Dear formula feeding momma:
You get stares when you pull out a bottle at the park for your three-month-old. Well-meaning friends and family believe it their life’s mission to remind you that “breast is best.” The lactation consultant referrals, the magazine advertisements, the billboards. It can all leave you feeling like a bit less of a woman and a lot less of a mom.
Do not despair for you are not alone. That shame you feel when the pediatrician’s nurse asks you what your infant drinks? Been there. That guilt you feel when you pull out the bottle of formula in front of your La Leche League pushing friend? Done that. The despair you feel when your non-breastfed baby gets a cold? Waded through that pit. I am right there with you.
Maybe you chose formula from the start due to lack of desire, impracticality, or another reason of your own. Maybe you tried your hardest, for one day or three months, and found it too difficult. Maybe your mammary glands do not operate the same way as others’. Maybe your baby is not into it and you do not “perform” for a pump. Maybe going back to work makes producing milk an impossibility. Maybe it is not anybody’s business.
Empowered women talk a lot about choice when they talk about babies. “It is your body,” they say. I find it so strange when those same women hound new mothers about breastfeeding. Those mammary glands are, after all, in your breasts, not theirs. There are many studies out there (each of which will be thrown in your face at some point) that discuss the many benefits of breastfeeding. There are websites devoted to the topic (watch for these links in your email – they are coming for you!).
As with most things in parenting, there is a study to support both sides of an assertion. You will also be informed of a million pieces of anecdotal evidence from every mom you pass in the grocery store aisle. Look at IQ – breastfeeding makes baby’s IQ higher, right? Well, so says some research and lots of doctors and moms. Or maybe baby’s higher IQ is because the breastfeeding momma’s IQ tends to be higher or because parenting skills over all are what actually matter.
Maybe we will never really know. Maybe it does not matter. Maybe – just maybe – what matters is that the choice you made for your child is based in love.
Breast might be best. For many years, studies pointed that way and the doctors still seem to tout those studies. It also might be that more recent studies are showing the breast is great, but so is formula. It might be that, in a developed country with clean water, formula is just as good. It might be that a mom on certain medications or with a certain diet might make a better choice for her baby by formula feeding. I had a wonderful experience breastfeeding my boys, though one was cut shorter than I would have liked. I let guilt consume me, every stranger’s glance perceived as a disapproving head shake. As I look at my children, how they are thriving in every way, I know that guilt was wasted time and emotion and I urge you, formula feeding momma, to take pride in your bottle-feeding choices.
Tomorrow at the park, raise that bottle with pride. Next week at your friend’s house do not feel the need to explain why you choose formula for your little one. Say, “No thank you,” with pride when offered a lactation referral. Smile at those billboards because you are happy for the mommas who choose breastfeeding. Then smile again as you drive on by, content with your choice to formula feed.