls, but I always felt a little ashamed it wasn’t exclusive breast. My boobs were always small and they failed me yet again. But then I read somewhere that you never really meet someone and wonder “was this person breastfed?” That made me feel better.

    • Christina Copp says...

      I love that. I couldn’t care less if someone was breastfed or not, nor do I think it’s reflective of the human they turn into

    • Madi says...

      This is a great perspective!

  101. Julia Smith says...

    Thank you for this. I’m well past the breastfeeding years but it was and is such a divisive topic – like so much of motherhood is! We are all doing our best, learning along the way, loving our kids and the fact that there is so much judgement around any of it makes me sad.
    On a slightly lighter note, the cultural differences are real. I had my first bub in the UK and managed 3 months on the breast – my choice, all of it. And the mid wives were all ‘didn’t you do well!’ 😁 Cut to baby number 2, 18 months later and born in New Zealand and when asked by the midwife about b’feeding when I said three months with my son she was massively disappointed in me and wanted to know what had gone wrong. Cue at least six months of trauma and hiding bottles with my daughter! I wish I been braver but there you go. xx

  102. IJ says...

    Thank you so much for this post. The photos are making me so broody!

    I tried to breastfeed by first baby and stopped after 10 days. I’d lost 2 litres of blood during a traumatic birth, and had a transfusion days later. I wasn’t producing enough milk and she was so hungry. I felt like an utter failure, and my postnatal depression got so bad, I had a breakdown and my baby and I were in a psychiatric hospital for a month. She’s now ten, smart, funny, sensitive, kind, and a brilliant, healthy kid.

    My second baby was fed a mixture of breast and formula and he thrived on it. It worked for us. SO MANY WOMEN don’t realise (and are never told) that mixed feeding IS an option. Your supply won’t dry up suddenly. It gives you a break and your partner, a friend or family member can feed the baby and feel that amazing close bond.

    There is such intense pressure on women from the moment they get pregnant. Have a natural birth (you had a c-section/epidural/interventions? Fail.), breastfeed (you can’t? Oh, well formula is just as good I suppose), use cloth nappies, let your baby wean themselves… it goes on and on. My mantra was always – fed is best. Your baby doesn’t know or care where their food comes from. They want milk and cuddles.

  103. Laurie says...

    Thank you for this post.
    I had always thought that I would try to breastfeed, at least for a few months, but then my pregnancy with my son hit me with one complication after another: Hyperemesis (I threw up until week 20!), pre-term labor, weeks of painful bedrest, placental abruption and an emergency c-section. The farther along I got in my pregnancy, the more determined I was to formula feed. Physically I had nothing left to give after all that, and I just needed my body to be my own again.
    Formula feeding was wonderful. My husband and I took turns feeding. He was able to spend just as much time with our son as I. It put us on a path to equally share parenting responsibilities. I got longer stretches of sleep and it helped me to heal, both physically and emotionally.
    I would exclusively formula feed again in a heartbeat. It made me a happier parent.

  104. Shannon says...

    In the early months of breastfeeding my son this past summer, I was so exhausted and depressed from painful feeding (tongue tie!) and itchy pumping (allergy to Dreft!) that I looked at Similac’s website one day to see if formula could save me. But before I could explore their content, I had to click a pop up acknowledging that “breast is best,” essentially. It made me feel so guilty that I closed the window entirely and pursued another four months of round the clock hell until we finally, FINALLY found our groove. Even though my rational brain says that I would choose formula or a mix of both if I had to do it all over again, truthfully, I’m still not sure! “Breast is best” is in there deep!

  105. tina crisas says...

