The Cult of Breastfeeding

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Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

There’s a dirty, shameful word in the parenting community that, once uttered, condemns you into the annals of bad motherhood forever.

The F word.

That word is…


If you choose to feed your child formula instead of breastmilk, be prepared to be shamed within an inch of your life. Ever since the World Health Organization declared breastmilk to be the gold standard, feeding your kid formula became seen as lazy or not caring enough about your progeny. Because apparently, only breastmilk can give them immunity. Formula just makes them fat.

Before becoming a mom, I had naively thought breastfeeding and formula were interchangeable. You simply choose one and be on your merry way. It wasn’t until I was relentless being pushed to exclusively breastfeed by lactation nurses, doctors, and other mothers that I realized breastfeeding had turned into a cult.

How this happened is actually pretty ironic.

You see, back in back in the 1950s, formula was seen as superior to breastmilk, on account of the fact that it was fortified with nutrients (like vitamin D) that was absent in breastmilk. So ruthless were companies in marketing formula that in developing countries, those who could not afford clean drinking water ended up inadvertently hurting the health of their babies since water was needed to mix with the powder. This alarmed the World Health Organization into  launching its “breast is best” campaign. Various organizations extended this recommendation to include exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months.

Unfortunately, what started out as a good thing turned into the vilification of formula and what’s known as “feed-shaming”.

Breastmilk is now touted as the miracle cure for everything.
Got cracked and sore nipples? Put breastmilk on it.

Face rash? Breastmilk.

Baby Dandruff? Breastmilk.

Broken bones? BREASTMILK!

Seriously. I’ve had friends who said their doctor told them to put breastmilk in their kid’s eyes when they had an infection.

What the actual f*ck?!

The cult is real. 

I thought homeownership was a cult, but breastfeeding takes it to the next level.

So, why don’t women just breastfeed then. If the WHO recommends it and it’s supposed to cure all sorts of ailments and boost your kid’s immunity, just do it.

Because breastfeeding is BRUTAL!

The Brutality of Breastfeeding

Not only is breastfeeding a huge time commitment (it takes 15-30mins every 2 hours each day. That’s a full time job!), it’s painful! One of my friends described it as “like applying a cheese grater onto your nipples.” Comedian Ali Wong describes it as “chronic physical torture.” Both are accurate.

Despite not having teeth yet, my son, aka Little Matchstick, would clamp down on my nipple whenever my milk flow wasn’t fast enough and then whip his head from side to side like a dog with a chew toy. And this is actually an improvement! During the first 2 weeks, my son would shriek every time I put my boob near his mouth. This is because my milk was delayed coming in due to having a C section and he associated my boobs with food insecurity as a result.

So, in addition to supplementing with formula, I had to pump my breastmilk and feed it to him via a bottle, every 2 hours. If I didn’t one of two things could happen. One, I could lose my milk supply. Two, I could get mastitis, which is the engorgement and infection of my breasts due to clogged milk ducts. Sort of like a clogged sink when you pour grease down the drain.

This is because the human body produces milk on a demand/supply basis. The more often you breastfeed your baby or pump breastmilk, the more milk your body produces. But decrease the frequency and you risk having your supply plummet, and eventually not be able to produce milk at all. But if don’t run into the losing supply issue, you could end up with too much milk build up in your ducts, which gives you an infection and fever.

So, you’re kind of trapped. You’re either terrified of losing your supply or you’re terrified of not losing your supply and getting mastitis from the engorgement.

Plus, there’s a steep learning curve to breastfeeding. Not only do you feel like you need to be an acrobat,  twisting and turning your body the right way to get your boob into junior’s mouth, he also needs to learn how to suck properly. Yup, that’s right. “Suck training” is a thing. Babies are born with the ability to suck, but breastfeeding takes more skill than that. Because boobs and mouths come in different sizes and shapes, the combination requires a compatibility that puts synchronize swimmers to shame. It isn’t always easy or automatic. In fact, I learned that my son needed to “pull the milk” with his tongue rather than just suck. Because one efficiently drains your breast painlessly while the other gives you toe-curling pain. The latter, which was my reality for 5 whole weeks, made my cracking and bleeding nipples feel like they were going to fall off.  If I hadn’t discovered this magical thing called “lanolin” I would’ve given up all together.

This is why 60% of women given up on breastfeeding within the first month after their child’s birth. I don’t blame them. Breastfeeding hurts your soul.

Remember when I talked about my traumatic birth experience? Well, it was in this sorry ass state—completely sleep deprived and only 12 hours after extensive surgery—that I had to learn how to breastfeed.

