Before I had my first child, I swore I would never feed her formula. Then I wasn't able to produce enough breast milk. Even though I logically knew that she needed formula to thrive, I felt so much shame. Shame about not being able to breastfeed, shame about using formula (especially in front of my breastfeeding friends) and shame that it meant I wasn't a good mother. It wasn't until I surrounded myself with some amazing, fearless formula feeders that I heard things about formula feeding that made me feel empowered, and I was able to get over that shame.
Things like, "Formula is awesome." It really is. It is an amazing, scientifically-formulated, nutritionally-balanced, safe, and in many cases, life-saving food for babies. Babies thrive on formula, and some babies need it to survive and grow.
It turns out that you can love breastfeeding and think breast milk is amazing without thinking that formula is poison or that "breast is best" for all babies or families. These things are not mutually exclusive. Who knew?
When my second child was born, I combo-fed him with both breast milk and formula. We had a great breastfeeding relationship, and he got what he needed from breast milk and formula. He grew healthy and strong, but I still felt myself explaining formula bottles to both strangers and friends. I felt so much internalized shame about something that was such a small part of parenthood.
Again, I heard some empowering things. "You are doing the right thing." "Formula is food." Best of all was hearing, "My babies thrived on formula." It helped so much to hear their encouragement.
Recently, when faced again with low breast milk supply, my youngest son was also diagnosed with a milk and soy protein intolerance. As a vegetarian, who relies on dairy and soy for protein, the thought of a total elimination diet that might not work was overwhelming. I made the choice to stop combo-feeding and to switch to feeding him hypoallergenic formula full time.
I felt empowered to make this choice, because I have heard so many encouraging and empowering things from other parents. It helped to finally drown out the never-ending chorus of "breast is best." Fortunately, his health immediately improved and that was clear proof that formula is best for our family.