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 got another one last week. One of those messages. The ones that make me feel like I am totally failing to impart my message correctly; the ones that make me question my own inner bias. The message was from a mom saying she didn’t feel supported on this site because she had chosen formula from the get-go. And as I’ve said many times before, I get that. I seriously do. I can give you every reason in the book for why these FFF Fridays tend towards a certain storyline (the main one being that people who feel 100% confident and happy with a choice to formula feed don’t tend to feel inspired to write cathartic stories about infant feeding struggles), but it’s not going to stop you from feeling unsupported.
I can tell you until my face turns blue that I support those who choose to formula feed from day one just as much as I support those who tried until they fell apart, physically and/or emotionally. But I know that doesn’t always come across on my Facebook page, or in my posts. I think that is partly due to my own experience; I think breastfeeding is one of the coolest things ever. I wish I could have done it. Sometimes I have crazy thoughts about having another baby just so I could try, one last time (don’t worry, Fearless Husband, if you are reading this – I’m not that crazy). When I see some of you who came to me as FFFs now happily nursing second or third children, I feel utter joy for you, but I still feel a faint but unmistakably ugly pang of envy that I didn’t have that experience, that my depression had to be so inexplicably tied to lactating; that my nerves were misfiring in such a way that made breastfeeding about as fun as water boarding.
It is hard to admit these things, because they are emotions, and emotions don’t always match analytical thoughts, and I’d hate for anyone to misunderstand my intellectual take on these issues. For me, it is not so much about breastfeeding or formula feeding; it is about respecting women’s bodily autonomy, and their lived realities, and also about respecting logic, analysis and the truth of statistics. It’s about respecting YOUR experience. I want to honor every single one of your stories, but in doing so, I can’t always make an editorial choice to change up the narrative so that it ensures a wider audience is served.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this… I guess it’s one more attempt at an explanation for why so many of these stories start out with “I always wanted to breastfeed…” because it’s the people who are in tears, bleeding through their nursing bras, who seek me out in the wee hours of the night. It’s not typically women like Lynn who submit stories, but I wish I would get more of these (and I’m so glad she sent hers in), because they are just as worthwhile, and just as important. And speaking of analytical thoughts…. I have to say that I am in awe of Lynn’s ability to consider this typically emotional issue so clearly and thoughtfully, with thought being the operative word. I wish I could know this girl in real life because she’d make one hell of a sounding board for big decisions.
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
This isn’t a post about how I tried to breastfeed my children and failed. This isn’t a post about how I tried to breastfeed my children and succeeded. This is a post about why I chose to feed my children formula, and why I have no regrets about my choice, regardless of the comments and criticisms I recieve.
A little more then three years ago I found out I was pregnant with my first son. It was an amazing feeling. I loved sharing the news with friends and family and I couldn’t wait to meet the little bean growing inside me. At about 20 weeks I had my first appointment with my OB. They asked me if I planned to breastfeed. I hadn’t really given much thought at this point to how I was going to feed my child and told this to the nurse. She told me she would give me some information and I could let her know what I decided at my next appointment. Sounded good to me. So when we got home I decided to go through the information the nurse had given me and decide what was right for us. (At this time I thought the choice was all mine, you know, since the nurse told me to let her know what I decided… but we’ll get to that) Going through the information I realized that all the pamphets were titled things like ’10 reasons breast is best’ ‘Positions for Breastfeeding’ ‘Breastfeeding and Bonding with your baby’ It was all so onesided. There was no information on formula. At all.
So I asked my mom what she did. She breastfed all but one of her children. The one of my siblings she couldn’t breastfeed was born with a cleft lip and palate and was tube fed. She tried pumping for awhile, but only had a manual pump and couldn’t keep up with a 2 yr old and a newborn at home so she switched to formula. She had no issues, no struggles. Breastfeeding was 100% natural for her.
Then I asked my husbands dad what they did. They formula fed all of their children. All of us (my husband and I and our siblings) are healthy, and looking at all of us, there didn’t seem to be a huge difference either way.
So out came Google. I searched breastfeeding and sids, I searched bonding, I searched a million and one things and was loaded down with information about why breast is best and got next to nothing on formula. So my husband and I sat down and talked. And talked and talked and talked about what was best for us.
When we discussed bonding, we decided that since he was taking parental to be home with me and the baby, he wanted to be able to help with feedings. Formula feeding got the benefit there. I have heard the arguement that dad’s can bond with their babies at other times then feeding, and that pumping was an option that would have allowed me to still breastfeed. And those people are right. But it wasn’t right for us.
Then we needed to take into consideration how the elephant in the room (my anxieties) felt about our choices. The anxious part of me felt that I had enough defiencies in my diet, that how could I possibly know that my baby was getting everything he needed from my milk? The arguement that my body would make sure he was didn’t soothe me. How would it possibly make me feel better that my body would take away from me to make sure the baby was healthy? Then I am going to be unhealthy and then how is that going to affect the baby? Formula won out on that arguement too. When I give the baby the bottle, I know exactly how much he is drinking, and what is in it.