    We live in greece, and whether one formula feeds or breastfeeds, it’s really not a big deal. Like, at all, no judgement, actually quite an indifference as to what one would choose. I did however want to breastfeed after reading ALL the comments and articles on various sites pertaining to this, especially regarding the intelligence factor and especially during my pregnancy where I was SO careful as to what I ate that in the end, I think it had the opposite effect instead of feeling “what a champ I was for not eating sugar! processed or take out food! coffee or soda!” and so on; I felt extremely restricted and then quite miserable when I breastfed. I tried for four months, and then I just thought of my sister when I said to myself, “Right, this isn’t for me”. She hadn’t breastfed and my niece was an honour student all her life and is now in her fourth year at university studying medicine (she dreams of becoming a children’s oncologist abroad and /or helping those in need) all this after foregoing a very promising and lucrative career in modelling having been a successful child model. My nephew is also at university and a promising soccor player. Both have always been healthy, happy and rounded in all they are and do. That’s what I had in mind that gave me the push to do what was right for me and be unapologetic about it (to me!). So far, my four year old is healthy as a horse, happy and curious. I think at the end of the day- happy mama, happy baby.
    But, if I’m being brutally honest, had I not had my sister’s example, would I have just carried on? Probably not, the need to feel comfortable and happy with my baby and spouse was too great, BUT, shamefully, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to admit it to strangers as I so wanted to be that “SUPER mum”. Now I know better.

  106. Annie Green says...

    It was never easy with my first baby but we cracked on for about four months and then I switched – the results were instantaneous, a happy baby who would sleep and smile and not be miserable. With my second, it was a different story and she was brilliant from the get-go. But when she was six weeks old, I had to go into hospital very suddenly and leave her at home with my husband. I was confident enough to have her switch to bottle feeding and, knowing that the drugs I was on would pass from me to her and possibly make her unwell, we stayed with bottle feeding. I guarantee you could not tell which of my adult children had more breast feeding/more formula. What you need at this difficult time – especially if you haven’t had a baby before – is perspective, not comments. Sadly, you often find the former hard and what really really really stuck in my craw were the comments from breastfeeders who implied that if I had just tried a bit longer, just given it a bit more….(head on side, small smile)….perhaps had more informed support…not given up (aaarrrghhhh!!!)…I promised that I would never make similar unasked-for statements to mothers. Kept that, no problem.

  107. Janey says...

    Thank you for this and how I wish I could’ve read it 20 years ago! I was very young when I had my first son and the whole breast is best thing was almost militant – from medical staff to my own family. Well I didn’t produce enough milk and my beautiful baby boy ended up on an i v line as he got dangerously dehydrated – despite me voicing my concerns repeatedly and being told “nature is never wrong” The guilt was enormous of course but watching him guzzle down bottle after bottle of formula and grow chubby and strong over the weeks felt so good. Needless to say when we had our second and third sons they were also fed formula right from birth. I had to be very firm about this decision in the hospital where they were very reluctant to bring me a bottle but I remained determined about my choice. Fast forward 20 years and they are strong 6 foot tall, healthy, intelligent super sporty humans (who absolutely adore their mumma!) and you know what?! No one asks or knows or cares how they were fed as tiny babies. What seems like such a huge thing at the time is actually so quickly forgotten in the whole lifetime of a person. So to anyone who struggles with breastfeeding or simply doesn’t want to do it for WHATEVER reason, it’s absolutely fine not to. It will all be ok!

  108. Teresa says...

    I find this post so interesting. I am pregnant with twins and asked my mother what she did when my sister and I were babies. She could only breastfeed for three weeks and changed to formula afterwards. No big deal. She hadn’t to explain it to anyone, nobody asked or made her feel guilty. It is interesting how that changed.
    I mentioned last week to a friend that I don’t know if I will breastfeed the twins a long time. And she said: The WHO recommands at least 6 months breastfeeding. And the guilt and shame started right there in my pregnancy. I have the feeling that I have to develop a thick skin for my decision, puuh.
    Thank you for the post and greetings from Germany!

    • Nina says...

      I’m also pregnant and have come across the WHO article your friend shared while doing a little research on feeding options.
      I have to say I was shocked at their strongly worded recommendation for ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ during the first 6 months, by which they mean that the infant should only receives breast milk with no use of bottles (I read this as no pumping). Beyond preferences/limitations or any other personal reason, this seems completely unrealistic for the majority of mothers. Even in countries with ‘generous’ legal maternity leaves (like my home country France), so many women have to go back to work after 3/4 months (if not before). There were no mentions of feasibility, let alone sleep needs or mental health for the mothers and I have to say my first was reaction reading the WHO article was, “this must have been written by a man!”.

