The (Secret) Truth About #ISupportYou

****This post was co-written by me and #ISupportYou co-founder Kim Simon****

 

Want to know a secret? Shhh. Come close.

We don’t give a shit how you feed your baby.

We don’t care.  We don’t care because there are women taking their babies for chemotherapy and women struggling to scrape up enough cash to buy dinner and women who feel so shitty about themselves that they think it would be better for their children if they just disappeared.  Mothers are falling so deep down the rabbit hole of depression and anxiety, because they are sure that they are failing.  Because that’s what some of you are telling them.  And you know what?  We’re starting to think it’s a cop out to say it’s because you really want their babies to have what you think is best.  We’re starting to think it’s because it makes you feel better about yourself.  It makes you feel superior. You feel superior when you say, in not-so-hushed voices, that she should have weaned her baby when he started to walk. You feel superior when you say that she could have breastfed, if she’d just had the fortitude/education/enough love for her child.

When we started the I Support You project last year, we heard from hundreds of women who finally felt seen, heard, and understood.  They saw their stories reflected in our mission.  Breastfeeding moms and formula-feeding moms reached out to each other in kindness and friendship.  But there were whispers of discontent.  Over the last year, the whispers have grown louder. This is my party!  I’m the birthday girl!  Some of you want to make sure that everyone knows that support is only relevant if you’re supporting what you personally feel is right and true. Look at me!  Look at me, Mom!!  No, no….look over heeeeere!  Some have complained that I Support You lets everyone join their exclusive club, even the mothers who haven’t earned it.  These are my toys.  All of them.  I’m not going to share.

 

AND YOU ARE HURTING PEOPLE.

 

We will say it again: you are hurting people.  I Support You isn’t just about discussing how we feed.  It is us, pleading with you, to take care of each other.  We are begging you to step outside of your own experience, and be kind to each other.  Stop talking about yourself.  Stop preaching.  Stop telling other women what to do with their bodies.  You know what’s anti-feminist?  Shaming other women for not using their breasts the way that you do.  Telling other moms how to care for their babies, because that’s what has worked in your family.  If you believe that you are in charge of your own body, then please don’t tell other women what to do with theirs.  If you believe that you know what is best for your family, then don’t assume that you know what is best for ours.

Support isn’t about holding up signs that celebrate one way of parenting by stomping on another in your combat boots. We’re on a hamster wheel – spinning around and around, the same scenery whirling past our eyes, going nowhere. One step forward, twenty steps back.

But we know you’re out there, too. The ones who want to see real change. The ones who are as fed up, bored, exhausted, and angry as we are. And we hear your whispers, too:

I am a breastfeeder, and my children are brilliant because I talk to them and make sure they don’t starve and expose them to wonderful adventures in life and love on them and wake up to cuddle them when they’re scared.

I am a formula feeder, and my children are inquisitive, sensitive, and utterly confident that they are loved for who they are, and not because they are an extension of me or my desires. 

I am a breastfeeder, and I care about your feelings.

I am a formula feeder, and I don’t give a flying you-know-what how you feed your baby, because I trust that you love him and are doing what you know is best for your family.

I am a breastfeeder, and I don’t care how you feed your baby or what you feed your baby.  I will mind my own business, because your personal choices are not mine to know.

I am a formula feeder, and I would never presume to know your experience, or judge your parenting philosophy, because what the heck is a parenting philosophy, anyway? Who has time to think about this shit?

I am a breastfeeder who has supported moms while they leave their abusive partners, while they struggle to learn a new language in a new country, while they cry on the floor at Mommy Group because they feel so alone.  I do not care what they are feeding their baby, as long as they are not drowning in the deep end of depression.

I am a formula feeder, and I want my choice to be seen as normal and acceptable, instead of something for which I am supposed to feel defensive and ashamed. 

I am a breastfeeder, and I have more important things to do than tell you how to take care of your kids. Like sleep. And eat something that is not the crust of what my kids just threw on the floor.

I am a formula feeder, and I will support breastfeeding women because they also should be made to feel like their choice is normal and acceptable, because (duh) it is.

I am a breastfeeder, and I am ashamed that some of my breastfeeding sisters make you feel bad.

I am a formula feeder and I believe we ALL deserve support regardless of which way the public opinion/scientific consensus pendulum sways, because how we use our female bodies should not be up for public discussion, full stop.

I am a breastfeeder, and I will feed my baby wherever I want to, and you should too, because normalizing it means just doing it, and not milking it for page views. 

I am a formula feeder, and I want us all to avoid the “buts” and focus on the “ands”…but/and I don’t want this concept to be coopted in a way that marginalizes or demonizes one disenfranchised group for the benefit of another.

I am a formula feeder, and I don’t champion a way of feeding, or the biological norm, or a highly marketed, commodified product, but I will champion your right to parent with love and autonomy, because my support is not conditional.

I am a breastfeeder, and my kids will grow up knowing how fiercely I love them, and how fiercely I fought to feed them.  Both of them.  The formula one and the breastmilk one.

