My #ISupportYou partner, stomach Kim Simon, viagra 100mg and I have been working hard on developing a guide for bottle feeding support groups. In doing so, I’ve been pondering the reasons why we need such groups. After all, isn’t bottle feeding easy? Shouldn’t a decent handout on proper preparation and sterilization be sufficient for new formula feeding parents? There isn’t a learning curve like there is with breastfeeding; once you’ve got the hang of it, and have found a formula that works, you should be good to go.
This is what most of society believes, and it is so far from “right”. Maybe it is true for some families, but certainly not for the women who frequent FFF. True, the logistics of bottle feeding are pretty straightforward (although I personally believe troubleshooting is often needed, and resources for bottle issues are sorely lacking). But there is an emotional, psycho-social component to formula feeding that requires support and community.
If you don’t believe me, I urge you to read the story below. As Erin writes below, her experience with the shame of formula feeding “has been tremendously awful for the relationship I have with my baby. I started to pull away from him because it hurt so much to feel like I was harming him in some way. Everything about him reminds me of what wrong I think I’m inflicting.” How can we put so much pressure on women to nurse in the name of better bonding with their infants, when that same pressure is having the exact opposite effect on those who are unable or choose not to nurse? What would happen if, as bottle feeding parents, we had a place to come, to feel normal, to feel accepted, and to work through these conflicted emotions?
I want to create those spaces. Because I don’t want Erin and others like her to feel this way. It isn’t fair, it isn’t healthy, and it isn’t “right”.
I had my first baby last month, after spending several weeks in the hospital with preeclampsia. When the preeclampsia became severe, I was given a c-section. My son was born at 35 weeks. The c-section did not go well–an insufficient amount of anesthesia was used, so that while I experienced some pain the muscles of my uterus did not relax, causing a half-hour struggle in the OR where a tech pushed at my belly and the OB tried to pull my baby out. Eventually they were forced to do more cutting in order to save his life.
As a preemie, he found it really hard to nurse, but I was determined. After my milk came in, I cup-fed him so that he would still be able to breastfeed. We had many visits by the lactation consultants. We were sent home with him nursing a little bit and supplemented by the cup. He was first introduced to formula when I was hospitalized again for an infection of my incision. As soon as I could, I was trying to nurse him again.
But it became clear after several weeks that it wasn’t really working. I had to nurse him for an hour, then feed him several ounces of pumped milk or formula, and then pump. It was the most exhausting ritual I’ve ever experienced, leaving no time for sleep. I paid for another visit with a lactation consultant, who found that he has a tongue and lip tie that prevents him from nursing successfully. We are now scheduled to have it removed, but for now he is being bottle fed, and it’s unlikely I will be able to nurse. In the post partum emotional rollercoaster, this is a punch to the gut. I have tried so hard. Seeing him refuse the breast (because he got nothing!) made me have crying jags for days.
What I’ve noticed is that this has been tremendously awful for the relationship I have with my baby. I started to pull away from him because it hurt so much to feel like I was harming him in some way. Everything about him reminds me of what wrong I think I’m inflicting. Seeing this happen, I know I had to give up the expectation of breastfeeding and not think about it. Otherwise he is going to have a depressed, withdrawn mother, which I’m sure will be much worse for him than any difference between methods of feeding. It’s just so hard to let it go. The cultural saturation of “breast is best” is really not helping. Everything I read online is disdainful of formula, even though many moms I’ve called, in tears, say they used it early or even exclusively. This needs to be an acknowledged reality so that when breastfeeding can’t happen moms don’t feel like they are harming their child, especially as it seems like a large number of women don’t breastfeed for whatever reason.
Reading other’s stories has helped. I am still crying a lot, and it still feels like this is something for which I must beg forgiveness. But my son is healthy so far, and I need to let this go.