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Why Breast Isn't Always Best

Why Breast Isn't Always Best

Why Breast Isn't Always Best

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.”

Image Source: Lars Ploughman via Flickr/Creative Commons

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.

Join The Conversation
Sandy15207770 Sandy15207770 3 years
Stephanie, I'm not sure who you are or what your background is regarding breastfeeding other than breastfeeding your children. I did like the tone of your post sent directly to me. I am have been an RN and lactation consultant for over 35 years. I was unable to breastfeed my first baby and went on to successfully breastfeed my other two babies. I have an open mind regarding breastfeeding. I know there are times when an infant will not latch. In those situations, I tell the mom that it is OK if she chooses not to breastfeed and it's OK to bottle feed. I'm sorry for what you experienced when you breastfed your baby. Until you know me or what my practice is, please DO NOT judge me.
StephanieStone3056 StephanieStone3056 3 years
Some of the bfing Moms on here should be ashamed... Be careful not to fall from the pedestal you've placed yourselves on. To me bfing has to be the lazy option and I've breastfed four babies my youngest is still nursing and is over two years old! I don't have any bottles to wash, no getting up to fix them, no toting all the things involved with it. If a woman is giving her baby the nutrition it needs and love then that what counts.... Is breast milk better for the baby, most of the time though there are exceptions to that rule. But it doesn't mean it's the perfect situation for the child... My Daddy used to tease me and say I was made to be a wetnurse and he was probably right but some women aren't and some babies NO MATTER how hard you try are not nursers. So get off your high horse and just celebrate a mother taking care of her healthy baby! You don't walk their road so don't tell them how to get to their destination. God Bless Moms who love their babies and our wonderful kiddos. Rant over. ^_^
MelissaMedeiros85 MelissaMedeiros85 3 years
Agreed. Also,I believe there should be much more support for formula feeding mamma's. This is definitley a good resource
EllenFuller EllenFuller 3 years
MariaHanrahan I agree with you! I couldn't have said it better myself. You are an excellent mom for doing what was best for you and your family and it is horrible that people make others feel bad about their decisions. They don't even try to be considerate of others feelings. =)
CoMMember1363116739945 CoMMember1363116739945 3 years
I understand the stress, physical and emotional discomfort that can come with breastfeeding. I also understand the easiness of breastfeeding. Now breastfeeding my 3rd and it is easy but since I am a natural control freak it can be very stressful at times. My first was so easy to nurse and I quit nursing him at 4 months because I wanted to. I felt no more need to breastfeed. My daughter was quite a different story. Milk allergy, reflux, colic, thrush, mastitis, extreme lack of hind milk due to oversupply....the list goes on! I nursed her till 6 months old when she outgrew some of her digestion issues (a babys digestion isn't fully developed until about 6 months of age.) I was going to give up nursing her in the beginning but a friend encouraged me to attend a "la leche league international" meeting. Thank God for this friend and this grouo! These lactation consultants and moms know alot more about breastfeeding than most pediatricians and nurses. That's the whole problem. As new moms we think the docs and nurses are going to tell us all we need to know and unfortunately they're not. We have to seek out our own knowledge about breastfeeding and stop depending on the hospital pamphlets to explain it to us. Breastfeeding isn't always going to be easy and since it is best for most babies to be nursed we need to educate ourselves during pregnancy. I set small goals to help reduce the stress that comes from breastfeeding. First I set a goal to nurse her for the first month. The next goal is to nurse her until she starts immunizations at 2 months old. By nursing at least that long her body is protected from these diseases through my breastmilk. Set small goals.
MariaHanrahan MariaHanrahan 3 years
I am very far removed from the breastfeeding/bottlefeeding debate; or so I thought. My kids are now 15 and 13, and when each was born I tried breastfeeding. I expected this wonderful experience that everyone described in all the books and on the message boards. What I experienced was extreme discomfort and resentment. Every time I breastfed, I felt like I was going to become violently ill. And therefore every time it was time to feed my child, I become stressed. This continued to the point where my husband and I decided it was better for our family that I be the best mother I could be by losing the stress and resentment and switching to bottlefeeding. It was like a light was turned on. I became a better mother by choosing the bottle; if I hadn't, I think I would have likely gone into severe post-partum depression, I was so miserable with breastfeeding. If you think that makes me lazy or a bad mother, that's your prerogative and I feel sorry for you that you think that breastfeeding/bottlefeeding is the deciding factor in such things, and that you have so much invested in what other people do/think. I remember what it was like when I was going through those periods of time, and how much hate was spewed from other people online that decided I was a monster because I made the choice I made. It's sad to see that things have not really changed. So to the moms that are going through this now or will in the future, I suggest that you do what I did and choose whatever is best for you, weighing all the factors. In my case, being the best mom meant letting go of the guilt of not being successful with breastfeeding, and moving forward.