I am a breastfeeder, and I will not use that privilege to shame, isolate, or judge you.

I am a formula feeder, and I will not use that privilege to shame, isolate or judge you. 

 

I am a formula feeder, and I Support YOU.

I am a breastfeeder and I Support YOU.

 

If you are interested in learning more about normalizing kindness, and how we can lift each other up on this journey of motherhood, then please visit I Support You. We hear you.  It’s okay to raise your voice. Maybe it’s time we did, too.

#bottlebonding

Bonding requires love.

That’s all.

Thanks to the FFF community for showing this to be true! (And special thanks to the amazing Amanda Peters for coming up with the #bottlebonding idea and hashtag!)

The biggest problem with the breastfeeding discourse has nothing to do with breastfeeding

Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes, it’s not.

As any journalist, blogger, or parenting-forum moderator can attest, merely mentioning the words “breastfeeding” or “formula feeding” will create controversy – or at least a comment thread that derails within the first three posts. It’s virtually impossible for someone not to feel offended. It happens on both sides of the debate; some breastfeeding advocates see red anytime a person writes favorably about formula, while some formula feeding mothers are guilty of taking it all too personally, and assuming that every positive aspect of breastfeeding is dig at their lack of lactation.

This bugs me, being someone who writes about this topic regularly, because it dilutes the conversation. We lose track of what we’re talking about, and lose the chance to understand, to evolve, to connect.

Of course, this problem is endemic to any hot-button parenting issue. Circumcision, sleep training, working vs. staying at home, vaccinations… But when it comes to breastfeeding, what I’m talking about goes far beyond the mommy war bullshit. We’ve apparently lost the ability to discuss anything to do with breastfeeding and formula without heaping layers of preconceived notions, philosophical ideals, and emotional reactions onto whatever’s being discussed. Even if the conversation takes place in a respected medical journal, the halls of a hospital, or a human rights nonprofit.

With that said, I want to make something clear: this post is not about breastfeeding. It is not about the benefits of breastfeeding. It is not about a woman’s right to breastfeed or formula feed. It is not about you, or me, or your sister-in-law. It’s about language, interpretation, and bias. If it helps, substitute the word “breastfeeding” for something less emotionally loaded. “Drinking coffee”. “Wearing palazzo pants.” Whatever.

In the past month, two stories popped up, buried so deep in the news that only someone who obsessively googles terms like “infant feeding” and “lactation” would have seen them. They were about studies showing negative associations with breastfeeding (see? Didn’t your heart start beating a bit faster? …Negative associations with palazzo pants. That’s better, right?) The first one found that longer durations of breastfeeding (past 12 months) were associated with higher rates of a specific form of breast cancer in Mexican and Mexican-American women. The evidence was based on subject recall of breastfeeding history, in a specific population. All I will say about the study itself is that it is one, isolated result; more research must be done before anyone can make proclamations about whether women of Mexican descent might want to wean after a year.

Which is basically what I say about every infant feeding study. These results do not prove a causal relationship. It would be patently false and extremely irresponsible to have headlines screeching “breastfeeding causes breast cancer!”

Luckily, there were no such headlines. The story didn’t receive much coverage in major news outlets, but here were the headlines I did find:

Breastfeeding May Increase Cancer Risk for Mexican-American Moms (http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/health/Breastfeeding–Cancer-Rules-May-Not-Apply-to-Some-226050001.html)

Lactation may be linked to aggressive cancer in Mexican women

http://health.ucsd.edu/news/releases/Pages/2013-10-01-lactation-linked-to-cancer-in-Mexican-women.aspx

Women of Mexican descent more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive form of breast cancer http://www.news-medical.net/news/20131002/Women-of-Mexican-descent-more-likely-to-be-diagnosed-with-aggressive-form-of-breast-cancer.aspx

Mexican Women’s Breast Cancer Risk Tied to Breast-Feeding? http://healthcare.utah.edu/womenshealth/healthlibrary/doc.php?type=6&id=680757

Notice all the qualifiers. May be linked. More likely. And my favorite example, the question mark at the end of the last headline.

Now, let’s compare these measured, accurate headlines with those that stemmed from similar studies (self-reported data, specific populations, single studies rather than meta-analyses) that showed a positive effect of breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding reduces cancer risk http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-88785/Breast-feeding-reduces-cancer-risk.html

Breastfeeding Cuts Breast Cancer Risk http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20070417/breastfeeding-cuts-breast-cancer-risk

Study: Breastfeeding Decreases Cancer Risk http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9656285

Breastfeeding Protects Against Breast Cancer http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/08/10/us-breastfeeding-cancer-idUSTRE5795CZ20090810

Not one qualifier to be found.

But FFF, you’re arguing semantics, you say. Perhaps. But how can we argue that subliminal messages that come through the advertising of formula or bottles can so greatly affect a woman’s breastfeeding intention, and then argue that the language used in widely-read headlines doesn’t make an impact?

Not convinced? Let’s go beyond the headlines. The one quote from the lead researcher of the breastfeeding/cancer in Mexican women study used in the media was this:

“Our results are both puzzling and disconcerting because we do not want to give the wrong message about breastfeeding…If you treat breast cancer as one disease, breastfeeding is beneficial to both mother and baby. That should not be dismissed.”

Puzzling? Disconcerting? Science needs to be free of bias. It’s perfectly acceptable to be “surprised” by findings, but “disconcerted”? And as for the point about ”breast cancer as one disease“, this is not the sentiment expressed in the quotes from articles reporting a positive effect, many of which proudly extrapolate their specific findings and make sweeping statements about breastfeeding promotion:

Clearly, the researchers conclude, breastfeeding is associated with “multiple health benefits” for both mother and child…”That’s why we need supportive hospital policies, paid maternity leave, and workplace accommodations so that women can meet their breastfeeding goals…” (source: Reuters)

The same double standard popped up a few weeks later, when a study hit the news which found that babies breastfed longer than one year, as well as babies introduced to gluten after 6 months, had an increased risk for celiac disease. Again, hardly any media coverage; the one major outlet (Yahoo News) that covered it used the headline “Parent’s Feeding Choices May Raise Baby’s Risk for Celiac Disease“. Absolutely accurate headline, but no mention of breastfeeding. Granted, there were two findings that came from this study; both of which did involve a feeding “choice”. What I find interesting, though, is that whenever formula is associated with something negative – even if that particular finding is buried in a mess of other data – the headlines make sure to mention it. (Remember the arsenic-in-baby-formula scare of 2012?)

This study had many flaws. (Science of Mom has a great explanation of what these were over on her blog, if you’re interested.) But it didn’t have more flaws than 99% of the formula-is-risky studies which we are subjected to on a weekly basis, none of which are handled with the same degree of intelligence and moderation.

In Bottled Up, I discuss the problem of publication bias, and the professional death knell it is to report or support anything that detracts from the supreme perfection of breastfeeding. This is a bigger problem than one might believe – because if the end goal is to find ways to reduce disease and increase health in populations, we should be striving for information, not propaganda. And this is why I fight so hard to reframe how we discuss and promote breastfeeding – because if we are basing all of our support for the practice on science, then we run the risk of bastardizing – or at least “tweaking” – that science to justify our promotion.

Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. But when it comes to infant feeding science, the results are never just the results.

Advice for formula feeding parents, from other formula feeding parents

There’s an embarrassing lack of support in the early postpartum period for all women, including those who are formula feeding. While breastfeeding moms are understandably in dire need of lactation clinics and LLL meetings, there’s little to no practical support when you’re feeding with a bottle rather than a breast, and even less emotional support. And god knows we all need support… breastfeeding and bottle-feeding alike.

This morning, I posed the following question to the FFF social media audience, both on Twitter and Facebook:

“If you had to give one piece of advice to a new formula-feeding mom, what would it be?”

 The answers were fast, furious and fabulous. I thought it would be nice to post some of these comments on the blog, to provide a collection of informative and self-affirming tidbits to struggling new parents – kind of like our own “virtual” bottle-feeding peer support group.

So, here you go: a random, but beautiful, collection of sentiments and practical tips for those bleary-eyed new moms and dads, peering anxiously at the formula can, measuring out scoops of powder with shaky, sleep-deprived hands. You’re doing a great job. And we support you.

The FFF Community answers the question: “If you had to give one piece of advice to a new formula-feeding mom, what would it be?”

 

Emotional: Love YOURSELF and your BABY. There is nothing that matters more on a mommy’s long list of concerns. Don’t let the people who challenge/doubt that love even make the list! You have enough to worry about without wasting precious time on them. While loving your baby is just about the easiest thing ever, loving yourself may take a little work and practice. That’s ok! Take the time to bathe and breathe!  You really do need/deserve it. Practical: Even when you’ve done your research your child’s specific digestive system may not agree with your findings of the “best formula”. Don’t stress it! Move on to the second best on the list and keep going until you find the one that works for your baby. It’s better to find what works best for them than to have the best according to “whoever”. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of your pediatrician! Not only are they expecting it from the new mama but they often have information to help ease a decision you’re unsure of. They don’t expect you to know it all and won’t make you feel like an idiot for not. Promise! – Jessica

 

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for feeding your baby formula. You are the Mom and therefore you know what’s best for your baby. As long as the baby is happy, fed, and loved then you are doing it right. – Alicia

 

If you tried to breastfeed, but were not able to for one reason or another, mourn that loss and then move on! Parenting (and life in general) is so much bigger than this issue (although when you’re going through it, it seems like it’s EVERYTHING). Be thankful for the beautiful child in your arms, and remember how many women would give anything to have a child. What a baby eats in his first year of life is comparatively small potatoes when you consider everything else. Soon enough, you’ll be agonizing over choosing schools, when to let your child go on sleepovers, how to explain the birds and the bees, and how to handle bullying. Do not let how you feed your baby in these first few months get in the way of enjoying your new baby. – Amy

