Why I chose not to breastfeed and why it was the best thing I could have done.

I didn’t see Loose Women today, but I have heard about it. During a discussion on breastfeeding Jamelia stated that women who don’t breastfeed are selfish. There are many reasons why a mother chooses not to breastfeed, and I am pretty sure they aren’t down to selfishness. I am constantly appalled by the lack of support and compassion we show our fellow mothers, when we are all aiming for the same thing – to raise our children as best we can. Heres my story on my decision not to breastfeed and why it was the right decision for me and my family.

Why I chose not to breastfeed and why it was the best thing I could have done

During pregnancy you get it rammed down your throat that breast is best, you get it from all angles, so it never occurred to me that I would feed my baby any other way. As a first time mother, I assumed it would be easy and straight forward. And to start with it was, while in hospital Sophie latched on nicely and fed at regular intervals, sleeping soundly in between. However this didn’t continue.

We arrived home from hospital around 7pm Friday evening, and all was going fine until Sophie wanted feeding at around 10pm, the problem was my milk hadn’t come in, and she was hungry. I kept at it, determined that I would feed my baby. By 7am the following morning I hadn’t slept, I was exhausted and sore, Sophie had screamed all night long – this must have been my worst moment as a new Mum. Less than 48 hours old and I wasn’t giving my baby what she needed most. So Michael and I made the decision to give her formula, and then she slept, and I slept – for the first time since the previous Monday.

You see, at this point I had hit rock bottom, I had lost my Mum 3 days before giving birth. At 6.50pm on Monday 2nd May, she passed away in hospital. She had cancer. The following day at 4pm I was admitted to the same hospital to be induced. I had spent the morning planning her funeral and making as many arrangements as I could. I spent the Tuesday night in the induction suite, Michael sleeping on a thin mattress on the floor so as not to leave me on my own. My waters were finally broken on the Wednesday evening and 24 hours later, at 6.50pm on Thursday 5th May, Sophie entered the world. Those few days are a blank to me, I remember very little, apart from the moment I set eyes on my beautiful little girl. I vaguely remember going to the registry office in the hospital to pick up my Mums death certificate, dressed in those lovely stockings they make you wear, slippers, nighty and dressing gown.

I was physically and emotionally drained by this point and all I wanted to do was make sure my little girl had everything she needed. So the decision was made, my very short breastfeeding journey had come to an abrupt end. Sophie was now a formula baby. I didn’t have it within me to continue fighting. The midwife visited and was totally supportive – she offered to have someone come and check on me and help me if I wanted to continue to feed Sophie myself, but she was very understanding of my situation. In the space of less than a week I had lost my own Mum and become a Mum myself. That week counts as one of the best, and one of the worst of my life.

But I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever. Sophie is a happy and healthy little girl. She is now 3 years old. She is more loved than I ever imagined possible, and the fact I didn’t breastfeed will never take away from that. My story isn’t black and white, but I did what was best for me and my family at the time and I don’t for a second regret it.

So to anyone who thinks mothers who give their babies formula are a failure, or think that breastfeeding should be compulsory, think again. I haven’t failed my child – I fed her, I loved her and I nurtured her. She is amazing – she is happy, confident and sociable. She isn’t clingy and she adjusts and makes the most out of any situation. She is polite and well behaved and she makes me proud every single day – what more could I want from her? How could breastfeeding have made her any more amazing than she already is?

I defy anyone to call me a bad mother for the choices I made. I will not be made to feel bad for doing what was best for me in difficult circumstances. We came through this as a family and I can hold my head high and be proud of where we are now.

32 Comments:

  1. I completely agree with you. As you know, I have breastfed Amy until she was 20 months old, but I couldn’t care less how mothers feed their babies as long as they feed them and show them love. Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone and I know that it can be incredibly difficult, if you don’t have the support you need. I was lucky with Amy, but who knows, if that will be the same should I ever have another baby?
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      It just makes me so angry that mothers who may already be struggling are made to feel as if they have failed. There is nothing wrong with choosing to formula feed, as there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding, its about choice and not bullying people into making the wrong choices for them and their baby!

