To all of my formula feeding mothers out there – I get you. The intent questioning, the lectures, the rude remarks, the dirty looks whilst mixing a bottle in public. I get that, and I get you.
There are a dozen and one different reasons why you may have decided that formula was the best choice for you and your baby. Maybe you struggled to express and needed the help with feeds during the night shift. Maybe you were in too much pain to go on. Heck maybe you just didn’t want to breastfeed. Each and every reason is a very valid reason. A reason that you don’t have to justify to anyone.
Whatever your reason for formula feeding though, you’ve probably spent way too many moments consumed with guilt, wondering if there’s something you could have done better, an oatmeal cookie you could have consumed to increase supply (maybe you’ve tried three or four, but that next one may have been the one). Or a gadget to help baby latch that only frustrated an already confused baby further. Or perhaps the solution to your problem was simply pumping for 11 hours a day instead of 9? With only the small price of your sanity to pay.
I think that there are several factors assisting in the survival of the negative attitude toward formula feeding mothers. The greatest of those reasons being that we are continually led to believe that we are doing something wrong. For example, Australia has a less than appreciated message to share with to all formula feeding mothers. If you venture onto the website of any formula manufacturer – perhaps you’re being a “good mum” and researching which formula is nutritionally best for your child – it doesn’t matter – you’re greeted with a pop up letting you know that “breast is best” and (in essence), that you should reconsider your choice on how to feed your baby. Instead of clicking the little “x” in the right hand corner of your pop up that as you would typically when being notified you’d won a million dollars for being the eight gazillionth visitor a website you’ve found on the eighth page of Google – they’ve removed this – and to continue browsing you instead have have to scroll to the bottom of this obnoxious little pop up and click “I understand”. I do understand that this is a legal requirement here – but is it really appropriate? To guilt a mother that may already be struggling internally with her decision to cut her breastfeeding journey short out of sheer necessity?
It isn’t just websites however. It’s also written on a leaflet inside the tin of formula I’ve just purchased. Not to put any particular brand on blast here – but this leaflet declares “IMPORTANT NOTICE: Breastfeeding is best” between the lid and the seal. You couldn’t miss it if you tried. Like, well thank you, Captain Obvious? If I was capable of producing the golden elixir of life myself for free, I wouldn’t be shelling out the $19.95 for your product, now would I?
If that weren’t enough, it’s also on signs plastered all over the walls of antenatal clinics, and medical staff are seemingly encouraged to push breastfeeding too. A lot of people wouldn’t see this push as a problem, but consider this. At about 17 weeks pregnant, I had an experience with a nurses assistant who was collecting basic information about me prior to my meeting with a high risk specialist. She was collecting the usual – my weight, height, medical history – that sort of thing. She asked if I intended to breastfeed, and I told her no. She was disgusted by my answer and made no attempt to hide it. She demanded, not asked, but demanded to know why. I simply told her I had to formula feed. I had already come to terms with having to deal with being judged or overshare personal information about myself (LOL at past me – we now have a blog!).
The issue is that I have Epilepsy, and my medication is passed in high concentration through breast milk – a significantly higher concentration than what was passed through the placenta during pregnancy. Both the manufacturer and my neurologist recommend not breastfeeding due to the risk of the baby contracting Steven Johnson’s Syndrome. If you don’t know what that is, google at your own discretion. There’s a reason it took just shy of a year to slowly wean me onto this particular drug – and SJS is it.
She went on to ask which medication I was taking and of course, I told her. She mispronounced it as she told me it was safe (comforting), then asked what it was for (ultra comforting). I explained to her – respectfully of course – that no, it was in fact not safe, to which she argued with me before using Google to research the drug further (comforting climax). In all honesty I probably should have reported her that day as I’m sure that being a medical “professional” some women would have assumed she’d know what she was talking about and just taken her on her word – but as I stated above, the choice to formula feed was a difficult one, so I did my research. Research she should have done before irresponsibly pushing her personal agenda. On my exit I was handed a collection of brochures on breastfeeding, as well as resources to utilise if I was having a problem. What I would have liked, is one of those little boobie-bibles to instead be a few paragraphs of information on how to select a formula that’s right for your baby if breastfeeding just wasn’t working out for you. Do you know how long I spent standing in Coles Googling what HA or Gold+ was supposed to mean? I don’t, but I’m sure it was way too bloody long. But of course, the first rule of fight club is we don’t talk about fight club.
Finally, we’ve arrived at the important question (drawn out drum roll please). Is your baby fed? Growing? Happy (often, not always)? If you answered yes, then congratulations! You’re doing fantastic! Feeding a baby looks different for every woman, and listen, you’re doing great! You’re already worrying about what’s best for your baby! There is no one size fits all formula to success when it comes to nourishing that newborn. In a few years, breast or bottle will be a topic you never have to speak on again if you don’t want to. So enjoy your precious moments feeding your baby now, however that looks for you.
Oh, and PS: Remember that they’re all going to grow up into Cheetos munching, Red Bull chugging teenagers anyway!