 

Breast feeding doesn’t work for everyone, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Enjoy your baby. They’re only little for such a short time, so don’t waste it second guessing yourself and trying to please others and their ideals. – Emma

 

Treasure these moments. Babies grow so fast! It sounds like a cliche but you are making memories that will last you a lifetime. They will spring into your head when you watch your child’s first bike ride, their first day at school. You will think, “where did the time go?” and later, ” how is it my baby can look me in the eye standing?!?!” Enjoy every minute of awesome squishy babyhood. And ignore pointless criticism from people who know “f” all. -Jo

 

Throw away the sample packs that come in the mail and pick out the formula brand you would want for baby. It sounds simple, but I found my self switching to formula feeding from breast b/c my milk wasn’t coming in and grabbed one of my sample packs, which happens to be one of the most expensive brands. Luckily, Target makes a generic brand of several major formulas. – Elise

For the parents who make up one bottle at a time the ounce markers are for RTF formula. So if you use powdered formula the marks on the bottle are not correct. For example 6oz of water fills to the 5 1/2 mark on my bottles and is right at 6 when I mix the powder in.       -Elizabeth

 

It is MORE work than breast feeding as you need to watch for hunger/satiety cues and will be doing “the dishes” for a year plus, but it is just as rewarding as breast feeding. Do not listen when the lactation police say you will have a dumb baby or a fat one. Pacing feelings and watching cues will prevent over feeding. Hold, love and cuddle your LO and know you are a good mom. – Megan

 

There is no such thing as too many muslins and bibs and enjoy watching your friends & family create a bond with your baby too as they feed him/her – Roberta

 

Don’t sweat formula feeding in public. Every cafe, restaurant, cinema and airport that bubs and I have been to have been great about warming bottles for me. I have received no nasty looks or comments. Most people understand… And you can leave bubs with family and have some couple time! – Clare

 

Don’t feel guilty! A happy mom is a happy baby! A friend mentioned yesterday bottle-fed moms probably bond even more with their babies since they can look in your eyes while you’re feeding:) – Michelle

 

It’s not poison. This way you can get help from hubby with mid night feeds, as a new mum your not superwoman …. you need rest too. – Tanya

 

Momma knows best! All that matters is your baby is well fed, and well taken care of. Also, keep a back bottle in the diaper bag! Nothing like leaving the house, and forgetting the bottle. – Jessica B.

If you aren’t able to wash the bottles right away, I’ve found a good tip to keeping them from getting icky is to rinse, refill with fresh tap water, put a drop of dish soap in and let them soak that way. The soap will dissolve the milk and oils making scrubbing them clean later a snap. Plus no smelly bottles! – Melissa

 

When you’re feeding your little one a bottle, just be in the moment. Connect with your baby. Doing this and realizing how feeding my baby a bottle was so much more of a bonding experience than it ever was when I struggled to breastfeed really helped me get over the feelings of failure. – Erica

 

Be easy on yourself – Caitlin

 

 

There is nothing wrong with formula feeding. Your child will be just as happy and healthy as any other child. Oh and don’t read all the scare-mongering articles about breast/bottle online. Studies actually show that maybe breastfeeding is a little better. Funny how when portrayed to the public they only pick out the ones that show bf babies as healthier. Never mind the thousands that show absolutely no difference whatsoever. – Michelle

 

Buy a Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine its saved my household & no screaming baby & no testing formula made to right temperature everytime – Charley

 

You don’t always have to warm it up if you use room temp nursery water for blending. -Zachalis

 

Nuby Milk Powder Dispensers are the best formula dispensers! The formula slides out and actually into the bottle instead of the floor, counter, table, etc! Also – for the powder feeders, make a nighttime basket. We put water in our bottles, load up our formula dispensers and then all we need to do at 3 am is drop the powder in. – Amanda

 

For the powder feeders, make a nighttime basket. We put water in our bottles, load up our formula dispensers and then all we need to do at 3 am is drop the powder in. – Susie

 

Get a Sam’s club membership. You’ll save TONS on their store brand formula AND diapers. – Holly

 

Start baby out on room temp bottles. They don’t know the difference if they have never breastfed and it makes life A LOT easier down the road – Jennifer

 

Try a formula that is 100% whey (whey is protein that is already broken down, ‘casein’- their tummies have to work alot harder to digest) for newborns, unless they are very hungry babies then a formula with casein is good. Our poor bubs was struggling and in pain but once we found a formula that was 100% whey she is so much better.  – Megan

 

Go for the bottles with as few parts as possible, buy as many as you can. Wash and sanitize in the dishwasher if possible. Get a formula mixing pitcher and enjoy feeding in a rocking chair using your boppy pillow. I loved ff my son, it was special looking at him and rocking while he drifted off to sleep! – Kimberly

