Today’s guest post is from my friend Barb. I met Barb when I was doing an internship in college. She was my boss and was full of wisdom. Not only did she teach me a lot about writing, public relations, and office diplomacy, she was also kind of hilarious. I remember her saying during one morning meeting, “I just feel fussy today. Fussy like a baby.” That imagery has always stuck with me and made me laugh. Sometimes even as adults (moms even!) we just feel fussy- maybe not even for a particular reason. So to this day I will tell my husband when I’m having a “fussy” day and think of Barb.
She had kids after I moved away and I remember my mom telling me she didn’t want to breastfeed (my parents were in a Bible study with Barb and her husband). I knew her husband was a doctor, so I wondered how she came to that decision. I never talked to her about it, but I’ve been blessed to touch base with her over the years and to see how healthy and happy her kids are and what a great mom she is.
So as I was putting together these breastfeeding posts, I really wanted to include Barb’s voice- the voice of a woman who weighed her options and chose to bottle-feed. She was gracious enough to answer my questions and I was fascinated by her answers. I love her confidence in her decision, the support she had from her husband, and how she valued her own needs because it’s easier to have happy kids when you’re a happy mom. I hope you enjoy hearing from Barb. I find her entirely delightful. . . even when she’s a little fussy.
At what point did you make the decision to bottle-feed?
I really never thought about it, my mom didn’t breastfeed (I have much younger siblings, so remember very well when they were born) and neither did my older sister. I was never really around it; and to be honest, I was very uncomfortable with the idea of it. Honestly, it wasn’t until I was pretty pregnant that the issue even came up between my husband and I. He assumed I would and I assumed I wouldn’t.
What factors did you consider when making your decision?
How I felt about it for me was a big one. Other people breastfeeding never bothered me, but when I thought about it for me, even the thought seemed very unnatural. We also considered the bonding issue between my husband and baby. He was able to get up in the night and bottle feed and really bonded with our son. I had post-partum depression with my first baby; and since I had my second baby less than a year later, the decision to bottle feed my second was a no-brainer.
Did you have any grief or regret once you passed the window for changing your mind?
Did you run into any judgement from others about your decision?
Yes, I did. My husband is a physician, so it was a very unpopular decision with his co-workers. Ironically, these same co-workers had no qualms about putting their children in daycare all day, every day. One even said to me, “Breastfeeding is what I can do for my child before I send her to daycare.” I am a stay-at-home mom and have always been a little surprised with the attitude that if you don’t breastfeed, you are somehow less of a mother, but these same people have no issues with daycare and letting someone else raise your child. That being said, I understand that sometimes daycare is unavoidable and not a choice for everyone.
I also had people say very judgmental things about the money we were wasting on formula. It was not an issue for us, because the Similac rep gave my husband free cases of formula, so we never had to buy it. Incidentally, I didn’t ever mention that to people, for two reasons: 1. most people don’t appreciate that fact that doctors get some of these perks (I tend to agree…) and 2. it wasn’t any of their business.
Were you and your husband always on the same page about it?
After we discussed it, we were. He was very supportive of our decision, and actually, probably had to deal with more judgmental comments than I did, since he worked within the medical community. He always backed me up.
How do you respond to the idea that “breast is best”?
I would say that 99 percent of the time, that’s probably true. I would also say that there are other issues that you need to look at when making the decision for yourself, mental health being one of them.
Did you feel your children missed out on health or bonding benefits because they were bottle-fed? How did you compensate for what they missed?
I don’t. Today’s formulas are extremely healthy; in fact, maybe more-so than breast milk, depending on the diet of the mother. I had no problems bonding with either of my children. I would also say that my children were always very healthy and today are straight-A students, so the arguments about immunity and intelligence really don’t hold a lot of water with me.
What was the biggest benefit of bottle-feeding?
Probably the bonding between my husband and children.
What was the biggest struggle?
The “advice” and judgement from other people.
What advice would you give to the mom making a decision about breastfeeding or bottle-feeding?
Talk to your husband, first of all. Pray about it, and then do what is best for your family.
How can friends be a support to a woman who is making the decision to bottle-feed?
Don’t be judgmental or give her advice on what she could maybe try differently in breastfeeding. You may never know all the reasons someone has chosen to bottle feed, but it is a personal decision.
If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
No, I wouldn’t. I have very happy, smart, healthy children (now 10 and 11) and I don’t think my decision to bottle feed them harmed them in any way.