I was such a "perfect mom" before I had my first child, especially because I planned to breastfeed. In fact, I was going to exclusively breastfeed my daughter until she politely asked me to stop. Little did I know that breastfeeding wouldn't be the best choice for my baby (or me). However, before I figured that out I was pretty sanctimonious, and even mean, to moms who formula fed. There are so many things us moms have to stop saying about moms who formula feed. Not just because they are unkind, but because they are inaccurate, untrue, and anti-feminist.
I was pregnant with my daughter the same time one of my co-workers was pregnant with her youngest son. With her first, she had tried unsuccessfully to breastfeed and then happily, and without a second thought, switched to formula when he was a few days old. I was horrible to her. I remember challenging her plan to formula feed her next baby from the start. She wasn't even going to try. I couldn't believe it. Didn't she know that "breast is best?" I asked her so many inappropriate questions and even tried to quote "statistics" and "research" to get her to change her mind. I was such a b*tch. Seriously. I have no clue why she didn't tell me off.
Her second child was born a week before my daughter. She choose to formula feed him without a second thought. When breastfeeding my daughter didn't work out, she was literally my only friend who helped me navigate how to choose and use formula. She was also my only friend who didn't judge me, make nasty comments, or try to change my mind. Everyone else made me feel terrible to the point I started thinking that I had failed as a mother.
No one deserves that.
Formula is awesome, and thank goodness it's available. Next time you feel the need to say something to a formula feeding mom, stop and think, "Am I being kind?" If the answer is no, you might want to just stop talking, or try, "Good job, mama," instead.
They Are Lazy
Being a mom is hard. Period. I don't understand why some people think that the way you choose to feed your baby has anything to do with how lazy or hard-working you are. When you formula feed, you have to find the right formula, buy it, and make bottles. When you breastfeed, you have to learn how and work through challenges and barriers. Both are hard. Parenthood is not a competition.
They Are Selfish
I have heard this way too many times. "You're selfish for not wanting to use our breasts for their "intended purpose" or to not wanting to give up bodily autonomy for months (or years)." Huh?
I'm selfish for wanting my partner to share in feedings? I'm selfish for "giving up?" Making a choice that's right for my family is not selfish. Also, I'm confused: are formula feeding moms lazy or selfish? Which is it? After all, I'm pretty positive it can't be both.
They Don't Love Their Babies Enough
Just stop. That's ridiculous. I can't even.
They Should Have Tried To Breastfeed (Or Tried Harder)
I have heard the phrase, "Well, at least you tried," and the question, "Why didn't you try harder?" too many times to count. As if, a) anyone has a right to say what I should or should not do with my body, and b) you know how hard I tried or didn't try to breastfeed. Ugh.
That Their Babies Will Get Sick
The health benefits of breastfeeding in an industrialized country are hugely overstated. This doesn't mean that breast milk isn't awesome, because it totally is, but it does mean that blaming negative health outcomes on formula is not only insensitive, it's inaccurate. The research about breastfeeding is mixed, and there are many health-related reasons why a baby might need formula to thrive – breast milk supply issues, jaundice, intolerance to breast milk, and poor breast milk quality – just to name a few. I am so grateful formula was available for my babies. It saved their lives and helped them grow healthy and strong.
They Should Breastfeed "Next Time"
When I got back from maternity leave after my first child was born, a co-worker actually said this to me. Again, I don't have to do anything with my body that I don't want to do. Besides, how do you know there will even be a next time? As if this baby is broken, but it's OK, because I can try again with the next one. My daughter is not broken. And, what would you have me do? Should I return her to the hospital and say, "Breastfeeding didn't work out with this one, I'd like to try again with a new baby, please." Gimme a break.
They Won't Bond With Their Babies
Again, there are so many ways to bond with your baby. When you imply that breastfeeding is the only way to bond, you are also saying that adoptive parents, breast cancer survivors, gay parents, dads, and people physically unable to breastfeed can't bond with their babies. What a terrible and untrue thing to say. Also, I can say from experience that I didn't really start bonding with my daughter until I started feeding her formula.
They Are Uneducated
When someone tells you they formula feed their baby, don't assume they are using formula because they are "stupid" or lack information on the topic. Also, don't try to "educate" them on the benefits of breast milk or the dangers of formula. That's so rude.
Formula Is Poison
Stop. Formula is amazing. It is. Before formula was available, babies died. Formula has also helped enhance women's autonomy and their ability to work outside the home and advance in their careers. Not to mention it enables all types of caregivers to feed and nourish babies. Formula is one of the most highly regulated foods available. Formula = science milk.
They Aren't Good Parents
It took me years to get over the guilt of feeding my daughter formula, largely due to statements like these. It's now been seven years since I started exclusively formula feeding my daughter. The memories of these comments still hurt, but when I see how healthy and amazing she is, they seem so petty and empty.
Can we please get over the mommy wars? You seriously shouldn't have to cut someone else down to feel good. There are many ways to be a great parent. Let's support each other no matter how or what we feed our babies. Because #fedisbest.