FFF Friday: “Best for her, best for me, best for my family.”

In honor of Guest Post Week, I chose this submission from FFF Darcie, because she included some great tips at the end of her story – I think this helps it bridge the divide between a guest post and what we normally expect in a FFF Friday story. I also find it really fascinating that she was immune to societal pressures and refused to turn to the Internet for answers – instead, she looked at the research directly. This is rare nowadays, where Dr. Google is the medical expert of choice, and I think it gives her a unique perspective. 

I live in a community where, I feel we are allowed guilt free, to feed our children the way we choose.  Maybe I am oblivious or maybe I am lucky.  I am a mother of 2 little girls (2 and 4 years old) who were breast fed for 2 weeks each and then formula fed for the remainder of their first year.  
When I was pregnant with my oldest I didn’t even consider breastfeeding her until a close friend of mine had her son a few months before me and breastfed him.  She has a PhD in epidemiology and is a very “crunchy” person, but doesn’t impose her lifestyle on anyone.  I started to think about breastfeeding and did some reading about what was involved and decided I would breast feed my daughter. It’s simple as that. Black and white. My understanding was it was something that would require practice, but in the end if there were issues it was because you weren’t doing something right, and to go see and LC. 
After giving birth (traumatically – I hemorrhaged and went into shock – thinking I was never going to see my daughter again) I was so happy to be able to hold and nurse her at every moment.  She was a good latcher/sleeper from the beginning and didn’t have a problem. Phew!  Until… I got a uterine infection and had to go on antibiotics.  My choice was to go into the hospital and receive them so I could still breastfeed or stay home but, not breastfeed.  I chose to stay home. I did NOT want to go back into the hospital. I asked my OB if I could pump for the 2 weeks I was on the medication and she said don’t bother she won’t be able to latch again (wrong, but what did I know).  
I was ok about stopping breastfeeding at first. I didn’t (don’t) think formula is bad or I am disadvantaging my children by giving it to them.  I never grew up or had this idealized view that I had to breast feed to fulfill my dream of being a mother.  I unexpectedly missed breastfeeding her and was sad about it for a while, but she was doing well and so was I so, I moved on without a second thought. 

Seeing how well my daughter grew up (never getting an ear infection until she was 2, no allergies, smart, overall a healthy girl) I started to do some research on all the benefits of breastfeeding I had read about while I was pregnant.  I didn’t look on blogs or websites. I went directly to the source research.  I was even more confused! There were just as many studies saying formula-fed babies are just as healthy as breastfed babies as there are studies that say breastfed are healthier than formula fed babies…what’s the deal?  So, I discussed them with my “crunchy”, well-educated-in-such-research-matters, friend.  She said those studies are very inconclusive and her decision to breastfeed was solely a monetary and lifestyle decision. Really?? WOW!

Fast forward 2 years. Pregnant with my second daughter.  I still wanted to breastfeed her because I felt cheated out of my first experience by the improper guidance I had received and really looked forward to having that same positive experience with this child (It was all about ME). Once again, life took over. Daughter #2 was not a good latch and tore me to shreds after one week. She wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t sleeping. I was stressed about how much time it took to get her to eat all the while in pain, her screaming, me crying and feeling like I was neglecting the needs of my older daughter who only wanted mommy.  I was heading toward an emotional breakdown.  I gave her a bottle of pumped milk and she downed it like I hadn’t fed her in a week  That was it.  Decision made.  Best for her. Best for me. Best for my family.

Come to find out, when my second daughter saw a developmental specialist, she has low muscle tone along with a high palate.  That is why she couldn’t latch properly.  That reaffirmed that I made the right decision – guilt free.  I know there are many people out there that have gone through the same or much more difficult experiences, or there are those that could point to 10 different instances in my story where I was lacking support or whatever keyword of they day may be. It comes down to the fact that everyone has different tolerance levels and desires to overcome the roadblocks involved with breastfeeding.  That’s life, it’s not perfect.  No one is the same. No one has the same combination of life’s circumstances.  Get over it and move on, sista!