I was told by the lactation nurse that I need to avoid formula at all costs because using a bottle would cause “nipple confusion” and it was simply out of the question until breastfeeding is established in 6 weeks! Until then, keep trying to breastfeed. Doesn’t matter if your C-section scar is hurting like a bitch. Doesn’t matter if your kid is starving and screaming his head off because your milk hasn’t come in. Doesn’t matter if you’re falling over from exhaustion and your fog-filled brain isn’t able to process anything the lactation nurse is saying.

Oh and guess what? While you are recovering and trying to get some sleep, you’re not allowed sleep for longer than 4 hours because…you guessed it…you might lose your milk supply. So, in order recover from lack of sleep, you need more lack of sleep? Oh and stress and lack of sleep can also decrease breastmilk supply. SUPER.

I honestly felt like I was trying to run a marathon on a broken leg. And the way the lactation nurses try to force breastfeeding without accounting for its steep learning curve and the mother’s beat-up state was like trying to teach her to fly a plane while also putting it together midair. There was simply no time to stop, learn from your mistakes, and then try again. Every 2 hours you had to feed the baby, so it was always “go time”.

My anxiety got so bad, I was triggered anytime anyone even mentioned the word “breastfeeding”.

I decided to take a break after 2 weeks and just do combo feeding, which is a combination of formula and pumping breastmilk and feeding via bottles. To hell with “nipple confusion”.

This gave some of my sanity back and I was finally able to put breastfeeding on hold while I got some much-needed sleep and recovery for my bruised, bleeding, and beat up body.

This also ensure that my son was fed. I’ve read enough horror stories about the baby starving and needing to be sent back to the hospital because their moms were pushed to avoid formula at all costs, and continue to try breastfeeding even though they were struggling.

Luckily, I ignored the lactation nurse at the hospital (whom I shall refer to as “Breast Nazi”). My research found that no, sleeping for more than 4 hours will not cause you to lose your breast supply. In fact, there’s a 120min rule (that is even mentioned the NICU in hospitals for nursing mothers) that states if you pump for at least 120 mins a day you’ll be able to maintain your supply. So it’s not about how long you go without pumping, it’s about the total time you need to pump per day.

While I fed my baby formula and pumped, I also found a lactation consultant whose zoom calls were covered by my health insurance to help me correct my technique over the course of two weeks. Because my baby was being fed formula by my husband while I learned all about breastfeeding through trial and error, I kept my sanity.

Normally I’d be against spending money on formula when breastmilk is free but this is one area I 100% advocate for spending the money to protect your mental health and the baby’s health. Fed is best, because honestly, ain’t nobody getting fed if the mother is dead.


Now, more than 2 months after my baby was born, I’m finally enjoying breastfeeding. But it was a huge time sink, stressful, and frustrating, guilt-ridden experience. Had I listened to the lactation nurse, he would’ve starved because it took a whole 5 weeks for my breastmilk supply to stabilize and for us to finally figure out breastfeeding. Part of it was due to my milk being delayed coming in due to C-section. Part of it was simply time—the older the baby gets, the bigger his mouth is and the better he can learn how to latch.

So, the fact that I was FI and had time to figure all this out, plus Wanderer didn’t have to work and could support me, made all the difference. I had a brief period of postpartum depression where I was crying uncontrollable, but it would’ve gotten way worse if I was alone or had to worry about going back to work.

Motherhood is not easy. And society doesn’t make it easy by putting all this pressure on women and prioritizing infant health over maternal mental health.

But we have to remember, “ain’t nobody getting fed if the mother is dead”.  

What do you think? Have you ever struggled with breastfeeding? Do you think “breast is best” or “fed is best”? Which is the bigger cult? Home ownership or breastfeeding?

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72 thoughts on “The Cult of Breastfeeding”

  1. Oh reading this I feel for you. The only thing I would say as an older lady who’s had three children and over came the breast is best issues is at the end of the day the mother knows best. Do what is right for you and your child. End of. Of course breast is best but plenty of babies have grown into healthy adults when they’ve been formula fed for whatever reason (my son 26 runs marathons) case in point my daughter exclusively breast fed as I enjoyed it and worked out how I could do it to suit her and me with number 3 – not as fit but hopefully protected her against breast cancer – who knows. So again do what’s right for you. Mothers are never wrong we are built to ensure our child survives !
    Much love to you on your little matchsticks journey.

    1. “mother knows best”

      Love this. It’s true.

      Great to know that your formula fed son runs marathons! That’s awesome!

  2. Hey FireCracker, this is Not sure if you remember me. I was the one suggested to you in another Baby-Related Post’s comments’ section that babies come with equal pain and love. Some people say like this: “well, if you are having hard times in life then have a baby; and during your hard times you will forget everything when you look at your baby’s face”. In my personal opinion (and not trying to make anyone feel less): “if you are really having real hard time in life, don’t have baby. Having a baby makes life harder and you will be more trapped with your problems”. I see some people make mistake by taking babies and now they want other people to fall in the same hole. In most societies as son as you get married, the relatives want you to have a baby. that is total **** right there. some people even go as far as: “having problem with your spouse? just have a baby and it will make all the problems g away.” It is so not true.

