Battling the Mommy Wars: Bottle-Feeding versus Breastfeeding

If there is ever a “battle” between moms, it’s the age-old debate on bottle feeding versus breastfeeding. I’m not sure why this continues to be a “thing” for moms, but it is. After the recent story about a mom getting denied permission to breastfeed on a Delta flight without a coverup, we are reminded that breastfeeding still has a negative stigma in this country. The bottom line is every mom wants the best for their baby, and no one else besides mom knows why they choose the way they feed their babies, and whatever way you choose is the right way.

I Did Not Breastfeed My Son

Shame on me, right? Well, if someone was judging me when I was bottle feeding my son I would have told them this: My son did not come into this world as planned. His exit began at 34 weeks. And for 72 hours –yes 72 HOURS people – I was in latent labor. Brendan was born weighing 4 pounds and was sent to the NICU immediately. My first attempt at breastfeeding Brendan was unsuccessful, as wells as my second, third and fourth attempt. After many more attempts, I had to choose, feeding tube or bottle. Well, duh.

 Bottle Feeding

So Brendan had my breast milk from a bottle for about eight weeks. Then, I started him on formula. It was a very tough decision, but the right one for me. Maybe it was my very first feeling of MOM GUILT. Why? Because it wasn’t part of my plan? Because I would be less of a mom if I didn’t give him breast milk? I don’t know. We hear things, we read things, we feel pressured. Maybe breastfeeding was part of your original plan, but as moms, we always need to expect the unexpected. You are no less of a mom because you chose formula. It took me awhile to accept this fact, and when I finally did, I handed DAD the bottle and said, “Your turn.”

Brendan and Mommy

Only love and comfort from those boobies.

So I was a bottle feeding mom. And I was fine with that–for a short while until I finally started making more mom friends. I seemed to be surrounded by breastfeeding moms. Oh the guilt, the shame I felt. Maybe it was because I actually saw other moms whipping out boobs to feed their baby–so free and easy. Or maybe it was because other moms would tell me, oh yeah, we had issues at first but I just kept trying, and it finally worked. I see, I didn’t try hard enough. Well thanks, now I feel like an even bigger failure. Perhaps it was when other moms would say you just can’t bond with your baby like you do when breastfeeding. Sadness….. You wanna know something funny? Turns out Brendan was “tongue tied.” And the first thing the ENT asked me when we went in for a consult when he was 18 months old was “Did you have trouble breastfeeding?” The whole situation sort of made me resent breastfeeding moms, maybe it was jealousy, but I never saw it as this amazing thing. In fact, I started to feel like breastfeeding moms who kept breastfeeding after 12 months were weird. I thought, maybe still think, that breastfeeding toddlers is more for the mom than the child… Let the Mommy Wars begin, yes??? But wait…..

I Did Breastfeed My Daughter

Just because of my bad luck with Brendan I wasn’t going to give up the chance to experience breastfeeding with my daughter. I will say though that because of my experience, I kept telling myself I’d only do it for six months.

 Breastfeeding Mom

Sweet Audrey was born at 39 weeks, perfectly healthy and a pro at latching on. She was a breastfeeding mom’s dream! Six months came and went, and we were still happily breastfeeding. I’ll be honest, I felt kinda cool, like a member of an exclusive club. I could whip that boob out whenever and wherever. How awesome. Then I started getting the weird stares from strangers, men and women, even other moms.

Why does breastfeeding make so many people uncomfortable? Why are there so many stories and pictures that stir up so much negativity? And why is it that a large part of the debate comes from other Moms? We need to support each other’s choices rather than bash them. See Kacey’s post about needing thicker skin!

Ironically, when I would see a mom shaking up a bottle of formula I would think (NOT SAY) to myself – she should just breastfeed, it’s easy. HA. Face palm. CHECK YOURSELF MOM, THAT MOM WAS YOU! That mom has a story of why she chose to bottle feed. Maybe she thinks it’s icky, fine. Maybe she cried herself to sleep because she tried and tried and tried and baby wouldn’t latch. Maybe her milk never came in. Maybe she was just a new mom and didn’t have enough support, so she made a choice that only mom can make about feeding her new baby.

