Dear well-intentioned formula-feeding shamers,
Ever since I was pregnant with my first baby, I have heard how breast milk is the gold standard of nutrition for an infant. I’ve learned its benefits for both mother and baby, and I’ve been looking forward to feeding my child. But after my baby was born, my plans changed. I pumped for a whole week and had very little milk supply. It was painful and made me feel like I was a bad mom. Was it my fault that I couldn’t breastfeed my baby? What could I have done differently?
After struggling with the pain — both physically and emotionally, I decided to formula-feed my baby. It was a tough decision to make, but it was one I had to make because if I didn’t, my baby would have been unhealthy and suffered malnutrition.
Those who thought I gave up too early on breastfeeding really have no idea what I went through. Inability to pump milk brings with it a dejection which only those who have experienced it personally can empathize with. You start feeling as if there’s something wrong with you. You question yourself whether you are prepared for motherhood at all. Such nagging thoughts can mar all the joy that you have been feeling ever since your little one was born.
For many of us, breastfeeding is just not an option. For some, it’s excruciating pain and for others, the supply is way too low to be able to provide ample nutrition for the baby. And still for others, a plethora of other medical conditions renders them unable to provide their little one’s with their natural milk. In such situations what is a mother to do other than utilizing baby formula? It’s better to opt for an alternative than not providing at all. Formulas are concocted with great care and research. Even if they are not exactly like mother’s milk, they do come quite close to it. Besides, if forceful breastfeeding puts the mother’s health at risk, the baby’s health is also put in jeopardy.
If I shamed formula-feeding as you do, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my baby safe. It would have caused way more damage than I would have ever wanted for my little one, and that would have been unforgivable.
When my second baby was born, I chose to formula feed my baby right from the beginning because I didn’t want to put myself through the pain and torture I went through the first time. I needed my energy to heal physically and mentally, and trust me, it made everything a lot easier. I was relaxed, and that helped me recover from my pregnancy better. A fresh mind and body is often able to focus on tasks better. The same goes for parenting as well. When my body is depleted of energy from the forceful breastfeeding, it later takes its toll on me and my ability to nurse my little one.
Formula-feeding was a form of self-care and a really effective one. My partner could help out when I was too exhausted and needed to rest. Unlike breastfeeding, I didn’t have to be the only one responsible for feeding my child. And no, I will not be made to feel guilty for it.
As a mom of two lovely young kids who are hale and healthy, I would like to tell you that I appreciate your concern for my child’s health. It is remarkable and noble of you to care about what my baby eats and drinks. Thank you for showing me that you care.
But I speak for every formula-feeding mom out there when I say — STOP! Your concern isn’t just concern, and as much as you are “just looking out for my baby”, your judgmental tone is all we hear. The choice is ours, and all we ask of you is to respect that choice, no matter what it may be. A mother always has the best of her child in her mind and would never take any choice which would risk it. If she is making the choice of switching to an alternative, she is doing it with good reason.
Motherhood is hard as it is, and the last thing we need is to be shamed for the choices we make. Shouldn’t we be supporting other women through this journey? Isn’t it our duty to help other mothers struggling to embrace motherhood and make it a little easier for them? There is stress, pain, and fear already, and by shaming mothers who formula feed their babies, you’re only adding to their struggles.
It’s easy for anyone to judge mothers who choose not to breastfeed. You can make them feel inadequate for their decision and tell them how “breast is best”. But when you do, remember all those times when you said you would stand up for women. Let it be a reminder that you did not! There is a reason for that choice they are making and you have no business to know. Forgive my crude tone, but it’s high time that mothers who formula-feed their little one, stop being shamed for it.
It’s a choice — a personal one, and I speak from personal experience when I say that my children are extremely healthy. And the same goes out to all the mothers out there too. If the simple switch from breastfeeding to formula solves such a host of problems concerning the health of mother as well as child, it’s about time people start accepting the choice. There should be no feeling of guilt attached to that diet switch. One thing I would say is to do your research. Read and understand how formula-feeding is different from breastfeeding, and you’ll realize that it’s not “harmful” for an infant.
Most importantly, speak to your child’s pediatrician about your decision. They will guide you and help you make the right decision. Let’s learn to respect every choice — a breastfeeding mom, a formula-feeding mom, and a mom who does a combination of both.
A Former Formula-Feeding Mom Whose Kids Are Still Healthy