I used to judge my friend who chose to formula feed from the start, without even trying to breastfeed. However, when faced with a dangerously low breast milk supply, she was the only person who told me it was OK to choose formula. Once I did, I feel in love with my baby for real. I honestly don't know if I will breastfeed my next child, but if I choose formula I won't feel shame. I will keep repeating mantras for women who decide not to breastfeed, instead. Mantras like:
You are good.
You are a good mom.
Formula is awesome.
Because, well, I am "good," and I am a "good mom," and formula is, you know, awesome. In the end, it was what my baby needed. Trying to breastfeed her was not only dangerous, it was bad for me and resulted in a stressed out, exhausted, depressed version of me who was not capable of being the best mom I could be.
After more than seven years of parenthood, I've learned that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits all solutions for all mothers, babies, and families. Which, of course, means there's more than one way to nourish our babies so they thrive and grow. Pretty soon, they will be eating Cheetos off the floor and stealing candy from your stash in the bathroom, anyway. So, give yourself some love and repeat after me:
"Fed Is Best"
No, but seriously. There are two options to choose from when it comes to feeding and nourishing your baby: breast milk and formula. Both are equally important, healthy, and safe. In the developed world, differences between breast-fed and formula-fed babies are negligible. Don't feel any shame for how you feed your baby.
"Breast Isn't Always Best"
Off the top of my head, I can think of at least 100 scenarios where breast is definitely not best for either a baby or the person caring for a baby. For example; if a mom can’t produce enough breast milk, baby can’t latch, mom is a sexual violence survivor and breastfeeding is a trigger, baby has jaundice, mom has a medical condition, baby has an intolerance to breast milk, mom is on a medication that is not OK for breastfeeding, baby is adopted, mom had breast surgery or breast cancer, baby is in the NICU and needs special food, mom has to go back to work, baby has lost weight, mom has postpartum depression, baby is not thriving on breast milk, or mom simply doesn't want to (which is far from least important), and, well, the list goes on.
It's absolutely impossible to know what may or may not happen, what is or isn't best for you and your child, or how breastfeeding will affect you mentally (as well as physically and emotionally). Of course, no one else knows, either.
"I Am A Great Mom"
What you choose or how you choose to feed your baby has nothing to do with whether or not you're a good mom. Before formula existed, many babies failed to thrive or even died from malnutrition and dehydration. As long as you are feeding your baby so they grow and thrive you are a good mom.
"Formula Is Awesome"
Let's hear it for formula. Formula is awesome, and it's getting better every year. The choices that are available today are truly amazing and allow us parents to meet our babies' needs and keep them healthy and strong, even when they have special nutritional needs.
I refuse to even call it formula anymore. I call it science milk. Admitting that formula is good doesn't mean that breast milk isn't also good. It just means they're both pretty freakin' awesome.
"My Baby Is Healthy"
Your baby is growing and thriving. That's what matters. Give yourself a serious pat on the back for nourishing and loving them.
"It Doesn't Matter What Other People Think"
The sanctimommy judgments hurt, don't get me wrong. It's easy to say, "Someone else's opinions don't matter," but they do. They really do. However, try not to let them bother you.
Whenever someone gave me a hard time for formula feeding my baby, I sort of felt sorry for them. Their lives must be so small that they can't feel good without cutting other people's choices down. Can't we all support each other in this parenting adventure?
"This Time Is Short"
Time is short. Before you know it, you won't remember all of these emotions you are feeling, and hopefully you will be able to forget any guilt or shame. I urge you to pick my formula-fed daughter out of a crowd of children who were breastfed. Yeah, that's not going to happen.
"There Are Benefits"
Formula is convenient, and there's just no way around it. It allows your partner and other people to help with feedings (especially the ones at some horrific hour in the middle of the night), and it's portable. It's also not as expensive as people might think, can decrease overall postpartum stress, limit the need to breast pump at work, and provides moms with a little more bodily autonomy. Add the bonus of not having to leave a meeting because you're engorged, or having to suffer through complications like mastitis or thrush and, well, it's easy to see that formula has its benefits.
Besides, while formula isn't free, breastfeeding isn't free, either. Your time matters. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
"Parenting Is Not One Size Fits All"
You are the expert in what's best for you, your body, your lifestyle, and your family. Fortunately, we have choices in how to feed our babies that moms didn't always have way back when. In other words, we're lucky.
"My Body, My Choice"
And it is your body. Don't forget that. Bodily autonomy doesn't end when you give birth. If you don't want to breastfeed or you want to formula feed, don't feel guilty for making the right choice for yourself. It's your body, your baby, and your choice, because #feminism.