Formula Feeding Myth #1 – We’re Lazy

breastfeeding memeLast week, the website Babble.com featured an article about the benefits of formula-feeding. Predictably, in the comments section were a number of judgemental responses that insulted moms who formula feed. For any new readers to this blog, I am a formula-feeding mom, although that was never my intention. You can read earlier posts on the subject of formula feeding here and here.

I think my earlier posts quite succinctly covered my opinion on the breast vs. bottle debate, but for the benefit of myself and the other formula-feeding moms out there, I would like to publicly refute some of the stereotypes of moms who don’t or can’t breast-feed their babies.

Something that I’ve heard over and over (and have even beaten myself up about) is that moms who weren’t able to breast-feed just didn’t try hard enough. We’ve been labelled as lazy quitters who are uncommitted to our babies’ best interests.

I can’t speak for other women, but I can tell you that I have never worked as hard at anything as I have at trying to breast-feed. I never, ever thought to myself that I wanted to quit because it was too much work. I saw countless lactation experts, read every resource that I could find on breast-feeding and latching, watched every video on the La Leche League website, and kept on trying until I literally could not stand the pain any longer.

When I made the decision to switch from breast-feeding to pumping and bottle-feeding, it was because breast-feeding wasn’t working. It was because I was miserable and my family was suffering for it. And pumping was no easy way out. First thing in the morning I would feed my baby a bottle as I leaked all over my shirt, then hook myself up to the pump and try to simultaneously comfort my baby (who was whining to be held) and pump enough milk for the next feeding. I would hook myself up to that pump every two hours, and my baby hated it. As soon as he heard the whir of the motor he would start crying. I felt so guilty as I tried to hold the pump and bottle with one hand and rock him with the other. When my milk supply dried up, I tried to double my pumping to every hour, while downing upwards of 12 pills a day.

Now that I am formula feeding, it is no easier. As soon as my baby lays down for a nap, I’m in the kitchen washing and sterilizing bottles and mixing up formula for the rest of the day. I always need to make sure that I have a full kettle of boiled water ready so that I can make a bottle if I need to. When my baby cries, instead of being able to put him to the breast, I have to grab a bottle, put it together, and warm it up while trying to comfort him and not feel guilty about making him wait so long to eat. If I’m leaving the house, I must gauge how much formula to bring with me. If I bring too much, it will spoil before I can use it. If I don’t bring enough, I’m making an emergency trip back home or finding a store to buy some ready-to-feed bottles.

I’ve heard many women chastise those of us who tried to breast-feed, citing themselves as an example. “It was hard in the beginning, but I stuck with it and I’m so glad I did, because it got better and now I’ve exclusively breast-fed my baby for a year. You shouldn’t give up just because it’s hard.” I think stories like that are great. I wish that I had a story like that. But the fact that it worked for one mom because she stuck with it doesn’t mean that it will work for everyone if they stick with it. Sometimes the negative side-effects of “sticking with it” aren’t worth it. Sometimes, physiologically, breast-feeding just isn’t possible for some women or babies. And sometimes women choose formula feeding for their own reasons, reasons that don’t include “I’m too lazy.”

Yes, breast-feeding is a lot of work. Yes, formula-feeding is a lot of work. Yes, pumping is a lot of work. Regardless of how we feed our babies, this is one area in which no mom is lazy.

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12 thoughts on “Formula Feeding Myth #1 – We’re Lazy

  1. Very nicely written. Parenting itself can be hard regardless of the choices we make. Having other moms judge us for those choices just makes it even worse. I was able to breastfeed but I also understand moms who can’t for one reason or another.

    • Thank you for your nice words. I honestly think that most parents are accepting of other’s choices. It’s just the vocal minority that make us feel bad about ourselves.

  2. Nice post. I can remember that pain all too well. And on top of that, when you first start, your uterus contracts right along with your nipples being ripped off. Oooh, I remember all that. Thanks for posting.

