Unfortunately, it seems as though some people are so focused on promoting breastfeeding as the "best" choice for feeding babies, they think it's OK to say just about anything to formula-feeding moms. When I say anything, I mean anything. I've heard it all. Things like, "You must not know any better," and "Don't you want what's best for your baby?" and always, "breast is best." There are so many things people feel fine saying to moms who use formula that just aren't kind, necessary, or true.
The first time it happened to me, I was standing in the formula aisle at the pharmacy up the street from my house. My partner and I had stopped on our way to the NICU to pick up our newborn baby and finally bring her home. She had to be re-hospitalized for jaundice and dehydration because my milk didn't come in right away. When it did finally come in, it wasn't enough. I was feeling all the things, including relieved, worried, happy, scared, exhausted. I also felt lost, because I knew nothing about formula. I held two cans next to each other and tried to decide which one to buy, muttering to myself, "Which one is better? The one with probiotics or prebiotics? Should we use a regular formula or a gentle one? What's the difference?"
I was relieved when I saw a woman with a baby turn the corner. I remember thinking, "Great, maybe she can help me." Instead, she said, "You really should breastfeed. Breast is best for your baby." My face reddened. I quickly said, "Oh, I am breastfeeding, I just need to supplement." I didn't want her to think I was a bad mom, so I grabbed the most expensive option and cried my way to the check out. These days, I probably would have told her to mind her own business, sung the praises of formula, or uttered a rebuttal with the word "inappropriate" in it, and walked away. We're all doing the best we can, whether we feed our babies formula, breast milk, or a combination of both, and some things should really be left unsaid.
"Breast Is Best"
What does "breast is best" even mean? "Best" is not a medical term. When you consider the hundreds of times when breastfeeding or breast milk are absolutely not the "best" choice or option for a parent or baby, it starts to sound more like judgement and less like fact. Besides, if you know someone is using formula, what is the point of saying, "breast is best?" It's just so rude.
"Can I Tell You About The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?"
"Did You Even Try To Breastfeed?"
Did I try? Well, if you call pumping 12 times a day, nursing around the clock, and taking every supplement reputed to increase your breast milk supply "trying," then yes, I totally tried.
However, I will let you in on a little secret: people don't have to try to breastfeed at all. It's OK to choose formula, even if you can breastfeed, and that doesn't make you a bad mom.
"You Gave Up"
Choosing formula wasn't me waving a white flag. Instead, it was me finally giving my daughter my best self and me finally falling in love with my daughter.
"You Can Try Again Next Time"
This one is so presumptuous. How do you know I want to or can even have another baby? Plus, even if I am already pregnant with my next child, I don't have to try to breastfeed.
No one should feel pressured to use their body to feed their baby. Full stop. Besides, this sort of implies that I've already ruined this baby, which is so far from the truth. My baby is not broken, and my uterus is closed for business. Not that it's any of your damn business.
"Do You Know What's In Formula?"
When I hear this one, I want to respond, "A balanced blend of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, designed by scientists to provide optimal nutrition for my baby." That's probably not what the people who hurl these comments in my direction want me to say, though.
Did you know that if you broke down breast milk into it's chemical components, it would have a lot of sugar and hard to pronounce ingredients, too. I'm not scared of formula, and you shouldn't be either.
This one is hilarious when you think about the extra things formula-feeding parents have to do, including but certainly not limited to: buying formula, mixing bottles, remembering the damn diaper bag when you leave the house, and constantly cleaning bottles. I've breastfed, formula-fed, and combo-fed my babies, and you know what? It's hard work no matter how you feed your baby.
"Formula Is Fast Food For Babies"
I've actually had someone smugly tell me that I might as well feed my kids McDonald's. Seriously? What a privileged thing to say. Not to mention unkind and untrue.
Formula is magic. Before formula existed, babies starved and died. Scientists have created a nutritious, amazing option for when breastfeeding doesn't work out or is not the best choice for a family. Stop talking smack about it, and bring me some french fries.
"Your Baby Will Be Sick, Fat, & Stupid"
No, just shhhh. All of the rhetoric about breast being best and formula being harmful or unhealthy is not factually correct. Recent research shows that in the developed world, what you feed your baby doesn't really impact their future health or intelligence when you control for family background or socioeconomic status.
In other words: none of these things are true, kind, or necessary to say to another mom. They're just not.
"I Feel Sorry For Your Baby"
I literally can't even. There's not enough face palms in the world for how horrible this statement sounds, and it's so uncalled for. My baby is loved, healthy, and thriving. Stop with the judgment already.