An Open Letter to Moms Who Think Formula Is 'Poison'

Rant 288

baby bottleDear Breastfeeding Advocate, I've heard you loud and clear. You say formula is poison. I understand that you're just really gung-ho about breastfeeding, and you're trying to make a point. You care about babies and moms.

But please, can you just take a moment and read those words out loud?

Formula is poison.

Is that what you really mean to say?

Do you think that moms who give their babies formula are trying to kill them? That's what poison does, right?

Do you think these moms should go to jail for child abuse? That's what happens to moms who feed their kids other poisons -- rat poison, pesticides ...

More from The Stir: Breastfeeding Moms Could Need Formula More Than They Know

Would you tell that to a mother who just adopted a baby, who has no choice but to put a bottle in the mouth of her precious little girl? Is she selfish; is she abusive for choosing bottle over breast?

What about the mom who had a double mastectomy because she had breast cancer? Her milk ducts are gone, but thanks to the the miracle of egg harvesting, she's living her dream of being a mom. Is she a child abuser? An attempted murderer?

She is, after all, knowingly feeding her child -- as you call it -- poison.

Still standing behind your hyperbole?

If you haven't guessed by now, I too fed my daughter formula.

Not at first. I had every intention of breastfeeding from the moment I became pregnant. No, before that. I was breastfed. My husband was breastfed.

I think breastfeeding is far superior to bottlefeeding.

I say that now. I say that even though my daughter was raised primarily on formula.

I think breastfeeding is the best thing that can be done for a baby.

That is why, when I couldn't do it, it tore me in two. I spent hours crying. I was paralyzed by a fear so deep that I couldn't leave my house. Literally, stepping off the porch made me hyperventilate.

There was no one to help me. There are no lactation consultants where I live. There is no La Leche League. I didn't have a mother there to help me get the proper latch.

When I turned to the Internet for help, I found a lot of angry women like you, women who were quick to judge me for allowing my husband to give our daughter a bottle of formula, women who dismissed me and coldly told me how selfish and useless I was.

This was their way of "encouraging me to breastfeed."

I gave up after two weeks of crying and paralyzing fear and sore nipples and pumping one breast that quite simply never filled with milk, no matter how hard I tried to encourage it to produce.

I gave up and gave my daughter formula.

I gave up and gave my daughter something to sate her insatiable hunger.

You say I gave her poison. I say I gave her life.

I gave her a mother who could go on anti-depressants to fight the demons in her head. I gave her something to fill her tummy and help her grow big and strong.

She is almost 8 years old now, and still I feel guilty that she wasn't breastfed. I feel guilty even though she's never had an ear infection and, up until this year when a wicked virus made its way through her elementary school, never been sick for more than a day or two. I feel guilty even though she's an active soccer player and dancer who makes good grades and stays up late reading Pippi Longstocking and Ramona Quimby. I feel guilty even though her smile brightens a room and her laughter lights up my life.

I feel guilty in my heart even though my head tells me not to.

I feel guilty because every time I make the mistake of reading about breastfeeding and formula, I'm faced with you, dear breastfeeding advocate, telling me that the very thing that helped keep my daughter alive was poison. 

So tell me, are you proud of yourself?

Do you still think formula is poison?


A mom just like you


Image via Raphael Goetter/Flickr

breastfeeding, formula


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nonmember avatar MammaMel

you know what I love about people like you? It's either you are a terrible person or you aren't a breastfeeding advocate, and you can't even realize that MOST breast feeding advocates ARE there to help and DON'T spout that crap. Most of the ones who ARE so pushy about it is because we get grief for breastfeeding longer into toddler/childhood. But most lactavist just want to HELP mothers, and if you start formula feeding will keep our mouths shut unless we are attacked for nursing. But thanks for generalizing us all.

nonmember avatar FarmersWife

It might as well be poison. Sure infants can survive on it but it is far inferior to breast milk. Ok now that your good and mad- my issue is the formula companies and the lack of advancements in infant formula. The ingredients, GMOs, lack of ameno acids, excesses of some vitamins, unavaibility of others and extreamly poor digestibility, should be unacceptable in this country. If half the product advertising went to research and development we'd be leaps and bounds ahead. Fact is, formula IS necessary, it's a life saving product with little advancement and a lot of issues. Formula will never be superior to breast milk, but I hope it advances into a healthier option.

