There. 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.
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.
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.
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?