    In my opinion (again my own crazy opinion): Taking responsibility of another human being’s life is one of the most hardest thing anyone can ever do. It comes with lots of headaches and pains. Sometimes I feel pain is lot more than the those temporary moments of happiness when you face work, money, mortgage, and no helping hand (just empty sympathies from outside people).

    I wish you find things smoother over the period of time and enjouy the parenthood. All the best to you, Wanderer and to little MatchStick : ))

    1. Oh completely agree. Having kids is a big decision and should be made intentionally. I’m lucky in that I decided to have kids later in life and after reaching FI which makes things much easier. And even then it’s still hard. I don’t regret it though (not yet anyway 😀 We’ll see what happens in the turbulent teenage years) and I do find it fulfilling despite the hardships 🙂 Just wish it would be depicted more realistically rather than glorified in society. It’s not easy and not everyone should have kids.

  3. I totally hear you and feel you. There is too much of a cult for breastfreeding and mothers (myself included) are often guilted and shamed for not being able to “normalize” breastfeeding or keeping up with the baby’s demand. Thanks for being so upfront and real about this. We need more of this than all of the glowing words about motherhood which create a false reality about how challenging it could get.

    1. “all of the glowing words about motherhood which create a false reality ”

      Exactly, Minh. Choosing to have kids is a big decision and no one should be deluded into it by having it romanticized for them. I have no regrets in choosing motherhood but I 100% agree with people who consciously decide not to have children.

    1. lol, Lena, really? Get a grip.

      Thanks for this post. I’m about to have my first baby in the next month and didn’t know about the 120 minute rule. I am 100% open to formula feeding if needed for my mental health. My mom did the same in the 80s after trying to EBF me for a month and not having any luck. Appreciate your honesty in this post!

    2. Recognizing that I’m feeding a troll, I have to say that you should mind your own business and stop being such a c***, Lena.

    3. Here comes the cult. Does it make you feel superior telling people in pain to just suck it up? I hope you get more compassion in life than you are showing to others.

    4. We also have a brain for a reason. To find solutions, to evolve and make our life better than our ancestors. Lena if you are on this site, you are trying to be smarter than your mothers. Support others to rise beyond the norm and don’t bring them down.

  4. I have totally walked in your shoes (minus the c-section, I had to be induced and cut to get the forceps in). Motherhood is a marathon. Motherhood is also a sacrifice. You are stronger because you are a Mom.

    We did the combo feeding of formula and breast milk until my baby figured out which was which and started to refuse the formula. I spoke to one nurse who shared her struggles with me through Telehealth Ontario. I spoke to a la leche mother who was super supportive and helpful. I went to see the hospitals’ lactation consultants too. I paid for a private lactation consultant and by then, we had sorted it out. It took me about 17 days post-delivery.

    I am so proud of you for not giving up. That’s what makes you FIRE. I’m so blessed that I did not have to run back to work so that I could continue to breastfeed until my son was weaned.

    Figuring out breastfeeding a newborn feels like the anxiety-inducing pain of a stock market crash followed by the euphoric rally out of the bottom.

    Your story will help the other Moms who have yet to take this glorious right of passage.

    Lots of love to you and your beautiful family.

    1. “Figuring out breastfeeding a newborn feels like the anxiety-inducing pain of a stock market crash followed by the euphoric rally out of the bottom.”

      This is actually a very good comparison! I was also told by a mommy friend that raising kids is like the stock market. Lots of ups and downs but overall trajectory for the long term is up. Also, day to day, things are always changing. Helps to think of it this way, whenever I have setbacks for breastfeeding (or any future parenting issue that comes up):)

  5. Sorry you had such a tough time with breast-feeding. I’m sure having a C-section complicates things.

    I think part of the reason some women have trouble with breast-feeding is because there is so much pressure to breastfeed, which increases anxiety. The increased anxiety about breast-feeding makes success more unlikely. It’s a vicious cycle.

    I have two children which were both breast-fed for the first year. No bottles involved. I agree that the two hours between feedings is exhausting at first. Otherwise I found breast-feeding to be natural, convenient, great for travel, and totally FI.

    1. “so much pressure to breastfeed, which increases anxiety. The increased anxiety about breast-feeding makes success more unlikely. It’s a vicious cycle”

      This is so true. I had the same vicious cycle with trying to sleep when my body refused to co-operate.

      Once you figure it out, breastfeeding is more convenient and good for travel, but I def could’ve done without all the anxiety trying to figure it out. I’m also finding that even though I’ve finally figure it out, it still keeps regressing when LM changes his mind and does “nursing strikes” every now and then and I have no idea why. It’s so random. 2 steps forward, 3 steps back.