  3. Personally I hated being asked the question “Do you breast feed?.” Frankly, I see it as a very personal question that should be considered taboo and rude to ask. Great post, I wish people would stop judging new moms so much… It’s the hardest job on the planet and yet we so quickly judge each other. It would be nice if we offered a little more support instead.

    • Yes, I hate it when people ask me that as well. And it happens so often! It’s usually one of the first things people ask, right after “How are you sleeping?”

  4. I think us moms who had trouble breastfeeding deserve an award! We had to put a lot more effort into feeding our child and take a lot of snotty looks and snide comments from those moms who breastfeed came naturally too!

    • I know that I’m definitely not alone, and there are many moms who had an even more difficult time than I did…but yes, sometimes I do feel like I deserve an award. For effort at least 🙂

  5. It’s just a personal choice. While I breastfed my first (very easily) and am currently breastfeeding my second I quit the first time after 10 months. I had to have a surgery and kind of used that as an excuse because honestly I was tired! I was tired of being the only one who could feed her. Sometimes I just wanted to take a freaking shower for christ’s sake without having to hear “Babe! The baby is hungry!” *shudders*. And while I am completely in love with breastfeeding the second time around I won’t feel guilty about loving it either. I have gone through just about EVERY breastfeeding issue there is. Extreme engorgement, over production, sore/cracked nipples, infection, low supply and even breast tissue causing a huge ball in my armpit area! I had to fight for it… and still… sometimes I wonder if I will switch to bottles again. More power to us! We can do what we want!!!

  6. This is a great article from the perspective of a mom who genuinely tried to breastfeed and should not feel guilty for having to turn to formula. But it starts out disputing the generalization that all formula feeding moms are lazy/don’t try hard enough, and then ends with its own generalization: “this is one area in which NO MOM IS LAZY.” (emphasis added).

    I think that if you saw one of these lazy moms, you would understand the anger/passion of the moms who point fingers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the lazy moms, when meeting you, lie and pretend that they tried just as hard as you. Lazy moms do exist. I won’t tear them down by listing the awful things I’ve seen. But a mom who doesn’t want to do the work of feeding her own child at all…if that’s not lazy, what is?

    • I don’t know what you’ve seen so it’s difficult for me to comment on it. I won’t dispute the fact that there are moms who aren’t fit to take care of their children. What I was trying to say is that regardless of how we feed our babies, the overwhelming majority of us are working hard and doing our best. If a mom chooses formula without trying to breastfeed at all, that is her choice and I fully support it. I don’t think that it is lazy at all; that’s a mom who’s making what she feels is the best choice for her family.

      If you’re talking about moms who don’t feed their children at all or who neglect their babies, that’s a different story and wasn’t the focus of my post. In all of my posts that discuss the debate of breast vs. bottle, the understanding (that perhaps I did a poor job of relaying) is that I am talking about moms who are competent parents and who are providing their babies with adequate nutrition, be it from the breast or the bottle or a combination of both. My personal opinion is that if you are feeding your baby adequately, regardless of the source of nutrition, or whether you tried to breastfeed or not, you should not be called lazy.

  7. I have had three children all have been bf but with my first she only fed for 3 months and like you I felt guilty other mothers would hint that I gave up and didn’t try hard enough but how do you force feed a three month old baby who literally wouldn’t take the breast, hence why I turned to formula. Any mother that shuns another for not being able to bf is honestly a person who shouldn’t be a mother. Mothers are meant to be sympathetic and understanding. Not bullies!

  8. I had supply issues and my daughter is also tongue tied. We both fought it out and now I successfully nurse my daughter every feeding. It is hard and formula feeding is also hard. I support breastfeeding 100% and understand why some mothers get frustrated with it. I stuck it out because we are not able to afford formula. I dont know many or really any women my age (22) that actually breastfeed but i do encourage it. Try for more than a day or two. Especially when you come home from the hospital you are more relaxed and comfortable. A little bit of humor tho it saves money to buy better diapers for the messes they make from breastfeeding lol.

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