Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Formula feeders and bottle users welcome

This is not the post I intended to write today. But I have a sick little guy who's been glued to my lap and has just nodded off for a (very rare) nap. We have watched far too much Nick Jr. and Sprout. We have nursed constantly. I have gotten very, very little done.

But I'm trying to take my own suggestion to heart and chill out about the lack of productivity. It might be (is) just a cold, but my baby needs me now, and all my other plans for the week can wait if I can just convince myself to let go.

So, instead of what I'd planned to work on, I will muse a bit on something I've been thinking about recently.

I write a lot about breastfeeding. (192 posts, at last count.)

Part of this is because I breastfeed — am, in fact, still breastfeeding, at three years in. I plan to breastfeed any future child we have as well. So some of the writing is just: This is my life. This is my experience.

Another reason I write about breastfeeding is that breastfeeding rates are still rather poor in the U.S. and similar countries. Breastfeeding is really good for babies, in the sense that it is what babies are biologically designed to expect. Breastfeeding is also good for the parent doing it, in terms of health benefits and emotional attachment. I write about breastfeeding because it should be promoted, and it often is not, or not well. There are so many booby traps seeking to undermine breastfeeding success, from poor medical advice to cultural discomfort with functional breasts. I write to promote breastfeeding and help more people get the information they need to make an informed choice.

Another reason I write is for support — both in seeking support for myself and offering it to others. Those of us who are breastfeeding in a culture that, by and large, does not support it, or does not support it long-term, can feel lonely, and it helps to connect and know we are not alone.


But. There are undoubtedly those of you readers who are in line with many other aspects of natural parenting who do not, for whatever reason, breastfeed. Maybe you never started, due to circumstances like adoption or physical incompatibility or drug interactions. Maybe you tried and it didn't work out for you, because of problems with latch or milk supply or mastitis or a cleft palate, or because of emotional triggers such as from a history of abuse. Maybe you tried for a short time, and maybe for a really long time. Maybe you wanted to breastfeed for two years and didn't make it, and you feel bad about that. Maybe you wanted to breastfeed six months on the nose and you did, and you feel really good about that.

I don't know — I can't know — everyone's stories and reasons for breastfeeding or not. All I know is I want this to be a welcoming place. I know I've written things in the past that have come off as judgy, and I apologize. I know just the very fact that I write about breastfeeding so dang much might make some of you uncomfortable, and that's understandable. I hope you'll continue to share your own stories and experiences in the comments, or potentially as a guest post (I would love to publish some more perspectives on pumping, supplemental feeding, or breastfeeding difficulties to offer those as a resource to other parents in your position). And I hope that all of us can support each other, offer advice when it's requested, and offer a shoulder to lean on when it's not.

Here's a true story that really opened my eyes:

Sam and I went to visit friends we used to know through church who had since moved elsewhere. They had just had a baby, so we went to see the cute little thing. One of the first things I noticed was they were bottle feeding him formula. Hmm. Then talk turned to the birthing experience, and I found out she'd given birth in a hospital. Hmm again. So far, those were two marks against them on the Invisible I'm a Crunchier Parent Than Thou Scorecard (patent pending).

To be completely clear here, I gave birth in a hospital, too, and have my own sad story about my wishes not working out with regards to place of birth and not using formula, but sometimes I forget that not everyone can see our intentions from the bare facts. I forget this even though this is the very thing I fear for myself when I tell my own birth story.

Their full story came out fairly quickly, as if it was constantly on their minds. The mama had gone in for a routine check in her third trimester and found her blood pressure was severely elevated. Through-the-roof elevated. The doctors did whatever they could to bring it down, but there was nothing for it. The baby was stressed. Everyone was truly worried the mama would die.

After an emergency C-section — and further emergency medical interventions following — the parents were presented with a preemie who could not nurse and could not gain weight. The next several weeks were spent trying as best they could to get this precious boy to put on ounces and thrive.

It turned out that the parents had wanted, had planned for, a home birth and breastfeeding — but this is what they came away with. And from the outside, it just looked like they had intended it all along. By the time we met the little guy, he was doing really well on his fortified bottles, and the mother's milk had long since dried up. There was no outer indication that they had ever had a different dream for how things turned out, but it didn't take long for their grief and longing to pour out.

The funny (?) thing is, when I told this story to some breastfeeding folk I know, the first reaction was to suggest ways these parents could still breastfeed, or give their baby donated milk. Which is nice and true, but — the point was, they had made the choices they had, and had many more unfortunate circumstances foisted upon them, and all my friends were asking of me after the fact was to understand. To be sympathetic. To love on their baby, and to call them good parents. Because they are.

