FFF Friday: “You never can understand another mother’s situation unless you’re in her shoes…”

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 recently discovered a fantastic parenting blog, School of Smock, which discusses many facets of childrearing (education, health, discipline, etc.) and manages to balance solid research-based analysis with wit and warmth. I’m thrilled that Jessica, the blogger behind this site, has decided to share her story for this week’s FFF Friday. 

It’s interesting that Jessica only started questioning her choices when confronted with the opinions and suggestions of other mothers. As someone who is clearly educated on how to read research, I’m sure Jessica was able to (quite wisely) rationalize her decision to formula feed. But even if you know in your head that you made an informed and reasonable choice, it’s so easy as a new mom to let your heart convince you otherwise. We question ourselves; we need validation. The power of our peers is not something to take lightly, and to have someone tell you that it’s a “shame” you aren’t doing something you tried very hard to do is just plain rude. And hurtful. 

Infant feeding, along with birth culture, are the first things that both unite and divide us as new moms. Imagine how our support networks – and perspectives –  could expand if we could all take it down a notch and realize that these issues are but a tiny blip on the parenting screen. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

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Jessica’s Story

I planned on breastfeeding and bought every conceivable preparation tool and resource — from two different breastfeeding pillows, books, nursing bras, nursing pajamas and shirts, breast pumps, creams.  I asked our birth doula about getting breastfeeding support after the baby was born.  I was intimidated by the idea of it, but I was committed to trying it.  After an emergency c-section — that even my doulas said was absolutely necessary because my son’s umbilical cord was too short, a fact which caused his heart rate to drop — breastfeeding started much better than I had hoped.  My milk came in quickly, I had a lot of wonderful support at the hospital from lactation consultants, and soon the delivery nurses said we were the only c-section delivery in the whole hospital in which we were nursing successfully.
But after a few weeks, things were not going so smoothly.  I developed a yeast infection and blocked ducts that, according to the lactation consultant that I hired to help, were caused by my son’s newly “bad latch.”  I was in constant pain, and no one could figure out — not the lactation consultants or doulas — how to change my son’s “barracuda” latch.  Then my son started spitting up and screaming afterwards, often on me even when I was nursing, and he was always hungry, always.  He cried all day long.  I would read descriptions of colic in my baby books and thought that colic sounded much better than whatever was bothering my son.

We took him to his pediatrician at Mass General, and his crying was so intense that he referred us to a pediatric GI doctor.  After tests — he had blood in his stools — he was diagnosed with reflux and milk protein allergy.  She said that he would have to be fed a hypoallergenic formula until any allergens were eliminated from my diet, and because my son’s situation was so severe, they asked me to work with a dietician on staff to design my diet.  I tried this, pumped for a couple weeks, but I just couldn’t handle it:  the colicky, crying baby, no sleep, constant pain from the yeast infection that wouldn’t go away, were too much.  I stopped pumping and felt fine about it.  I had really done all I could.  And my doctors and my son’s doctors were completely supportive.

It wasn’t until I joined mother’s groups later that I felt bad about my decision.  A few women in one play group — who were breastfeeding toddlers — told me that it was such a shame that my son missed out on breastfeeding and that they knew women who had successfully breastfed despite allergies.  I’ve heard many similar comments about how it was not so bad if you’re committed to breastfeed despite a baby’s allergies or food sensitivities.  And over the months, I started to feel a bit ashamed of my non-breastfeeding status, when other women would brag about all the hardships that they endured to breastfeed.

And, despite my rational brain telling me that I’m crazy, I still wonder if I gave up too soon.  And it wasn’t the medical professionals who made me wonder this.  It was other mothers.  I think that it’s important for other women to know that you never can understand another mother’s situation unless you’re in her shoes.  Maybe breastfeeding after a c-section would be hard for many women.  Maybe after a yeast infection is too painful.  Women make choices that are best for themselves and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty just because another woman’s situation is different.

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Share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday – email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

About the Author:

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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6 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “You never can understand another mother’s situation unless you’re in her shoes…”

  1. Excellent point and so very true, you can never understand another mother’s situation unless you’re walking in her shoes. Well said and thank you for saying this!

  2. Good for you! I hope you guys are feeling well now! Thank goodness you found such a great and supportive GI doc and pediatrician. Good luck with all of the allergies, I hope they get sorted out well.

  3. Well done on sharing your story Jessica. I’m so sorry you and your family have had to experience reflux and food intolerances. My daughter too battled (and still does) reflux and milk issues and it was such a hard start to motherhood. I’m hoping things are going much better now.

  4. Thank you for sharing this story. I choose to wean at 6 or 7 months and the pediatrician has been insistant about giving up the bottle at one year. It is only in the last few months that I have realized the benefit of NOT giving up the bottle and why moms would choose to continue a breastfeeding relationship. A bottle and or breast is very useful to a toddler. It can be the thing that calms the baby down in a room full of holiday chaos or a fully packed airplane. To me they are both kind of like the swaddle at some point you have to give them up and let the baby wriggle, but in a way I also see using them as long as they are useful. In your case breastfeeding wasn’t useful to you or the baby (who knows how long you would have had to toy with your diet in order to create milk that he did not have an allergic reaction to, it is sort of like trying to remake the penut in order to feed it to someone who is allergic to penuts). I think when people say things like “what a bummer for your child that they “missed out” on breastfeeding” to us what they mean is too bad you and your child and you aren’t different people, which is beyond insulting and insensative. I can understand being sad about not being able to partcipate in this thing that is very standardized as a way to feed and calm babies, but as moms we all find ways to feed and comfort and calm our babies that work really WELL and that is the important thing. Breastfeeding in and of itself is not the magic it is finding the thing that works for your child. That is where the magic is. For my baby that is a bottle. We don’t overuse it. She doesn’t get to walk around holding it all day, but damm it makes me happy when she is so happy to lie in my arms snuggling her snuggly and having a bottle. I am in no rush to give that up.

  5. Dear Jessica! Our son had allergies and it sounds like they were identified only just a little before they were as severe as your son’s. Then we discovered his tongue tie which caused failure to thrive and low supply. We had a HARD, HARD summer. Even now, at 10 months we are only *almost* not supplementing. But I CLEARLY remember thinking back to when we were about 2 months into the hardest part. When it was really really hard to persevere, that if we get a yeast infection or mastitis or anything else happens, I’m pretty sure we’re done for. DONE FOR. So please, please, do not second guess yourself. You tried HARD and to be fair, the medical community & society are not as helpful or timely as they could be. So, do not blame yourself. GOOD For you that you decided early to formula feed and enjoy your child’s infancy. I know many of those early weeks, i couldn’t enjoy our baby for all the stress of pumping, SNS feedings, bottles, washing everything, etc. Don’t look back, and tell those other mom’s to back off.

  6. Pingback: I Support You, Nicole! - School of Smock

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