Whenever there is an article about breastfeeding, there are comments from moms about formula. Very negative comments. And vice versa. We have to all remember that words can be like daggers, especially to a new mom doing all she can to be the best mom she can be. I've said the phrase "breast is best," and while I do believe that to be true, it's not true all of the time. Maybe it's 100 percent true for you all the time, but not everyone is the same, not everyone has the same life, and we should all be mindful of those who do things differently than us. We should also realize that while some of the comments make it seem like formula feeding moms are lazy women who don't care about what goes into their baby's body (and that's just wrong), others are just commenting to encourage women to try breastfeeding.
The point is that It's not always what we say, it's how we say it. There are so many moms who have to formula feed their baby. And they are amazing mothers doing what is best.
Let's not make this about formula. I think we all agree that formula should be safe and healthy for baby. And we should do all we can to make sure it is, including preparing it properly. What this is about is supporting all moms who are doing the best for baby. And if the best is formula feeding, those women deserve support, too. The guilt many moms feel for not being able to breastfeed at all or exclusively is very hard to deal with -- and the hurtful comments from other moms who can breastfeed make an already stressful situation worse.
I breastfed my twins. But during that first year, I also needed formula to supplement my low supply and the fact that when I went back to work, my production went down even when pumping all I could. I've said in the past formula feeders love their babies just as much as breastfeeders love their babies. Many women must choose formula -- for many reasons. And you can't say it's easy to get donated breast milk for an entire year. It just isn't. Those resources aren't available to everyone. Some people go so far as to say how mothers who formula feed are harming their babies. And that is divisive and counter-productive even for lactivists.
How would you feel if you weren't succeeding at something you really wanted to do and then people who were successful at it were telling you how terrible a person you are for not succeeding? That's what it can be like.
This topic was brought up to me from a reader named Julia. She emailed me saying how she couldn't wait to have her baby girl and planned to breastfeed her until she was ready to stop. But her milk didn't come in. So she worked on that. Baby had a great latch and she tried to nurse sometimes 20 hours of the day for the first few weeks to get production going. She looked to a lactation consultant for advice and guidance. She pumped up to 10 times a day and used a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to give her baby breastmilk. Sometimes she would spend an hour pumping and only got under an ounce. She spent over $500 trying to do something that should be "natural." She didn't want to give up and give in to formula -- she wanted her baby to be exclusively breastfed, but her baby's weight got too low.
She was devastated that despite all her efforts, it wasn't enough. Her baby is now 5 months old and is completely on formula. It's not the outcome Julia wanted.
Even Julia admits that she used to judge moms who bottle fed. But now she knows that you can never know what another mother has been through. Every woman's story is different. Every woman's challenges are her own. Julia told me, "It hurts my soul to see people bash formula, as if it will kill my baby. It saved her life. She is thriving now. From this experience I know that there are lots of moms in my shoes.
Julia inspired me to write this. I know firsthand exactly how she feels. Yes, my story is different but those feeling of inadequacy are there. The jealousy of women who could nurse are sadly there. The guilt. It's all there because we want to give our babies the best -- it's our instinct as mothers. But sometimes our plans change without us wanting them to and we have to make the best out of the situation we are given. Julia was falling into a depression because of her issues breastfeeding -- she wasn't enjoying her baby, her new motherhood. She told me that bottle feeding allowed her to feel human again and to bond with her baby. That is a mother doing what is best. Like so many moms who formula feed do as well. I hope we can all support all moms who are trying to do the best they can with their situation, and not judge or rush to assumptions or bash those whose situation is different than our own.
Speak (or comment) with kindness -- we shouldn't be against one another when we are all trying to do our best.
Have you felt unfairly judged for having to formula feed your child? What kind words can you share to help other moms understand?
Image via nerissa's ring/Flickr