So you know what I did? I fed him his bottle of formula. And I helped burp him after. And it felt good.

I can rock bottles as well.

So, when I read comments like Gisele B√ľndchen's latest foot-in-mouth episode where she says parents should be legally required to breastfeed (see The Daddy Files' take here), I cringe. I sidle away, hoping no one associates me with such a loudmouth, and I hurt for my friends, like the ones whose story I shared above, who for whatever reason do not or cannot breastfeed.

So: I am trying, from now on, not to add to that. I will still be an outspoken lactivist, still promote and discuss breastfeeding, but I will try, ever harder, to be understanding of the different choices parents make. Sure, I still might disagree and say so, but I will try not to drive unnecessary wedges between different camps of what is essentially a very cohesive group.

Because while I know my breastfeeding advocacy puts me in the minority in the larger parenting culture, I realize that in the crunchy blogosphere, we make up the majority, and I want to make sure we're respectful with the voice we're privileged to have.

So if you're a formula feeder, welcome.

If you supplement, do come in.

If you pump exclusively, tell me how you do it.

If you cover up while breastfeeding, please sit at my table.

If you breastfed for six weeks, or six months, or one year, or more, or less, I want to hear your story.

If you didn't breastfeed before but want to in the future, I hope you can gather the resources and support you need this next time around.

If you like breastfeeding but don't like like it, that's OK, too. We all have different passions. I promise to write about other things as well.

So come on in to the hobo camp. We'll sit around a campfire and nurse, or not, and then we'll all keep riding this parenting train together.

What did my long-winded intro about a coughing and pukey toddler have to do with the subject of the post? Nothing at all. It was pure bonus.

Here's another bonus for ya: I've got a review of a gazillion (approximate count) nursing pillows over at Hobo Mama Reviews, and you know? You can use each and every one for bottle feeding, too. True fact.

Well, ok, excluding the individual breast pillows. I mean, you could prop up a boob anyway, if it makes you comfortable, but it's not really necessary for bottle feeding.

So except for that.

To bring this back around to the intro, my sicky babe has made today a wee bit frustrating in terms of seeing my optimistic schedule shatter. I have decided, here and now: Forget the schedule. You all won't care if I take more than World Breastfeeding Week's duration to review the different nursing gear I have in mind, will you? And you won't revolt if I can't get all the wonderful posts I'd intended to write posted right away, will you? See, I thought not.

All right, I'll get it all done as I can. Till then!


Anonymous said...

I love this post. Love-love-love it.

I very nearly didn't breastfeed successfully. I gave birth unexpectedly at 34 weeks and things didn't go well at first. If it hadn't been for one person saying the right thing at the right time, I very likely would have given up. I would not be the lactivist and LLL leader that I am today.

The reality is that, where I live, almost 95% of mothers attempt breastfeeding. Many, unfortunately, do not succeed in the long term. They deserve our compassion and respect. They do not deserve our judgment or derision. And they don't deserve to have us question their parenting before we know their story.

Jen said...

Okay, that post totally made me teary-eyed. I try to think of stories like that when I see a baby drinking from a bottle...or remind myself that I had struggles with my first two girls, and they both drank way more formula than nature probably intended...and turned out just fined, no less loved than a totally breastfed baby.

As much as I would love to see every baby have the opportunity to nurse exclusively and nurse into toddlerhood, it just won't always happen. And your point is spot on...just because the breast may be best, doesn't mean it should be legally required to be 'the only'.

Great post!


Meagan Francis said...

Wow. Awesome, awesome post. The world needs more breastfeeding advocates just like you. It is so hard to figure out where to balance supporting something we believe in with supporting other moms who've made different choices or who have different circumstances. But really, coming at the issue as openly and honestly as you have tears down everyone's defenses, which is the place to start. (PS: i used to have that inner crunch-o-meter, too, and a few different experiences like yours taught me to throw it right out the window).

Brooke said...

I'm glad that you listened to your friend. I can still remember my step-brother eying his wife who was about to feed my son his formula from a bottle. He didn't ask any questions, just pointed at his breast and contorted his face and mouthed "Why no boob?" But he didn't ask. He never has. If he had, I would have told him that the stress of my house burning down when I was eight months pregnant coupled with my face becoming paralyzed at six weeks pp requiring steroids were two factors that my boobs just couldn't overcome. Of course he knew those things had happened, but he didn't ask about how that might have affected me and my milk supply. All I got was judgment.

And you know, I happily formula fed my thriving toddler. Yes, he's had ear infections, but my pediatrician has informed me that they are genetic (I had them, my mom, my grandmother, etc. despite being breastfed) and not caused by the bottle. Ear infections are only related to bottle feeding when the bottle is propped.