  6. Long time reader and first time dad of a 12 week old.

    Hang in there mama!

    Wifey and I went thru the same and it was not pleasant. Glad you got over the hump!

    Keep kicking butt. You got this 🙂

    1. Thanks and congrats on your baby! It’s a hard journey but so great to have fellow parents be cheerleaders along the way.

  7. Hey don’t listen to any of the haters here. With my first, I struggled so much the first 2-3 weeks and the struggles didn’t end there.

    At around 5-6 months, my baby was a cranky crying mess 90 percent of the time, and would only feed for about 5-8 minutes at a time.

    When he pulled off, i thought he was done. I was so confused. He just ate? how can he be hungry again? People told me “they get more efficient and feed faster.” I pumped only 70-80 ml and people told me “pumping is not as effective as baby. Baby can get more milk than that.”

    I bought into the exclusively breastfeeding mentality and kept trying to just breastfeed him.

    They weighed him at the 6 month appointment and he went form 50 percentile to 18 percentile. I felt so much guilt about STARVING MY BABY. The doctor recommended supplementing with formula and OMG my baby went from night to day. He was happy. He played. He slept well. Holy fuck I wish I did it sooner. I tell you this just to know that the breastfeeding troubles can continue past the first couple months!

    With my second, he needed to be supplemented from day 1 due to health issues. He literally was upset at the boob after every feed until we topped him up with formula. After 3 months, my supply dried up but I never looked back. I was able to love and care for him so much better without worrying about him starving.

    If something doesn’t feel right, don’t listen to the breastfeeding cult. Just feed the baby whatever you goddamn want.

    1. “pumping is not as effective as baby. Baby can get more milk than that.” –> I heard this from the lactation nurse and it drove me nuts! Super unhelpful. And it’s a situation which creates no solutions. So they’re basically telling us “don’t go forward, don’t go back, don’t go right, don’t go left, and definitely don’t stay still.” WTF. So stupid.

      I’m also constantly struggling with the whole “why is he still hungry? didn’t he just eat?” sometimes it’s due to flow being too fast, sometimes he falls asleep before he’s full and then is hungry when he wakes up again, sometimes it’s due to gas. Very frustrating.

      Oh thank you so much, Vee, for sharing your story! This helps a lot.

  8. Background: family physician, two children both breast fed, C section delivery for first
    Personal experience: first child was a tough go, pain at the onset as we both learned how to breast feed and then fed for 60 minutes every three hours (one hour on, two off, around the clock), second child, less pain, (I had a better handle on things), fed for 2 to 7 minutes every whatever time span around the clock. Eventually things settled out to a simpler schedule.
    I thought it was tough with my firstborn and expected it to be much simpler with my second. I would gladly have repeated the first experience after enduring the second.
    Anyone losing their sanity, overwhelmed, overtired or whatever should use the occasional bottle. The couple hours of peace are worth their weight in gold. Formula is not poison.
    My professional experience is that almost no breast feeding mom goes home without a pump. I’m not sure why this has become so prevalent.
    Ultimately, this area in patient care needs a great deal more attention and research. I think we are missing the boat when we cannot achieve greater uptake and continuation rates in breast feeding and need to send virtually every mother home with a pump.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Theresa! This is great coming from a doctor. I’ve had doctors ask me “you’re exclusive breastfeeding right?” Very triggering. I’m glad you think the occasional bottle is fine and formula isn’t poison. That helps my anxiety a lot.

      1. I think these lactation difficulties, painful deliveries, and the increasing need for C-sections are related to stress, namely emotional stress, in a toxic culture in all aspects of life and most definitely surrounding babies and children. Issues like these:
        – Are you worried about having to pay big hospital bills?
        – Did you save enough before FIRE to pay for all this child’s future expenses?
        – Were you pressured by family to have a child in the first place? From society?
        – How’s your self esteem?
        – Feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy.
        – Was there support from the hospital staff, for example, by taking the baby to the nursery for a few hours so you could sleep after recovery from surgery? Or did they close down the nursery and dump the baby on mom, so that profits could be increased?
        – What was a long honeymoon before the baby is now settling into a grind.
        These are not theoretical concepts. Thinking and feeling them, which are mostly felt unconsciously, exerts immediate and profound physiological effects. One of the main pathways of the stress response is the HPA axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary gland-adrenal gland axis. Prolactin and oxytocin are released by the pituitary gland; both are involved in milk production/release; and oxytocin as you know modulates uterine contractility during labor. And these are only the simplistic parts of the pathways that we know about…

        It might help to think about all the things that could be making you angry or fearful inside (like the above), acknowledge them and write them down, while realizing that they are in fact the basic cause of the problems described.

        As for “Ultimately, this area in patient care needs a great deal more attention and research.” Good luck with that.
        This comment is coming from a male pathologist, FWIW.

