I Don’t Care That You Breastfeed

 

Baby Eating FormulaThere. I said it. I. Don’t. Care. You amazing moms who make feeding your baby look so simple. You moms who brag on social media that you’re still breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months. You moms who are breastfeeding your 2-year-old AND your newborn. You moms whose bodies didn’t give you the finger when you asked it to do what nature intended. I don’t care that you breastfeed.

I was a breastmilk baby. My family was poor. We didn’t have a car, and we lived too far away from town to go buy formula. So I’m officially the daughter of a crunchy mom. We had cloth diapers, breast milk, and homemade laundry soap. Nothing at all like my kids are being raised. They have diapers I take off and throw away. I buy Tide because I don’t have time to make my own laundry detergent anymore. And I fed each of them formula. The latter wasn’t my plan, but guess what? What I planned didn’t change a darn thing.

When my son was born, I had no intentions of ever giving him a bottle of formula. Never. I was raised when “Breast is best!” was born. You didn’t even see commercials for formula! The entire world was being groomed to believe that the only reason you gave your babies formula was because you were lazy and/or didn’t care about their ultimate health and well-being. That’s exactly what I thought. I was going to do what “good” moms did. I was going to breast feed. I remember sitting in the hospital room and having the nurse hold my baby in one hand and my breast in the other and try to force them together like 2 pieces of a mismatched puzzle. Because I was made to feel like the only milk should be breast milk, my sweet newborn son lost almost 25% of his birthweight at 2 weeks. I fed him as much as he wanted – nursing nearly every 90 minutes! How could he be losing weight when all it seemed he did was eat?!

My only option, they said, was to supplement with formula, continue to nurse, and pump extra to build up my supply. Four weeks later, my daily pumping was yielding only enough for one 4oz bottle, which I gave to my baby at night while I cried. I was a failure. My son’s doctor knew it. My son’s father said it: Babies deserve the best, and breastmilk is it. Even though he was adopted and never had a drop of breastmilk, he still told me that I had to do it. Even though the pediatrician said to keep pumping and it would happen. My body refused to provide what women through the ages had been doing with no issues.

Each bottle of formula my son received reminded me that I wasn’t a “real” mom. Real moms could nurse their little ones each night. And real moms would never buy formula.

Formula scoop

Fast forward to just over three years to the birth of my daughter. I had kept that breast pump, and bought new nursing bras. I was going to do it this time! My baby was going to nurse. Right?! WRONG. The struggle returned worse than before. I made daily trips to the Lactation Office to have my precious girl weighed, where I would then nurse her for 45 minutes, and they would weigh her again. Every. Single. Day. I had nipple shields. Special tops. The best breast pump on the market. And a daily swath of face-to-face advice from nurses who had helped “all kinds of moms with problems” learn to nurse successfully. They even called me on the weekends to remind me that fabulous phrase “Breast is best!” Still, my daughter lost more weight and I had to start giving her formula at two weeks. Feeding her the same nightly bottle filled with the only 4-5oz my body would give me all day. And weep. My body failed me again.

When I gave birth to my third sweet baby in the spring, my (new!) husband and I decided to give her formula from the start. No stress over whether my body would make milk. No stress over whether she would lose weight. Just mix our baby a bottle and fill her little belly.

And it…was…WONDERFUL!

The most stressful part of being a new mommy for me was gone. I didn’t cry each time I tried to nurse her, or sob while sitting attached to a breast pump hoping for more than an ounce at a time. I simply fed my baby.

I’ve gotten all the looks. The disapproving moms who give you a look of horror when you pull out your little formula dispenser and mix a bottle in the grocery store. The warning label on the back of the formula can stating breast milk is best, and suggesting you consult with your pediatrician before giving formula to your baby. I’ve seen the posts on social media of the women who are nursing their toddler AND their newborns, or even those women who are nursing their child and even someone else’s because (woohoo!) they have enough milk to go around! I’ve read the articles talking about how moms who breastfeed have better relationships with their babies, have healthier babies, and have more intelligent babies.

formula warning label

Want to know the truth?! Your ability to feed your baby with your breasts does NOT make you a better mother than me. Not a better mother than the adoptive mom who didn’t get the chance to carry or nurse, but would die for that baby just the same as any other mother. Not any better than that mom who has a disease that’s treatment causes her milk to be inedible. We are all moms. We ALL want what’s best for our babies. But I am so sick and tired of the implication that one way to feed a baby (that isn’t even an option for all mothers!) is the only way “loving” moms choose.

I don’t care that you breastfeed! I’m sorry I’m not sorry! You moms who have bodies who can pop out babies naturally, and then breastfeed them till their mouths fill with teeth: Good for you! You should be proud! But I’m proud too! Because even though my body can’t do what yours can, I’m still a mom. And I still do what’s best for my baby *even if* that nourishment comes from a can and not a boob. And I’m thankful that there is another way to keep my baby growing and giggling, happy and healthy. So what if I can’t breastfeed and you can? Breast may be best to you, but to those of us who don’t have that option, formula is a beautiful thing. Isn’t it time, in this era of acceptance and tolerance and equality for all that we quit praising women for HOW they feed their babies, and instead praise mothers *in general* for doing what’s best for the little lives we are raising?

Comments

  1. Thank you! From the bottom of my heart, I thank you! My children stopped taking a bottle years ago, but I still live with the judgement that “I never nursed.” And it was a choice. I never tried. It wasn’t for me, and I knew it. My mom couldn’t nurse and neither could my sister. I didn’t desire to try, and I felt like a horrible person. Eery time someone hears I never nursed I get “the look!” Thank you for making me feel supported!

    • Karen, thank YOU for reading this! It is a touchy topic, but I knew I couldn’t be the only person who felt this way. I am happy you have healthy babies! Congratulations on doing what is right for you and your sweet littles! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this!!! I have been thinking these exact thoughts since I stopped breastfeeding, but was never able to find the words! You literally took them right out of my mouth! I tried to breastfeed for a few weeks, my baby didn’t have a good latch. Also, he weighed 10lbs 3oz when he was born, so needless to say I wasn’t able to produce enough to keep up with his appetite! I beat myself up for quitting for weeks, and I’ve been so tired of seeing people “brag” on social media. However, I think it’s awesome for anyone who is doing it!

    • Exactly, Kristen! I’m proud of breastfeeding moms. They’re awesome. But so are moms who formula feed. In general, it’s all about doing what is best for your child! So happy the blog spoke to you – YOU, me, and moms like us are who I wrote it for 🙂

  3. I work with newborns on a daily basis and the amount that are admitted to hospital with poor weight gain – as a result of mother’s struggling to breastfeed is insane! In some cases, breast is not best! In some cases, mother’s spend their first precious few days with their child in a hospital watching them being fed through a tube to help them regain weight. We are fortunate enough to have another option to feeding our children now. A great option, that is safe and provides a child with all of the calories, vitamins and minerals to grow. It is SO wrong that any mother would be made to feel guilty for making sure her child is well nourished and healthy. This is such a great post and really refreshing to read!

    • Thank you for reading, Hannah! I agree – no mother should be made to feel guilty for doing what is best for her child, even if it goes against the mainstream. I appreciate you sharing your experience!!

  4. Great Post! I’m in the same situation. I currently breastfeed AND formula feed my daughter. She was jaundiced during her 1st week and lost a LOT of weight. Breastfeeding was very painful and I wasn’t producing enough milk to support her so I started supplementing on my own. I didn’t ask permission, I just did what I thought was best. She is happy, healthy and I don’t feel one bit of guilt about not being able to exclusively breast feed. It’s just the way it is and I don’t let anyone make me feel bad for the decisions I make as a parent. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy. From one Mama to another, Good for you!

    • Hey Candace! Thanks for reading! Two of my three were jaundiced too, so I know how rough that is on a new mama. And thanks for the encouragement! We’re all just trying to do what’s best for our sweet littles. Way to go for listening to your body AND your baby!

  5. I can relate, a bit, although I was able to nurse mine. I’m not going to lye and tell you I don’t keep a bit of pride wrapped in it. My first was, dare I say, born to do it. But when I had the twins…oh my. The first to be born was also a natural, but the second, and smallest was not. There were so many fears with raising two babies at once, and I hadn’t even considered that they wouldn’t nurse. I felt inadequite. Defeated. At the hospital a nurse commented that we need to give him a bottle since he wouldn’t last. It was really…snarky. Like I wasn’t doing all I could. I was praying. And this once He gave me peace. I didn’t know if I could, or even should, nurse one and bottle feed the other and was so mixed up. My husband was determined I nurse. Our mother’s (who never nursed us) were pushing to just give the bottle. I really didn’t expect it to be so hard! It worked out in the end, I nursed for them both for two years (yes, this is the story you don’t care about), but I appreciate you using your platform to help ease the spirits of the mother’s who don’t get the choice, or who have to make that choice because of work or whatever. God bless you for your honest post!

    • Billie, thank you so much for sharing your story with me! And how wonderful that you were able to press on through the struggle and pressure to breastfeed your little ones successfully! I do wish that it had been possible for me, but I am thankful that there was another option and hope that all moms know that they aren’t alone in their struggle. Thanks again for sharing your story! {{hugs}}

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