  2. What a week! I don’t blame you at all for the decisions you made. What you choose to do with you baby is your business and no one else’s. these sorts of programmes are just the worst of Daily Mail TV and put so much undue pressure on parents. As you say, you love her, nurture her and give her what is best for you both – no child could ask for more!
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      When I look back now the whole week feels like it happened to someone else. I was not in a good place, but I do feel lucky that I had the full support of Michael and the midwife team who visited me. My story could have been a very different one had I not had that support.

  3. Oh Andrea how awful for you to have to go through all of that in such a short space of time. Like anything, I think breastfeeding suits some and not others. I breastfed two of mine for three months and the other two I just couldn’t do it. You do feel a certain amount of guilt but all of my kids are healthy and I don’t regret my decision.
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      I didn’t actually feel any guilt (at the time I felt very little!) but even as time goes on I don’t regret my decision for a second, I needed the support that not breastfeeding gave me, it meant Michael could help out more with night feeds – continuing would have been detrimental to both myself and Sophie.

  4. I am pretty laid back when it comes to parenting advice – apart from one thing – Mothers (like Jamelia) making other women feel bad for what they can or cannot do. Some women cannot breastfeed, it’s not because they don’t want to… If we could just all support each other and recognise that the main thing that babies need is love and care… Anyway, rant over! 😀

    • Andrea @ love and cake

      Exactly! It makes me so sad to see parents continually putting other parents decisions and parenting techniques down.

  5. Totally agree with you. I think it is a real shame when women make sweeping statements like this and get judgemental about another woman’s choice.

    • Andrea @ love and cake

      I worry how much statements like this affect new mums who are feeling very insecure and unsure about their decisions

  6. It is about choices, informed decisions and support. Sorry to hear if your loss so close to the birth of your daughter.
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      This is it, as a non breastfeeding parent I would never dream of telling another parent how my way was better than theirs! We all do whats best for our families and we should be supported in that.

  7. Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, whether it is down to choice or for medical reasons. Nobody should ever be told that they are selfish for having not breastfeed their baby. I tried and failed to breastfeed both Roo and Tigger, with inverted nibbles (sorry TMI) it was virtually impossible and whilst recovering from c-sections my body was too wiped out to keep going.
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  8. I was guilt tripped into continuing to breastfeed my son after a 3 day Labour which resulted in emergency surgery. I had not slept properly for 3-4 days yet hospital staff woke me every two hours to feed, then pump because he wasn’t latching and make him lap from a tiny cup because giving him a bottle would have “meant he can never breastfeed properly and you Don’t want that for him”. This eventually led to a series of anxiety attacks, some utterly paralyzing. In the first 3 weeks of his life i was scared to sleep as each time I woke could nit understand the abdominal pain I had, had no recollection if having a baby, or even being pregnant & genuinely thought I was dying. I was so tired I would also hallucinate frequently overnight which was utterly terrifying. I totally applaud your decision and so wish someone had advised me to stop when I was clearly in no fit state and perhaps my son may not then have had a depression filled mother in the first year of his life. There is far too much bad information being promoted about bottle feeding in this country, with safe clean water, and it makes me both mad and sad. Sorry for the rant x

    • Andrea @ love and cake

      I am so sorry to hear this, and feel free to rant away. I hate how media and even some people within the NHS push us to continue with something which isn’t working. The health and happiness of the mother should always come first, as inevitably it will effect baby one way or another. I remember the sheer exhaustion after that week, as I didn’t sleep. I am so grateful for the support I received, but it makes me so sad that its not always the way x

  9. I hate all this fighting over breatfeeding. I fed Elizabeth for 10 days, she was a hungry baby and I didnt have enough and at one point I remember holding her whilst she was crying for food and I was in tears because I didnt want to feed my baby. Luckily my sister found me and went and bought bottles and formula. After that she was a content and happy baby. With only 15 months between the girls I decided to formula feed Alison from the beginning so as not to cause a jealousy between them. I remember sitting with Elizabeth when Alison was only a few days old and Elizabeth was helping me feed her a bottle of formula, it is a great memory and certainly doesnt make me a bad mother.
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      I hate it all too, I wish people would just let others get on with it, I couldn’t care less how anyone chooses to feed their baby, as long as the baby is fed and loved! Why make yourself, and therefore your baby unhappy when there are other options?

