FFF Friday: “I’m thanking the formula companies for nourishing him when I couldn’t.”

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.

This week’s FFF Friday guest post comes from Lindsay, who blogs over at You Are The Roots. When I chose the title for her post, I worried for a minute that it would come off like pandering to the formula industry, and I knew that was not at all Lindsay’s intent. But then I decided to go ahead with it, because I join her in wanting to give thanks. I may not be comfortable with the way formula companies always promote their products, but I also have a lot of gratitude in my heart for the products themselves. When my milk was making my child sick, they gave me an option. And in Lindsay’s case, they gave her the gift of being able to feed her child when her body wasn’t able to to. I think about it like this: I really dislike how antidepressants are marketed, because those tv commercials make it sound like anyone who is having a shitty day should be medicated. But the drugs themselves? They can be lifesaving to those who truly need them. Bad marketing tactics do not necessarily mean a product is inherently bad- and this concept seems to be widely accepted as truth except in the case of formula. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Lindsay’s Story

I’m a planner. Scratch that. I’m a control freak. I am terrified of the word ‘spontaneity’ and am pretty sure it causes me physical harm to have it enter my life. When I was put on bedrest during my pregnancy, it gave me ample time to make blueprints and life plans and map out what we needed and when we’d do things and how things would be and when my baby would sleep and what dinners we’d be eating and – well, there was no stone unturned. Such a militantly planned life doesn’t always go hand in hand with severe preeclampsia and many weekly appointments with specialists who consult with your doctor and tell you at the end of that appointment if your baby gets to continue to bake or you’ll have to make the hospital your next stop. There was a lot of unknown in my life at an already trying time – my first pregnancy – and I wasn’t handling it well. I think I reminded myself to mind my blood pressure at least twenty times a day, trying to turn my mind off and stop letting it wander with thoughts of all that randomness unable to be put on a to-do list to be planned and properly executed.

The one thing I knew – even if I didn’t know how many weeks I’d be when I delivered or if my baby would require the NICU or anything else that I thought I knew but no longer did – was that I was going to be a breastfeeding mother. I am guilty of being that mom who rolled my eyes at mothers mixing formula in the mall, on television, at the grocery store. All I knew was that babies were supposed to be nursed because that’s just what is supposed to happen – I mean, that’s why women produce milk, after all – and it made me so angry that some people tried to sidestep their responsibility as a mother to do the best thing for their babies. My hospital bags were packed and toted around with us from doctor visit to doctor visit, containing tons of nursing nightgowns, nursing bras, breast balms and creams and milk teas. I circled on all of my hospital paperwork that I planned on breastfeeding, underlined these words and highlighted them, daring anyone to bring a bottle near the mouth of my baby.

And then, you know, I got the last laugh. My son was to be born at 36 weeks, unexpectedly, because my body just couldn’t do pregnancy anymore. He came, my blood pressure couldn’t be regulated, I was on all types of anti-seizure drugs that render me unable to remember more than 2% of my son’s first two weeks of life. To this day, my husband will laugh and say “remember when…” and I try to mask how distraught I am that, no, I don’t remember. I remember worrying that I would die and never get to hold him and I remember falling to pieces at my 8 week check-up that I didn’t produce any milk. How could I be a mother? How could I be a woman? I wasn’t. I wasn’t worth being called either because my body had failed me again. The doctors, the nurses, the lactation consultants explained to me with all the patience and love and sympathy in the world that it was the medications, that I had to be administered these medications so that I could be here and be the mother to my son that they knew I could be, but their words fell on deaf ears. I wasn’t a woman, I wasn’t a mother, my body had failed me again, I couldn’t do anything right and my son was going to fall into that pile of obese, stupid formula fed kids I kept reading about on the internet.

Fast forward to a year later. My son didn’t fall into that pile. Mostly because that pile doesn’t exist. My son is healthy, intelligent, a wonderful eater, maybe not the best sleeper, meeting his milestones and existing as the happy, magnificent, beautiful boy that he is. And me? I’m thanking the formula companies for nourishing him when I couldn’t. Not that it was an easy road to get here to this place of solace and confidence. It wasn’t. I lived through a mother commenting on my formula-mixing, noting that it was “poison” I was feeding my child. I lived through people giving me sympathy as if I left the hospital without a child, without some limbs, as if I was fighting for my life. I lived through it all and, really, I learned. I learned that how or what you feed your child is simply a choice. I learned that the children who are starving, who are physically abused, who are sleeping on the streets and who don’t know what it means to be loved – they are the ones who need our sympathy, our compassion, our charity.