 

Read about formula. I can’t believe I didn’t know that traditional formula is just cows milk with some modifications to protein, etc. It’s not chemicals – just a slight variation on a food I eat all day. Helps me to remember that it is nutritious. – Maegan

 

 

I’d just say “You’re doing it right!” – Sarah

 

The advice my pediatrician gave me. “Feed your baby ….stop beating yourself up, breast feeding doesn’t work for everyone. Do you want to look back on this special time with your child with regret??Enjoy your son.” I love my son’s pediatrician. – Loreen

Keep in mind that the directions on the back of the tin are for a 50th percentile baby for that age…my boy has always been 97th percentile so I realised early on that the ‘recommendations’ were never going to work! I’m taking part in an Australian formula study with University of Queensland and for his weight my boy is meant to have 240mls but the tin says 180mls, since upping this I now have a boy who sleeps from 9.30pm to 5.30am!! Oh and just love your baby. – Skye

 

A thermos of hot water and prepackaged powdered formula sticks make traveling MUCH easier. No worry about spoiling formula or waste. You can use what you need as you go. – Kathryn

 

If you can get a kitchen scale, measure the powder out by weight, not by scoops. It will be more consistent and accurate. My son has reflux and adjusting the measurement helped a lot and we used less than before.   – Amy

 

I just switched to playtex bottles with throw away liners…I wish I would have started 8 months ago because it saves so much time in cleaning- more momny time : ) I also do bottles room temp. Less spit up. – Kristen

 

Ignore anyone who tries to make you feel bad, you’re feeding, loving, and bonding with your baby in your own way and in your baby’s eyes the sun and moon rise and set because of you, no matter what you feed them – Amanda

 

Babies need food and loving, caring, nurturing parents give it to them however they can. They key is to be present, look in those little eyes, warm up that tiny body with yours and the rest will fall away in love. – Stephanie

 

Delete anything and anyone who is a negative cloud out of your life. Those BF FB support pages and groups will only remind you of what you “didn’t try hard enough” or what you “didn’t try at all”, delete online friends or even real life friends who put you down in anyway! Learn early on to tell others to F*** off if needed! – Mindy

 

After a feeding, always open and rinse the bottle at your first chance. hot, old formula is NASTY!! – Beth

 

 

Mums still count when they have a baby. You don’t want to breastfeed, then don’t! – Victoria

 

 

You are a rock star!!!!! – Jennifer

 

Your baby loves you no matter how you feed them, and you love your baby enough to feed them. When they’re school age, you won’t even care about how it all happened! – Karly

 

Formula is not the new “f” word. Stand by your decision and move on! – Linda

 

Expect to be made to feel bad but realise that you are not! – Jamie

 

Pick one night a week, give your husband baby duty, and go sleep all night! Embrace your choice! – Abby

 

Most people (at least in my experience) really don’t care how you’re feeding your baby. They just want to see your adorable baby coo and smile at them! Guilt plays too big a role – embrace the fact that you love your baby and whatever you do, it is the vest option for your family. Enjoy your baby! – Emily

 

Take no notice of the mammary militia. Formula is not poison!! -Karyn

 

Always hold your baby while feeding the bottle. You still have that eye contact and connection/ closeness. – Kerissa

 

Welcome to motherhood, now, surround yourself with uplifting people. -Vera

 

Don’t waste your time or energy feeling badly for how you provide nourishment to your baby. Use it to love on and care for him/her. – Kristen

 

Prepare multiple bottles ahead of time so when baby is hungry you can just pull one out of the fridge rather than mix it. – Amber

 

Enjoy it- it is wonderful! Oh- and Dr. Brown’s formula pitcher is awesome! – Trish

 

Try everything until you find what makes YOUR BABY happy! Each and every baby is different you may never know what will work best until you try it all. Try different bottles, different formula, and different recommendations till you find what makes your baby and you happy! – Erin

 

Focus on your baby, not the background noise.. breast is the best way, but it’s not the only way, and you are not poisoning your child. If you are happy and sane, that’s the most healthy thing you can do for your baby. – Alison

 

Support yourself with people who support you and believe in yourself – Nic

 

You will become so efficient at making bottles, when someone mentions how quick they can feed their baby by breast, go right ahead and brag about whipping a bottle together in 30-45 seconds. I know I did/do!  – Megan W.

