Breastfeeding is awesome!
You know what else is awesome? A well fed baby. Fed by the breast, or fed by formula.
Breast is best. We all can agree that to be true from a nutritional standpoint.
However, there is a lot more to life, and parenting, than nutrition. Yes it is very important. Yes we should all strive to feed our children balanced meals.
But some days, chicken nuggets are just fine too…
Some days we get spread thin. Even though we cleaned yesterday it looks like a tornado ripped through our house. The kids are grumpy, and honestly we are too. Those are the days we feel a little less judgey about the moms who run away from home. And when the screaming starts again, it sounds a little tempting.
We have all had those days.
The fact that we cut ourselves a little slack on those days, and are mindful of our emotional health, is a win. We don’t judge other moms for doing what we need to do to get through those kinds of days.
So why the heck are we giving new moms crap for feeding their baby formula?
Having a new baby is hard. Nobody argues that.
Breastfeeding isn’t the easiest thing either. And pumping? I do not know a single mom who has ever enjoyed pumping.
As a mom, I have spent many times, and heard too many stories of other moms, crying right along with the baby as they struggle to nurse.
“Why won’t you eat?! I know you’re hungry!”
“This is supposed to be natural, why is this so hard?”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“Why can’t I figure this breastfeeding thing out?”‘
Sound familiar? I can almost guarantee you have heard yourself, or a loved one, say one -or all- of those defeated phrases.
The CDC reports only 16% of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding by 6 months. With breastfeeding struggles being so common, and the added pressure of breast is best, many mothers feel as if they failed if they must supplement, or switch to formula.
Could our culture’s pressure on new moms, and negative stigma on formula feeding, contribute to postpartum depression? It’s something to think about.
Especially when these struggling moms reach out for encouragement and hear stuff like this…
“Well if you just did this_______ your supply would increase.”
“Oh that’s too bad, I didn’t have any trouble breastfeeding my kids.”
“Well just stick with it, it’s the best thing you can do for them.”
“Just pump more.”
“My neighbor’s sister makes too much, just buy some from her.”
I know those things seem helpful, but for a mom that is struggling and maybe feeling a little inadequate… This is what she hears. “You’re not doing it right, and your child is getting the brunt of this.”
If you are feeling that way, know that could not be farther from the truth. You are not a bad mom if breastfeeding feels like a struggle, or if you choose to feed your baby formula.
Sometimes it is best for the mother’s emotional health not to breastfeed.
In the United States, 1 in 7 mothers experience postpartum depression. If a woman giving herself permission to stop breastfeeding would decrease the amount of unhealthy stress in her life, would it really be helping the overall health of the family to guilt her about it?
We should celebrate moms doing what they can to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. When a mother is caring for herself, she is giving her baby a wonderful gift.
Sometimes women get empowerment through sticking with it in the tough times and feel so much stronger on the other side. Others the struggle can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. When it comes down to it though, only we can know what will make us stronger in the end.
But what about those women we know who “didn’t even try” to breastfeed. What’s up with that? Well…
Maybe she has a history of sexual abuse.
Maybe she had breast cancer, or another breast health concern.
Maybe the medication she must take is not safe for breastfeeding.
When it comes down to it…You don’t know her story, so don’t make assumptions.
And even if she just simply didn’t want to breastfeed… You saying something will not change her mind. It will only make her feel like less of a mother.
The fact that we have formulated a substance that replicates a mother’s milk enough to allow babies to grow and thrive, is remarkable. Formula can be lifesaving for those in America- and all around the world- who don’t have access to sufficient breast milk and are are now able to feed and nourish their babies.
Formula is not evil. It is actually quite an amazing thing when you think about it.
So enough with the formula bashing and shaming. Enough with the subtle- or not so subtle- judgment. Just meet mom’s where they are at, without the bias.
If you choose to breastfeed your child until they are a toddler, I will support & celebrate you.
If you choose to nourish your baby with formula, I will support & celebrate you.
Mothers supporting mothers is really what is best.
Molly Seimears is a Certified Doula and Childbirth Educator in Bellingham, Washington. She is passionate about providing nonjudgmental support to families in Whatcom County and beyond.