In the blogosphere (and elsewhere really) there is so much talk about breastfeeding support. But there really is little information about formula feeding (because how hard could shoving a bottle in their mouth be, right?!). And there is little support for women who feel guilt because of the need to FF for whatever reason. And for that, I'm glad to see lactivists who are willing to soften their positions a little, ease up, realize that we're not bad, misinformed, selfish women. We're simply doing the best we can for our kids. Even if that comes in a bottle.

Marita said...

Thank you thank you thank you.


I love your blog but sometimes I feel so guilty about not breastfeeding my girls.

With my oldest I was on medication that badly suppressed my immune system, she was born premie and the consensus was that I should not breastfeed as it would put her health at risk. As I was in hospital 3 months later having emergency surgery it was a relief to be able to hand over baby and bottle and know that she would be well cared for by my husband.

My youngest try as we might just would not do the breastfeeding thing. Now I know about the autism and her sensory processing disorder and I wonder is that why.

But as you do not judge us I will say that reading your blog as made me realise that in the past I have judged others for breastfeeding older children. And so I apologise to you because it has been through reading your blog that I've come to realise what a wonderful thing it is and should be celebrated. No more judging from me either.

Unknown said...

Wow, an amazing post. Thank you.

Amy said...

What a great post. I was ordered by my Dr to supplement when my baby stopped gaining weight at 3 weeks. I felt like everyone was judging me and would hide it in my cart. 12 months later we are still breastfeeding and it was a struggle. I still sometimes feel judged by the online breastfeeding community because I supplemented and I feel their assumption is just that I didn't try hard enough. Your post is a breath of fresh air.

c said...

Thanks for this post. Just wanted to chime in my story - I am all for breastfeeding, attachment parenting... but also a big fan of flexibility and freedom of choice. I have been a breastfeeding mother for almost 3 years, I breastfed my first child for 2.5 years and throughout my 2nd pregnancy. Now I have a 7 month old and I recently started to supplement with formula. I felt guilty at first, but now am totally ok with it. I needed to slow down breastfeeding for ME. I'm a better mother now having done so, I'm happier when we do breastfeed (more than half of the time babe nurses vs. bottle).
Anyhow, I'm a big fan of your blog :) thanks.

Tamara said...

Love this post and thank you! Despite having two less them ideal breastfeeding relationships with my daughters I am a lactivist at heart and do everything I can to support other moms with breastfeeding. I know the pain, struggle, guilt, and judgment associated with the entire process and now just smile at nursing moms, offer support, and help in any way I can to make them have success with breastfeeding.

soozenw said...

Thank you so so much for this post. That just goes to show that when anyone sees a woman bottle feeding her baby, they shouldn't jump to conclusions. Thank you from bottle/formula feeders everywhere.

Mallory said...

I recently wrote a similar post, except it wasn't about breastfeeding (exactly), it was about -all- crunchy vs. mainstream parenting choices. I often feel that the mainstream parents think they are being attacked by the crunchy parents. What it really is, is a desire to educate. We want to make sure that everyone is -aware- of their choices...and then they can make whatever choice they want/need.

Daddy Files said...

First of all thanks for linking to me.

Second, I liked this post. I admire someone who can step back and take an honest look at things, despite fervent feelings on an issue. That's not easy to do so kudos.

Lastly, to Mallory, I understand what you're trying to say. It's tough being a lone voice in the wilderness so you feel you have to speak louder. I get it.

But it's important to remember that not all "mainstream" parents are so simply because they don't know any better. I'd say most mainstream parents, myself included, are this way by choice. I did the research (I'm a reporter so it's ingrained in me) and examined all the options. I read up on breastfeeding (which my wife did for 4 months) vs. formula, vaccination schedules, cloth-diapering, etc. And once I felt I had a grasp of the issues, I formed an opinion and my wife and I made a decision.

I understand your "desire to educate" but you have to understand how condescending that sounds to other parents.

Elita said...

This is a great post, Lauren. I, too, have had revelations like this and I try so hard when I see a mom formula feeding in public to not judge because I have no idea how hard she may have tried to breastfeed and how she may have been boobytrapped. But I also think this post raises another important issue, and that is that the only women who are hurting, feeling guilty, devestated, let down and angry are the ones who wanted to breastfeed. The friend of mine who never even tried to breastfeed any of her kids rolls her eyes when people talk about breastfeeding because she had no desire to do it and is fine with her decision. I think the most important thing we do as breastfeeding advocates is fight for the women who've been let down by everyone, from their health care providers to their employers and their friends. The ones who wanted to breastfeed and had their options taken away. The ones just like your friend.