  9. As one of your probably oldest followers I am sorry you had such a difficult birth and post partum time. I see more now about women having problems nursing than when I was at that stage in my life. I breast fed both of mine BUT I had good home birth deliveries and a supportive (generally) partner and friends at the time. Also, I wasn’t working. The first 2 weeks were hard with sore nipples and with my second one, the cramping….(no one told me that because your uterus is more out of shape) was horrible. But with both the birthing process and nursing, I think the support and knowledge of what was going to happen really helped. AND the ability to relax and have a stress free (generally) environment. Just like preparing for FI, the more you know and can prepare for…the better prepared you will be. Remembering that there is always the possibility of a complication….like a C section, or life event. Overall, let’s just be more supportive of each other…

  10. You summed it up perfectly: fed is best. There’s no winning…breastfeed, but not in public. Don’t let anyone see your boob or your kid sucking on your boob (a giant hurdle with milked-engorged jugs and baby who will not be covered). Truly, everyone with an opinion on how you raise YOUR baby can keep it to themselves. FWIW, my two were exclusively breastfed, we did child-led weaning, went to La Leche League meetings, etc (I was fortunate in that we figured out BFing quickly), and they still got sick and and were both chubby. It worked for us, and they weren’t hungry and met their milestones (checks boxes). Now that they’re 12 and 14, what I fed them as infants is completely irrelevant. Do whatever you need to do to maintain your sanity, and tell the haters to suck it (figuratively). Good luck!

  11. Thank you for helping spread the word. When we had our first one, we are also pushed SO HARD on the breastfeeding by the nurses, and back then the fed is best site did not exist yet, but we got very lucky that we found a pediatrician in time who helped us navigate thru and not harm our baby.

    Now, one thing for the more scientific minds who are curious on to WHY some people have trouble breastfeeding in the beginning, you can google about the gene ABCC11. Among other things, this will influence:

    – If you have wet or dry earwax
    – If you are smelly
    – If you produce enough colostrum after giving birth

    Fun stuff!

  12. Good for you to disregard the advice of the hospital lactation consultant and then to switch to supplementing with formula at 2 weeks to preserve your mental health.

    Reading your post brought back memories of my own extremely negative experience with the cult of breastfeeding. As a Type-A, ultra-organizated type, I had done a lot of preparation to get ready to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months after my baby’s arrival. I had read two books on the subject, reviewed common problems on parenting sites, had the rocking chair, special pillow, pump, and all the other supplies (including lanolin!) at the ready, etc.

    Despite my preparations, it just did not work. Although I had an emergency C-section, the problem wasn’t supply – it was just that my kid WOULD NOT LATCH. I still remember the hospital lactation consultant shaking her head disapprovingly at me and criticizing the shape of my nipples (WTF). But surprise, surprise: kids #2 and #3 would not latch either despite countless attempts and follow-up. I ended up pumping (seemingly endlessly) with all 3 kids and feeding them expressed milk for most of each one’s first six months (supplemented with formula because my kids ate A LOT), but this took a big toll on my mental health. What should have been a happy start as a new mom was instead a time full of guilt, stress, and depression.

    Sadly, the “cult of” crap just doesn’t stop. There’s always someone going on about how you will wreck your kid some way or another (e.g. sleep training, feeding cow’s milk too early, exposing them to too many/not enough germs as a young child, going from crib to bed at the wrong time, not teaching them baby sign language, etc.). There is SO MUCH pressure and it’s just stupid. Fed is best. Cared for and loved is best.

    Congratulations on taking the best path for you. Keep on making your decisions based on what works for you as a family.

    Best wishes to you, Wanderer, and Little Matchstick

    1. “hospital lactation consultant shaking her head disapprovingly at me and criticizing the shape of my nipples (WTF)”

      WTF is right! That is bullshit and sorry to hear that happened to you 🙁

      Kudos for pumping and feeding your kiddos for so long! It totally is a full time job and I applaud you.

      I’m also a type A and tried to prepare for breastfeeding with online classes and books. It did not help. You really don’t know what to expect until you’re in the thick of it. It’s very tactile and needs lots of practice and even then continuously changes. Good for you for supplementing with formula. My kid eats a ton so no way just pumped milk would’ve been enough. I hear you.

  13. Fed is absolutely best, and good job listening to your gut to take care of yourself and your baby. That’s a win, folks!

  14. Hoo boy! Clint Eastwood said, “Opinions are like a$&#@holes, everybody’s got one.” I had a forceps birth and retained placenta and almost no milk until that resolved a week later…..then took domperidone to increase supply, lots of pumping, pressure and tut tutting and some vicious comments here and there. In the end I bf and supplemented a bit. MB is 7 now and very happy and healthy and I am almost over the nastiness and have removed nasty folks from my life more and more, Things came into sharp focus for me 😉 much love and best wishes in the adventure ahead and maybe see you in the dog park.

