It wasn’t long after the delivery of my first son that I was approached by the hospital’s lactation consultant. When I explained to her that I would be returning to work full-time in nine weeks and needed to get into some sort of pumping routine before then, I could feel her soul dying a little inside. “No, that’s not a good idea at all. You need to breastfeed exclusively unless you’re otherwise incapable,” she told me. I understand that her job description requires her to educate new moms on the benefits of breastfeeding, but I’m pretty sure that description stopped short of bullying and guilt tripping.
Again, I explained that what I actually needed to do was get back to work because I was on unpaid maternity leave and the electric company couldn’t have cared less about my new bundle of joy. I gave breastfeeding my first son my best shot but admittedly I was an underachiever in that department. He began bottle feeding at eight weeks old and he’s continued to rank in the 90th percentile for his height and his weight since birth. He’s happy, healthy, and thriving despite having been fed formula since he was still an infant. Imagine that!
And to be clear, formula feeding your baby isn't just an "OK" back-up plan if you "can't" breastfeed. There are plenty of studies showing that formula feeding doesn't significantly disadvantage children compared to breastfeeding. Like, formula is not a "you failed at giving your kid ~the good stuff~ but don't worry, he'll live" situation. It's absolutely a great way to feed a baby, and there are a number of very valid reasons why moms might choose it.
If you are able and willing to exclusively breastfeed your babies I applaud you. Seriously, I’m stepping away from the keyboard to stand up and start a slow clap for you. You're feeding your babies too, and that's, ya know, important. I even somewhat envy you and definitely respect you, because breastfeeding is hard work. I support the normalization of breastfeeding and I think you’re a complete and total badass for what you do. But I hardly believe any of that merits the shaming me or any other woman who chooses to feed her baby with formula. We’re badasses too, I promise.
I don’t know about the rest of the formula-feeding mamas out there but there’s some things I’m getting tired of hearing about my chosen means of nutrition for my boys. Some of these accusations just need to stop, like yesterday.
"You're Poisoning Your Kid."
I mean, how ludicrous can you get? I’ve checked the labels on every brand of formula that we’ve tried and never once did I discover arsenic or diesel fuel as leading ingredients. Weird, right?! My sons have not developed rabies, salmonella, or Polio since ingesting this so-called ~poison~ and they’re both incredibly healthy kids. Let’s get off our high horses and kill that argument now, shall we?
"You're Going To Regret Not Breastfeeding."
It’s been nine months since I had my second son that was given his first bottle during a brief stay in the NICU. After that first bottle I fought a losing battle against my boobs. He just wasn’t interested in what my girls had to offer so he’s been formula fed since he was only a few days old. Since then, my husband has participated equally in his feedings and I was able to treat my postpartum issues much sooner since I wasn’t breastfeeding. I was feeling like myself again mere weeks after giving birth and that is something that I will never regret.
"But What About All The Bonding You're Missing?!"
Breastfeeding was hardly a bonding experience for me. Despite many assuming that I’ve been robbed of that bonding experience, my 9-month-old is so in love with me that it’s bordering on obsession. I can’t even pee without him standing guard outside the door to make sure that I haven’t fled the premises. We’ve definitely bonded, perhaps even too much.
"You Should've Been More Patient."
This is perhaps true, although I feel like my effort was enviable. I don’t necessarily believe that my patience was to blame, but rather my son’s insatiable man-appetite that resulted in the bottles. And that said, that's just the case for me and my particular baby. You have no idea what someone's experience with breastfeeding was before they decided to bottle feed, if they tried breastfeeding at all. Comments like this make a whole lot of (totally insulting and possibly hurtful) assumptions about a truly personal thing that has nothing to do with you.
"Oh, You Should've Tried [Some Random Breastfeeding Position That I Probably Tried, Assuming That I Even Wanted To Breastfeed, Which Maybe I Didn't, In Either Case, No, I Don't Think Your Magic Position Would Change Much]"
I tried every awkward position in my out of date pamphlet. I tried to breastfeed right side up, upside down, on my side, wearing a wrap, wearing a nursing pillow, and in a dark, peaceful room while listening to Sting and thinking happy, milk-producing thoughts. None of it worked.
"Breast Is Best!"
I’ve lost count of how many times that argument has been thrown in my face. I’ll just say this: yes, breast is best for many babies but not necessarily for all of them. Let’s just support babies that are fully fed, no matter how that happens.
Images: Sander van der Wel/Flickr; Giphy(6)