Life’s about learning and growing so, here are my lessons learned for new moms:

1. You don’t know what life is going to be like when the baby comes and under which circumstances.  Go in with the best intentions and come out with realistic goals.
2. Surround yourself with people who have your (family unit) interests at heart and are willing to do what it takes to support you.
3. Don’t fall prey to people with ulterior motives.  Educate yourself and make a decision that works for your family.

4. Trust your instincts!


Ready to share your FFF Friday story? Send it on over, red rover… formulafeeders@gmail.com

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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8 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “Best for her, best for me, best for my family.”

  1. I think this is my all time favorite post on FFF because it's so…fearless! When I had my second child recently I was completely hellbent on breastfeeding but i had low supply again. It was such a heart wrenching experience, and finally I just thought, “I have an awesome, smart, healthy toddler who was mostly formula-fed. Why the heck am I killing myself over this and neglecting my poor boy and starving my baby girl?” I gave up a week before my son's birthday and I was so happy to be able to celebrate with him instead of being caught up in a feed-pump-take a bajillion-lactogogues-repeat schedule.

    There are times I still feel sad about what happened, but I know I did what was best for our family. Now that my I am done with babies and trying to work out going to grad school with two little kids all those worries over breastfeeding seem so ridiculous!

  2. Thanks ladies. It's funny I never got into looking to the internet w/r/t BF until after my 2 little ones were past that stage. I was one of the first in my circle of friends to have children. In the past 2 years many of my friends have just started to have children of their own and going through the trials of new motherhood. The BF guilt and pressure became so clear to me as an outsider.
    I think the BF movement has gone too far to the detriment of mothers. Don't get me wrong; I think BF should be ENCOURAGED. Obviously BF education is working due to the increase in initiation of BF and that is wonderful. What isn't wonderful is the mis-education that it should work if YOU are doing it correctly and if YOU are committed and implying if it doesn’t work you just weren’t committed enough or good enough. Very little talk about real, common issues and roadblocks and how they can take a toll on you. The way that BF advocates’ messages come across is that the benefits of BF always outweigh the needs&health of the mother. I guess I have turned into an advocate of sorts for the mother in the BF relationship. It seems to me, that VERY IMPORTANT piece of the equation is too often overlooked and undervalued in the goal to improve BF rates. It really hit home with me when my pediatrician (who is relatively progressive) said to me “the mother/child bond is more important than any benefits BF has.” This bond is sacred why do many BF advocates so willingly lose sight of that?
    It amazes me how for some women/child pairs it just works well and others they have to face every issue. There is no clear point for which one can say OK you’ve done enough to try and get this to work it’s not worth it anymore. Everyone has a different breaking point. That’s what should be respected. Just because Mother A jumped through 20 hoops before it was too much and Mother B jumped through 5 doesn’t make Mother B a weaker or less committed mother.
    I also think that the benefits of BF have been, dare I say, overstated. Yes there are some benefits to BF and it’s the natural, biological way to feed a baby. I totally agree. But please don’t exclude important pieces of data and filter/spin information to meet the goals of increasing BF rates. Women aren’t stupid don’t treat us like we don’t know how to make a good decision for our children. Just as one should look at studies that state there are benefits (and to what degree, including confounding factors, flaws and strengths in the data) one should also look at studies that don’t find such benefits and evaluate accordingly. Promoting one and not the other, causes people to mistrust your message. I think BF advocates need to shift their focus a bit, the message about the benefits of BF are out there. Like I said, initiation rates are on the rise. How about putting more effort into rational support for women after the baby arrives? This may be a bad analogy, but it’s like telling young pregnant women they should keep their baby, but then abandoning them once the baby comes and then complaining about how many people are on welfare etc.
    Sites like FFF’s are evident to that fact that, in the name of BF awareness, we have created a generation of mothers who have developed emotional and mental issues because they are viewed as less worthy and capable… unintended consequences? Yes. Let’s try and fix it.

