When you get discover you're pregnant, plenty of things go through your mind: happiness, dread, worry, excitement; you name it. We get to experience pretty much every emotion in those first few days while the big news digests. What you don't think about, though, is the fact that when you take on the responsibility of a baby, you apparently take on the responsibility of every other parent's views and opinions and you can never do anything right. Like, ever. Did you choose to breastfeed your baby? Take it inside; No one wants to see that. Formula feed? That's so bad for your baby! You're co-sleeping? You'll roll over on him! Sleep training? I can't believe you're leaving her all alone in the nursery so soon! See? As much as you try to do any and everything in the best interest of your kid, someone somewhere is going to have something negative to say about it. (And don't even think about hitting up those online mom forums to help because you'll get those judgy lectures a million times harder.)
And aside from strangers, there will be the people in your personal life who are also armed with lots of opinions: There's your best friend, who has never had a baby, going on and on about how she "can't believe" you're not breastfeeding; Or the mother-in-law who repeatedly talks about how her kids nursed and they "grew up just fine." It's like a never-ending, ongoing debate that you'll never get out of. So buck up, as you'll learn to do, and take what people say with a hefty grain of salt.
When I decided to exclusively formula feed, I was motivated by a combination of not being able to produce enough milk and never feeling comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding for myself. I can't even explain what it was, but the idea itself scared me and brought on so much anxiety that I knew it would be best for my son if he didn't have a mother riddled with anxiety at every feeding time. And you know what? He is an insane and spunky kid who now guzzles milk from the jug and readily runs around naked.
To be clear, I have never felt any ill will toward those who do exclusively breastfeed their babies. In fact, I see it as truly one of the most beautiful things in the world and I celebrate the practice of breastfeeding wholly and without reservation. And yes, sometimes I wish that I had swallowed my issues and gone that route with my kid. I think everyone wonders if the choices they made were ultimately the best choices, even if we logically know that that's a useless exercise to indulge in, and even if we feel totally confident about what we chose.
But all of that doesn't mean I was exempt from judgment from a lot of people about my decision to formula feed my kid. And most often, that judgment sounded like this:
1. "Aren't You Worried He'll Gain A Lot Of Weight?"
Nope, not at all, because I don't plan on mixing up an entire gallon of formula for each feeding. And also, tacking on more guilt on top of already feeling guilty for not going ~the natural route~ probably isn't something a new mom really needs to hear, wouldn't you say?
2. "Breastfeeding Is Just SO Much Healthier."
I never intended to argue with the fact that breastfeeding is good for babies. But for me, formula feeding felt like the right solution and ended up being the right solution since my son is perfectly healthy now and did not end up becoming the ball of chub that people felt the need to predict.
3. "Well, I Won't Breastfeed When I Have A Baby."
Cool. Good for you. Have fun. Et cetera. Because like I said, I have absolutely no judgments when it comes to the decisions of other moms. If there is one super important thing I've learned as a mom so far (besides how to juggle a newborn and a smartphone at the same time), it's that no mom has any right to judge that other mom. Like, ever.
4. "Don't You Want To Be Able To Bond With Your Baby?"
The very first time I held my son was after I recovered from a last-minute c-section and I'll never forget the skin-to-skin nap we took; it bonded us more than anything. We are incredibly bonded. As in, we should have a secret handshake by now. Yes, I formula fed with a bottle, but I still held my baby as I did so and he still stared up at me the whole time, knowing that his mama was where his nutrients were coming from. And that whole bond thing is still pretty legit.
5. "Did You Even TRY To Breastfeed?"
I will admit that no, I didn't try. As soon as I had made the decision to go with formula, I stuck with it and my husband readily supported that. So no, I never even tried to breastfeed my son but neither of us suffered because of that fact. Somehow, we managed to survive and still build a totally awesome bond. It's possible, I assure you.
6. "My Boys Breastfed Until They Were A Year Old And They Turned Out Just Fine."
Good for you! I'm sure they did turn out fine! Truly, that is a great thing for the mamas who choose to breastfeed. And for those who take it past the first year, that's great too. I am totally down with supporting any mama's decision for their own kid because it is their own kid. Naturally, I only expect the same. I didn't, however, expect to hear stuff like this. As if I would say, "Hmm, you're right! Let me squeeze my boobs, six months postpartum, and reverse this decision because of this brand new opinion you just dropped in my lap!"
7. "You Could Always Pump, You Know."
I could have pumped breast milk for my baby, and I didn't, and hearing this for a good few months after I gave birth was not super helpful. What new mom (or well-seasoned mama) wants to hear what she "should" be doing or "could" be doing instead of something else? Yeah, none of us.
I have learned to support all other moms and their decisions that — shocker — have absolutely nothing to do with me or my own kid. As corny as it sounds (and I do know how unbearable this is going to sound) we're in this together, right? We're all learning and figuring out what works best for us and our children and our whole family dynamics. So let's just check our judgments at the door, OK? We can all be enjoying some mom bonding over full boobs, bottles, and glasses of wine that much sooner.