  10. Losing my mum (and dad) have been just the most awful heart breaking experiences of my life Andrea poor poor you..how strong you had to be to cope with being a new mum at this time . Big huggles. Be proud you go t through it and just look at young Sophie now
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      Thanks Becky, it was a tough time, but I had no choice but to get through it – without Sophie I’m not sure I would have done.

  11. We all try to choose what we think is best for our children. Breastfeeding in the first couple of weeks can be really draining and can really take you down. I had a nightmare with my first and my second and even considered stopping with my second as i went into hospital less than a week after birth with septicaemia. But but then i had mastitis at both breast and it was zoo hard to stop! It did get easier after 8 weeks or so…but again, You did what you thought was best and if your child was happy hats off to you!
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      Thanks Otilia, we all have different stories don’t we? But that doesn’t mean we can’t support each other along the way – well done to you for carrying on!

  12. TOTALLY agree with you. I faced new motherhood SO programme with “breast is best” – which I think it is. BUT… and thankfully I had an amazing midwife…. my supply was terrible and we couldn’t increase it, no matter what we did. Then a midwife told me all boobs work differently – some are great with breastfeeding, some aren’t. Mine weren’t. I SOBBED when I stopped and literally thought they were poisoning my kids with formula when they made me supplement. Each mother does the best job she can for her family. Believe me – if I could have avoided all the washing up and gaffing with preparing bottles, I would have done! And of course its best for my baby. But so is having a happy mummy who feels like she’s meeting her childs needs x
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  13. I feel so sad that mothers have to justify their decisions like this. You are a good mum who cares for your baby. The end.
    I did 6 weeks with my first son, and hated every minute of it. He wouldn’t latch on and it hurt like hell. I felt a failure and was diagnosed with PND when he was 6 months old.
    When second son came along, he was just the same and hated going to the breast. I was getting tearful and depressed again. So when he was 4 days old we decided he should go onto the bottle.
    I know mums who never wanted to breastfeed and never tried it. They love and care for their children, who are thriving. That’s all people need to know.
    I would call a mum selfish if she neglected her children in some way. I see mums blowing cigarette smoke all over their babies. That’s selfish. Katie Price introducing her kids to one new “father” after another. That’s selfish.
    It’s about time we stopped judging each other based on our breastfeeding choices.
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    • Andrea @ love and cake

      There is definitely a lot worse things in life to do to your children than giving them formula! Sorry to hear you had such a tough time.

  14. I’m so sorry to hear about your mum. Must have been such a rollercoaster week.
    I am fed up of the breasts v bottle debate. I bottlefed my eldest because he wouldn’t latch – perseverance would provably have worked but I was too exhausted. He’s three and healthy and happy. I’m,still bf my youngest who is 21m (& desperatly trying to wean!) But we’ve made the decision not to breastfeed our third, due in December. It’s nobody else’s business how you choose to feed your child.

    • Andrea @ love and cake

      Yep, also sick of the debate, but I feel we formula feeders are given a rough time in the media, so felt I had to post as things aren’t always black and white. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  15. Great post. How you choose to feed your baby, for whatever reason, is up to you and has no baring on how much you love your child. A very silly comment from Jamelia who as a mother should know how hard it is and should be supporting other Mums not berating them. It must have been an incredibly tough week for you and I am really sorry to hear you lost your Mum.

  16. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your mum Andrea. Frankly Jamelia is an idiot. I breastfed both of mine but I have no problem with however anyone chooses to feed their baby. The most important thing is that a baby is fed and nourished and that requires much more than just formula or breastmilk. I hate the competitiveness of mums, we should be helping each other not point scoring.

    I’m glad you had a supportive midwife, I have real issues with the support I received with my first but it sounds like you had a good one which was exactly what you needed. xxx

  17. Hi Andrea, Just came across your blog (love by the way!), and saw this post. I wrote something similar a few weeks ago, about my experience with breastfeeding, thought you might like to have a read!

    It makes me so mad that Jamelia could be so judgemental, it really doesn’t help women at all. My eldest is also 3 now, and is a happy, loved, healthy little boy. That’s what matters at the end of the day!

  18. I totally agree, I chose to bf and continued until a year, but those first 4 months were hell and I felt a lot of pressure to continue. I don’t regret my decision niw but it made me realise that bf is not for everyone, and it makes no difference to your ability to parent or bond with your child. The main thing is happiness and health of mum and baby and mums should focus on what is right for them.
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