Mostly, I learned the only thing I regret are those days I wasted crying and hating myself instead of realizing how beautiful life was, and how beautiful my son was, and how lucky I was to have him here, so healthy, so happy.  I regret the time I spent thinking that I was doomed, that my son was doomed, that my family and reputation and life was doomed.

Because if you have to formula feed or if you choose to formula feed, you are not doomed. Your life, your child, your family, your reputation – none of these things are doomed. I get to kiss my son’s beautiful face when he wakes up each morning and throws his arms out towards me, yelling “mama! Mama! Mama!”, and then I sit back and wonder what I ever worried about. I have everything in the world and my everything? He has me.

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Join the party- you know you want to. Send me your story: 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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9 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “I’m thanking the formula companies for nourishing him when I couldn’t.”

  1. beautiful post! And I’m trying to get to that point instead of wasting my LO’s first year feeling sorry for her and feeling like I “failed” 🙂 congratulations!

  2. I am so glad you reached the place where you could see that as long as your baby is fed (an appropriate diet), it doesn’t matter if it is breast milk or formula or some combination of the two. I don’t understand how women in our generation can truly believe formula is poison, since the vast majority of Americans born in the 40s-80s were formula fed. Those people make up the majority of the American population right now—if they had all been poisoned while they were infants, I think this would be a totally different country, one where people didn’t survive childhood let alone live to be in their 90s.

    Anyway, congrats on your healthy child! Mine are 36wkers as well (twins) and they do not seem to have suffered at all either. 🙂

  3. Bravo! Great piece and if there are any struggling mamas out there I hope they find this story – how many of us have also wrongly worried about that mythic pile obese, stupid ff kids? I say we consign it to the same place as the boogie man and sacks of coal and switches from Santa. Life is too precious to carry those myths for long.

  4. Beautiful post, Lindsay! Very heartwarming and encouraging. I like how you said “that pile doesn’t exist”. I have a 2 yo and just like you I feel silly I wasted time freaking out about formula. This is a good “voice of reason” story and I cannot read enough of these. Thanks! I wish the internet had more calm, reasonable people like you writing parent stuff!

    • Yes, we need to come up with something that scared new mothers can read and truly believe, so when some jerk tells them their children will be fat, stupid and sickly, the new mother can confidently say “That’s bullshit, and it’s none of your concern anyway.” Maybe we could even take it one step further and suggest that those who feel that formula fed children are shortchanged and suffering, could contribute to the poor disadvantaged formula fed children’s college funds. After all, they are “really sad” for formula fed children, and are on a crusade to make their lives better. An education might make it so the stupid formula fed kids could participate in society, though of course, as second class citizens compared to their breastfed peers.

  5. I am so pleased that you managed to get through that truly awful start! This post really describes the emotional journey that I went through when I couldn’t breastfeed.

    ‘I learned the only thing I regret are those days I wasted crying and hating myself instead of realizing how beautiful life was, and how beautiful my son was, and how lucky I was to have him here’

    I could have written this sentence! Bravo Lyndsey, thank you so much for sharing your story.

  6. “I learned that the children who are starving, who are physically abused, who are sleeping on the streets and who don’t know what it means to be loved – they are the ones who need our sympathy, our compassion, our charity.” THANK YOU!!…that is all 🙂

  7. I was like you too. Very planned out, militant. I had a boy too. And then I realized: There are breastfed men in prison. I chose my sanity over breastmilk…but mine’s a different story, this is about you. You’re still a woman. And a great mom. You said it perfectly, there children who are “starving…abused…on the streets!” I think the people who bully and judge women who use formula have lost sight of the bigger picture. That we’re lucky to carry a pregnancy full term, survive the labor and be moms in the first place.

  8. Thank you SO MUCH for your story. I could have written this (though not as eloquently!). Determined to breastfeed, convinced I could do it if I tried hard enough, gave birth at 36 weeks because of severe pre-e/HELLP, blood pressure all over the place afterward and on magnesium drip and a cornucopia of other drugs, milk never really came in. I’m still doggedly trying to bf a little but honestly, my 5 week old son is getting 90% formula, and I beat myself up every day about it. I’m trying to stop that. Your story will help me take another step in the direction of letting go of my guilt. Thank you. 🙂

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