      As you mentioned, it feels like guilt is around every corner during pregnancy (and I’m sure all along the journey of raising kids!) but I hope you can brush it off and enjoy the arrival of your twins!x

    • I work in public health and global child health and I can shed a little light on this: infants and their Moms in low income countries do not have the privilege of formula feeding their infant safely for a number of reasons. Many communities lack clean water sources to mix up formula, formula is costly, and it can be challenging to keep bottles and nipples sterile enough to prevent infection. Another barrier is lack of education: women in low income circumstances may be barred from access to basic education and lack the ability to mix powder formulas correctly, or they met choose to dilute the powder too much too make it last longer, unknowingly giving the infant inadequate nutrition. This can lead to increased rates of malnutrition and infections when both affect infant mortality. This post has opened a great discussion on breast and formula feeding. So many of the points quoted here don’t apply to women living in these circumstances.

      With that in mind I wouldn’t read the WHO guidelines as an attack against mother’s who choose not to breastfeed; instead think about the broader context of this issue and what a privilege it is to be able to offer formula safely in Western societies. Many women simply don’t have this luxury.

    • Lily says...

      Hi! I have twins, planned to exclusively breastfeed them (lol) and then pivoted to formula when one got dehydrated and ended up in the NICU on day 4. All I can say is please give yourself permission to do whatever makes sense to you. Nothing prepared me for the first few months with twins!! It has been an immense exercise in forgetting “should” and focusing on “feasible”

  109. Agnès says...

    Such a great post joanna ! Freedom for parents! I breastfed for almost 2 years, and… who cares? Honestly, lets let parents be!

  110. Kay says...

    Oh yes, the shame of it!!! I had trouble breastfeeding my first and also had postnatal depression so on the advice of a midwife switched to bottle-feeding, it literally saved me in so many ways but I couldn’t believe the way other people, especially mothers, treated me and spoke to me. Even my oldest and closest friend, the person who has always been there for me, went on and on about how everyone can breast feed and how I should work through the agony, the blood, the pus etc. My response was that breasts are just body parts!!! Body parts don’t always work very well, just because we have them doesn’t mean that they work as well as other peoples, I have eyes but wear glasses, another friend has all her female bits intact but can’t get pregnant. People are allowed to be deaf, blind etc and are respected for body parts not working at all or not well, how about the same respect for those of us that struggle using our breasts for feeding a baby!

    • Ezz says...

      Omg, that is SUCH a helpful way of putting it!!! My boobs kind of failed me with my first daughter, and I was sooooo upset about it. My sister had a baby at the same time, and could pump 10oz from each boob right after nursing. I’d be lucky to get 2oz after waiting two hours, it was miserable. I persevered for about five months, but when I look back at videos of my daughter from that time, she’s so scrawny, and I can now recognize all of the “I’m hungry!” signs she was exhibiting. She also didn’t sleep for more than about 45 mins at a time that WHOLE TIME. I so wish I’d had the “they’re just body parts that might not work as well as others” perspective, it would have saved me some serious guilt and sadness. Oddly enough, nursing was smooth sailing with my second daughter 🤷🏻‍♀️

  111. Elizabeth says...

    I don’t have children but that said it blows my mind that any mother would criticize another woman for the choice she makes on how she feeds her baby. Here we are, standing together at women’s marches, cheering women who have the courage to stand up against toxic work situations, and voting the first female vice-president into office yet we’re going to criticize each other over the decision to breastfeed or not. I find this so disheartening.

  112. Tess says...

    Wonderful post. Thank you Cup of Jo ❤️

  113. hvu says...

    What is it about pregnancy and early motherhood that evokes such strong urges for so many to comment on, make judgement, provide unsolicited advice? Similarly, what is it about pregnancy and early motherhood that makes mothers seek approval from self and others so desperately?

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Mothers are either suffering in silence or aggressively defensive. No one is this judgy and/or defensive about, say, dietary choices.

    I would love to see a post exploring this lose-lose dynamic we find ourselves in often. i’m far enough removed from the pressure of a first time mom (FTM) to see that no one else’s opinion mattered (save for the husband’s and the pediatrician’s). But I feel for those who are still under this pressure.