TatyannaWright TatyannaWright 3 years
Some women choose to nurse their babies (I did, and was fortunate to have a positive experience), and some women have negative experiences, like my best friend. We decided to write a book about our experiences. Its called "Breastfeeding: Real Moms Tell You How". It became the number one parenting book (hard copy) in Australia and Singapore. The book is now available in the US as an e-book only through amazon, Barnes & Noble and ibooks. It contains many similar stories shared on this post - women who struggled with nursing, felt guilty for turning to bottle feeding, and women who triumphed with both. At the end of the day, we all want a healthy baby, and sometimes natures gift of milk doesn't always work out. Don't feel bad, know you're not alone, and for those of you who enjoyed an amazing breast, feeding experience, like I did - Don't judge. You don't know why the other mother is feeding her baby with a bottle.
JenStevensonMoore JenStevensonMoore 3 years
It is actually TRUE that some moms can't produce enough milk. My son was born via c-section and because I didn't make enough milk, my son became dehydrated and spiked a temp. The paediatrician insisted he be supplemented because he lost 11% of his birthweight in three days. It had become serious enough that he was followed by pediatricans for 2 months afterward to ensure he gained enough weight. We were not allowed to leave the hospital for 6 days because of this and all of this could have been avoided if the nurses weren't so solely pro breast feeding because of what they learn in school and how ridiculously political breast feeding has become. The first nurse to suggest formula to me was scared to death to say it even though she knew my son was in trouble. Read that again. A medically trained professional was afraid to offer my son formula even though he was in trouble and it was what he needed to survive. How crazy is that? There is something wrong with a society that works this way. I kept breast feeding him for 5 months because i did love it but was never able to keep up with his needs. To all of the moms who say not trying to breast feed is selfish should choose their words carefully because what if with your next child you HAD to use formula be it for reasons out of your control or for the simple need of having more than one child who needs your attention? Or if moms who had a close friend or family member who just wasn't comfortable doing it? I am so tired of some breast feeding moms who have this superiority complex chirping "breast is best". Enough already. Get a new slogan. It's been shoved down everyone's throats enough and it really is getting old and from my son's experience, downright dangerous. There are millions of new moms out there reading these comments feeling bad about themselves as mothers, women and people who need support especially from all of us who have been there and done it. Motherhood as a whole is wonderful but hard enough without being judged by each other. If we would instead support each other, I bet we would have better formulas. In the next 20 years it won't matter which way you fed your kids. Formula isn't a four letter word but life is. To those judgemental moms, you should seriously get one.
SusieTaylor SusieTaylor 4 years
I have to chime in here. I breast fed my baby after I had a c section I swore I would never have but due to the fact that I was rushed to the hospital and almost lost my baby..I had not choice. and so once that wall of shame fell..I had the next one to face..the fact that my son was always screaming after I fed him. I was not aware how odd this was until I met up with my best fiends and their babies smiled and delighted after their feeding. I went to tons of Dr visits and finally after going off all types of foods ti insure I wasn't causing any allergy/reaction..I visited a old school DR. who tested my sons stool and found blood in it. He said he had an ulcer and I have to stop breast feeding for now..try nutra magin and see how it goes./ My son drank almost 8 plus oz at 4 months from the bottle that afternoon and was beyond happy!!! He never looked at my breast again, NEVER. I was giving him an ulcer it turns out..and thus the big dark hole of guilt took its place in my heart and I new from that moment on what "mother's Guilt" was all about. No matter how hard we try we are always aiming to do our best and we will always fall short of our desired goal and what I have learned..try to that is OK...trying is the most important and EVERY mother is trying and to judge is to be short sighted. Formula saved my child in so many ways and I thank the companies that make it. I am a yoga, organic eating eco mom who believes in well made products and formula saved my son!
ShaketaAbramovitz ShaketaAbramovitz 4 years
Yes in cases breast is best and the most nutrient rich for our babies but one most also realize that for some moms this is not medically possible or even medically advisable due to the fact that the mother may have HIV/AIDS may be a drug user, or any multitude of things that are not best for a babies body.
