During my first pregnancy, I was noncommittal about breastfeeding right up until the end, mostly because I’d recently started a new job and knew I could only afford to take six weeks off. But the maternity ward—like most maternity wards—was plastered with “Breast is Best” posters, and I was plied with a lactation consultant several times a day. So I went for it because, like most moms on the planet, I wanted the best for my child.
There was just one problem. My milk didn’t come in, as is common for many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which I have. But the lactation consultant assured me that it would come eventually, so I just kept trying and pumping and trying and pumping. But my son had lost more than a pound by the time the nurse came for our in-home check up four days after we left the hospital. He was constantly hungry, and I was wracked with guilt, both for being void of the sustenance I was meant to provide but also for my overwhelming desire to tear into the formula samples in our care package from the hospital.
About 10 days in, that’s just what we did. And about two bottles later, my son was happy and gaining weight, and I felt the relief from being able to satiate him. But bottle-feeding comes with a price—you have to stomach that look you get from other mothers that says you’re not doing as much for your child as you could or should.
Now I know that breastfeeding helps prevent infections, allergies, and chronic conditions and that it’s shown to stimulate brain development. And common sense would tell you that what comes from a mother’s body is better than a manufactured product developed in factory somewhere. Plus, “they” say that it’s easier to bond with your baby when you breastfeed. So, to all the women who breastfeed, good for you.
But understand that breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, and fortunately for the rest of us there’s a good approximation that helps children grow and thrive. And while breastfeeding comes with an array of benefits, we found some of our own in bottle-feeding.
Taking turns. At 2 in the morning, it’s nice to be able to say, “I got the last one,” and watch your husband shuffle off into the nursery and pull the covers over your head.
It takes a village. All that bonding that women get to do when they’re breastfeeding—now dads can do it too. And aunts. And grandpas. And cousins…
No pumping or leaking at work. Many women are faced with maternity leaves that are too short or non-existent. In that case, taking a break from the professional world to pump and dump can be tricky.
My sanity. Maybe my milk would have eventually come in, but each day it didn’t resulted in bouts of overtired and hungry screaming fits. And that was just me.