Holly said...

Beautiful post! My daughter is a healthy and bright preschooler who was formula-fed after I was admitted to the psych ward at one week postpartum suffering from a manic episode. The fact that I had bipolar disorder came as a huge shock! I had had every intention of breastfeeding exclusively (I even went to a LLL meeting while pregnant!), but the risk to my mental health and the eventual complication of medications I was prescribed didn't allow it to work out. Thank you for being willing to listen to my story.

Brooke said...

Mallory- I completely agree that "educating women" is condescending. I educated myself and just happened to make different choices than you. How would you feel if I said that as a mainstream parent all I needed to do is educate you on why I think your choices are wrong?

I also hate the term "boobytrapped." Just because formula feeding didn't work for me, doesn't mean it had anything to do with formula marketing... or any other trap you might invent.

As for the guilt, there are plenty of women who have guilt who had no intention of ever breastfeeding. My friend writes at fearlessformulafeeder.blogspot.com and her stories are just a testament to the wide variety of stories that exist and the range of emotions that go with those choices.

Kailah said...

I just want to say Thank You for this post. So often I have to turn away from breastfeeding posts on cruchy sites because of my experiences and future fears.

I am currently pregnant with #3 in 3 years. With my 1st, I almostly completely dried up at 5 months but didn't really realize it until it was too late. We tried everything we could to up my supply and feed her - Even Reglan which acted like a pychotic in my system. But at 6 months when I gave in and gave her her first bottle and you could tell she'd been practically starving I bawled. I felt like such a bad mom because a)I couldn't produce milk and b)I was giving my baby formula.

That month I got pregnant again so I just delt with giving her formula. However, FF 1 year, and it was happening all over again. Something happens to me about 4 months postpartum and my milk just about dies. I did everything I could think of and finally just couldn't take it anymore and gave my baby formula again. Hated myself for it. Hated the looks I'd get from other cruchy moms. Hated my friends complaining about over-supply. Wanted to hide everytime I made a bottle.

Now I'm pregnant with #3 and determined to make this d**n thing work. My midwife is going to be watching my thyroid closely and my doula, also a LC, will be helping me too to help ensure Breastfeeding is successfull this time around. But I admit, I am scared to death it won't work again. That I am somehow just broken.

Chante @ My Natural Motherhood Journey said...

You bring up a good point about not adding to the wedge. Since breast milk is best for a baby Mamas that don't or can't, feel bad. It's a very thin line that has to be walked so that breastfeeding is promoted like it should be while at the same time supporting and helping mothers who can't or don't. The question remains of how to keep mothers who use formula from feeling bad.

Mallory said...

@Daddy Files and Brooke: I understand that using the term "educating" could be condescending. My apologies, that is not my intent. Would a better word be "informing"? I do know a lot of people take time to study their options, and still end up making choices that are different from the choices -I- would make. And that's ok. But the reason I speak out about "crunchy" parenting is to help the people that -haven't- studied gather information on a less popular option. Oftentimes, when I am talking to friends of mine that are more mainstream, I find myself having to explain my lifestyle, because they are so surprised that there was even that option (whether it be a home birth or not vaccinating). I understand that I need to be careful with perceived blanket-statements in the HUGE blogworld. I can only look at my own experiences, and try to help within that sphere. In the end, I don't want there to be a parenting "war", I just want to make sure that everyone knows their options, knows the research, and makes appropriate decisions for their family.

Katherine at Postpartum Progress said...

God bless you for this post. Thank you for making me feel like I wasn't a horrible person for having to make the choice to formula feed.

Sarah said...

I also really enjoyed this post. It is very refreshing to have someone acknowledge that just b/c a parent does not do things the same as you, does not mean they are a bad parent - but maybe have other things going on.

There typically does not seem to be a lot of support or understanding from the AP/Natural parenting community. If a parent either isn't doing things the 'proper' way or even asks a question as to how to get from point A to point B many people will judge and 'educate'. It's hurtful and is more likely to have the opposite effect. Why would a parent want to do things the same way as a group of people who always seem to be angry at the rest of the world?

It really is wonderful for someone within that community to offer support to parents who have for whatever reason taken a different path.

Unknown said...

This is a wonderful post! Thank you for encouraging us all to be more welcoming. I think it's so important for us moms to try not to draw lines between us where there really are none. We're all just doing our best, and you're setting a great example for the rest of us!

Stephanie said...

