FFF Friday: “Let’s focus on what is actually important in life!”

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. 

It’s a scary thing, being a parent in today’s world. I remember when nuclear war was the stuff of nightmares (and I mean that quite literally. I was so scared of the imminent threat of mushroom clouds that Ronald Reagan became our only hope for salvation in my tiny preschooler brain – so much so that when I saw ET and got scared, I turned to my father in the darkened movie theater and whispered, “I wish President Reagan was here to protect me”); now, along with concerns about chemical warfare and terrorism, we have to think about school shootings and getting killed by teenagers texting while driving.

But obviously, we can’t sit around obsessing over these things. We have to live life, find the joy in our days, and not allow our kids to smell our fear. We owe them that. 

In the same regard, I think we owe it to them not to sit around obsessing over how we fed them. Instead, we could be reveling in their perfection; fixating on their beauty. They are not formula fed babies. They are just BABIES. Babies who grow into children who will be who they were meant to be, regardless of how hard we may try to screw them up. I love Katie’s last sentence, because it is so painfully obvious, and yet so hard to remember when you’re in the thick of infant feeding stress.

So let’s try and whisper this to each other, gently, quietly, and with the understanding that it can be difficult to untangle oneself from the guilt-inducing messages surrounding new parents: These are our children, and we have enough to worry about in regards to their safety and future prospects without fixating on something that means so little in the grand scheme of things, and is often out of our control. 

And if you are still worried, just think of good old Ronnie. 

source: Salon.com

source: Salon.com

Happy Friday, fearless ones.

The FFF

***

Katie’s Story

When I gave birth to my first daughter, 5-1/2 years ago, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to breastfeed her.  And it was going to be wonderful!  She was born 2 weeks early and weighed 8 lbs 1 ounce.  But she was sick.  As soon as she was born, they whisked her away and I didn’t see her again for over 8 hours.  And when I did see her again, she was hooked up to so many machines that I could barely tell what she looked like.  I was instructed not to even touch her because it would cause too much over-stimulation and stress her out.  Breastfeeding was absolutely out of the question.  She had an IV to supplement her nutrition.  We were lucky that she was only in the hospital for 5 days, at the end of which we brought home a healthy and chubby baby girl.  I was still determined to breastfeed.  At the end of her hospital stay, I attempted to breastfeed her.  It quickly became apparent that I had inverted nipples and that this wasn’t going to be the walk in the park that I had envisioned.  A nurse handed me a nipple shield and I was able to get her to latch to that.  For six weeks we nursed with a nipple shield.  I had no idea that it was going to make my supply plummet.  I was warned time and time again to never give her a bottle, but not one word was said about the shield.  After six weeks I had a very frustrated baby.  My supply was awful and half of what came out dripped from the nipple shield anyway.  I contacted a lactation consult, and the advice I was given was laughable.  Speaking with her left me more discouraged than ever and I threw the shield away and gave my daughter a bottle of formula.  My once fussy, unhappy baby became the happiest, easiest baby.  She slept through the night!  She was playful and fun and such a joy.  It was embarrassing for me, though, to try to explain to people why I had stopped breastfeeding her. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t exactly fond of describing the shape and size of my nipples to all of our family and friends.