  3. Darcie, very well said, in both your post and your comments, and I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    Especially here- “there are those that could point to 10 different instances in my story where I was lacking support or whatever keyword of they day may be. It comes down to the fact that everyone has different tolerance levels and desires to overcome the roadblocks involved with breastfeeding.” That's just it, and that was it for me with my first – she was like your second. Tore me to utter shreds (my left nipple has NEVER looked the same) and we were miserable. Could I have kept trying past the 6 weeks? Sure. Would I have remained sane? No. There was too much else going on in my life (c-section recovery, a move, work, a dying father) that I just didn't have it in me to work through the pain or whatever people would have told me to do. I just didn't. Popping that bottle into her mouth was the happiest moment and the greatest sigh of relief I've ever felt.

    My second, however, is a bit better, and still mostly breastfed at 4 months. I'll keep doing it a little longer because it's getting to be less and less, and she's eating and my jealous eldest (almost 3) is becoming a little better about it. But I know I'll quit by 6 months. And again, you're right, folks will tell me, oh if you had more support you'd continue, blah blah blah. But that's not the case here at all – I have plenty, in my breastfeeding friendly area, among friends who support all choices, and a supportive family. But I still want to be done, and done sooner rather than later. That's it. The only answer. And I don't care who knows it!

  4. If women want to become so empowered, stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. You're a mother. Go on instinct. If you've tried everything and still have issues, go to formula. The reason this is such a huge debate is because women allow themselves to be affected by the opinions of outsiders.

    My lactation consultant(s) never treated me as inferior or incapable because of the issues I had breastfeeding my daughter. They worked with me until I got it right. Never did I get the feeling that they thought I wasn't trying hard enough or not committed. And if they did, I didn't give a shit. She's my daughter. I'll feed her the way I see fit.

    Stop worrying so much about everyone else's opinions.

  5. @Anonymous,

    I think that is oversimplifying things a bit. I get what you are saying, and agree that ideally, it would be awesome if everyone could block out the judgmental voices around them – but I'm afraid most of us aren't able to do that, ESPECIALLY in the hormonal, harrowing time that is the postpartum period. For example, it was far easier for me to say f-you to the naysayers once I had recovered from my PPD, but unfortunately, that took 3-4 months, and I was one of the lucky ones. During that time, if someone looked at me funny I would burst out into tears. Empowered? Obviously not. But it was out of my control, given the circumstances.

    I also think you might be missing the point of Darcie's post. Unlike a lot of the FFF Fridays, this one is pretty much following your advice. I don't think Darcie really cared what others thought of her. Her point – which I think she illustrates beautifully in the comment 2 above yours – is that we are misinformed. It's one thing to ignore catty judgments or mean LCs; quite another to feel you are endangering your child b/c “scientific authorities” have told you so. When you look at the studies as closely as Darcie did, it becomes clear that formula feeding is not risky in a significant way for those of us lucky to live in the US/Canada/GB etc. But most new parents are at the mercy of what the media and the aforementioned authorities claim is gospel – THAT can really take a toll. You may not care about what people think about you, but I don't know too many mothers who feel okay about doing something they're told will make their kids stupid, fat, and more likely to die, you know? That's why this site has a dual purpose – to be there as support for those who can't filter out the negative attitudes of others, and also to provide accurate info without scare tactics.

  6. Yay, Darcie! Good for you, and good for your sweet children that their mother acts in the best interest of her entire family. The world needs more Moms like you.

    It's not likely I'll be feeding any more children by bf of ff, but it still irks me that this “one way” is so touted as the “best way”…”meh” science notwithstanding, if I were to use the same arguments the lactivists stand on, I would never shop at the grocery store, period. Where do these folks think food comes from? Are they all cultivating it themselves, planting, harvesting and butchering? Is home grown not best, and aren't they cheating their older children, spouses, parents, and extended families by not being practicing agrarians, and instead going to the local super center? For shame, yes?

    And what of the still bf'ing 3 year old who has also developed a taste for Cool Ranch Doritos and cooled corporate latte? Are they homemade, suitable fare for baby humans?

    It's all groceries, ultimately…are they REALLY worried about my child, or more so about validating their own preoccupation? Sorry to be so OT, but like I said, it's irksome.

  7. Found your blog via Twitter. I am a formula feeding mom, too (well, a former one – my son is 4). I too hate the self-righteous judging we face as mothers trying to do the best for our family.

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