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 still just do not know because we have not had studies control for things like mom’s diet. Maybe it is based on your theory on when to feed a child.
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.
10 thoughts on “Dear formula feeding momma:”
I love this, Lauren. I formula fed my daughter for various reasons, and it was the best decision we could have made. Some moms, medical professionals, etc. get downright sanctimonious about breastfeeding!
Thank you. I remember being home with my first and seeing a commercial encouraging – make that – campaigning for breast feeding. I wanted to throw my formula filled bottle at the screen. Between the lactaid police who told me “it would happen” while my kid screamed from hunger and the other new moms who did it “because it helped you lose weight”, I thought I would go nuts. Talk about guilt. I felt much more at ease with my second because you are right – everything we do is based out of love. Cheers!
Amen! I was initially ashamed of my formula feeding with both kids (due to all the societal pressures you mentioned). But gradually, I realized my babies were growing, thriving and happy. And that’s what really matters. So whether you breastfeed or formula-feed, I say yay for mom!
Thank you for your post. I chose to formula feed both my children. They are healthy, happy, smart and have NO allergies to anything. I am tired of the breast police making me feel that I made a poor choice for my family.
Great post. I breastfed, but I support all moms’ choices in providing nutrition for their babies, whether it be breast, bottle, or a bit of both.
From a breastfeeding mom…let me just tell you that when I stared at formula using moms in the park with their bottles it was because I was secretly jealous a little bit…it just seemed so much easier to me than trying to wrestle a thrashing biting baby who was he’ll bent on showing the works my boobs by refusing to nurse under a cover. I am a pretty modest person and I always dreaded nursing her in public. I would look at the babies with bottles and their calm mommies enjoying their park date or enjoying their meal in a restaraunt and dream about how easy it would be. So don’t always think that the looks are bad looks 🙂 I chose to nurse my baby for personal reasons – I had a very traumatic end to my pregnancy, a very traumatic long labor with hours of pushing and then a csectuon with complications and a really banged up baby. Nursing helped me get over my feelings of being inadequate and broken – I could barely make a baby, couldn’t birth a baby but my god I was going to feed my baby at least LOL. But let me tell you…it wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine lol. So many times I would glance at the babies with bottles and think about how green the grass was on that side. I think sometimes those looks may not be disapproval but rather a little envy. Just thought maybe hearing a different perspective may make someone not feel bad the next time they get “a look” 🙂
Sorry for the typos lol. Stupid iphone. It should say at the top that my baby was “hell bent on showing the world my boobs” lol
I’m always amazed at how comfortable people are asking such a personal question such as, “Are you breastfeeding?” To your point, who’s business is it?? Whether or not a mom breastfeeds should be up to the parents and parents alone. There’s enough pressure on parents as it is without adding more to the pile.
Amen to this!! I have always said as long as you are not harming your baby, it is no ones place to judge your parental decisions.
I literally almost died from breastfeeding. After my third bout of mastitis turned into an abscess, which was filled with deadly MRSA bacteria, I had to switch to formula. I was so devastated, at point I even asked my husband whether or not having a living mother was more important than her being breastfed. This is the point my lactation consultant had gotten me to. I shouldn’t have let anyone tell me that breastfeeding was more important than my life, but to many it seemed this was the case. I was breastfed, I have terrible allergies and eczema. My husband was formula fed, and has no allergies or eczema. So there ya go – I believe genetics play a much bigger part than we realize. Is breast best? Probably. Sure. Is formula poison? Of course not.