 

Don’t read anything online regarding breastfeeding. It will just drive you crazy! Don’t sit in the rocking chair hooked to a pump for hours and hours a day like I did. HOLD your baby, smell them, stare at their beautiful face. You are the Mom. NO ONE can do that job for your child any better than you. Remind yourself this every single day. Your baby loves YOU not the bottle or boob. – Dana

 

If you got here and it wasn’t part of your original plan of how motherhood/feeding was “supposed” to go…it is OKAY. How you feed your sweet baby does not and WILL NOT ever define you as a mommy. Just love on that baby and enjoy the perks of FF–family being able to help, being able to take time away when you need a break, and (a big one for those type-A folks like myself), knowing just how much your baby is getting. Perhaps more importantly, DO NOT allow others to brow beat you or shame you for how you are raising your child. – Rosemary

 

Get a formula dispenser, fill it up and ur bottles with water so at night its already to mix! So helpful it have 2 story house! Can use the bathroom sink to warm it up. Oh take a shower everyday you and baby will feel better! – Shelley

 

Cut yourself some slack and enjoy your baby. Soak up all the tiny humanness. – Peyton

 

Your baby will be healthy and smart! How awesome are our kids to be so perfect despite the fact they didn’t have breastmilk?! – Elizabeth

 

You didn’t fail and your baby will THRIVE with formula -Megan D.

 

I don’t use the term “Breast is Best” I use the term “Mom knows best” but mostly if you’ve had women coming up to you telling you off for buying formula like I did until your hormones are under control and you’ve come to terms with it make sure you buy the formula with someone in your support system or when going to get the formula off the shelf get on your cell phone to talk to someone in your support system it makes it harder for someone to be rude when there are people around or your on the phone so you can come to terms with it on your own time without people making it worse – Whitney

 

Enjoy the quiet moments. It’s the time when the house is quiet, everyone is asleep and it is just you and your little one. Listen to their breathing, savor their smell, and think of how much you love that little bundle in your arms. – Jessica

 

Formula feeding doesn’t make you a bad Mom. You’re feeding your child, and making sure he/she gets the nutrition they need. Don’t ever, ever let anyone make you feel “less than” because you couldn’t/chose not to breastfeed. – Brandi

 

Be proud knowing you are a great mom doing a great job! – Michele

 

You don’t owe anyone an explanation. How you feed your baby is between you, your partner, your pediatrician, and your child. Oh, and if your baby is on any of the hypoallergenic formulas like Neocate, check with your insurance to see if you can get reimbursed! – Ilissa

 

Do what you feel is best for you and YOUR baby regardless of the critics – Sheena

 

Read the instructions carefully and make sure anyone who will be feeding baby does as well. – Jennifer

 

Don’t listen to criticism. You’re doing the best you can do – Crystal

 

Just feed that baby. You’re doing a great job! – Jessica

 

Enjoy the fact that your spouse and family members will get to help feed baby and bond too – Amanda

 

Be gentle on yourself  when your child starts school you won’t be able to tell who was breastfed and who was formula fed. – Olivia

Trust your gut. If you think this formula isn’t working for your baby, switch. Not all formulas are created equal and different kids need different kinds. It can be trial and error but you will find the perfect fit for him/her. – Katie

 

Own it. There are tons of up-sides to FF. Don’t be scared to enjoy them! – Annie

 

Find a support system! A group of other new moms, family/friends who’ve been there, and a doctor who supports your decisions (no new mom needs to be stressing and fighting with her kid’s doctor instead of healing and bonding with her baby). – Amanda

 

Emotional advice: Once you make the decision to FF you have to let BF go otherwise you will continue to feel down on yourself. (If you originally tried to BF and it didn’t work out like me) Practical application advice: Keep a soapy bowl of water in the sink and just throw dirty bottle pieces in when they are dirty. Then only wash bottles once a day instead of washing each piece everytime you use it. Total time saver! – Brittany

 

Everything they say about Breastfeeding- the special bonding, the love, how it’s good for baby…that is all just as true with formula feeding. Enjoy and live that baby. Nothing has changed but the delivery system of milk. : ) -Alyson

 

When you look back don’t wish you’d held your baby more!!! – Barbara

 

Don’t get hung up on HOW your baby is being fed, focus on the fact they ARE being fed with love! – Emily

 

Connect with other formula feeding moms. – Amy

 

Bonding happens with a breast or a bottle if you make it that way. I always try to talk to the baby and make eye contact even with a bottle. – Charis

 

Be confident and happy in your decision. You will still bond with your child JUST as much, Your child will be JUST as healthy. Bo confident in your insticts as a mom. You, and only you (and your SO) know what is best for you and your family. Do not let anyone guilt trip you. You are a super mommy, don’t forget it! – Jenny

 

I know you were taught to always listen to the doctor, but you are mommy now and what you say goes! That includes feeding your child however you need to OR want to. – Alisa

 

Spoiler Alert: By the time you are at the bus stop, no one can tell which kids were EBF and which were FF. – Alexis

 

Treat the bottle like the breast. (Also, make sure you mix it correctly. Too many odd-numbered ounce bottles going around! ) – Lisa

 

When it all said and done FF vs BF issue is only discussed for the first year. Then they move on to some other judgement. – Angela

 

What works best for you is what works best for YOU. You are who you are, your circumstance is yours- that’s what you work with, not some image of how you are supposedly “supposed” to be. An act of strength + love for you + baby!!! Also: wash/sterilize + fill all next days bottles with water and formula dividers with servings; then you’re set for tomorrow!-Claire

 

If you can afford it, do the pre-made formula, especially for travel! Unbelievably simpler. – Perpetua

 

People probably aren’t judging you nearly as much as you think they are. Ok, except the mean trolls that live on the internet – Sarah

 

Never forget that you are in the best position to determine what is right for you, your child, and your family… – Janice

 

Stay off the Internet. People online will just make you feel bad. – Rebekah

 

What are your tips for new formula feeding parents? Leave them in the comments section and join the virtual hug-fest.

