The first time I bottle-fed my daughter outside of our home, I hid in the bathroom to mix her bottle. I was so ashamed. I thought "breast was best," and feared my breastfeeding friends' judgment. Later, I learned to mix bottles before leaving the house, so people might think they were full of breast milk and judge me less. It sucked. Finally, after bottle-feeding three babies to various degrees, seeing them thrive, and finding myself thriving, too, I'm over it. Seriously, I won't apologize for bottle-feeding my baby for so many reasons, and I am so done feeling shame about how I feed my baby.
Don't misunderstand, I'm a huge advocate for breastfeeding, but I don't see it as something that's superior to, or mutually exclusive from, bottle-feeding. After I wasn't able to make enough breast milk, and accidentally starved my daughter, I felt so much guilt and shame. I ended up doing things very differently the next time. I combo-fed my older son, breastfeeding him at home, supplementing with formula, and having my day care provider bottle-feed him during the day. I have ended up mostly bottle-feeding my youngest hypoallergenic formula, due to his food allergies. And it might surprise you to hear that I have absolutely loved it.
I have realized that being a good parent has literally nothing to do with how you feed your baby. It's a personal choice and not something anyone should be expected to explain or apologize for. Full stop. Whenever I see a parent feeding their baby, I tell them they are doing a good job, no matter whether it's breast, bottle, or both. It took me a long time to get over the shame, mostly because of all of the shaming I endured, and I am so done apologizing for bottle-feeding for the following reasons:
1. My Babies Needed Formula
My babies needed formula — because I didn't make enough breast milk, and because my son had food allergies and was just not thriving until we switched to formula full-time. Other babies need formula, too, for a variety of reasons. Formula is necessary, and before it existed babies died.
2. It Was The Right Choice For Our Family
Exclusive breastfeeding didn't work for our family. It contributed to two of my babies having jaundice, and all three of my babies losing too much weight in their first few days of life. My son needed special hypoallergenic formula to thrive, and I work outside the home, so needed to bottle-feed all of my kids to varying degrees.
3. Mom-Shaming Needs To Stop
It seems like I have been shamed for just about every parenting choice I've made, but never so much as for daring to bottle-feed my kids. I'm serious. I have been shamed on park benches, in restaurants, at stores, at baby play time, and on the internet, when I posted an image of my daughter eating. It sucked. The perpetrators were almost exclusively other moms. I know that I'm not alone. In a survey conducted by Mom.life, almost 80 percent of the moms said they had experienced bullying, and 67 percent said that their bullies were other moms. It needs to stop.
4. My Babies Thrived From Bottle-Feeding
When I look at these pictures of my daughter, taken just two weeks apart, I get a lump in the back of my throat. She needed formula to thrive, and it made a huge, undeniable difference. Breast wasn't best for her, and once she started getting formula, too, she grew from a thin, jaundiced newborn into a healthy, chubby baby. The right formula helped my youngest son finally start growing and to not have the horrible (the worst) diarrhea and painful rashes that he had before we made the switch.
5. Formula Is Amazing
I love formula so much that I don't even call it formula anymore. Instead, I call it "amazing science milk." Formula is awesome, and it's getting more amazing every day. There are so many options available now, especially for babies who have special nutritional needs, like my son. Admitting that formula is good doesn't mean that breast milk isn't also good. It just means they're both pretty freaking awesome.
6. I Don't Have To Explain My Choices
So, yeah, I am not sure how it's anyone's business how I feed my baby and I certainly don't want to be questioned about it or feel like I have to explain my medical history, undersupply, or baby's health to strangers on the street. It's my body, my baby, and my choice to bottle-feed.
7. Bottle-Feeding Is Awesome
Seriously, you guys, I was so focused on breastfeeding my babies that it never actually occurred to me that bottle-feeding would be awesome, too. I had no idea what the ability to bottle-feed my baby would do for my mental health, giving me peace of mind, and the freedom to leave the freaking house once in a while. It also meant more sleep, being able to go back to work, the ability for my partner to take over feedings, and getting my body back.
8. I Don't Care What You Think
I am so over caring about what people think of me and my family, and there are so many more important things for me to worry about, like ending rape culture, advocating for family-friendly public policy, and making sure my kids are healthy, safe, and loved.
9. No One Should Have To Apologize For How They Feed Their Baby
There are so many situations where bottle is best, you guys. In the developed world, differences between breast-fed and formula-fed babies are negligible. Some people breastfeed, and that's awesome, but other parents need to or want to bottle-feed, and that's awesome, too. Bottle-feeding was not only necessary, but also a great fit for our family, and I refuse to apologize for how I feed my baby.
10. Fed Is Best
They say that days with your children are long, but years are short, and it's so freaking true. So many things feel like huge deals in the moment, but over time, they don't really make a difference. If there's one thing I've learned in nearly nine years of being a parent it's that how you feed your baby is so small in the grand scheme of things. You literally cannot walk into my daughter's third grade classroom and pick out the bottle-fed kids.
My new mantra is — whether from bottle, tube, or breast, feeding your babies is definitely best.
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