I Didn’t Breastfeed Because I Didn’t Want To

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It’s taken me years to work up the nerve to write this blog post. My determination to do things my way when I had my babies and offer up no explanations is only matched by my fear that I’m going to be blasted for saying, “No, I didn’t breastfeed, and no, it wasn’t because I couldn’t.” Honestly, I don’t even know if I could or couldn’t because I never tried. I didn’t want to.

New and expectant mothers look to those with some time under their belts for wisdom, and I think it’s so important for them to hear a plethora of different experiences. When it comes to feeding, I realize my generation is a bit short on women who choose formula feeding out of want versus need. Or at least we’re short on women who will vocalize it.

So here I am, someone who never attempted breastfeeding, not even once. I’ve always been happy with my decision, and I know hearing that will help someone leaning the same way. I have a handful of reasons for choosing formula, but I’m not going into them. I’ll just say that I didn’t want to breastfeed.

The first meal for my first baby. I still remember how my voice calmed his crying right before.

I had some misconceptions of what being an exclusive formula mom would be like.

If I were creative and wanted to take the time, I’d make a meme with what I thought being a formula mom would be like versus what it was really like. The photo on “thought” would be me cowering down with a bunch of people yelling at me. The reality would be me feeding my baby while everyone around me just kept doing their thing. Because you know what? That was the reality. No one cared about the powder I mixed into warm water. There were no nasty comments, no sideways glances, no nothing. Even at the hospital, all I had to say was that I was using formula. No lactation police came after me begging me to at least try. Instead, I was given pre-made formula and instructions for when to cut my newborns off.

I’ve only received one awkward comment about formula feeding my baby. Someone who knew I chose it because I wanted to let me know she thought it was a waste of perfectly good milk. I knew I didn’t want to do all the work involved in production and extraction, so I let the comment go. Whatever.

I think we can talk ourselves into perceived shame, and allowing that to dictate our parenting decisions is an unfortunate place to be. I’m so glad I didn’t decide to breastfeed simply because I assumed I’d be judged by others. I think I’d have a lot of regret if I did.

I fully support women who choose to breastfeed.

When people find out I didn’t breastfeed just as a preference, there can be an assumption that I don’t support breastfeeding. Nothing could be further from the truth! Here’s the thing: Motherhood is absolutely a sacrifice, and the ways we give ourselves for our kids can’t be measured. The work of motherhood is something no one can prepare for, and I think it’s so important to acknowledge that every mother is amazing, no matter what personal decisions she’s making. If a woman is providing a safe, secure place for her babies to thrive, a place where they know they are loved beyond words, she should never have to explain any of the details. And the way she feeds her babies? Those are details.

I love mothers who breastfeed. I love the ones who cover up and the ones who don’t. I love mothers who don’t leave the dinner table to nurse and the ones who prefer a quiet area away from the crowd. I love the ones who pump and the ones who are all boob all the time. I love the women who seek out breastmilk for their babies when they can’t produce it and those willing to share. I have all the respect in the world for women who breastfeed, even though I chose not to be one of them.

How do you stop milk when you choose not to breastfeed?

First of all, it’s not fun. My milk came in a couple of days after each of my deliveries, and I’ll just steal my doctor’s explanation as to what happened. Basically, your body produces milk for a reason, and when you don’t use it, your body assumes something is wrong; so, you get a little sick. I basically felt flu-like symptoms for a day each time, which I admit wasn’t ideal as I was also caring for a newborn. Oh, and my boobs turned to enormous bricks that I swear reached my neck. I’m assuming this is what happens to breastfeeding women when they need to nurse their babies, but it was super foreign to me.

Two under two was a special kind of hard. I’m so glad I made choices that were best for my family.

To stop the milk, I used a couple of things:

  • Cabbage leaves (washed and stuffed inside my sports bra)
  • Ice packs (specifically, infant diapers soaked, frozen, and stuffed in the sports bra)

Be patient, and take some ibuprofen if needed. Everything will return to normal in about a week, which is way ahead of your vagina or your incision. So there’s that!

How do you bond with your baby if you don’t breastfeed?

I remember seeing and hearing so much about breastfeeding being a bonding experience, and I absolutely believe it is. I also believe formula feeding is a bonding experience. I was the mom who wanted those middle of the night feedings, even though my husband technically could have taken them. Sitting with my sons in their nursery when it was just them and me in a quiet house was precious to me. I did skin-to-skin, despite using a bottle. I looked into their eyes. I spoke to them. I sang songs. I was their mother, and I could offer as much security with a bottle as I could with a breast.

This is a good time to mention that if you’re going the formula route, a Baby Brezza is a must. I registered for one and never looked back. I’ve even given one as a gift for a friend who fostered babies because it’s that vital to the formula mom. (By the way, that’s not an affiliate link.)

My kids are doing fine. I promise.

I have two little boys who are four and six. There is zero correlation between me feeding them Costco formula for a year (or whatever free samples I snagged from name brands) and their development versus if I’d chosen to breastfeed. However, I’ll say they’re happy and doing fine. We’ve never faced any major sickness with either one, not even an ear infection. I’m only mentioning that because one thing moms-to-be are told is that formula can set kids up for weakened immune systems. If my boys are any indication, that’s not always true. They get glowing reports from the pediatrician at every well visit. They’re right on track for being the typical kids they are. They’re also super intelligent, great dancers, and genuinely kind. They have thrived.

Do what’s right for you and your family.

You don’t owe anyone information as personal as how you feed your babies. Do what works for you, be it breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination. Your children are lucky to have you as their mom, and the way you feed them is a very, very small detail in the security you provide.

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Jenny-Lyn was born in Decatur, grew up in Ohio, and moved to Birmingham as a teenager. Her favorite things about Birmingham include sweet tea, the use of Sir and Ma’am, and the way people offer friendly smiles while out and about. Oh, and the food. Jenny’s background is sales and marketing, each of which she enjoys putting to use behind the scenes with Birmingham Mom Collective. After getting married, Jenny moved from Birmingham to Minneapolis where she invites anyone interested to visit around August. She’s strongly connected to Birmingham through friends, family, and of course Birmingham Mom Collective. Jenny and her husband Soo-Young have two sons, Michael and Jonathan. She guesses she’s officially a boy mom, and that’s a pretty good thing to be in her book.

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