Bethany79499 Bethany79499 5 years
When I was pregnant, I planned on EBFing for the first 6 months, but when I wasn't producing enough milk after 5 days in the hospital and my DD was jaundiced and hovering around a 10% loss of birth weight, I had to supplement. My supply was affected greatly by this. After 6 weeks, the arthritis pain I had was unbearable and I had to go back on some of my pre-pregnancy meds, which meant I had to pump and dilute instead of feed from the breast. Last week (DD just turned 4 months) I had to stop even that, since I was put on stronger meds. The guilt is still lingering. And I am a working mom, too, so just call me "Satan." My kid is going to be one screwed up individual, not having the benefit of breast milk until 6 months of age and being watched 40 hours a week by either someone whom I have known since I was five or by her grandmother, depending on time of the year. Watch out world, we'll have another psycho on our hands now because of my poor parenting choices... Keep on judging, other moms whose kids are perfect, keep on judging.
dandelionheart dandelionheart 5 years
I was very lucky to have been able to breastfeed my two sons for a year+ each. But I embrace this article as a bottlefed child of a mother who felt so guilty that she was unable to breastfeed. She had hemorraging problems with my older brother and had to take a medication that you should not take when nursing... she had the same issues with me (and actually had to have an emergency hysterectomy within hours of delivery). This was the 70s and the pressure wasn't as bad then... and she still felt so incredibly guilty about it. Truly, as a mother, I know 99.99% of other mothers are always thinking of what is best for their baby. Whether it is a medical, situational, emotional, etc. reason - it is a private decision made between the mother, her doctor, and those that she chooses to involve in the decision - and I hope that it is an educated decision. Support each other - it is a rough world out there for ourselves and our children, the last thing we need to do is tear up another mom because she made a private decision on what would work best for her and her family.
LorraineBendjy LorraineBendjy 5 years
How to feed your newborn is a personal choice. It's really nobody's business except the new mom and dad. I had two C-sections and the recovery was long. Reading all these comments made me see breast feeding is not for everyone and no one should be ridiculed for bottle feeding. Let's all try to be supportive, no matter how we choose to feed our babies.
CoMMember13631171303412 CoMMember13631171303412 5 years
I have breast feed all of my kids, and I am glad i did as I was to lazy to take track of all the stuff that comes with bottle feeding. But, nevertheless, I heard one of my relatives gave birth and the doctors forbid her to breastfeed,for the reason of having one more client to the formula that they were selling. That i found it weird. But, thats how it is: some people can give birth easy some need inducing, some s-cection, and somemothers can nurse when others can not. Remember, while ago, in Nordic countries, mother that breastfeed were looked down. As a mother that breastfeed my babies, I think we should not judge those that can not, and the one that can not nurse, do not feel guildy about it. Is your baby your decision.No one will love the child more than you. So, give the bottle if this is your solution, and give love to the little one. And be a PROUD mother.You are feeding the baby.Oh,one more thing, just ask those mothers that look down on you if they know how hard and expensive is to bottle feed the baby???
LisaPhillips41738 LisaPhillips41738 5 years
Beth!! It is because of people like you that an article like this is written in the first place! I can't understand why you would make such generalizations about people being too lazy to Breast feed... Everyone has a reason for what they choose or choose not to do, and it is not up to You to assume it is because of conveinience! Wait! Let me pluck an assumption out of thin air and say that perhaps you were a bully at school..
BethBento BethBento 5 years
Hm... this is liking breast vs formula feeding to salads vs McDonalds. Not even attempting BFing is lazy and NOT best for your baby. Why do we support the usage of a chemical COCKTAIL for babies when we have perfectly functioning breast that produce the nutrients for free? B/c we are a lazy, lazy, selfish nation. Thank you also Nestle for convincing several generations of mothers that opting out of BFing is ok. It's not.