Sweet Audrey

So here I am, with two completely different stories–both sides of the coin. I felt the inadequacy of not being able to breastfeed, AND the stigma that so many breastfeeding moms experience, and both usually caused by other moms! Do I feel a stronger bond with my daughter? No. Is one less intelligent or less healthy than the other? No. I fed my babies. Period.

Were you ever criticized for the way you were feeding your baby?

 

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18 Responses to Battling the Mommy Wars: Bottle-Feeding versus Breastfeeding

  1. Rai Y Feb 26, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    I breastfed both mine, my first for an extended time, and there is definitely a stigma. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard “Why don’t you just pump when you go out?” Um, because pumping blows.
    On the flip side, my second daughter is not a good nurser, and there are definitely days when formula looks so very very tempting! I’ve resigned myself to the idea that we may end up supplementing, and that’s ok.

    • Tiffany Feb 26, 2014 at 10:43 am #

      Pump? Clearly that person didn’t do that. I totally agree, pumping is hard work and totally blows. 🙂 I love that I could nurse both of my kids although with my first I ended up having to supplement with formula on top of it all so I’ve been on both sides.

    • Vicky Feb 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      Pumping totally blows! Thanks for sharing Rai!

  2. Wendy Feb 26, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    I nursed my older daughter until 11 months, 9 of which were exclusive. After that, I wasn’t getting enough for her pumping at work and she was less interested in nursing so we supplemented with formula during the day. I nursed my younger daughter through my 3-month maternity leave but as soon as I went back to work she would suck down three pumping sessions in one bottle! Heck no I am not pumping for 30 minutes every two hours while also trying to be productive at anything. I kept pumping/nursing while supplementing for another 6 weeks but then just resigned myself to formula.

    I totally admit to involuntarily judging bottle moms when I see them out, when I was breastfeeding and even now that I’m doing it too! It’s more thinking “I hope they at least tried to breastfeed.” I think it’s sad to hear a mom say they just didn’t want to and never tried. Past that, there are plenty of reasons it just doesn’t work out. Your kids will still go to college if they’re formula fed 🙂

    • Vicky Feb 26, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

      Involuntarily judging is a good way to put it Wendy. Sometimes you can’t help what you think.

  3. Kristin @ A Mom on the Run Feb 26, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Like you, I had totally different experiences with each of my kids.

    With my first, I got a terrible case of mastitis at 2 weeks and ended up having surgery when he was a month old to drain abscesses from both breasts. I had MRSA and the antibiotics they gave me wouldn’t make it go away. It was awful and I don’t even remember most of his first month. Even after that, I beat myself up over giving him bottles of formula. I did go back to nursing him once I healed, with the help of my doula, but I still had to supplement and felt like I failed him.

    With my second, she latched on after birth and has been nursing like a champ ever since. We haven’t had a single breastfeeding related issue..well, maybe except that she’s now 2.5 and refuses to give it up! 🙂

    I can’t tell you that I was more bonded with my daughter because she was exclusively breastfed though. I feel an amazing connection to both of my kids and I don’t think the way they were fed as infants has anything to do with that.

    • Vicky Feb 26, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      Thanks Kristin! Sounds like you went through a really tough time after your first. I had mastitis too but not nearly as bad as you. I can’t imagine. Glad you had a happier experience with baby #2!

    • Amy Feb 26, 2014 at 7:19 pm #

      Oh my goodness, the exact same thing happened to me too! I’ve been looking all over the internet trying to see how common it is, (which it’s not haha), and trying to find someone else that had experienced the same thing! I cried when I read your comment. I’ve had the worst guilt since having to supplement and fear that I’ll never be able to successfully BF in the future. You’ve given me hope, so thank you. I’m so sorry for your pain and struggle with your first, and am so glad that everything worked out for you!

