Why you should never tell a woman just to breastfeed

Dear person who thinks the moms who are having trouble finding formula should just breastfeed,

I hear you. I mean why on earth would a mom NOT take advantage of breastfeeding? Duhh, it’s free. Plus, if you breastfeed you never have to go out in the middle of the night to buy formula. Or deal with mixing it, washing bottles, heating it up, or shaking it too much and giving your baby gas. Like all you have to do to breastfeed is pop out a boob and voila, dinner is served. Formula is expensive, and pain in the neck. Breastfeeding is a no-brainer, right? 


For some people. 

And then there are people like me. 

When Zoey was born, we were in the hospital for 6 days. She was breech, I had placenta accreta, they heard a heart murmur, yada yada yada. Anyways, it meant we stayed for a few extra days. Which also meant they noticed she was losing weight. She was sucking, there just wasn’t anything coming out. That’s when the doctor uttered a word to me I didn’t want to hear. Formula.

I was devastated. My whole life I knew I was going to breastfeed. There was no way I was going to give up.

But there was also no way I was going to let my baby go hungry.

So I used a supplemental nursing system. It’s where this itty-bitty flexible tube is taped to your nipple and the baby latches onto you “like” they’re nursing, but formula is fed through the tube. It was horrible and amazing both at the same time. Zoey was fed the nutrients she needed and I felt like I was breastfeeding. But it was harrrd. And not fun at all. This went on for a day or two until my milk came in and I was finally able to breastfeed her without formula.

Cut to my second baby, Holden. When Holden was born, breastfeeding went much better. Except for the fact that he puked down my shirt half the time. But it went okay. Messy but okay. And boy did he have just the cutest little tushy you’ve ever seen. It was super tiny and wrinkly, and I thought it was adorable, until I found out why it looked like that. Because he wasn’t gaining enough weight. WTF?!!!!

Here I was doing EVERYTHING my body could do to nourish my baby, but it wasn’t enough. And that’s when Holden’s pediatrcian (a different doctor than Zoey’s) said that “bad” word to me again. Formula.

This time I didn’t fight it. With a lot of work and frustration, my hubby finally got Holden to take a bottle, and between the breastfeeding and the formula, he quickly started gaining weight. I tried pumping when I went back to work, but I can’t tell you how fast I dried up. I’d hook up to my breast pump and I’d get maybe an ounce. Mayyybe. But I’ll tell you what, I could have filled those bottles with my tears. It was awful.

I was a mom who wanted to breastfeed more than anything, but there were hurdles I couldn’t get over without a little help. I used formula with Zoey. I used formula with Holden.

Formula is AMAZING.

Whether you’re using it before breastfeeding, after breastfeeding, in addition to breastfeeding, or instead of breastfeeding, it is absolutely incredible that we have brilliant scientists who have worked tirelessly to create a magical drink that can give babies what they need to thrive.

So when I hear about moms who can’t get formula and are searching desperately to find it, my heart breaks for them. Many of them already feel horrible because their bodies can’t provide enough for their babies. Or their jobs don’t allow them to. Or they just don’t have it in them.

And when I hear someone like you tell them they should just breastfeed, well, I don’t think you know WTF you’re talking about. There is no such thing as “just breastfeeding” for many women. Breastfeeding is hard, challenging, painful, depressing, and sometimes impossible. And quite often, formula is not a choice someone makes. It’s the only option. An option we are VERY lucky to have.

So I’m guessing you’re one of two kids of people. Someone who never breastfed and doesn’t know diddly squat about it. Or someone who did breastfeed and was lucky enough to be able to do it successfully. So instead of questioning these women, I suggest you either keep your mouth shut or start using it to call grocery stores in your area to look for formula and see if you can help these women out. Because your judgement is the last thing they need right now. 


A mom who fed her babies. Period. 

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There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Nancy Jarboe at 9:20 pm

    My son is now almost 32. But my memory of trying to breastfeed is like it was yesterday. I just couldn’t get it right, he wouldn’t latch on etc etc. I was faced with a baby not thriving and at 3 weeks Dr told me I had to go to formula. I was devastated and felt like a failure. That was one thing I could give my baby that no one else could and I failed. But I watched him start to fatten up and glow and I knew it was the only option for us. But I so wanted the closeness of nursing my baby! So everyone who says just nurse well shut the f**k up already!

  2. Arica at 8:48 am

    Great piece! And the flippant discourse also ignores those of us who became moms in non-traditional ways, or the two daddies, or whatever doesn’t match some fantasy form of parenting. Motherhood/parenting doesn’t have to be competition around who is doing it better or the right way, we could just support one another.

  3. Christin Harding at 9:34 am

    just here to add an ‘Amen’!!! and thank you for expanding on what is a very difficult topic for many. (and judgy people should just sit down, right NOW!)

  4. Dana at 8:07 am

    Before I had my 1st: obviously I’m going to breastfeed for a year. That’s my goal. Obviously. Easy peasy.
    Had my first: new parent freak out, not gaining weight. Formula recommended and I was sad. But we persevered and kept at it. Then I went back to work 12 weeks later. I could take a break for pumping, but I had to work the extra 1/2 hr or hr back. Which meant a 9+ hour workday. Which also meant missing an actual feed with him at home. And when I pumped, each time I was lucky if I got 2-3 ounces…not each side. Total. Not enough to make the bottles to feed him the next day while I was gone doing it again. I tried all the pumping tricks…power hour of pumping, pump after feeding. Nothing made enough for him. I was in tears when I talked to friends who would say they pumped for 10 min and got 6oz, 10 oz. 30 mins…2 oz. Sometimes 1. So we made it 4 months and I quit. It was too much stress. 2nd kid, same issues, different job where I could pump a little more often, but same result. But we were smart and started formula earlier to help. Made it 6 mo with part formula and part breast feeding. I was proud of that. But I wish I knew before I had kids how hard it was. I wish I knew others that struggled because I was surrounded by friends that breastfed well over a year and pumped gallons. I felt alone and broken.

  5. bruinspin at 1:41 pm

    Spot on. Each baby is different. Each situation is different. It is an experience like no other and that counts in every direction both amazing and horrible. We seem to go through such huge pendulum swings with “formula! Formula! FORMULA!” then back to the “breast is best” and I just wish somehow we could stay in the middle with both is good, whatever helps. the baby thrive is BEST! Thanks (as always) for a great article! Great message that I will gratefully and gladly share!