Thanks so much for this post!
I can't tell you how many times I have felt like a second-class breast-feeder because I exclusively pump (not by choice). Even the term exclusively pump, makes me kind of cringe. I AM breastfeeding! I may not be nursing to feed my daughter breast milk, but I am feeding my daughter food from my breast. The true definition of breast feeding. One of the worst parts of our situation is being out in public with a bottle. I get the looks from breast-feeders that I am awful mom, when they have no idea, that I work my ass off to pump and that its EBM in her bottle and she has never had, one single drop of formula. I think it must be a little bit of karma for me, because pre-baby, I thought anyone who didn't nurse, just didn't try hard enough. I was under the impression that every situation could be fixed with the right IBCLC, support and hard work. And that is just not the case. Now when women say that breastfeeding didn't work out for them for whatever reason, I don't say "yeah, right" under my breath and think to myself, they were just lazy. I believe them and have compassion in my heart for them.

Melodie said...

You have such a warm heart Lauren and I love that you wrote this post. Simple and eloquent, kind and pure. Your friends are very lucky to have you.

Lara said...

Mothering is the hardest job on the planet, no matter how you feed your baby. I am a lactivist, and am so lucky to have had wonderful breastfeeding relationships with both my boys, but what you feed your baby is really not as important as how you feed your baby. You can just as lovingly feed a baby a bottle as you can from the breast.

First time I have read your blog, made me teary, and I for certain will be back!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, that was beautiful!! WOW. That is all I can say is WOW.

HauteSingleMama said...

I love this post. I just came up on a year of exclusively pumping for my (29 weeker) preemie! I'm not sure how long I'm going to continue now (1 year was my goal) but breast milk still makes up the majority of his diet so... I can't very well just stop! I'd love to guest post for you if you're interested in an exclusive pumper ;)

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately too. A lot of women I know (even super crunchy ones!) have had a really hard time BFing due to latch or supply or mastitis or other issues. I have been trying to reconcile my strong feelings about breastfeeding advocacy with all of this formula feeding I've been seeing. And this post really articulated that struggle so well. We really do need to stop judging each other and just do the best we can with the circumstances we are in. Thanks for such an open minded and thought provoking post!

nikki101076 said...

Thank you for posting.Yes there are some moms who can't breast feed.

I am very pro breast feeding but, But I have had my share of bottles. My first two kids were bottle fed b/c I had no help in figuring out what I was doing wrong so the first child got maybe one weeks worth of breast milk. 2nd child got 2 months but was cracking and bleeding so bad the poor child got more blood than milk. OUCH! Yes it was bad. Third and fourth child breast fed successfully 18 months and 2yrs. But sadly now my 5th child came and was only able to nurse for 6 and a half months b/c I had a severe case of ductal yeast. I have asthma and went into the er where they gave me a shot of a steroid that I had never had before and I had a severe allergic reaction to it. The following months I was in severe pain and the regular drs kept saying it was mastitis and another dr said I might have MRSA in my breast. Finally the drs gave up on me and said to call my obgyn. Well I use midwives so I called her. She got on to me for not calling her first and she would have told me what I had in the first place and would have got me started away on medication that would have cleared it up in a couple of weeks but instead I had suffered for 6 months. I was heart broken that I had given up on nursing. As my hearts desire has always been to breast feed.I have fed my latest child a bottle and even though I hate bottles and washing and sterilizing and and ... well I am thankful that I have had something to feed my child since I couldn't.I also still snuggle and have bonding time w/my son.Until you have experienced ductal yeast then you'll know exactly why I chose to stop nursing. It felt like razor blades from the nipple to the armpit and into the back.It was worse than labor pains.

I am now pregnant again w/my 6th child and now I am ready for any battle I have w/yeast. I will be breast feeding this child but I have the bottles I need in case it ever comes to me having to go back to them.

Many blessings to the moms who have kids whether they breast or bottle feed. I will never judge b/c you don't know their story.

Jamie said...

nice work, this is just lovely.

Victoria van der Laan said...

Before I had my own child I couldn't fathom ever using bottles. Period. I would breastfeed exclusively, of course!

Then my little girl was born. We had a wonderful homebirth and everyone was healthy and happy. I had midwives and doulas and lactation consultants to help with latch on, etc. Everything looked good.

But a day went by with no milk. Then another, and another. My little girl was loosing more and more weight and was crying more and more. Even though I hadn't given birth at the hospital the wonderful lactation consultant there took me under her wing. When my girl had lost half of her birth weight she helped me accept that I would have to supplement. My heart broke, but my daughter needed to be fed.

Even then I didn't give up. I got a supplemental nursing system and attached tubes to my breasts so she could still "nurse". I took lactation herbs and drugs. I pumped every hour in a desperate attempt to stimulate the milk that just wasn't there. It took me 4 months to finally accept that my milk wouldn't come in and my daughter had her first bottle.

All of this nonsense served only one purpose--to completely devastate and exhaust me. My daughter was completely fine with the formula, it was me who couldn't get past it. I never once gave her a bottle in public for fear of others reacting the way I would have before this happened to me.

Thank you so much for this blog post--we need more welcoming natural parenting forums!

Witch Mom said...

Thank you thank you thank you!

I am an attachment parenting mama who had a planned pregnancy and took the time off to breastfeed, but it didn't turn out that way. I never made enough and after trying everything and having my child not regain his birth weight for too long, we went the formula route, much to my chagrin.

I am a lactivist and post about breastfeeding in my blog. I also hate the glares and assumptions that I get when I feed my son (formula, from a bottle) in public. Sigh.

Lily, aka Witch Mom

Kelly said...

I currently formula feed, but it was not my original intention. I was all set to breast feed. My husband and I took the breastfeeding class at the hospital. I bought all sorts of breastfeeding accessories. I even forked over $300 for a pump for when I went back to work. I was ready to be a "milk goddess"!

I also had a lot of support. Maybe it's where I live, but I'm always reading online that breastfeeding is unpopular and unsupported... But at the hospital I gave birth at, they almost make you feel BAD for NOT breastfeeding. Out in public, I see more women breastfeeding than bottle feeding. It's just not a big deal here and I think people are educated enough to know "breast is best."

So when my baby was born, I was super excited to join this sort of breastfeeding "subculture". I wouldn't even let anyone visit us in our hospital room for a few hours so we would have bonding/feeding time. I even asked for the lactation consultant to come check us out and give us some tips.

Even with that, I found it to be really hard, which I know is totally common. She took a long time to latch, and sometimes wouldn't latch at all. She would get frustrated on my right side and FREAK out. She wouldn't take the left side at all. I went back to the hospital and saw the lactation consultant again, and I felt good when we left.

However, I spent the next few weeks completely miserable. On top of being dead tired from constantly nursing or at least trying to, I was feeling really inadequate. All the breastfeeding women I know seemed to have it all go down so effortlessly. And worse yet - I didn't feel like breastfeeding was bonding us at all. I would look at the little creature suckling and getting frustrated and I almost felt resentment toward her, which REALLY freaked me out.

My husband was super supportive and when I would get frustrated, he would calm me down, tell me that she could sense my frustration, and help me try to latch her on.

I also considered that maybe I could just pump and feed her breast milk from a bottle. It took me almost an hour to get one ounce out of both boobs combined.


Kelly said...

One day things were particularly bad and she hadn't really eaten in a long time, despite my trying to feed her. I was an emotional wreck. I wanted to give up but I was afraid it would make me a bad mother, and other people would think I was a bad mother. I thought about it for a few days and cried over it. My husband told me he was all for breastfeeding, but he was also all for us being happy, and what's important is that our baby eats, whether it's breast milk or formula. And he reminded me that we were both formula fed and we are healthy and happy, and that I'm not killing her by giving her formula like some people would have me believe.

So I had him get some formula. We made her a bottle. I held her and put it in her mouth. She latched onto it immediately with no problems and for the first time I saw her eating CALMLY. And even better - she gazed up into my eyes. It felt wonderful and I fell in love with her all over again. She even reached up and held on to the bottle.

I still felt guilty, so I decided to talk to my mom friends about it. I found that my friends who breastfeed are SUPER into it and have a sense of superiority about the way they feed their kids. While my friends who formula feed and never breastfed are more relaxed about things.

I have continued to formula feed and it has worked out wonderfully for our family.

I found that when we were in public and I had to prepare a bottle, I tried to hide it and do it quickly so nobody would judge me. Then I realized how dumb that is of me. I actually started to feel resentment toward the breastfeeding community. A lot of breastfeeding women really DO have their noses in the air and a raised eyebrow at formula feeders. And I felt like my fear of being called out by them made me feel really guilty and emotional. Almost like they are bullies. I started to resent that and think "who the hell are YOU to tell ME how to feed MY baby??"...

I've since stopped worrying about it, but it is REFRESHING to hear someone who considers themself a "lactivist" stop and say "hey - to each their own."

Shana said...

Like all the other commenters, I love this post. This is one of the reasons I don't post about breastfeeding more, despite the fact that I have been breastfeeding for over 2 years. I know too many people for whom formula and bottle feeding turned into the only option that saved their babies.

amy friend said...

aw...yes! i feel as though we enter a minefield the minute we approach conceiving, miscarriage, pregnancy, breastfeeding...parenting. extremists (possibly only seeking publicity) can really muck it up for the educators/supporters.

i appreciate your blog!

