The One Thing No One Tells You About Formula Feeding Your Baby
When I first found out that I was pregnant with my now-2-year-old, visions of a glorious, all-around cool baby, and me as this baby's perfect mom, danced through my head. There would be no problems, no doubt, no conflict, and no judgment issued upon what would certainly be an endless series of flawless parenting choices I would be making for my equally pristine offspring. What I didn't think of was the fact that everyone else would have a thousand opinions on how to actually raise my kid, and what constituted "right" choices, and that no matter what I chose for myself and my baby, there would be a lot of people who thought that choice was a sh***y one.
I just didn't consider the many, many opinions. Like how formula feeding your baby is the absolutely wrong way to go, and how important it is to breastfeed right from the start, and if you don't, you're obviously a selfish, horrible mother who doesn't love her baby at all. Because, you know, this baby was totally everyone else's to lay claim to and decide what's right for.
Somehow, when I was still in the blissful stages of wondering if my kid would look more like me or my husband, everyone else had their own concerns (and no one felt compelled to just keep those to themselves). In a way, I tried to assume that it all comes from a good place, that these friends and loved ones just wanted to be at my very best in raising my kid. And I totally get that and appreciate it. But there comes a point where all of the "concern" starts to feel almost like bullying and I just kind of wanted to crawl under a dark comforter and huddle with my huge belly. Alone.
With all of the options out there about cloth diapers vs. disposable ones, formula feeding your baby vs. sticking with the boob, and deciding to eat your placenta vs. tossing it — and the assumption that, in most cases, choosing one thing means choosing only that thing to the exclusion of all other things, which is totally not how it works in real life — there is already too much to think about besides how everyone else feels you should decide to raise your kid.
And when it comes to feeding your baby formula, this is especially true.
And the one thing no one tells you about formula feeding is that it's totally OK, despite the judgments you'll face.
Don't feel guilty if you can't seem to get the breastfeeding thing down, or if it just isn't something you're entirely comfortable with, or if you go back to work and can't keep up with pumping enough for your growing kid and decide to supplement with formula; don't feel bad if you never want to breastfeed at all. Breastfeeding bullies come in all forms. It could be your doctor and nurses at your OB's office, barking at you about everything that is, in their eyes, wrong with formula feeding. Or the bullying could come in the form of a mother-in-law who is like a broken record, always skipping ahead on the part about how breastfeeding was all she did and how important it is and how you'll never bond with your baby if you don't do it.
Ignore all of that. In fact, you must. For your sanity, which is far more vital to your child's well-being and overall health than anything you do or don't fill their belly with.
And don't get me wrong: I think that breastfeeding is seriously beautiful and something that I applaud wholeheartedly. But as someone who opted to formula feed her baby, I faced a lot of guilt (some self-inflicted because pervasive social stigmas are a bitch) and criticism from others in those first few weeks of motherhood. There was no one around to tell me that choosing to use formula was — as it totally is — a completely fine, healthy, nutritionally sound thing to do.
For every naysayer when it comes to formula feeding your baby, you've got a few supporters sprinkled in there, but when you're pregnant or a new mom, people are much more likely to want to give you their thoughts and opinions on what you should be doing, rather than praise you for anything you're currently doing right. I guess because it's easier to toss out criticisms? I don't know, but that tends to be how it works out, which is clearly a giant bummer for moms who are already exhausted and full of doubt.
So here's what you need to hear that maybe no one else is going to tell you if you decide, for any reason, that formula feeding is the way to go for you: It's OK if you can't seem to get breastfeeding down to a science like some of those superhero moms out there. And it's totally fine if you decide that formula feeding your baby is what's best for your baby and for you, too. The quality of your parenting isn't determined by what strangers and even loved ones have to say about your choices. It's more about you doing you and whether or not what you're doing what works for your family. Even if that means letting your toddler drink out of the dog's water dish, then hey, live your best life, guys. Only, you know, maybe introduce them to a sippy cup too, so they can start making their own choices too.