AlexisDial AlexisDial 5 years
Thank you for this article. Since the day I found out I was pregnant I have been made to feel like a bad Mom for not chosing to breast feed my daughter. There has not been a question as to why I did not breast feed just the automatic assumption that I did it for selfish reasons. I have a heart problem and take medicines that I would not want in my daughter's body. If it wasn't safe to take durring pregnancy then why is it safe to take while breast feeding. I know how bad I feel taking the medicines and did not want to risk my daughter's health with the same chemicals that she did not need in her body. I wish I could have breast fed her it would have been alot less expensive. I was in heart faliure when she was delivered so there was no time to breast feed my daughter. I take my medicines so I can be around to watch my child grow. I don't understand why Mom's cannot support eachother but it seems like people are quick to criticize and get on their soap box about issues. There is always more than one side to an issue, step back and listen before judging a situation. I do not judge a person for their choices and I would appreciate the same consideration. My child is healthy, has no allergies, and rarely gets sick.
TammyL49248 TammyL49248 5 years
As a mommy and foster mommy who cares for infants all I can give is my experience. All of the babies we have cared for have been bottle/formula fed. All were extremely healthy. In fact our sons are now 5 and 4 and neither have ever been on an antibiotic in their lives. I will agree that God made our breasts to feed our children, however, this does not mean that breast fed babies are healthier than formula fed. We have two living breathing proofs that this is just not true.
kimgarwood kimgarwood 5 years
Breastfeeding is definitely best for BABY, Bottle feeding is a chemical mixture made for profit, these are both well known facts, but I must agree with Rebecca that people are extremely insulting towards the women who make the choice to bottle feed. It is a private choice that should be thought through carefully. Honestly it's none of our business ... concentrate on your own families people and let others do the same!
AshleyAnderson78661 AshleyAnderson78661 5 years
"While breastfeeding may not be the best choice for every mother, it is the best choice for every child." Any amount of breastmilk for a child is better than none at all. Going back to work, going back to an unsafe medication (which there are very few that are unsafe, btw, and thanks to Dr. Thomas Hale's book, Medication and Mother's Milk, we know what to look for), poor latching, giving your partners bonding time, etc. are not adequate reasons for not trying at all.
KimmyCarone KimmyCarone 5 years
Both my kids had a milk protein allergy. They were allergic to breast milk (as well as every formula on the shelf). They needed prescription formula that no breast milk could have ever produced. I never felt guilty and I never felt like my decision to stop breast feeding was wrong. All that matters is what's best for your child and for YOUR family :)
RebeccaPerkins2452 RebeccaPerkins2452 5 years
Let me first say that I am very pro-breastfeeding. I EBF my daughter and I plan on breastfeeding with any more children. But good god, the comments on here are crazy rude! This woman had very good reasons not to breastfeed. Good for her to make that choice. And how wonderful that we do have that choice and we don't live in a world where what we do with our bodies is dictated by someone else. There are changes we need to make in how society sees breastfeeding, most definitely, things like more paid time off work, lactation support at work, public support for breastfeeding and an acceptance of breastfeeding as normal. However, that does NOT mean that we can hurt other mothers for thier choices. Mothers should be given the support and love they need to make the choice that is BEST FOR THEM. Because like it or not, one choice is not “best” for everyone.
KathyRowe17864 KathyRowe17864 5 years
How sad that people feel guilty instead of looking for the right information, there is no debate ' "Breast is Best" whether you like fact or not! The WHO is not trying to make any one feel guilty, it is there to give correct information. There is also the WHO code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which is now in it's 30th year trying to make the formula industry more transparent and encourage governments to enforce all voluntary agreements with the industry to disclose all information to consumers. Think about who makes the money when you chose to formula feed and is the reverse true for breastfeeding, breastfeeding is the only win win for families. And to the inappropriate comment on donor milk, I can only hope that you grow and see the wonderful contribution donor milk could provide to many infants who otherwise have to settle for second best/ basic nutrition and appreciate the selfless act of the donating mothers who give their time and precious resource so that others may also benefit. By the way do you have dairy products and eat meat from other animals bodies, would you accept a blood transfusion or organ donation for yourself or your children if you needed it? hmmmm should think about what is disgusting because I think it was your comment not donor milk!!!
BrittanyYoung98514 BrittanyYoung98514 5 years
Breast is always best, it's custom made for what your baby needs at all stages. It boosts their immune system, raises IQ, helps prevent breast cancer, etc... If you have to bottle feed so be it but always try to get as much breastmilk in their bodies as possible.
BelindaLubin BelindaLubin 5 years
I'm sick and tired of people trying to down grade breastfeeding because they chose to use formula. If you're so confident in your decision to formula feed, why the need to put down breastfeeding? Be happy about your decision and leave it at that. Human breastmilk is and always will be best for human babies. Period.
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