  15. I’m sorry to hear what a rough time you’ve had, it is definitely a steep learning curve. Not every person helping mothers with breastfeeding is a breast nazi nor is it a cult. I had difficulty at first but was supported in a way that helped me and reduced my stress. I actually had a lot of “formula pressure” from my mother in law who thought my breasts were not big enough to provide the baby with enough milk to grow. Criticism and judgement when you are in such a raw, tired, emotional state are simply not needed. I’m glad you’ve settled into it after your struggle. You may even find it’s convenient to always have your baby’s food with you at the right temperature, no kettles or sanitized bottles required. Beware though because there are lots who shame breastfeeding as well…like the woman who thought I was suffocating the baby because I had draped a thin blanket to cover myself in public! Congratulations on your little one and hang in there…this is the first of many challenges, but parenthood is so fulfilling!

    1. ” though because there are lots who shame breastfeeding as well”

      I’m sure they are. However, you have the WHO, nurses, and doctors on your side so tell them it’s the gold standard. You live in a time where it’s much easer to defend BF than formula. Use that to your advantage.

  16. That’s a pretty familiar story. My wife was similarly stressed when our first one was born because we had no clue what we were doing and despite the kid getting it dialed in pretty much right out of the box, they did everything possible when we were in the hospital to make it difficult (she had a C section and they kept her in hospital for 3 days). They were concerned about our kid not feeding/losing weight, but they kept waking her to check on her and/or making her screaming mad so instead of feeding she’d just scream at us. When we asserted ourselves and helped her to be calm and not tired first things magically resolved.

    tl;dr sometimes things are just setup to keep you moving through the system, not to achieve the best outcome

    1. “They were concerned about our kid not feeding/losing weight, but they kept waking her to check on her and/or making her screaming mad”

      So much déjà vu from this sentence! Glad you guys asserted yourselves and got it resolved.

  17. Glad you figured it out. Happy mother, happy baby. If breastfeeding is going to take a huge toll on mother’s physical and mental health, just feed the formula to the babies. That is what modern science and technology is for: so those dumb babies who could not figure out breastfeeding could survive. Don’t believe the “breast nazi” and the guilt/shame, babies could be happy without much of breast milk (of course you’d try hard but it’s not worth breaking you for this first huddle in child raising). Child raising is a marathon not a sprint, and it requires the best mental and physical capacity of a mother. Enjoy your little one and the most supportive partner!

  18. A million years ago at a Taiwanese military academy where I was a prof, I would stay and work late on lesson planning, etc. I’d walk past a room with a sign in both English and Traditional Chinese characters that said “Breastfeeding room.” I always wondered what in The Theological Place of Eternal Punishment was in there! I never opened the door and peeked, though, because even though it might be 9:00 or 10:00 PM, it would be just my luck that there would be a female employee in there and I’d be in, as an old US commercial commercial used to say, “in a heap of trouble!”

    So, I still don’t know what’s in those rooms.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

    Dan V

    1. “So, I still don’t know what’s in those rooms.

      That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!”

      LOL. Yes don’t open the door.

  19. Fed is best! My first was induced due to pre-eclampsia and was so tiny she didn’t have much energy to suck, plus a tongue tie which apparently we would have had to transfer to another hospital to have fixed – why? After 9 days in hospital I finally managed to take her home by switching to formula. She’s nearly 15 now and definitely our smartest kid but I feel like if I’d persisted in trying to breastfeed we’d still be in there! And I needed to go home for my own sanity, but boy did I have to ignore a lot of disapproval. Nos 2 & 3 were a real struggle to breastfeed as well, each had their own challenges, it never ends. Good job they’re cute! All the best to you two and Little Matchstick!

    1. “My first was induced due to pre-eclampsia”

      Yikes, that sounds rough. Glad you made the decision that’s best for you family and thanks for sharing the story of your awesome, smart formula fed 15 year old!

