Family Magazine

Don't Tell Me What to Feed My Baby!

By Molly Thiersch @crazedkitchen
Not long ago on my blog, I shared my indecision about trying for a third child. Despite the lack of sleep, I always look back on my boys’ baby years fondly; the late-night snuggles, the milestones, learning our new family member’s personality. But there is one part of those baby years that brings back more bad memories than good:
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely pro-breastfeeding. I believe women should be able to nurse their babies pretty much whenever, wherever they want to without any objection from anyone.

Don't Tell Me What to Feed My Baby!

Poor, miserable, formula-fed baby

But that’s not all I believe. See, I tried my damnedest to breastfeed my first son. But, after a few weeks, the kid wasn’t gaining weight. In fact, he had started to LOSE weight. After a frantic trip to the pediatrician, hours of pumping at all times of day and night, and more money than I care to think about spent on a lactation consultant, we came to realize something: I couldn’t effectively feed my baby with my breasts. (And believe me, when a lactation consultant tells you to give up breastfeeding, you know your tatas just don’t have the goods.)
I cannot tell you how horrible I felt in those first few weeks that we started feeding Matthew formula. I just knew that I had failed as a woman and a mother. It seemed that every time I logged onto my online new mother’s support group, or got on facebook, or even just opened my favorite gossip magazine, I was hit over the head with the message: BREAST IS BEST! FORMULA IS EVIL! YOU ARE A BAD MOM IF YOU DON’T BREASTFEED YOUR BABY!  (You know what’s really evil? Supermodel Gisele Bundchen spouting crap about how breastfeeding should be a “law.”)
This attitude has got to stop. Yes, breast milk is best for babies. There is no denying that. But we are so lucky to live in a time where technology has provided us with a substitute for breast milk that is almostjust as good. Not only is it almost as good, it is a nutritious, healthy, perfectly FINE way to feed babies. My boys both thrived on formula—they hit their milestones right on time, they had matching height and weight percentiles, they are intelligent, caring, wonderful little human beings. If I hadn’t had formula to feed them (or a live-in wet nurse, I guess), they literally would not have survived their infancies.
People have asked me, “But, didn’t you miss the bonding breastfeeding provides?” After I take a few deep breaths and convince myself not to punch them in the throat, I explain that bottle-feeding can be just as bonding as breastfeeding. I’ve done both: I know that I can snuggle, kiss, and gaze at my baby if there’s a boob OR a bottle in his mouth. (I can also watch “Grey’s Anatomy” either way, and I did that sometimes, too.) And guess what? If I want the ever-important “skin-to-skin contact” that breastfeeding provides babies and mothers? I can take my shirt off and rock that bottle with the twins hanging free and loose. Been there, done that (lucky for everyone, only in the privacy of my own home).

Don't Tell Me What to Feed My Baby!

What can I say? I guess it's all the formula we fed him.

New mothers choose formula for a host of different reasons. Some, like me, can’t breastfeed. Some have to go back to work and can’t fit pumping in to their schedules. Some find breastfeeding painful or uncomfortable. Some need more than 3-4 hours of sleep in a row. Some just plain don’t like it. But guess what? None of that matters. We should support mothers who FEED THEIR BABIES, which, as it turns out, is pretty much all mothers.
We need to stop shaming mothers for choosing formula over breast milk and focus on other things that actually have a major impact on babies’ lives. Let’s put our time and energy into educating parents about SIDS, for example. Babies DIE from SIDS. Or how about helping new parents learn about car seat safety? Babies in improperly installed car seats can DIE in an auto accident. DRINKING FORMULA DOES NOT KILL BABIES.
The thing is, I am all for supporting new moms who want to breastfeed. I am even all for encouraging reluctant moms to give it a try. I think new moms should have easy access to help and advice from experts who can make those first few weeks of breastfeeding, which are often the hardest, easier. I don’t think hospitals should send home formula samples unless parents ask for them, and I don’t think maternity ward nurses should feed babies formula without their parents’ consent. But I also think women should not be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed if they choose formula.
So, yes, I am pro-breastfeeding. But I am also pro-formula feeding. In fact, I like to say that I am PRO-FEEDING. Feed your babies. Feed them something that will allow them to grow and thrive, like breast milk or formula. And the next time you see a woman with a new baby at the pediatrician’s office, preschool drop-off, or, God help her, the grocery store, give her a smile. Tell her that her baby is beautiful. Tell her she is doing a great job. Because chances are good that she is feeding her baby…probably many times a day and at least once or twice at night. And THAT’S all that matters.
This essay was originally published on November 14, 2012, as one of my entries in the Blogger Idol contest. You can see the original post, along with the judges' comments, HERE.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog