Even as I plunked out this title, I’m expecting a slew of “what’s wrong with you” comments. I get it. I do. And I’ll rip the Band-Aid off and get to the point quickly here: The reason I chose to not nurse either of my babies is because I simply did not want to. 

Painful enough to hear outright? But it’s the honest truth. My honest truth. And I didn’t feel guilty about it (no surprise there). I’ve written heated posts about this topic (when I was going through it), but now with a clear(er) head I’m more confident about it. I owned my decision back then, but now I own it more. Both my girls are as healthy (thank goodness! no conditions, well-developed motor and speech skills, one single ear infection between the both of them) and we are as ‘bonded’ as any mom can be with her children (maybe a little too much). Maybe I lucked out, or maybe it truly is okay if a mother decides that nursing is not right for her.

Second baby. Same choice, more confident.

Second baby. Same choice, more confident.

It started with my first pregnancy. Everyone wondered why I hadn’t registered for nursing pads and bras. Answer: I just couldn’t picture myself doing it. Yes, I was probably immature (as it’s apparently the most natural thing in the world), but the nursing process seemed so unreal to me. I’d think about it and wince. Despite that (according to research) breast-milk is THE best source of nutrients for babies, I wasn’t interested. I don’t grow my own food in my backyard (heck, I barely even buy organic) and I myself was a formula-fed babe… so what? I half-considered nursing as my due date approached, mainly because of the pressure that exists to do it. Finally, I asked my husband (the pediatric surgeon): “Are you going to flip out if I don’t nurse our baby?” He (and his 10+ years of medical school/training) shrugged. “No. It’s your choice.” And it was my choice. My choice. 

I did get convinced to pump for my first-born (on account of the nurses responses when I told them I didn’t want to breastfeed). My patience for pumping lasted exactly eight days. I was genuinely curious about the whole look-what-my-body-can-produce thing, and they did sell me on the power of colostrum. I repeated my pumping pattern for my second-born in an effort to treat each kid the same. But after eight days (again), I happily brought on the cabbages. I was IN LOVE with both of my newborns, but I was anxious to take my body back after each pregnancy… not in a vain way, but in the most basic way of “I won’t survive this if my body is constantly enslaved and exhausted from pumping every 2 hours.” (I needed coffee to function, period.) I didn’t feel like I was losing out on any bonding experience, so why put myself through something that I was not into just to please strangers? I thought about other things related to new motherhood too: Some women get night-nurses or full-time nannies from the get-go (and forego the duties and ‘bonding’ that take place when a mother tends to her own child, nursing or not). Some women return to high-powered jobs just days or weeks after birth. Those moms are not judged nearly as much as non-nursing moms. Non-nursing moms are perceived as being “less-than.” I will shamelessly share: I never felt less-than… I felt more-than for tapping into an inner confidence (about making my right choice) that I didn’t know I had. My newborn days and first years (both times) were not trying, difficult or a ‘haze’… they were fun, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the choice I made. I know so many women – smart women – who recall nursing with such hatred and I want to ask: So why did you keep doing it? A happier mom is a better mom, hands down. We can all agree on that, right?

Whatever your choice about nursing, pumping or neither… STAND BY IT. Your baby needs a confident mom that takes charge for everyone’s greater good more than he/she needs your actual boob. (And I say that with genuine admiration and respect for the nursing moms who tirelessly really do enjoy it.)

DID YOU DECIDE TO *NOT* NURSE? (Let the comments begin. Sock it to me. I’ve heard everything…)


17 Responses to Breastfeeding Month: Why I chose to NOT nurse.

  1. kaitlynn says:

    I love this blog. I chose not to do the boob thing also. I tried it for a few days even tried to pump. Just didnt feel comfortable with it. I dont feel less of a mother for it either. My son is three months old and nothing wrong yet. Its honestly no ones business if a woman formula feeds or does boob juice. As long as the child(ren) are being fed thats all that matters. Way to go mommy!!