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

Thank you for this! I really appreciate it and have thought about this stuff so much. I admit to being (inwardly, mostly) judgmental and dismissive of various parenting issues or choices before having kids, and even after. Breastfeeding (or not!) is definitely one of those things! Even after having a personal experience with low milk supply, formula and bottle feeding, I would still feel the pull to judge when really, truly I should not have.

At the same time, I was very aware of the judgements that may have been directed at me in some Natural Parenting/AP circles, due to various choices or issues that got thrown my way. It cuts both ways, and it surely does not help anyone.

For me, having another child (well, children) AND having twins really helped me get over it -- seeing how very different each child and each circumstance is, really hit it home for me. Perhaps its also just becoming a more experienced mama, more confident in my own role and choices, which was happening at the same time, in my case.

Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful post! It clearly resonated with a lot of us!

Stephanie Grimwood said...

finally a crunchy mom that gets it! I have breastfed all my boys. However, during each of their lives there came a time when I had to formula feed or pump. One was a preemie and could not take my milk so he had to have special formula that was easier to digest than Breast milk. Yes ladies there is such a thing. Then, to leave the NICU he had to show that he could eat without a feeding tube. I was told to pump for him and feed him via the bottle. Bottle feeding is a lot easier for preemies than breastfeeding. So, we did it. Then, when he came home we did both for a while. The doctors wanted to know many ounces he was eating at each feeding. Well, since I did not have a measuring cup around to help me figure it out. The doctors told us to breast feed and then give the bottle.
My second child came down with RSV when he was 10 days old. The doctor told me "either pump or supplement, your son can not breast feed and breath at the same time". At the time I felt bad, but no one ever judge me for not being able to feed my sons my milk.
We all do things differently. Some times it is by choice, but other times it is forced upon us by measure that are out of our control. But, just because moms do things differently does not make them a bad mom.
I think as woman and mothers we need to help other moms. I had great friends that help support me during the time that my sons could not b/f. I am so thankful for them. If I had been judged, or put down it would have made this time a lot harder for me.
Thanks for your post. I hope more moms become open and less judgmental of women and their circumstances.
P.s. Sorry to be so long this is just something that tugs at my heart.

Momma Jorje said...

I've been meaning to say... how fitting that you needed time away from *writing* about breastfeeding so you *could* breastfeed. How could anyone hold that against you??

Anonymous said...

This is a good reminder. I've been able to breastfeed for 15 months and counting, despite having to be on a pretty restrictive allergy-elimination diet for my little girl. Sometimes I find myself being very judgmental of parents who choose to formula feed when they probably could have breastfed under even easier circumstances than my own. However, I had my heart set on a natural childbirth, but due to my daughter being breech and no care provider being available who was skilled in delivering a breech vaginally, I was wheeled into the OR. It's been a long and difficult road trying to accept my birth experience (or lack thereof). When I find myself judging a formula-feeding mom, I should probably remind myself that she might be feeling the same helpless grief over not nursing that I feel over not delivering vaginally. Parenting is hard. And emotional. We probably all need to be a little more generous in our assumptions about each other. Let's all try to assume that other moms want the very best for their kids and are doing the best they can given their individual situation.

Jenna said...

Thanks for writing this. My little guy was very sick through his first year of life. When he first started feeding around a month old, it came down to do I want to push breastfeeding and keep a feeding tube down, or push just enough calories down with a bottle? Later on, when he was 9 months and in heart failure and on ng tube feeds with a special formula, I was agonizing about the decision as to whether or not to keep pumping when I had no idea how long it'd be until he could have a normal diet, if he survived. I was sharing my dilemna on a heart-kid web forum, and one mom said to stop feeling bad about this - that in the scheme of things, the breastfeeding is a small part of parenting - that I should quit and never look back. Some might call those kinds of comments "booby traps" but I felt it was support for what I was ready to do. When he was 1 and got a heart transplant, I got to spend the time at the hospital with him instead of running off pumping all the time.

Jenna said...

I've been thinking about this very issue lately, and I think maybe instead of calling BFing superior or better, we should be calling it something like the "physiological" choice - that it is something we should aim to default to. I guess I could compare it to birth. We should be providing care in a way that assumes the woman's body is capable of getting out a baby on its own. Sometimes, that doesn't work and medical intervention is necessary (and obviously there is a lot of disagreement on what is or isn't "necessary") C-sections aren't by definition evil any more than formula is. Mommy's boobs should be assumed adequate for baby's nutrition, but it doesn't mean when it doesn't work out for one reason or another, someone has necessarily done something wrong.
I don't know - maybe I'll try to articulate what I'm thinking better sometime and actually post on it!

The Fearless Formula Feeder said...


