Long before my son entered this world, I knew I wanted to give breastfeeding my best shot. It was important to me that I breastfed my son, for all the reasons most people want to give breastfeeding a shot: so we could bond and I could share that experience with him and he could get the nutrients and anti-bodies that he needed. But I would also be lying if I said the stigma surrounding formula feeding moms didn't play a roll in whether or not I would try to breastfeed my son. Because, well, it did.
I didn't want to be seen as a lazy or selfish or bad mother. After all, I was just getting used to the label "mother" and didn't think I could handle a negative identifier attached to it. So, I tried breastfeeding and (thankfully) I was successful. I breastfed my son for seven wonderful, tiring, exhausting, and sometimes painful months.
Then, all of a sudden...my son stopped eating. He was self-weaning, and wouldn't breastfeed any more. I continued to try to breastfeed, but it wasn't working. I began to worry that my son wasn't getting enough nutrients. I was forced with a decision I thought I no longer needed to contemplate: Do I formula feed my baby and risk looking like a lazy, selfish, bad mother (even though I logically know better)? Or do I continue to try breastfeeding and risk my son losing precious weight?
Turns out, the decision (while heartbreaking for me) was also an easy one. It also made me face myself and the many lies I had told myself about formula feeding; the lies that made me feel great (and at times, almost self-righteous) about my decision (and ability) to breastfeed.
So in the name of transparency, self-love, and honesty, here are the 10 absolutely bullsh*t things I told myself about formula feeding while I was too busy trying to be the perfect mother. It's time we moms cut the crap, and start being kinder to ourselves (and one another).
Formula Feeding Is Lazy
I don't know why I let myself think that getting out of bed, making a bottle, and feeding my child in the middle of the night meant that I was lazy. There's nothing lazy about preparing to formula feed your kid. Trust me. There's nothing lazy about feeding your kid at all.
My Kid Isn't Getting What They Need
When my son stopped breastfeeding, I was convinced that his tiny body would get even tinier as a result of him failing to get the nutrients he needed. Of course, that wasn't true at all; babies get completely adequate, awesome nutrition from formula. Especially considering many premature babies have to be formula fed, and they (or at least many) grow up to be big and strong and just as healthy as breastfed babies. Formula will still give your kid the vitamins and nutrients they need.
Formula Fed Babies Aren't As Smart
If my kid isn't going to be as smart as he could be, it will be because he didn't study or pay attention in class or because I messed him up in some actual way. It will not be because he was fed formula. I was so afraid that after seven months of breastfeeding, my kid's brain would stop forming properly because I had to give him formula instead of breastmilk. I mean, what kind of mother am I, really? He won't be able to add or subtract or multiply and we can just go ahead and forget about college!! (Yes, as you can imagine, I was sleep deprived when I was having most of these thoughts)
If I Formula Feed, I'm Giving Up
The shame that has accompanied bottle feeding definitely lead me to believe that I had "given up" on breastfeeding. I told myself that I needed to try a little longer, a little harder; essentially starving my kid, all because he was done breastfeeding and I didn't want to be. It took me a long time to realize that I didn't give up anything. I was still making sure my child had the nutrients he needed. I didn't give up on feeding my kid, and that's all that matters.
I Won't Be Able To Bond With My Kid
Yeah, this just flat-out isn't true. I had seven months of breastfeeding bonding time, and many more months of bottle-feeding bonding time, and I can tell you that they weren't all that different from one another. I still held my kid in my arms, I still looked into his big, brown eyes when I fed him, and I still kissed the top of his head and sang him quiet songs (off-key, mind you). Feeding your kid is a bonding experience, regardless of how it is you're doing it.
If I Formula Feed, I'm Being Selfish
There's nothing selfish about feeding and sustaining another human being. Trust me. Did I like having a part of my body back, instead of having my kid call the shots and suck on my boobs whenever he needed to? Sure. Did I feel semi-guilty that I was somewhat relieved, even though I was also sad to see our breastfeeding time come to an end? You bet. But the idea that a woman should be made to feel selfish for not giving up her body all the time, whenever and wherever, is ridiculous. There's nothing wrong with being happy about regaining complete ownership over oneself. You're not selfish for bottle feeding. You're just a mom, feeding her kid.
My Kid Will Get Sick More Often
Also not true. While breastfeeding does give your kid important antibodies that assist them in fighting off infection, I can tell you that after I stopped breastfeeding my kid and started bottle feeding him, he didn't all-of-a-sudden become ill. In fact, my son has yet to get any sort of ear infection, and he wasn't sick until he was 19 months old.
My Kid Will Develop Allergies
According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is no known cause of food allergies. There are plenty of theories, of course, but no one knows for sure. The point being, if no one knows, you definitely don't, so don't jump on the train and head to assumption junction. There are plenty of babies who have been breastfeed exclusively, and still have food allergies; There are plenty of babies who were formula fed exclusively who do not.
I'm Neglecting/Abusing My Kid
Are you feeding your child? Do you love your child? Are you making sure that your child has everything that they need, including and especially food? Then no, you're not abusing or neglecting your kid at all.
I'm A Failure As A Mother
I can't even tell you how many times I have thought this very dark, very relentless, very unkind thought, especially when I could no longer breastfeed my kid. Pictures of beautiful, maternal-looking women, breastfeeding their kid with their long hair and some kind of light-halo around their head, would flash in front of me as I fixed a bottle for my crying son. I felt defeated and less-than. I felt like my son would be better off with another woman, who could have breastfed him longer.
But the truth is, no one could possibly be the mother my son needs, besides me. I am his mom and he is my son and that's just the way it goes. If I'm loving him and caring for him and feeding him and providing him with everything he needs — physically, emotionally, mentally and otherwise — then I am not failing as a mother. I am being what my son needs me to be. Will I mess up and make mistakes and do the wrong thing from time to time? Yes. Of course. Way more than once. But will I ever fail? No.