FFF Friday: “Both sides need a support system…”

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,

The FFF

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Kathryn’s Story

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.

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Feel like sharing your story? Email me: 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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3 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “Both sides need a support system…”

  1. I love this post. I breastfeed my daughter but I started reading this blog because I strongly believe that no matter how you choose to feed your baby, we are all just doing the best we can. I hate the stigma attached to bottle feeding and before I gave birth I knew that no matter what needed to be done, I would nourish and nurture my baby the best way I could. I’m so proud of women who have to make hard choices. Thank you for sharing these stories.

  2. This is almost my exact story but in reverse. When my first child was born I was already part of LLL, had read heaps and she breastfed well, but with the usual struggles to get things right with the latch and the added struggle of PND. I was determined to breastfeed, even though the sleep deprivation and stress of breastfeeding definitely contributed to my depression. I felt that I was a useless Mum and breastfeeding was the one thing I was doing right. I was guilty of all the judging of formula feeding too. But I also saw the struggles of some Mums around me and knew that feeding the baby is the most important thing.
    Fast forward 3 years to the birth of my son and in all my preparations, I took being able to breastfeed for granted. But within a week we were back in hospital with him being fed by a tube because he could get any milk out. I gave formula while there as my supply couldn’t keep up with demand. The pumping routine was totally whipping my but and I was trying to avoid getting depressed again. After returning home I tried everything to get him breastfeeding but we eventually decided that there was no way we could manage pumping indefinitely and bottle feeding. So we switched to formula. Yhe only support I eceived was from a close friend. I had absolutely no idea about formula or bottle feeding.

    My son is now 9 months and I still struggle with all the breast is best stuff I have in my head and a lot of the other “shouilds” of parenting. But when I forget all the opinions and books and look into my son’s beautiful eyes as he feeds to sleep, I realise that for him he is in the perfect place, the arms of his Mum. The bottle between us is irrelevant to him.

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