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 thinking a lot lately about moms who combo feed, or who breastfed one child and formula fed another. I think they are too often left out of the breast/bottle conversation, which tends to operate in black and white, rather than shades of grey. (Am I the only one who thinks it sucks that this expression is now corrupted by pornographic associations? It was such a nice expression. Not that I’m vehemently opposed to pornographic associations, but…) It’s not fair, because they typically have some of the most interesting and thought-provoking points of view; they’ve seen both sides, understand the challenges, the psychology, and the societal pressures. We should be looking to them to lead the charge towards a more nuanced view of infant feeding.
So, I’m thrilled that Kathryn is sharing her story this week, and I hope that it will inspire others with similar stories to write in and share their thoughts and experiences. This will help prove the point I’m always whining about, like a stubborn toddler (tough morning with Fearlette, can you tell?): this is not about breastfeeding mothers versus formula feeding mothers. It’s about dogmatic, insensitive, extremists versus moms just trying to do the best thing for their families and themselves.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
As a mom who FF my son and is now BF my daughter, I know that both sides need a support system. It’s (not so) funny that when I was FF my son, I felt completely confident about my decision, but now 2.5 years later, as I’m BF my daughter, I feel guilty that I didn’t try harder, do more, talk to another consultant, etc., so that I could have BF him. Here’s my story…
Both my kids were born via elective c-section (another controversial topic!). Before my son was born in 2010, I did what a lot of first time moms do and read a lot of books, articles, and websites about babies. Of course, I was bombarded with “breast is best.” So I stocked up on nursing tops and bras, nipple cream, breast pads, and got the most expensive pump on the market. I knew that it was going to be a little bit of a learning process, but I also read that it was “natural” and that babies will instinctively nurse, if we let them.
When my son was born, he refused to latch. We would buck at the breast and push and kick me, which of course, although illogical, I took personally as a form of rejection. Two lactation consultants saw me at the hospital and I distinctly remember the second one saying something along the lines of, “wow, he really doesn’t want to nurse.” I even drove to the home of a La Leche League Leader 20 minutes away and she wasn’t able to help us. (I’ve always wondered if I would have tried harder had she not said that to me).
Meanwhile, my son was losing weight like crazy so I started pumping and bottle feeding. I pumped for four weeks, which meant that every two hours, I pumped for 20 minutes, fed my son what I pumped, and then cleaned my pump. By the time I was done with that process, I had to do it all over again in an hour. I was miserable. (Looking back on it, I’m sad that I spent so much of my maternity leave this way.) My husband, who has always been extremely supportive of my decisions, suggested that we just switch to formula so that I could get some sanity back. And it was the best decision I could have made. I was so much happier and got to enjoy my time with my little baby, rather than dreading the pump. It turned out that he was tongue-tied and couldn’t latch, something that we didn’t discover until he was two months old. I felt absolutely no guilt about FF because I knew it was the right decision for our family.
Fast forward two years and I was pregnant with my daughter. I again said I would try BF. I wasn’t as anxious this time around and knew that if things didn’t turn out, FF was a completely acceptable option. But my little girl latched on like a champ and has been great at BF. But I see all the posts on Babycenter that make the FF Moms feel horrible. The message is so pervasive that even I have started feeling guilty about what I’m providing my daughter and denied from my son, even though he’s a happy and healthy toddler. The ironic thing is, I’m back to pumping (at least for part of the day) because I work full-time. And the days I don’t pump enough for my daughter to eat, I feel guilty about having to supplement with formula. But why should I feel that way? I’m doing what’s best for my family and I’m feeding my children! I’m making the choices that are best for them and best for me and that should be enough.
The message I want to impart is that both methods have their rewards and challenges. Although I have enjoyed BF my daughter, it started with cracked and bleeding nipples. Not pretty. Now we’re supplementing with formula for her day feedings because pumping at work got old, real fast. It would be nice if us Moms could just support each other, rather than looking our noses down at others because the choices they make are not our own. Organic or not? Co-sleeping? Baby-wearing? Stay-at-home or working mom? These are all decisions that we have to make for our individual situations. I applaud all moms who care for and love their kiddos. Period.
Feel like sharing your story? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.