  20. Hi Firecracker, I’m so sorry you had such a rough start with breastfeeding. As a community-based lactation consultant and mom of 2 that were breastfed (but not without some stress and pain in the early weeks), I truly empathize. I’m not sure what’s going on, but I hear so many moms complain about the horrible advice given by hospital lactation consultants (or moms never receive lactation support!). I think a big issue is that moms do not seek adequate prenatal education around breastfeeding–not just the ins/outs of lactation and milk production but also the mental preparation and support necessary to endure the steep learning curve of early breastfeeding. Mom new moms have never seen anyone breastfeed and they don’t have that village of support and guidance needed in the early weeks (which is why postpartum doulas are helpful). Also, most moms try to figure out breastfeeding on their own and wait until their nipples are falling off or their milk supply is in the gutter before reaching out for lactation support. I can’t tell you how often moms contact me 2 to 3 weeks (or longer) after the birth when their problems could’ve been avoided if they had contacted me in the 1st week. I always recommend that moms do their research BEFORE giving birth and find a lactation consultant in their community that can provide in-home lactation support and contact that consultant as soon as they give birth. The reality is that most new moms don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to breastfeeding and it’s easy to get on the wrong track due to relying on info from social media, inadequate support in the hospital, and/or just trying to wing it on their own. Yes, breastfeeding is the biological norm, and therefore optimal for the health of moms and babies worldwide so I don’t think it’s fair to call those that encourage breastfeeding a “cult”. Moms also need to take personal responsibility by focusing on prenatal education and preparation to mitigate or avoid the potential barriers and challenges (both mental and physical) they might face with breastfeeding. I also believe that even though the medical establishment talks the “breast is best”, they don’t walk the walk when it comes to ensuring there are enough IBCLC-lactation consultants in the hospital and that lactation support in the community is widely available and accessible to all moms. In the U.S. there are thousands of IBCLCs who are forced to do private practice because hospitals are not hiring (or only hire RN-IBCLCs), even though there are still not enough IBCLCs working in the hospital to support moms after birth. Fortunately, I work for a social service agency which provides free lactation support to low/mid-income families. But unfortunately, most moms don’t take advantage of this free support. Social media has become such a huge influence that even with free or accessible support, many mothers don’t take advantage of it (or wait too late). This is a complicated issue that needs to be addressed from all angles instead of just blaming a “breastfeeding cult”.

    1. ” when their problems could’ve been avoided if they had contacted me in the 1st week”

      This is not true. In the 1st week, I could barely function, never mind figure out which lactation consultant to call and listen to advice that my fog filled brain could process.

      “I always recommend that moms do their research BEFORE giving birth”
      Also did this. Obsessively. Lost of classes, books, and asking other mom’s for advice. It doesn’t help because each kid is different and each pregnancy is different. The problems that popped up were completely unexpected.

      The issue isn’t that mom’s need lactation consultants right away (also it’s expensive and not everyone can afford it if they don’t have insurance), it’s that there’s too much to learn all at once. Figure out the sleep, use formula in the meantime, then figure out breastfeeding later. Being forced to pay and figure out lactation consultant in the first week, when I was trying to stay sleep for more than 2 hours, would’ve just been way too stressful for me and wouldn’t have helped.

      See, this is the exact problem again. Putting the blame on the mom for not “reaching out for help earlier” or “not doing enough research before giving birth”. Formula is not poison and it’s not the end of the world if you choose to feed formula for the infant’s health and your mental health. Breast feeding isn’t the end all be all to everything. I get that as a lactation consultant, you have to protect your profession, but I don’t agree that you HAVE to breastfeed.

  21. My daughter was born 43 years ago. My battle was choosing to have a home birth over the hospital which at the time were doling out utterly unnecessary c-sections like candy.

    My midwife gave me outstanding breastfeeding advice before my daughter was born and continued to support me in the following weeks and months. I also had a crackerjack backup physician who had trained in Mexico City so he was really a cheerleader. No pressure just a terrific birth team.

    I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am that you had those traumatic experiences around your birth. Sending the best good heart energy to your family as you journey happily on. The universe enfolds you all.

  22. Great post! My “babies” are now 26 and 27 and both are healthy, happy, well adjusted, independent and self supporting adults. And BOTH received formula (GASP!)
    So (again), listen to your gut – YOU know more than anyone else what is best for you and your baby.
    And congratulations to you and your husband on becoming parents – it really is the most wonderful (and simultaneously most difficult) job on the planet. I wouldn’t change it for the world! 🙂

    1. “My “babies” are now 26 and 27 and both are healthy, happy, well adjusted, independent and self supporting adults. And BOTH received formula”

      Thank you for sharing this! We need more stories of healthy kids who grew up on formula and stop making women feel bad for not breastfeeding!

  23. Oh girl, I know this all too well. Learning to breastfeed the first time takes so much time, effort, sanity, pain, all the things. I remember having a mental breakdown and crying my eyes out while watching Youtube videos on how to breastfeed- mind you all the videos were outdated and literally the mom’s nipples were as big as my head. I tried so many things, saw lactation consultations (one of which told me that I would never be able to breastfeed bc of the size of my nipples), and did everything I could. Meanwhile I was triple feeding to make sure my little one was fed and basically spent the first 2 months of her life feeding her or pumping or something else related to feeding. I felt a failure for my little boobs and inability to figure out breastfeeding. Then one day I said screw it to everything everyone had told me, I ditched the nipple shield, and decided to do it my way. And guess what, all of the sudden it clicked. It only took a huge breakdown to get there. Yes breastfeeding is natural, but it sure as hell isn’t easy or painfree. Don’t even get me started on milk blebs- most painful thing besides labor & delivery and an emergency appendectomy while pregnant. Hopefully you never experience those!