Announcing the “I Support You” Movement

Last week, I got together with a group of friends for a rare “mom’s night out”. We sat for hours, sipping white sangria and inhaling carcinogens from the nearby fire pit, laughing in that way only overtired, overstressed moms can when they finally get a chance to let loose.

I’d met these women at Mommy & Me when our firstborns – all boys, born within days of each other- were about 8 weeks old. So it was no surprise that as the night wore on and the wine glasses were emptied, our conversation turned to those hazy postpartum months, when we were younger, more confused versions of ourselves. I began inwardly musing how much we’d all evolved since then; how through two pregnancies each, our strength and power as women had stretched to new limits along with our bellies.

And then it happened.

“Do you guys remember breastfeeding support group? What a godsend that was!” one of my friends gushed.

“I remember sitting next to you and crying,” said another. “Eh, I think we were ALL crying,” another responded, and the whole group started laughing in self recognition and commiseration.

I felt my shoulders tense up, an ancient and forgotten ache shooting through them, down into my belly, where old pain dies hard. The ache grew deeper when one of my friends told me that my children probably didn’t sleep as long as hers did because she breastfed them, because “nursing gives them sleepy hormones”. And when another, trying so hard to be kind and include me in the conversation, reminisced about seeing my son in his infant carrier making little sucking movements with his lips as he slept, “as if he was still sucking on his bottle”.

And all I heard was “other”; all I heard was “different”.

The next day, I was interviewed for a documentary about breastfeeding, and asked about my journey from passionate breastfeeding wannabe to Fearless Formula Feeder. I’ve done interviews like this a hundred times now; told my story a hundred more. But this time, when I came to the part where I went to Mommy & Me for the first time – the first time I’d really been out in public, let alone surrounded by other moms and babies, as prior to that I’d been stuck at home attached to my pump and held down by the weight of postpartum depression and a baby who couldn’t stop crying, no matter what we did to soothe him – I felt the ancient pain rise up like bile in my throat. As I recalled sitting there, in a circle of nursing moms, feeling like all eyes were fixated on my bottle, judging me, I choked back ugly, rusty sobs. Rancid tears punctuated my typically canned tales of feeling separate, isolated, and constantly on the defensive.

I don’t think I’d realized how much the previous evening’s conversation had affected me. My children are 2.5 and 4.5; while some of my friends have younger babies or are still nursing their second-born toddlers, breast vs bottle is not something that our group is emotionally invested in. Breastfeeding, in and of itself, doesn’t really come up anymore. But breastfeeding support group does. The days we  they spent at the park discussing breastfeeding difficulties do. Those days carry a rosy glow for my friends, but my memories are tinged with gray. Those days I sat silent, clutching my son’s formula filled bottles, gritting my teeth through the inevitable comments about how terrified they were of having to supplement, smiling a frozen smile when a new mom would join our fold and ask the inevitable question “are you pumping?” which would be met with someone else in the group recounting my story of going above and beyond, as if I needed excusing.

Something I’ve heard a lot from those who don’t quite understand my passion for this issue is that “once your kids are out of the infant stage, you won’t care so much about breast or bottle.” And that’s true, to a large degree – the scary statistics and shaming memes don’t carry the same power; I’m able to dismiss them, laugh at them, debunk them without it affecting me personally. What surprised me about the other night and my subsequent breakdown over faded memories, is that while the logistics cease to matter, the old pain and doubt are always there.

There’s a lot of research out there about imprinting, and how first experiences affect infants. But isn’t new motherhood a sort of infancy, itself? Here you are, reborn into mother, your skin and organs and thoughts raw and foreign. Everything is new. Everything is a first, postpartum- your first shower, the first time you have sex, the first time you take the baby for a walk, the first time you feel confident in your new role. Is it surprising, then, that your first social interactions as a mother don’t imprint on you in the same way a new food imprints on an infant’s taste buds?

What would have my postpartum experience been like if I could’ve sat next to my new friends without being afraid of what they’d been made to believe about formula feeding? If I could’ve attended a support group in those first weeks, too, and not had to wait 8 weeks before my community allowed me the gift of peer interaction? And what would my friends’ experiences have been like if they hadn’t been made to feel like failures for the supplementing they had to do, or made to believe that their ability to breastfeed was what made a mother worth her title? What if we could have all been supported in our individual experiences and goals, without fear of some Orwellian gaze, labeling us with a “pass” or “fail”?