Sierr... SierraLynn

I have no choice but to formula feed. I don't have adequate milk ducts and I literally only produce just drops of breast milk. No I am not ashamed in the least. I can't do it, so why be sad about it. My kids are healthy and happy.

And I think "wet nurses" and donated breast milk are weird.

femal... femaleMIKE

Everyone has their opinions.  I refuse to explain any of my decisions to anyone.

Someone made a comment about my coffee habit, so I asked if they were with the pregnancy police.

Someone asked me what my sons name would be, they pretty much tried to pressure me to make him a Jr.  I said hell, no.

you get my point, people always know what you should do more than you. 


nonmember avatar Alicia

Thank you, for writing about this issue. I could never in a million years tell a mom, who is striving to breast feed that she just isn't good enough or trying hard enough. I could never get either of my babies to latch, I went to classes, I sought help. I ended up with cold women, who told me to try a nipple shield and sent me on my way. So, I pumped with both and had enough in the freezer for five mths. After that, formula was my only option. I've never frowned on a mom who breast feed in public, I encourage it, babies need to eat. I believe truly in the expression, ' live and let live." Abuse of course is the exception, but loving and doing the best you can for your baby isn't abuse. Perhaps, these mom's who yell about formula feeding could help instead of hinder and bully. Perhaps, they could advise mom's instead. Show a little compassion....

Nicole Vick

Wow. I almost cried cause I was in the SAME exact boat. All those mom's out there made me feel like a incompitant mother who could not provide for her daughter naturally. The doctor even prescribed me medicaiton to help me lactate... nothing worked. I relate to this post 100%. My daughter ended up being formula fed and scores high in the charts as far a healthy kid goes. And her iron levels are SO WELL that they couldn't even record it. How amazing is that. I didn't make the wrong decision and I'm not going to feel bad about  it either. I made the right choice to FEED my daughter. And I have a lot to show for it.
Thank you for this post. It was very enlightening. 

nonmember avatar blue

I formula fed, and I don't feel the need to address it with anyone. I'm not insecure about my reasoning, and I'm not intimidated by bullies. I think women who are secure in themselves, don't need to explain OR bully. I have met some CRAZY breastfeeders. It's like their whole worth is tied to their breasts, and shoving their opinion down everyone's throat. If a woman is secure in herself and really cares about a cause, she will educate not insult and rant. Secure woman don't need to defend, or offend.

nonmember avatar Vanessa

Since we are all being honest here, yes I to formula-fed...I was a single mom, completely alone in my house and I had a very good career with the government. I literally had NO time to breast feed and I was gone at work for 10 hours out of the day and when I got home it was take care of her and do my night classes at the SAME TIME!!! breast feeding would not have fit in my schedule and therefore I never even did it...I didn't even try because I didn't want her to get attached.

My Dr. said it was my decision and not to listen to the "nurse nazis" as he called them LOL.

nonmember avatar Rory Gilmore

Thank you for this honest article! I relate to what you have to say, and was excited to see the comments supporting you, too. Instead, half of them are against you. To those against her, know that if you were to read any one of the breast feeding articles on this site, you will surely find at the minimum one commenter saying that formula is poison. And also know that she did not say that all BFing advocates think that way. People need to stop being so defensive all the time and instead maybe take the time to think about someone else's point of view. It will take you farther than going off on someone on a blog post will.

miche... micheledo

Wow. I am extremely pro-breastfeeding. I can't believe some of the comments. This did not come across as an angry rant at all. It sounded like amom who struggled, big time, and wants to share her side. Maybe get some people to realize how hurtful our words and approach can be.

Sure, breastfeeding is best. And I wish more moms would consider milk share programs (free ones too!) I wish formula wasn't an option that was needed, and like another poster, I wish it was a TON better.

Even when we disagree, we should be able to be kind with our words. (That is what I teach my children. It appears many adults have never learned that lesson)

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