When my youngest child was born two years ago, I had no qualms telling the nursery I’d be bottle-feeding. The fact that he was my third bottle-fed child and that I had medical complications that made breast-feeding unrealistic eased my guilt considerably. But many moms hear “breast is best” and feel guilty about choosing not to breastfeed.
The breast vs. bottle debate can be vicious. With such influential organizations as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the World Health Organization recommending breastfeeding for the first six months of life, it seems that just about anyone you talk to can feel entitled to “give you flack all night and day” (as mom Lindsea W. puts it) about choosing bottle over breast.
A Choice That's Highly Personal
Unlike all those organizations, bottle-feeding moms don’t always publicly proclaim the reasons for their choice, nor should they have to. The reasons moms bottle-feed are just as personal and important as the rationales made by their breast-feeding counterparts.
Not everybody finds themselves in the optimal circumstances in which to breastfeed. There are circumstances in which it's simply not safe for a baby. In my case (and that of several other Circle of Moms members who have commented on this debate, including a member who goes by "Blackwood Karina"), sometimes a new mom has to go back on medications she couldn’t use while pregnant and breastfeeding.
There are also mothers who have tried to breastfeed and don’t produce enough milk, or have babies who, for one reason or another, can’t latch on. Others dislike breastfeeding and end up like mom Kristen C., who says simply and eloquently, “I am physically and emotionally drained.”
Breast Isn't Best When it Causes So Much Stress
But even giving voice to those reasons implies that bottle-feeding mothers like me need to justify ourselves. We don’t. I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments of Circle of Moms members Shawnn L. and Genie H., whose two bottle-fed sons didn't thrive until she gave up on breastfeeding and switched to the bottle, explains that “parenting [is] providing for your children in the best manner possible,” for both you and them. And while many argue that "the best manner possible" always means breast-feeding, I disagree. I think it is knowing your limits, and working, as Genie H. puts it, “to eliminate a lot of stress.”
In fact, a recent study published in the journal Child Development indicates that parental stress can affect children’s DNA and can make them more susceptible to stress-related diseases later in life.
If deciding to bottle-feed means your baby will have a happier, less-stressed out parent, then I wholeheartedly agree with mother of twins Jamie S. who advises her peers, “Do what you need to do!” She’s right. It’s about what you need to do, not what other people need you to do.
In some cases, that "you" includes your partner. Many Circle of Moms members said that their decision to bottle-feed enabled their partner to have more bonding time with their babies. I know my husband treasured late night feedings with our son, maybe even more than I treasured the sleep that allowed me to be a calmer, more attentive mother.
There will always be people who criticize your choice not to breastfeed. They will judge you, call you selfish, and try to scare you into thinking your baby won’t thrive. But Circle of Moms member Suzanne S. isn't having it. She doesn’t allow other people to make her feel guilty, nor does she feel the need to have to explain herself.
Not everyone is that confident, so it helps to remember what the fuss is all about. Circle of Moms member Ghislaine B. gives moms a perfect way to keep it all in perspective: "The guilt feeling will do you nor your baby any good. Just enjoy the beautiful bundle of joy you have.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.