  4. Kellie Woodle Feb 26, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    I breast feed both of mine, but only for 3 months with Brett – after I went back to work I couldn’t pump and it dried up after a month – Hannah for two weeks – she kept losing weight and it freaked me out – I agree being a mommy is hard enough without always being judged for personal preference – at the end of the day it’s about loving them and doing the best you know how

  5. Stacy Cross Feb 26, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    Fantastic post! I totally agree…..and in life, in general, we should never presume to know why people chose to do what they do. More grace and less judgement is always a good policy!
    Also, interestingly, I had a similar experience with my two births. I’ve had a c-section and a vaginal delivery. I feel blessed to have gotten to experience both! It’s amazing what each side has to say about the other, though. So many assumptions and so much self-importance!

  6. Lindsay baltozer Feb 26, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    The article and subsequent comments all start the same “I tried to breastfeed……..” Why can’t anyone just say, I bottle fed and leave it at that, this is part of the problem. I saw a comment on Facebook regarding this blog “Did you feed your baby? Good. Keep doing that.” That’s someone who actually gets it.

    • Vicky Feb 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

      Of course I tried to breastfeed. Why wouldn’t I? But that was my choice, and probably most moms, but not all. My mom never did and was very happy bottle feeding, that was her choice. My point was either way it was my decision and any moms that struggle with their decision should just do what feels natural. And yes, just feed your baby 🙂

  7. Katherine Feb 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    I tried desperately to breatfeed both my kids but they just never got the hang of it. Maybe bc they were both born a few weeks early. I detested moms that look down on bottle feeding moms. We feel bad enough and don’t need the judgements. By the way my kids are both healthier and less sick than alot of breastfed kids I know.

  8. Lina Feb 26, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

    such a great article thank you! yes I missed the class in what to REALLY expect as a parent – they didn’t review it in birthing or breastfeeding classes! our plan was to nurse as long as we ciuld, but our son had different plans. after many many visits w lactation consultants, changing my diet, milking groups and nights of lots of crying (mama) we transitioned to formula at 4 months (after pumping like an insane woman – all day long, in the car etc) instead of BEING w my son…I still feel guilt & shame and a lot of jealousy – but at least we got a good 4 months. honestly it’s one reason I want another baby – a do over! but we are happy w our little miracle! thank you for shedding some much needed light! xo

  9. Lindsay baltozer Feb 26, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

    Vicky, the point I was trying to make wasn’t that you shouldn’t try breast feeding if that’s what you want to do. Rather the pressure for us bottle feeders to explain that we did in fact try so that we are not “involuntary judged”

    • Vicky Feb 26, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

      Thanks for clarifying Lindsay. I totally get what your saying. I did feel like I had to always tell my story of why I wasn’t breastfeeding. Apparently a lot of other moms feel the same way. Maybe part of it is the insecurity of being a new mom. But you’re right, it doesn’t make any difference.

  10. Kelly Feb 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I am still exclusively breastfeeding my 10 month old. I get weird looks all the time and lots of annoying “why are you still doing that” and “how LONG are you going to keep going” questions. you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. most people make judgments because of their own insecurities.

  11. Elizabeth Aug 5, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    I had a horrible bfeeding experience with my son. He ate me up and at a LC Mommy and Me session we found out he was tongue-tied. All my new mommy friends didn’t understand how difficult bfeeding was for us and by the time we found out we were almost exclusively boob to bottling it because of the stress of it all. Mommy guilt sucks and then you have all the comments from well-meaning friends. Like you I didn’t want to give up, so this time around I am giving it a shot again, but it is full of it’s own challenges as I have newborn twin sons. Neither tongue-tied, (I had everyone at the hospital check, and I mean EVERYONE), but we still have difficulty because of many reasons: preemie, bfeeding is a lot of work for babies, especially small babies, my nipple size, etc. The LC calls me every other day at home while we try to get things working, but to get them to gain weight we have had to supplement. Do I regret it, no, but I do have the guilt. I would rather have my babies grow than sit there and scream because they are in pain from being hungry. We had a weight check this morning. At a little less than a week and a half old we are back to birth weight!!

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