Guest Post: Don’t Be Guilted–It’s Okay Not to Breastfeed

The following is a guest post by Kylie Hawn, a writer, mother, and purveyor of words.
She can be reached via email here.

There are some areas, at least politically speaking, where I don’t think my personal beliefs align with libertarians, but there is one area where they surely do: the right to choose formula or breastfeeding.

In other parts of the world, such as the UAE, mothers of newborns are being forced to breastfeed their babies, regardless of whether or not the mother has the actual ability to do so.

While this is just one example, I’m sure there are countless examples of similar laws in different parts of the world. I’m concerned that it’s only a matter of time before the demonization of bottle feeding spreads to the U.S. Some American hospitals in the are already banning formula companies from providing free swag, complete with formula samples, for new mothers in an effort to encourage women to breastfeed.

After all, if a Victoria’s Secret model says there should be a law that all women should be forced to breastfeed for a specific amount of time, then surely it’s a good thing, right? I mean, her experience is exactly the same as every other woman, right?

Here’s a simple fact. Not every woman has the ability to breastfeed. It’s not as easy as it seems, and there are a number of things that may cause a woman not to breastfeed. In the West, giving a child formula is a perfectly acceptable option. As a mother, unless you’re actually starving or poisoning them, I don’t care how you feed your child.

When I was pregnant with my son, I had every intention of breastfeeding. I figured if I needed formula, I would use it, but I didn’t plan on it. Then I gave birth to my child, and everything I envisioned would happen actually did not. I struggled for nine weeks to nurse my child. I spent hours with him at my breast, hours pumping while in a puddle of my own tears, only to produce barely enough milk to cover the bottom of a bottle. I pumped, I fed at the breast, but it was never enough.

Eventually, the strain of doing all of that became to be too much, so I stopped and went exclusively to formula. Once I stopped the endless pumping and breastfeeding, I started to enjoy my child. The bond with my child many claim only can happen when you breastfeed didn’t happen until I stopped breastfeeding. The time I spent in agony is time I lost with my son, and almost six years later, I’m a little bitter that I lost that precious time, because it really does go so fast. Needless to say, a supermodel who dares to suggest every woman should have to breastfeed offends me.

I understand the benefits of breastfeeding, but I also know that formula isn’t poison or even a bad alternative, and, quite frankly, I don’t care how a mother feeds their baby, just as long as they do. We are very fortunate that we live in a country where formula isn’t poorly made, and we have access to clean water so we can effectively make formula without virtually any worry.

I understand breastfeeding advocacy and education. I support it. I also support women breastfeeding in public, because nobody should ever be forced to confine themselves in a dirty, unsanitary bathroom just to feed their baby. However, I don’t think a woman should be forced to do something they either can’t or don’t want to do, either. Nor should they be made to feel ashamed of using safe products because of unscientific fear-mongering.