Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.
Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They also are not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
I always urge the more judgmental folks I meet to think about what is behind some of the decisions they’ve struggled to make. Choosing how to feed a baby is often just as complex a decision process, and yet so many people see a bottle an assume that it was a fly-by-night choice. I’m sure for some it is, just as breastfeeding comes naturally to those who have been raised in breastfeeding cultures. But for many women who have been made well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, deciding to use formula involves a rather involved backstory. And just as FFF Claire points out below, blanket statements aren’t really appropriate for complicated personal decisions. Those kind of blankets tend to leave some ice-cold toes sticking out of the ends.
Happy Friday, fearless ones.
My husband was exclusively breastfed, while my own mother had told me how difficult it had been to breastfeed my brother and she had switched to formula. I was four weeks early and exclusively formula fed. Because of this I registered for bottles as well as a breast pump. I wanted all bases covered, so to speak.
During my last OB appointment I asked my OB what formula I should purchase. He seemed puzzled and asked, “Aren’t you breastfeeding?” I countered with, “I’m going to try, but what if I get smacked by a bus? How will my husband feed the baby?” My OB laughed, recommended some formula, and said, “In thirty years you are the first patient to be so thorough.”
So, I tried nursing my son and it didn’t seem to work. I had three different nurses/doctors/lactation consultants tell me something different. Our nursing sessions would last for two hours and I still had to top our son up with formula since he constantly cried. It was stressful and not the magical dreamy bonding experience I had read about. At a well baby visit I showed the staff my nursing log, and I was hooked up to a pump.
I was finally diagnosed with a short nipple and low supply. A militant doctor then handed me a sheet and told me I needed to drive thirty miles to get some supplements and admonished that “I should not stop breastfeeding!” In my mind I was thinking, if breastfeeding is important, why don’t they sell these magic herbs here? The militant doctor even made another woman cry in the room we were all sitting in. She barked, “Do you know how many ingredients formula has? Well, breast milk has more! Plus it is always changing! It helps with IQ – you want a smart baby!” (This woman whispered to her own mother, “He won’t eat, I can’t sleep. I won’t be able pump enough when I go back to work…what am I going to do?”)
My husband drove us home, and I gave our son a bottle and had the wonderful maternal-gushy-awww-feelings of bonding. This was good, since twelve hours later I would fall down the stairs with our son and break my leg in three places.
I had emergency surgery and was separated from my husband and baby for four days before I could go home. Good thing I had bought that formula! Three weeks later I had another surgery and between the blood thinners, painkillers and the fact I gave up eating, it became another win for the formula column. I had no problem with formula feeding and neither did my husband. I did have a couple of negative encounters, though. One orthopaedic nurse was shocked that I wasn’t breastfeeding until I pointed to my external fixator and mentioned my medications, and then the light bulb went on. One mother admonished that I could have pumped until I was off of my medications so our son could still have my milk. Well, my last surgery was three weeks after our son turned one so that was a moot point. Besides, my milk dried up after my first surgery.
My son thrived on formula and bonded with my husband and myself. My injury and subsequent surgeries caused me to develop osteoarthritis, and I have since been put on medication so I can actually be a mom. I went off of my medication when I became pregnant with our daughter. When the question came up of feeding it was a resounding Formula!
During her well baby check up, I had the same militant doctor from three years before! I remembered her; she did not seem to remember me, however. Her rhetoric seemed to be nonexistent and I received no snide comments or evil looks for formula feeding our daughter.
Whenever I meet a woman who parrots, “Breast is Best.” Or some form of, “Any woman can do it, it just takes work,” I tell them what happened to me, and that more women encounter problems, obstacles, and sheer malice then what they believe. Some soften and others don’t. I just hope that those that do soften will stop and take a moment to realize what they spout as “truth” isn’t a blanket that covers all women.
You know how the Beatles think happiness is a warm gun? For me, happiness is a good FFF Friday post. Spread some joy by contributing yours: email@example.com.