I LOVE your idea about calling breastfeeding the "physiological" choice. What a smart and sensitive way to approach the issue, without judgment or condescension. I may have to talk about this on my blog - I hope you won't mind!

HoboMama, thanks for the great post. I especially like what you say about your other friends, who tried to suggest ways your FF friend "could have" succeeded, the implication being that her choice (or lack thereof) is still somehow wrong. You are wonderful for realizing that this is not helpful - what she needs now is acceptance and support. Thank god there are people like you out there. I'm constantly impressed by your ability to take on complex issues in such a forthright, understanding way.

Some of the comments here, though, trouble me - I resent the common assumption that all women who feel bad about formula feeding were "failed" by the system. Could the system have prevented my son from being allergic to the proteins in my milk (and before anyone starts in, yes, I was already vegan and I also cut out soy to be safe, to no avail... human milk still has milk proteins)? Probably not. Could the system have caused my child's inability to latch? Possibly, although I doubt it. I don't blame the system. I don't see myself as a victim. I don't feel guilty anymore, but it took me a long time, because I was convinced my son would be harmed by formula, even though it saved his life. I don't feel that way anymore, but I still resent that other women are being forced to beat themselves up for something that, while amazing and very beneficial, is not the be-all, end-all of health or good parenting.

Anonymous said...

Looking for a nursing pad pattern and I got this!...

Thank you. Thank you! *shouts* THANK YOU!

I am a Peer Counselor, CLC, and nursing mom myself, and I thought at first that the problems moms faced while nursing were few and far between; those who stopped breastfeeding just weren't trying hard enough, didn't have enough support, or were too ignorant of the process to succeed. The mantra of 'Breast is Best' is nice, but no matter the reason, it doesn't work out for everyone. We can't know all the details of each situation, and we can't condemn a parent because of their feeding choice. After a few years and several hundred mom stories, I know more moms can nurse than think they can, but it is not always an option for a family. I've had fathers who made the decision to give bottles when mom's health went downhill after delivery. Mothers who must go on incompatible anti-depressents before they shake their babies. Moms with medical conditions (HIV< breast surgeries/treatments that rendered them non-functional) that truly didn't make enough milk to fully nurse. These are the moms who shrink as I come down the hallway at their initial appointment, eyes darting away, silently praying I won't come at them and ask 'how's breastfeeding going?' I know better these days. I still ask the questions, but I know to move on and talk about how the delivery went, how mom and Big Sister feel about the new bundle, how beautiful the baby is. Because nursing or not, we are all parents, and all of us need non judgmental support from anywhere we can get it.

Thanks for making this a welcoming place for everyone. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

I found this post a while after the fact, but I really wanted to say that I'm ecstatic to read it.

I am an adoptive mother of two siblings adopted from foster care. We had no warning about which little ones would be on our doorstep, how old they would be or what to expect.

What we ended up with are two INCREDIBLE, WONDERFUL, LOVING, INTELLIGENT and AMAZING kids, who, at the time, were aged 16 months and 9 weeks.

In AP circles, in spite of being pretty crunchy in virtually all other ways (including taking on Children's Services and advocating for my children not to be vaxxed), I am often treated as something of a pariah. Our 9 week old was very sick when she came, and formula didn't work...I finally trusted myself, and began making homemade goat milk formula for her. Low and behold, I have a healthy and thriving 14 month old now.

Would I have loved for them to have breastmilk? Without a doubt. But, I worked with the limitations I had and did the best I could, like any other mother does. I have been told I should have contacted someone about adoptive breastfeeding, which, regardless of one's feelings about such a thing, is both impractical for foster care adoption (you can't prepare) and illegal to breastfeed a child who is still a ward. Period.

So, it is nice to know that in spite of having to use the forbidden bottle, I still have a place at your table. ;-)


Amy said...

Thank you for this post. I judged formula-users long before I ever had my child. But then, he came with a tongue tie and an inability to suck. I wrote about my experience (pumping for 4 weeks and working with him at every feed until he finally, faithfully GOT IT!) on my blog here: http://amyelizabethsmith.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/my-breastfeeding-journey/ I am not an uber "crunchy" mom, I think I'm somewhere in the middle -- and I think understanding people's circumstances with this issue also can help me understand others' parenting techniques. Breastfeeding was/is so important to me and now, with my almost 4 mth old at my breast, every time, I say a prayer thanking God for the gift of my milk and his ability to adapt to my nipples. (He now refuses a bottle, which I absolutely love.) Blessings to you and yours and your new baby on the way! S/he will be truly blessed.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and I TOTALLY lost it when you said you could prop a boob for bottle feeding, but it wasn't necessary!! LMBO!!!

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