  114. Lesley says...

    So happy to read this post because it was hard to find this narrative ten years ago. I remember weaning my daughter at 10 months old and being given a hard time by a nurse. It was maddening and hurtful. Let’s not ever again be women who shame each other for making decisions that are right for our own families.

  115. Anna says...

    Never really questioned breastfeeding in the moment. It came easily to me, was convenient in many ways and I definitely felt that flood of love hormones that comes with it. Of course I was positively reinforced by the many subtle and not-so-subtle messages that come with it all too, and maybe that’s why it’s only in hindsight that I see how demanding it was on my body, and my person, and wonder at it all.

    It definitely reinforced my babies’ attachment to me, versus dad, as a caretaker. And there were certainly moments when it was NOT more convenient (ie pumping from airport bathrooms once I went back to work). It caused a ton of anxiety around pumping enough for daycare, too. I remember just chugging water at work to increase my production and then, on top of the pumping, having to get up to pee constantly.

    It honestly just didn’t occur to me that if breastfeeding was ‘easy’ for me that I could still just….choose not to do it. Or choose to do it less. I definitely felt like I’d be ‘cheating’ my babies out of ‘the best’…even if that wasn’t something I explicitly thought at the time, the message of ‘breast is best’ landed hard.

    Now, we’re well past the days of breastfeeding (funny how you go from obsessing about breast milk versus formula nutrition to just throwing them chicken nuggets SO FAST!). My oldest is 5.5 and will say sometimes, ‘Mommy are you frustrated?’ when yes I am clearly frustrated. This week I asked her how she feels when mommy is frustrated. She said, ‘Sad. I feel sad.’ It was the BEST reminder that a happy mommy is the best mommy.

    We would all do well to put a mother’s wellbeing on equal footing to her children’s. This post is such a great, needed step in that direction.

    • Tracy says...

      This is such a great comment! Love the chicken nuggets 😆 #facts

    • C says...

      Omg Anna, the truth of your nugget comment cut me to my core. Hahahaha

  116. KW says...

    It’s been 10 years since I breastfed and the pervasive pressure to do so was a problem. It would be one thing if there was no good alternative.
    The drawbacks to the mother can be quite significant. Breastfeeding is not easy for everyone. Mothers are generally willing to go to the ends of the earth for their children, it goes without saying that most of the sacrifices we make are necessary (and we don’t even count them as sacrifices). But demanding unnecessary sacrifices is cruel. Yes you stayed up all night but you bottle fed; therefore you did not do your best… this is terrible. Mom guilt is pervasive and real and a problem. I feel it was an unnecessary sacrifice for me to endure breastfeeding. I would go back and tell my younger self to not worry about it. The kid that got way more breast milk is not better off or healthier or smarter. The reason we don’t have allergies is either because we ate dirt or because we have dogs. My friends that produced tons of milk – so happy for them. Also it was something their bodies just did. They loved breastfeeding. They wouldn’t go back and change it. But I would! It is the only thing about having babies that I would go back and change. Breastfeeding was one of the hardest – and LEAST consequential – things I have ever done.

    • Katrin says...

      I‘m sorry that it was so hard on you and that you feel like it was an unnecessary sacrifice. However, may I say, since you already did it and there is no risk of sounding like I‘d want to pressure you, that it was surely not inconsequential and thus, in vain? The benefits of breastfeeding for the baby‘s immune system are not a myth, it is proven to help protect babies against infections and to reduce the risk of allergies significantly. Breast milk is also adapted to the specific nutritional and developmental needs of the baby at its specific age. So maybe it helps you to think of this – although it was hard and maybe necessary as in „a must“, it also wasn’t in vain or inconsequential. This is what I keep in mind when I remember the frustrating fact that my kids never drank a single bottle and started eating solid food very late, which was very hard for me at the time.

    • Katrin says...

      Sorry, typing mistake: „NOT necessary as in „a must“!“

  117. Tristen says...

    Happily staring at all these sweet happy babies!
    Baby photos are getting me through this pandemic.
    Baby raisers of the world, I salute you!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Me too!!