FFF Friday: “Punished because I formula fed”

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 feelings, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

I’ve been working with Teri Noto, developing literature about the Family Friendly Hospital Initiative, and this FFF Friday post from Ashley (who blogs at Being a Conscious Parent) is a fantastic kick in the butt to get it all sorted, and soon. Like, yesterday.

I believe that regardless of how you choose to conceive, birth, or feed your baby, you should be given respect and quality care in labor, delivery, and beyond. Sometimes medical necessity gets in the way, and (after two complicated pregnancies and slightly scary births) I of all people commiserate with the doctors and nurses trying to ensure the safety of all involved. But in Ashley’s case – and, I fear, so many other women’s experiences – the minute a baby is born, she ceases to matter unless there’s a maternal medical emergency. As long as the mom is healthy, she is quickly dismissed as little more than an incubator that has finished the job, and later, as a source of food. I don’t blame the care providers, as they are attempting to meet the requirements of the hospitals that employ them, and there is a lot of pressure nowadays to fulfill quotas and follow protocols than ever before. 

We need to ensure that voices like Ashley’s are heard, so that the powers that be can truly comprehend the human side to postpartum care. The system is failing breastfeeding mothers, and it is clearly failing formula feeding mothers as well. Maybe it’s time for a new perspective?

Happy Friday, fearless ones,



Ashley’s Story: Punished Because I Formula Fed

I have read so many stories about hospitals that push women to formula feed their babies and how nurses/hospitals need to be more supportive of women and breastfeeding.  My personal experience is a little different from that with the birth of my second child.

While pregnant with my daughter I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression, or Post-Postpartum Depression as a result of my son being born just over a year prior.  I was in my third trimester and felt that it was best for my family and me if I went on medication.  Knowing that I was not going to stop the medication once my daughter was born, I decided that I was going to formula feed from the beginning.  I truly didn’t enjoy it with my son and I didn’t want to pass the anti-depression medication I was taking onto my baby through breast milk.

After 14+ days of a non-stop headache migraine, I was admitted to the hospital at 35 weeks and 3 days for an emergency caesarian-section.  I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and delivered my healthy daughter only a few hours after getting to the hospital.

The nurse on duty asked me if I was planning on breastfeeding before I went into surgery.  When I responded “no”, she proceeded to tell me that breastfeeding was what is best for a premature baby and that they need all the immunities they can get.  I informed her that I was on medication that was not good for her, which is something that she should have seen in my chart.  This was the first time throughout my hospital stay when the nurse on duty said something that implied that I was less of a mother because I was not breast feeding.

After my daughter was born, I returned to the labor and delivery room, where my daughter was with me.  Because her blood sugar was low they asked if I was breastfeeding.  When I informed them I wasn’t, my daughter’s nurse proceeded to open the bottle of formula and feed my daughter.  Both my husband and I were in the room to feed her and when I asked why we couldn’t feed her, she said that she had to do it because they wanted to get her blood sugar up. What would she have done if I was planning on breast feeding?

As this was going on, I was getting pumped with magnesium in response to the preeclampsia.  Per hospital policy, I could not have my baby in my room with me and be on magnesium, unless I had another adult stay with me.  One of my best friends was going to stay with me through the night, so that I would be able to have my daughter in the room with me.  The next thing I knew my daughter’s nurse was telling me that she had to stay the night in the nursery.  I was trying to get answers as to why, but she kept saying that it was because of me being on magnesium.  The nurse then said that the pediatrician needed to see my daughter in the nursery and she would bring her back up right after the pediatrician looked her over.  The last thing I said to her nurse was that I wanted to feed her, and to please bring her up if she needed to eat.

The next thing I knew it was several hours later and I was in a different room, and my baby was nowhere to be found.  I later found out that my friend had tried to get them to bring my daughter back, but because she was not a family member she could not do anything.  I had no number to call and had no idea where my baby was.  I was able to get in touch with my nurse and get the information I needed, only to be pushed aside because it was a shift change.

At that point I was furious!  I could not believe that the entire night went by and they did not bring my daughter up for me to feed her or to be with her at all.  When my daughter’s nurse finally came back with my daughter, I asked her why she was not brought up for feedings and the nurse told me that I was not breastfeeding and she needed extra watching because she was borderline premature.  I was livid! I asked the nurse what she would have done if I had been breast-feeding and she informed that they would have brought my daughter up to me.   The hospital punished me by not doing what I asked because I was not breastfeeding.  The nurse had made the decision that it was not important for me to feed my child because I wasn’t breastfeeding without even consulting me.

I cringe every time I hear about a story where a nurse pushes formula on a new mother, or a breastfeeding mother making it very well known that they are breastfeeding and not to ask about formula or give their baby a pacifier.  I did not get to feed my daughter her first few feedings, and I will NEVER get that back.

It does not matter what the reason was that I chose to formula feed my baby.  It was my choice to do that, just as much as it was my choice to have her in the room with me.  It is not for the hospital or nurses to decide what is important to the parent.  Whatever is important to you, make it known!

Ashley is a working mother of two, who resides in Maryland.  She also writes for her parenting blog at beingaconsciousparent.wordpress.com

Share your story: email me at 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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4 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “Punished because I formula fed”

  1. Oh that makes me furious on Ashley’s behalf. There is something really special about giving a new baby their first feeding whether it is through breastfeeding or formula feeding. I was lucky enough to experience that special moment with all three of my children and I’m so pissed on Ashley’s behalf that she missed out. I really hope that she filed a complaint with the hospital upon discharge.

  2. I too chose to formula feed because of medication for depression and anxiety, life long though, I had baby boy 11 weeks ago. I didn’t have any desire to breastfeed regardless but was surprised at how many people I came across online who feel that breastmilk is better than formula no matter the number or amount of drugs being taken by the mother…and of ourselves there really aren’t any studies in regards to what the drugs may or may not do to your infant. I wouldn’t be comfortable giving medication to my baby for a condition he doesn’t have. I was also surprised at the number of people uncomfortable with formula but comfortable with ordering illegal drugs from Canada to increase lactation! It does seem as if the nurses where you delivered we’re trying to send you a message that if you weren’t breastfeeding you didn’t care about feeding your child. 🙁

  3. I would be livid. I formula fed my first from birth because I take medication for bipolar disorder. I feel especially blessed now that nobody really questioned my decision or confronted me about why I wasn’t breastfeeding. They just asked if I was going to breastfeed and I said no, so they gave me a gazillion bottles of formula. My husband got to feed him his first bottle and we have pictures of that, They also left us alone to spend that time together feeding him. It was very special. Granted besides my medication I had a pretty textbook pregnancy and birth but I feel for you, especially when I compare it to how well they treated me even though I formula fed my first and this was in 2010.

  4. I also chose not to breastfeed because I have depression and fibromyalgia. I am on mediIcation for both conditions and I didn’t want the meds to pass through the breastmilk. On top of that, breastfeeding is painful, and I feel pain a thousand times worse than people without fibro. I was also sexually abused as a teenager. All the “experts” did try to talk me into breastfeeding, but I told them it was not an option for me. Today Logan is a happy, healthy, formula fed 7 month old. If I had chosen to breastfeed, I would not have bonded with my son. He lights up when I walk into the room and prefers me over anyone else. I didn’t have to give him my boob to be a good mom to him.

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