Tuesday, January 25, 2011

True Confession: I Never Wanted to Breastfeed

I have confessed this once on my blog before. I did not breastfeed my daughter. I did not even try. And I am not ashamed of this fact.

That said, generally, I do not shout this off the rooftops. When I was pregnant and talking to someone and they would begin talking about "when you breastfeed," automatically assuming that I was going to, I did not correct them. I just smiled blithely and moved on to another subject. I've never wanted to get into a debate with someone over breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, because I don't think that's necessary.

The truth is, some women want to breastfeed. Some women LOVE breastfeeding. Some hate it, but do it anyway. Some women want to breastfeed  and try and cannot, for whatever reason. Some women have to pump exclusively for whatever reason, and they do that, no matter how hard it is.

And then there are those of us, I imagine it's a VERY small minority, who have no interest in it at all.

That was me.

I just never saw myself breastfeeding. I had no desire to do it. It seemed a little weird to me. Also, I'm the person who goes into the stall to change clothes at the gym, so there was no way I was ever going to be one of those people breastfeeding in front of others, covered or not. And I wanted my husband to share fully in the feeding as he would in all the other baby-related duties.

Since I was born in the 70s, at a time women were encouraged to use formula, my mother did not breastfeed either, so I did not get any pressure to breastfeed from her. She always talked about how great it was that my dad could give me a bottle while she made the two of them dinner when he came home from work and how they would pass me around to family members to feed when they went home to visit their parents and siblings every weekend.

My mother also told me that her mother, who breastfed nine children and then did formula with baby number 10 for some reason, told her that she wished she would've been able to do that with all 10 babies--it was so much easier.

Apparently the women in my family aren't natural earth mothers. :)

Although I had no desire to breastfeed, I did consider it when I became pregnant, mostly because my husband, who is much more natural and earthy than me (I attribute this to his Canadian-ness), thought I should. I thought, okay, maybe I could do it just for the first few weeks to give my daughter all those antibodies and such they talk about and then switch to formula.

So, on one of our OB visits, I asked my doctor, who I've been going to since I was in high school and trust implicitly, about this first few weeks' idea.

"You're going back to work, right?" he asked me.

"Yes," I replied.

"Well, unless you're really going to commit to breastfeeding for at least a few months, I wouldn't recommend starting it then moving on from it so quickly...better just to do formula from the start," he replied.

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised at his answer, but since I didn't really want to breastfeed anyway, it was fine by me.

But the final nail in the coffin on any thoughts I had around potentially breastfeeding came when I researched the medicines I take and if they would be safe to take while breastfeeding.

One, my migraine pill, was not. And that was all I had to hear.

I've suffered from horrific migraines for years. Most of my migraines are triggered by hormonal changes. Without medication, I cannot function. At all. I cannot think, I have to be in dark rooms because light bothers me, and I get so nauseous I throw up.

I was not allowed to take my migraine medication while I was pregnant, and I suffered two three-day-long migraines in the first trimester, when hormones are all over the place, that were so awful and debilitating, I felt like I wanted to die. I also threw up for the first time in my pregnancy (the only other time I threw up while pregnant was when I was in labor!).

With those two awful medication-free pregnancy migraines fresh in my mind, I considered how I would fare as a new mother if I could not take my medication and was struck with a migraine while caring for my baby. And I knew I could not. I needed to be able to take my medication and have the migraine go away fairly quickly so I could be a good mom.

So that became my "good for the public" excuse for not breastfeeding. That was how I got anyone questioning my decision off my back. And it is a very valid excuse and I stand by it.

But the plain truth is, I never wanted to breastfeed anyway.

When my daughter was born, after I held and snuggled with her for a bit, they were going to take her off to the nursery for a checkup and a bath and a bottle. Since I wasn't breastfeeding, the nurses wouldn't let me give her a bottle before they took her away, they said they were going to do that in the nursery, which I have to say, seemed kind of mean--they couldn't hand me a bottle of formula? I felt like I was being punished here a little for my choice not to breastfeed.

However, since we had already planned for my husband to go to the nursery with our daughter and take pictures of her first bath, I requested that they let him give her the first bottle and they did. It was pretty special for my husband to get to be the first to feed her, since I had done most of the nurturing up to this point. :)

This was my daughter's first feeding at home on the third day of her life.
My husband and I both wanted to do it!

For the first four months of her life until she went into daycare, my daughter was never sick. And I didn't keep her at home in a cocoon--we went out to eat, over to visit friends and the grandparentals, to the mall, all over. She was extremely healthy.

The end of her first week in daycare she had a cold and an ear infection. I felt extremely guilty about putting her in daycare and exposing her to all those germs. But all the babies had some cold, infection, or illness, even the babies whose mothers came and breastfed them on their lunch breaks while I was there feeding my daughter her bottle on my lunch break.

I felt more guilty about going back to work and exposing her to daycare germs than I ever did about not breastfeeding.

But, as I do on many topics, I support every woman's personal choice in this matter. If you want to breastfeed, I support you. If you pump exclusively, I support you. If you, like me, do not want to breastfeed, I support you. If you cannot breastfeed and want to get milk from a milk bank for your baby, I support you.

My husband mentioned this news story to me recently, about women going to milk banks to get milk for their babies, and was surprised when I had no problem with it. I guess since I had been pretty strident about not breastfeeding myself, I gave him the impression I thought breastfeeding was wrong. And I really don't! It just wasn't right for me.

I have friends who have breastfed their babies, and those who wanted to but have not been able to, and I did not. All of us made the right choices for ourselves and our babies. It would be nice if we could all support each other and our individual choices.


  1. This is a beautifully written post. I love that you did what was right for you and your family. Not necessarily what you perceived other people would want you to do. It makes for a much less stressful home and that can only be a good thing when it comes to raising a child.

  2. Thanks Nilsa. It can be hard not to succumb to external pressures, but I was confident I was making the right choice for me and my baby and I was lucky to have my mother's support for my choice. And I think, in the end, my husband was really happy to get to play such a big role in her feeding in the early days too. That picture is pretty representative of how we did every feeding for the first 10 days until my husband went back to work LOL! After that, I took the late shift and he got up early to feed her before he went to work to let me get a little extra sleep, and it was wonderful. Hope you and Gavin are doing well!

  3. Seriously? I could have written this post. It's exactly how I felt about BFing, except I didn't have a "good for the public" excuse for not doing it.

    When people assumed that I was BFing, I would correct them by saying "I'm not nursing." For me, I just had no interest at all in it and I knew it just wouldn't work for me and my family. I had very short maternity leaves with both babies and had no where to pump when I retuned to work FT anyway. It just wasn't worth it to me to *try* to BF when (1) I didn't want too and (2) I knew I wouldn't be able to do it for long. Thankfully my husband was 100% supportive.

    This post was very well written and supportive of everyone's choices. Like you, I support what any mother does, because she's doing what's best for her and her family. As long as your feeding your baby, that's all I care about =)

  4. Thanks Jenni! I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who felt this way...it's certainly a hard thing to admit publicly, given the current nature of debate over breast vs. bottle. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  5. Thank you for sharing this post with me -- do you mind if I add your link to my post? So many of the moms who commented are like me -- they nursed (or wanted to) right from the start, and I think they'd really appreciate hearing your honest explanation of why you chose not to.