I was one of those moms who formula fed her baby for the majority of their first year of life. With breastfeeding (especially in public) being so stigmatized and judged, I was surprised at just how many people said something rude to me about my decision (and, sometimes, without even realizing it). Sadly, as the #NormalizeBreastfeeding moment has gained public momentum, many formula feeding mothers are facing scrutiny and judgment. Because "breast is best" has become synonymous with feeding babies, people don't realize they are angering moms who formula feed by saying and doing certain things.
When my daughter was born, I tried to breastfeed. It was difficult, to say the least, but I stuck it out and and was finally able to feed her breast milk. I knew about the many benefits of breastfeeding, and so badly wanted to be able to breastfeed my daughter for at least the first six months to one year. Life had other plans for me, though. My supply completely dried up within six weeks (from a combination of stress, anxiety, and deciding to pump too late). I had no other choice but to formula feed my daughter from then on.
When I began telling people she was on formula now, I received dirty looks and rude comments, forcing me to realize how much our culture praises and puts breastfeeding on a pedestal, while demeaning formula feeding. What made it worse, sadly, was that those looks and comments came from people I considered friends, my sorority sisters, and people who didn't know anything about me, personally.
I know I'm not the only formula feeding mom who has experienced judgment and shame. There are plenty of women out there who choose or find themselves relying on formula and, honestly, that option is there for a reason. For some, breastfeeding may be better. For others, formula feeding may be best. Try to watch out for these things you might be doing that anger moms who formula feed, because every mother, regardless of how she chooses to feed her child, should be supported.
Saying, "But Breast Is Best"
Actually, it's not. I made this choice either because I believed it was personally better for me, my child, and my family, and because I had no other option. Sometimes that just happens, you know? The truth is, there are pros and cons to both formula feeding and breastfeeding and every woman can (and should) weigh them all and determine what works best for her and her baby.
Giving Disapproving Side Glances
You know you aren't invisible, right? I mean, I can see you. I can also see those looks you're giving me, and they are actually really hurtful. It was exhausting to stop and explain why I'm formula feeding my kid (which, you know, I shouldn't have to do in the first place) to every single person who look sat me funny when I give my kid a bottle. So, eventually, I just stopped, but man, those looks sure are hurtful.
Asking If She Even Tried Breastfeeding, In The First Place
Whether I did or not is none of your business. Some people choose to formula feed from the very beginning, because it fits better for themselves and their family. There's nothing wrong with that. Other people try to breastfeed and either can't, or experience a slew of other complications that make breastfeeding no longer a viable option. There's nothing wrong with formula feeding, so let's just stop thinking of it as a "lesser option," and simply considering it an option.
Claiming That She's Missing Out On A "Bonding Experience"
Breastfeeding isn't the only bonding experience available to mothers. Furthermore, I don't recall anyone telling fathers (who can't breastfeed) that they're somehow "missing out." So, honestly, why say it to mothers who formula feed? We still have bedtime story time, nap time, cuddles, bath time; I mean, the list goes on and on. We even bond with our baby when they're feeding them formula, believe it or not.
Quietly Whispering To Others Around You About Your Choice
I'm back in high school again. I'm back in high school, and it's the worst.
Claiming That Formula Is Bad For Your Baby
If formula was bad for babies, it would not be sold in the market. Simple as that. I chose to formula feed either because I couldn't breastfeed or because it was better for my family and our lifestyle.
Furthermore, formula feeding my baby gave her an opportunity to spend one-on-one feeding time with dad which, you know, is never a bad thing. She was and is able to bond with both parents, and that's beneficial.
Claiming That You, Personally, Would Never Formula Feed Your Kids
Look, we all have plans. However, life doesn't necessarily care about said plans. Seven (or more) of the ten people who told me they would never use formula, ended up formula feeding because they either changed their minds or because they couldn't keep up with the difficulty and rigors of breastfeeding.
Simply Staring And Shaking Your Head (Usually From A Distance)
I can still see you. You may be trying to be subtle, but honestly, it would be better for you to just not say or do anything until you are nowhere near me if you plan on judging me for my decision. Thanks.
Claiming That She Took The "Easy" Way Out
Look, there is no "easy way out" when it comes to parenting, especially when you make a choice that leaves you open and vulnerable to shame and judgment and all of the above.