We also took into consideration the cost. We didn’t have a lot of extra money, but we made up a good budget and figured out that we could indeed afford to formula feed, if that was our final choice.
Since I was still wavering a little bit in my choice, I decided that I was going to ask a few friends who had babies what they had chosen and why they went that route. Friend 1 told me she chose to breast feed. It worked out great for her and she breastfed for 3 months until her and her baby’s daddy went their seperate ways then she chose to switch to formula so the baby could have time with his daddy without needing to worry about feedings. I asked her why she chose to breastfeed (not to judge, but just in case there was something I was missing) She gave me 3 reasons. 1- it was cheaper 2- it reduces the risk of sids 3- to help her lose the baby weight faster. Friend 2 told me she had chosen to breastfeed but only breastfed for a couple weeks before she switched to formula because it was really hard on her with a c section and her baby wasn’t gaining any weight. I asked her as well why she chose to breast feed and was told 1- it was cheaper and 2- to help her lose the weight faster.
That gave me 2 more reasons to consider. Reduces the risk of sids…. I looked into that. And found the actual study that proved this. I don’t have it handy, but I do remember that it only reduced the risk by about 0.002% or some similar small number. As for losing the weight faster… to me this seemed like one less reason to breastfeed. When you are breastfeeding you need to get an extra 500 calories, I don’t have an appitite when I am tired and I get sick if I force myself to eat. Having a newborn seems to equate to being tired, and being tired (for me) equals not eating… so what exactly am I feeding my newborn if I choose to breastfeed?
This led me to my choice. Fast forward to my next OB appointment. Again the nurse asks me if I am going to be breastfeeding the baby. This time I confidently reply with ‘No. We have chosen to formula feed’ She didn’t say anything negative about it. She smiled at me and told me she would get me some pamphlets on my way out. I smiled and said Ok. When I got home and went into the envelop she had given me, expecting to find some tips on formula, I found more information on breastfeeding… Being naive, I assumed I must have been given an envelope meant for someone else and let it go. When I went back into the Dr’s office for my next appointment, I mentioned to the nurse that I was given more breastfeeding information and I wondered if I could get any information on formulas. I was told that they didn’t have any information about formula types. All she could tell me was what the hospital used. What a royal pain it was, to get anyone to answer any questions I had about formula.
Eventually I went into labor, and I was very glad that the nurse I had when I had my son was very non judgemental when I told her that I wanted to formula feed. She made sure that I was given formula and took the time to explain to me how much my baby needed to eat, and how often to feed him. She talked to me about feeding on demand, and what signs to watch for for allergies and over feeding.
After leaving the hospital, my son gained weight, grew and at each appointment with our family Dr we were told how great he was growing, and how healthy he was. That made it easy to ignore the people who told us that we were overfeeding him, that formula makes fat babies and how we were poisoning him. When I got pregnant with my second and third children, we automatically went to formula. With each pregnancy people would ask me if I planned to breastfeed my baby, and I replied with a simple no. Of course they always looked shocked and would ask why I wasn’t even trying. Not that it was anyones business, but I had no issue explaining that we formula fed our first and it worked so well for him it just made sense to do the same thing with any additional children, unless it proved not to work. (This extended to all of our parenting choices, not just the feeding issue)
I don’t regret choosing to feed my children formula rather then breastmilk. I don’t feel as though they or I missed out on some cosmic bond that only breastfed babies can have with their moms. I know I did the best thing I could for them and for me.
Today I have 3 healthy children. Alex is 2.5 years old, he is 37 inches tall and weighs 31 pounds. Nick is 16 months old, he is 32 inches tall and weights 26 pounds. Zoey is 2 months old, she is 23 inches tall and weighs 12 pounds. None of my children are obese. None of my children are constantly sick.
It makes me sad that people feel the need to justify their choices. There is no right or wrong when it comes to breastfeeding or formula feeding or doing a combination of both. What is important is that you are listening to your childs needs and meeting them to the best of your ability. As moms we need to support one anothers choices. Formula feeding shouldn’t only be okay for moms who weren’t able to breastfeed. Formula feeding should be okay for all moms. Breastfeeding moms shouldn’t be shamed for feeding their children in public. Formula feeding mom’s shouldn’t be shamed for using something that didn’t come from their breast to feed their child. No one should be judged. No one should be criticized.
I hope that by sharing my story, and my reasons, more moms will feel better about their choices and not feel pressured into feeding their child one way over another just because society says its better. How can formula be perfectly healthy and okay for children when the mom was medically unable to breastfeed, but poison for children when the mom chose not to breastfeed?
Share your story for an upcoming FFF Friday – whatever that story may be. Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.