When my oldest was 17 months old I got pregnant again.  This time, I determined, I was going to breastfeed for at least 6 months.  Inverted nipples and all.  I bought myself an expensive double electric breast pump too, just in case.  My second daughter was healthy and wonderful, but never once was she able to latch.  Okay, no problem, I would pump.  I did my daughter and myself a huge disservice by exclusively pumping for four months.  It was a nightmare.  I was pumping around the clock and still trying to take care of an energetic, active 2-1/2 year old and a needy newborn.   When it was time to feed her, I would be in tears because I didn’t want to hook myself up to the pump.  Nighttime feedings were the worst and I absolutely dreaded them.  I would have myself hooked up to the pumps, one arm wrapped around them to keep them on.  I had the baby lying on my lap in a Boppy pillow, with my other arm propping the bottle in her mouth.  I remember many, many feedings, looking at my sweet baby and thinking, “this is better than formula…really?!”  My sweet husband begged me to give up pumping.  He hated the toll it took on me physically and emotionally.  One night he walked into the nursery to find the baby crying in her crib and me lying on the floor, sobbing right along with her.  I just could not stand the thought of pumping one more time.  He immediately went to the store, bought a can of formula and gently said, “We’re done.” It was such a relief.  I was no longer attached to a machine.  I actually became attached to my baby.  I finally was able to fall in love with her without the guilt and anxiety.
Three years later and I was giving birth to my third daughter.  At this point I had two amazing daughters at home.  They had thrived on the evil formula.  Somehow, even without breastfeeding, they were smart, healthy and very much attached to me.  I had absolutely no reservations this time about formula.  I tried one time for about an hour to get baby #3 to latch.  She never did.  The nurses said she needed formula for low blood sugar.  I agreed readily.  And we never looked back.  She’s a healthy, chubby 6-month old who’s never had a drop of breast milk in her life.  And I don’t feel guilty about it.  Never once have I dreaded feeding her or had anxiety about it.  I was shocked to find that night feedings weren’t so terrible when I got to cuddle my sweet newborn and focus on what a miracle she was.  I have loved mothering a newborn this third time around.  I have let go of my guilt over formula.  I trust myself as a mother.  I know that I am making the best decision for my baby.  I love formula.  I am so glad it is there as an option for people like me.  People are still rude and nosy and like to ask me why I’m not breastfeeding.  I like to tell them about my inverted nipples, if only so they can realize how wildly inappropriate it is to ask such personal questions.
My girls are amazing.  They are smart and sweet and funny.  They are healthy!  No one in my daughter’s kindergarten class asks which kids were breastfed and which were fed with formula.  At this point in her life, it’s a non-issue.  I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these girls.  And if I can help even one mom let got of her guilt over formula, I will be happy.  It is so not worth it.  Let’s focus on what is actually important in life! ***Ready to share your story? Email it to 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: “Let’s focus on what is actually important in life!”

  1. Great post! I loved the Reagan story too. 🙂 You are both right, it is so hard to see past the infant feeding drama when you are right in the middle of it. I have a 4 year old and a newborn so I can see both sides of it right now. No one in my daughters preschool class can tell (or even cares!) how she was fed. Everything seems a little less stressful with subsequent babies. My new son is almost 6 months like the author’s- what a fun age! It is so nice to be able to enjoy your baby without worrying about bf vs. ff!

  2. I really enjoyed your post. It brought a tear to my eye because it reminded me of how I didn’t really enjoy feeding my babies until I had my third. I tried everything with the first two, and it was a nightmare both times. When I had my third, I was finally able to let go of the dream that my milk was going to come in (which it never did, all three times) and just enjoy holding and feeding my son. I wish I had had that experience with my first two! Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. “One night he walked into the nursery to find the baby crying in her crib and me lying on the floor, sobbing right along with her. I just could not stand the thought of pumping one more time. He immediately went to the store, bought a can of formula and gently said, “We’re done.” ”

    That made me tear up. My partner wanted to respect my obsessive need to breastfeed (despite low supply and nonexistant latch) but I needed someone to just blow a whistle and tell me to stop already. I pumped until the depression got so bad that I had to go on antidepressants, and THAT’S why I stopped breastfeeding. And suddenly I was able to fall in love with my son.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. I related so much to this story – my flat nipples required me to use a shield which didn’t work for either of us. I started pumping around the clock to feed her as much breastmilk as possible. I hate being hooked up to that thing, especially at night. I dread the night time feedings. I’m now dealing with mastitis meaning I have to get up even more often to pump (every 2 hrs) and then dump the milk. It sucks. She has been supplemented with formula since day 1 and I have no qualms about it, so I don’t know why I can’t let the pumping go. It’s time though – I want to enjoy the newborn phase and not just struggle through it. Thank you for your inspiring story.

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