Breastfeeding is one of nature's greatest gifts. Between being the most frugal way to feed a newborn, it comes equipped with antibodies and gives mother and baby a chance to bond in a more intimate way. However, breastfeeding doesn't come easily to all of us, myself included, and I'm really tired of all the mom-shaming. I've heard some of the cruelest things anyone could say to a mom using formula from people I thought understood the circumstances. Honestly, between breast or bottle, does it even matter? As long as a mother is caring for her baby the best she's able, I don't see what the big deal is.
When I had my first baby, I had all the plans to breastfeed. I read up on it, studied what to do and how, and sought advice from seasoned mothers whenever possible. I was excited for the opportunity to do something only my baby and I would share. What I hadn't anticipated was how hard it would be. Not only did my baby not want to latch, my milk didn't come as expected and my postpartum depression (PPD) triggered bouts of anxiety I couldn't escape. All the stress of trying to breastfeed didn't help my baby and I bond but, in fact, it kept us from bonding. I hated every second of it. Every. Second.
Even after meeting with a lactation consultant, I couldn't get through a session without crying or having a panic attack. All this made my baby fussy and, honestly, it wasn't worth it. I didn't want to make her miserable while my hormones took over. Some mothers go through much of the same and are able to get through it, but I wasn't one of them. Once my mental health deteriorated to a dangerous degree, it was clear we had to go to formula to preserve any chance at me bonding with my baby before it was too late.
Because of this, people feel it their need to say whatever they feel like saying about my personal decision to feed my baby formula. As if they know what I was going through, or how much I mourned giving up this dream of breastfeeding. It wasn't an easy decision, but a necessary one and, yes, I feel like I've failed a little bit as my baby's mother already. So hearing things spewed for my feeding choices certainly didn't (and still don't) help. Some of the things anyone could say to a formula-feeding mother can be cruel. This is exactly why I skipped over all this stress with my son and went straight to the bottle. It's all too much pressure. Can't we all stop the judgements and just praise one another for rocking motherhood the best way we know how? Please and thank you.
"But Breast Is Best"
Yes, I get it. I really, really do. I wanted the best for my baby but, unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. It doesn't mean I don't love her and it doesn't mean I care less than breastfeeding mothers care about their babies. These days, some formulas have been created to mimic breast milk as much as possible for those of us who aren't able. So please, stop telling formula moms this sentiment. It doesn't help anything except maybe your ego.
"Did You Try (Whatever They Swear Works)"
Yes. I tried every last thing available before I decided it wasn't for me, often sitting through uncomfortable, painful, mentally exhausting feeding sessions took its toll on my relationships with my partner and new baby. I promise, if it was available to me I gave it my all before calling it quits. So please, stop yourself before you recommend.
"You Must Not Be Doing It Correctly"
Are you kidding me? While I didn't exactly know what I was doing at first, I tried and tried again before getting a lactation consultant to guide me. Even then, the anxiety had accumulated to the point of me being too anxious to try at all. Hearing I was doing something wrong only made me feel like more of a failure when I was at a low point as it was. If you're thinking of saying this to a new mother looking at the option of formula, don't. It literally helps nothing, no matter how sincere your approach.
"Formula Babies Don't Grow Up As Smart As Breastfed Babies"
I heard this once in the thick of my breastfeeding struggles and let me tell you, it hurt. Here I was — this fatigued new mother going through severe PPD — and someone comes along to remind me my choice to use formula isn't only wrong, but a detriment to my child's brain development. I completely understand all the benefits of breastmilk, such as the long-chain saturated fatty-acids (DHAs) that aid in brain development. This is also why I attempted to pump when the personal latching wasn't happening. However, to suggest my child won't be as smart as your breastfed baby is unfair and cruel.
"You'll Burn More Calories Breastfeeding"
Yeah, and you'll burn more calories spewing your judgement elsewhere. So? Also, to suggest I need to lose a few pounds mere weeks after delivery tells me you care less about the method in which I feed my baby and more about superficial outer appearances. Hard pass.
"Doesn't Formula Cause Weight Gain?"
Some might, maybe. But again, where is this anyone's place to comment? When I'm feeding my baby, I want to make sure she's getting all the things she needs to grow and be healthy. What happens with her formula or weight — especially when it's in the normal range — is no one's business.
"What About The Lack Of Antibodies?"
It's true babies on formula don't receive the infection-fighting stuff that comes in breastmilk. However, because of this cool thing called placenta blood flow, they already have protection for four to six months after delivery. And anyway, even if I breastfed, it wouldn't rule out a cold, infection, or any other severe medical issue.
"I Had Problems But I Pushed Through"
Good for you.
"There's No Reason You Can't Try Again"
I did try, and I failed every time. Some women just aren't meant for breastfeeding for whatever reason. As it turns out, I had lots of reasons. Mental health is important if I'm going to be a good mother and having to sacrifice it to feed my baby meant I wasn't talking care of myself. That seems more important than the bottle vs. breast debate.
"You Won't Bond"
My greatest fear in having a baby at all was that she and I wouldn't bond, and that I would subconsciously reject her as mine and we'd struggle to find our way. Unfortunately, this came to fruition because my postpartum depression interfered. It's pretty damn hard to bond with your baby through breastfeeding if the act of breastfeeding triggers more depression and anxiety. So, I went to formula and eventually, when my PPD evaporated, my daughter and I formed the bond we'd lacked early on.
When a mom chooses to formula over breast, leave her alone. You don't know what she's been through and, even if you did, it's not your baby. It's time we start giving all mothers the benefit of the doubt and stop with all the negativity and judgement.