And most of all…. what would have happened if I’d had the courage to speak up; to give voice to my demons, to help my friends understand how their innocent words could hurt more than my Pitocin-induced labor pains? What if we could have spoken openly, and found our differences to be our power, the power that could bring light to our fundamental sameness?

World Breastfeeding Week begins in a few days, and the theme this year is “Breastfeeding Support – Close to Mothers”. This is a fantastic theme, because breastfeeding moms need tremendous support, especially in those early days. But I think we should be taking this a step further. ALL new moms need support. Hell, all moms – those with toddlers, those birthing their fourth babies, those with teenagers – need support.  I think brand new moms are the most vulnerable, though; these are the women who are not only dealing with all the craziness that babies bring, but also their own rebirth.

I want to support breastfeeding mothers. I wanted to support my friends, in those early days; I wanted to help them through their struggles, but I felt trapped by my own insecurity. Their efforts seemed like an indictment of my choice. Their well-meaning questions about whether I’d tried talking to a lactation consultant (try seven) felt like judgment.

The problem is not us, us mothers just trying to do our best for our babies, us mothers desperately seeking a tribe, a source of support, a group to someday drink sangria with and laugh about how tough those first few weeks were. The problem is with how breastfeeding has become the antithesis of formula feeding; the problem is with how the two are set up as black and white, as polar opposites, as competing interests – rather than as two entirely independent, valid ways to feed children. Those promoting breastfeeding because they honestly believe formula is risky can continue to do so, but I think there is space for a new type of breastfeeding advocacy and support: one that celebrates and honors mothers’ autonomy, and focuses energy on providing REAL support to those who need it, regardless of feeding method. If infant feeding wasn’t set up as a succeed/fail dichotomy from the beginning, imagine how moms might be able to support each other without feeling alienated or judged for different choices?

My belief that this type of advocacy would be far more powerful in helping mothers meet their breastfeeding goals is what has inspired me to join forces with Kim Simon of Mama By The Bay and Jamie Lynne Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter, to encourage moms to stand up and say “I Support You”.

Created by Cary Lynn Davis

Created by Cary Davis

The I Support You movement is a respectful, empathetic, compassionate exchange between parents.  We all feed our children differently, but we are all feeding with love, and in ways that work for our individual circumstances and family dynamics.  I Support You is the first step in helping formula-feeding, breast-feeding, and combo-feeding parents to come together and lift each other up with kindness and understanding. We have chosen to announce this movement during World Breastfeeding Week, to honor the commitment of those who fight for better support for breastfeeding moms; we are inspired by this, but believe that by changing the focus to supporting all parents, we can truly provoke positive change without putting the needs of some mothers above the needs of others. The “I Support You” movement aims:

 

1) To bridge the gap between formula-feeding and breastfeeding parents by fostering friendships and interactions.

 

2) To dispel common myths and misperceptions about formula feeding and breastfeeding, by asking parents to share their stories, and really listening to the truth of their experiences.

 

3) To provide information and support to parents as they make decisions about how to feed their children.

 

4) To connect parents with local resources, mentors, and friends who are feeding their children in similar ways.

 

(written by Kim Simon with a tiny bit of help from me)

 

If you want to join the movement and celebrate real support with us:

 

Send us your photos. I’m creating a slideshow of photos to show how beautiful support can look. If you are willing to let me use your image, take a photo of you, your baby, your family, you and a friend – doesn’t matter – with a message of support (i.e., “I exclusively breastfed, but I know every mother does what is right for her – and I SUPPORT YOU” or “I may formula feed, but I’d fight like hell for a woman’s right to NIP. I SUPPORT YOU”) and send it to formulafeeders@gmail.com by Friday, August 2nd.

 

Interview Your Opposite. Are you a blogger?  Are you a formula-feeder who is best friends with an extended breastfeeder?  An adoptive parent who knows of a mom using an SNS nurser with a baby in the NICU?  We want you to interview someone who is feeding in a different way than you are, and then publish it on your blog.  If you’re interested in participating but don’t know where to start, feel free to email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com for a list of interview questions.  On  Sunday, August 4th, we will ask you to share your story with us, by adding your link to the I Support You blog hop. If you don’t know anyone who feeds in a different way,  send me an email and I’ll try and connect you to someone.

 

Join us for a Twitter Party on August 7th, at 5pm PST/8pm EST.  We’ll be asking you to share your truths about your feeding choices, and connecting you to other parents who might be feeding their children the same way.  You can find us with the hashtag #ISupportYou.

 

Create your own meme or message of support. If you’re tech savvy, feel free to create a meme or shareable video that honors the “I Support You” message, and share it on the FFF Facebook page.

 

Check out Kim’s incredible, spine-tingling post on the “I Support You” movement, here.

 

The best way to counteract hate is by drowning it in a sea of change. The tide is rising, and we can float above the negativity and fear; push down the us-versus-them bullshit and let it sink to the bottom, where it belongs; lure it to its death with a siren song of I support you, sung far and wide.

 

Start swimming, fearless ones. I support you.

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