    1. Hi Mrs. Wow! Great to hear from you!

      “saw lactation consultations (one of which told me that I would never be able to breastfeed bc of the size of my nipples)”

      This is horrible and I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through that. Not all lactation consultants are create equal and it does take time to find a good one.

      If it makes you feel better, my big boobs and nipples (went from C cup to double Ds because of pregnancy!) was making it super hard for my son to latch because my nipple was too big for his tiny mouth! So I’m sure that horrible consultant would’ve made fun of my nipples too. We just need to ignore them and realize “mother knows best”.

  24. Toe curling pain!! I remember it—it was awful! And so, so hard when my son would start crying while I was resting and people would bring him to me and say he was hungry! Again! He was hungry— but it was literal torture! I never even thought to do formula, and luckily we eventually figured it out… but those were long days! Glad you figured something out that works!

    1. “he was hungry! Again! He was hungry— but it was literal torture!”

      Yup, you just described my life. I started tracking how much my son was eating and it was 1.5 to 2X the average amount! Exhausting.

      Glad you go through it! Way to go, super mommy!

  25. It’s two cults, one of them fed by business profits.
    And you can choose the one that fits you best, or (as it seems you’re doing) find your own path without rigidly adhering to either.

    Watch for those teeth, they will come out soon!
    I believe fruits and veggies can be gradually introduced at 4 months, and by the first birthday LM can do great on solid food exclusively.
    That’s what happened to my daughter anyway.

    1. “Watch for those teeth, they will come out soon!”

      Ouch, my nipples hurt just reading that sentence. I can’t wait until I can go to solid food at month 6 (though I heard food pickiness is another parenting hurdle I’ll have to deal with)

  26. I’m just a guy who will never experience this however my heart goes out to you. I’m happy things are better now. As for the hospital staff, I’ll say they’re just people like anyone else. They’re not god. Good to get different points of view but ultimately, it’s your body and it’s your kid. My sister in-law couldn’t lactate after giving birth to twins and ultimately, it was formula or nothing. No harm to the kiddies. They’re well and thriving.

    1. Thanks Dave and thank you for sharing this “My sister in-law couldn’t lactate after giving birth to twins and ultimately, it was formula or nothing. No harm to the kiddies. They’re well and thriving.”

      It’s very comforting to hear about healthy kids who thrived on formula.

  27. People these days are so weak. I though you’d be stronger FC for all you’ve been thru in China and all, but I see you became soft like all this generation.
    Please don’t let this blog become a self-help personal page

  28. When I saw the previous post I was afraid this blog would pivot from financial to millennial whining about parenthood issues. Hope I’m wrong because I like the financial content!!!

  29. My wife is part of this cult but I am so proud of her for enduring the initial pain and the hard start for the sake of our kids health. Our pediatrician said that it’s incomparable really the amount of antibodies that is pass through lactation to the kids and the connection mother-kid that is created. She thought that was reason enough to do it for them and I applauded.
    The nurse was also amazing giving her tips about doing it right and reducing the pain. Kudos to her

  30. oh yeah, just like what every mom out there goes through. Imagine how it was in the 1800’s? 1600’s, 1300’s? You don’t know how good you have these days! Be grateful

    1. Anna, in the 1800s, 1600s, 1300s new mothers would have likely had sisters, in-laws, and/or lactating mothers in their community who would share breastfeeding duties while the new mom figured it out. For those that didn’t, their baby would just fail to thrive and likely die. So yes, we can be grateful to science for creating formula so there’s a viable alternative for mothers to feed their infants.

  31. Totally agree on that one.

    The reason the WHO strongly recommends for breastfeeding is that most of the world’s population don’t have refrigeration, and have flies & mosquitoes everywhere. That’s not the case in Canada.

    They also don’t think too much about the mental health of the Mum. Although I think things will change on that over the next decade or so.

    The best thing you can do for your kids health and developing immune systems is to let them play outside in the dirt during those early years.

  32. Compliments for your new baby!!!

    and thanks for being open about difficulties and emotions!
    When I was pregnant with my first child, thank heavens, I got in contact with “La Leche League”. They prepared me well for what was coming and if needed they were available to help in person. The group near to me was totally “FED IS BEST” and “happy mom happy baby”.
    PS. The “maternity course” given by the state/taxmoney was led by a nasty woman who cared for us “mothers-to-be” only to shut up and shamed anyone who didn’t.

  33. If anyone has the time to breastfeed it would be a ‘retired’ mom. It’s probably preferable to breastfeed but I’m sure formula is fine as well. It’s just that my wife was fed formula and she’s the shortest in her family and dyslexic. She’s also so the nicest one in her family so I guess it wasn’t all bad!

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