  2. Amy says:

    Love this article! I didn’t breast feed myself – though it was for medical reasons. But some people just can’t seem to respect those of us who don’t breastfeed – regardless of the reason. I was harassed by breastfeeding moms at parks, in the grocery store, even at Disneyland. They would come up to me and say cruel things like “do you not love your child?”, “you are so selfish to not breastfeed”‘ “do you realize you are harming your child’s health by not breastfeeding?” Anybody who knows me, knows how much I love my kids, always putting their welfare first. I applaud the author for standing up and taking a stand for herself (though it’s easier to do in hindsight than when you’re actually going through it!) I wish breast-feeding advocates would understand – we get – breastfeeding is best. But it’s not for everybody – regardless of why. And while we respect and support your right to breastfeed, please have the same respect for those of us who don’t.

  3. Melody says:

    Thank you for this post!! I tried to breastfeed my first because I felt pressured and not only did my milk never fully come in and so I had to supplement with formula, but I hated nursing! I tried doing the “nurse as much as I can and then supplement” thing for 2 months before I decided to go exclusively formula. I was such a happier person and so was my baby! No more frustration and irritation on both our parts. It’s super hard to have a foot in both worlds. I never went out in public because I would have to bring a nursing cover and pads and also had to bring a bottle and formula and water, etc so that I could make sure my baby had enough food. With my second baby it was the same story. Finally I realized that it was not only okay but better for my whole family for my babies to be bottle fed with formula. I am happier, which makes my home a happier, healthier place for my family. And, I have wonderfully healthy kids who almost never get sick. With any future babies I won’t put us all through the torture of attempting to breastfeed.
    Thank you for putting your neck out there with this article/ Just ignore all the ignorant people who will comment about how horrible they think you are, they are more miserable about it than you are!!

  4. Great post! Even though I did nurse, I was still judged for quitting before a year with my first 3. You really, really do have to make the right choice for you and your family and that choices is not the same for everyone. I was excited to make it past a year this time but the first 3 times I was just so done so I quit.

  5. Cody says:

    I appreciated reading this. I nursed for as long as I could/wanted to (4 months) but it IS a woman’s choice to breastfeed or not. All that is important is that you give your baby all you can, which you did. Kudos on your honesty. Much respect.

  6. Eileen says:

    It is nice to see someone write about not breastfeeding because almost everything is about ONLY breastfeeding. I tried with my first and I think I was uncomfortable with it so I pumped for a while and switched to formula and never looked back. When my second son was born, I tried a little again and went straight to formula since I had gotten rid of my pump. I have two wonderful, healthy boys that I adore more than anything. I know they have done all kinds of research but I have to say that my sister way exclusively formula fed and had no health problems and I was exclusively breast fed and have asthma so their research may show an increase because of not breastfeeding but that was not the case in my family. I don’t think any woman should be judged for going with formula!

  7. Maggie says:

    I don’t have kids yet, but I know that I will be bottle feeding. My mom and thankfully my MIL bottle fed as well which makes me feel some relief; I didn’t want a fight about it in the close family ranks.

  8. This post is so incredibly refreshing – thank you! I run a website/Facebook community that talks about infant feeding and one of the biggest problems I face is representing women who made a conscious choice not to breastfeed- I worry that I fail them constantly, because I focus so much on those who are mourning the loss of a breastfeeding relationship they so badly wanted. But I’ve been in both camps – first as a “failed”, miserable breastfeeder, and with my second child, a truly “fearless” formula feeder, and I think we ALL deserve to feel “more-than” for doing what is right for us and our families. Like you, I found that when I chose from the beginning to bottle feed, I enjoyed my time with my baby so much more- in my case, it allowed me to avoid PPD, get back to feeling like my body was my own (a huge deal for me, for highly personal reasons), and just relax and spend happy, anxiety-free time with both my newborn and my older child. It takes a lot of courage in today’s parenting atmosphere to come out and say what you did here, and I for one am so grateful that you wrote this. I bet it will help a lot of women feel more confident in their choices.

  9. jillsimonian says:

    I am truly touched by all of your support on this! And feel even more empowered and inspired by your stories… thank you all for sharing! It IS a choice that does not need to be so controversial in today’s parenting climate…

  10. Melis says:

    Thank you!!!

  11. I did not nurse either. I tried for about 14 days and quit cold turkey. I hated it and it was literally sucking the life right out of me. (pun intended) Thank you for writing this post.

  12. […] When Gavin was born, I wasn’t able to breastfeed. And despite weeks upon weeks of trying to pump, that didn’t work for me, either. I cannot begin to explain the kind of weight that was lifted from my shoulders on the day I decided to quit pumping. And yet, despite the fact I was physically unable to breastfeed, I felt an incredible amount of guilt that I was unable to do so. Sure, sure, it was largely self-inflicted, but mostly because the educated world around me preached “breast is best” to anyone and everyone who would listen (and even those who wouldn’t). While I have long since moved beyond feeling any sense of guilt over how my infant was fed (anyone seen Gavin lately? yeah, I thought so!), I know new mothers everyday grapple with the exact same pressures I felt. That’s why I was relieved to see one mama’s take on why she proudly opted out of breastfeeding. […]

  13. D says:

    Glad to see this. I read the words of so many moms online who are so into breastfeeding that they actually become vicious about promoting it. It’s bizarre to me. So our culture hasn’t been into it in the past, hasn’t been into it being visible. Why do we need to force it in everyone’s faces, pressure moms to do it or guilt them for not doing it. I’ve read plenty of women who think it’s cruel not to feed children breast milk, straight from the breast milk, and even think it should be illegal to do things any of other way. I don’t know what planet they live on, but this isn’t realistic for everyone. They say “If you really try you will!” But not every mom and energy. I agree that not everyone should be a mom, but I’m not sure if we should exclude such women…especially if they have no idea until they are there. I wasn’t breastfed and I don’t think anyone in my immediate family was. We are all fine, were fairly healthy children. Breast is best, but don’t let the appeal to nature rule your thinking. Formula is OK, too. If I have kids, I will try a pump because mouth to breast is too awkward for my poor warped mind that has been twisted by the bad old patriarchy. Just kidding. I can think for myself and have any feelings I want! 😀

  14. […] out of the thing that’s seemingly pushed on encouraged for all new mothers these days. (I stand by my choice and I’m not ashamed to say that I didn’t nurse my babies… if you want to, do. If you don’t… then don’t.) That said, you’re […]

  15. […] It’s Breastfeeding Month again. (Again? Yes, again.) Last year, I wrote a post – a choice against nursing, if you will – that was so close to my heart and sincerely […]

  16. You never actually addressed why you didn’t breastfeed. You gave entertaining “reasons” like “you don’t grow your own food” or “barely even buy organic” and that your mom didn’t breastfeed either. I don’t grow my own food. My mother didn’t nurse me. I know women who failed nursing. But I did nurse my babies. The decision to “pump” rather than nurse is the strangest choice of all, since you claim it is about ease. Pumping is a lot of work! All that to avoid mouth to breast contact? I respect the fact that you don’t want to nurse, but if you are going to write about it at least dare tell your audience the truth, even if it potentially embarrassing. I don’t understand the reluctance to have breast to mouth contact with your baby. Most of all, I don’t understand the lack of curiosity.

    D wrote:

    “If I have kids, I will try a pump because mouth to breast is too awkward for my poor warped mind that has been twisted by the bad old patriarchy. Just kidding. I can think for myself and have any feelings I want!”

    I think she came close to telling the truth and then backed out with “just kidding.” Not everyone feels the same things about any given subject. That is what makes life interesting. If it feels awkward and weird, just go there and admit the truth. If it feels sexual and intrusive then admit that. It is better to say something annoying and interesting than to use a thousand words to say almost nothing. Hey, “it is my choice” and “I own it.” So what? Not having a abortion was your choice too, along with not sending them to boarding school. You don’t owe anyone an explanation but there is no use writing about it if you won’t go there, or at least admit you won’t go there.

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