Last week, the website Babble.com featured an article about the benefits of formula-feeding. Predictably, in the comments section were a number of judgemental responses that insulted moms who formula feed. For any new readers to this blog, I am a formula-feeding mom, although that was never my intention. You can read earlier posts on the subject of formula feeding here and here.
I think my earlier posts quite succinctly covered my opinion on the breast vs. bottle debate, but for the benefit of myself and the other formula-feeding moms out there, I would like to publicly refute some of the stereotypes of moms who don’t or can’t breast-feed their babies.
Something that I’ve heard over and over (and have even beaten myself up about) is that moms who weren’t able to breast-feed just didn’t try hard enough. We’ve been labelled as lazy quitters who are uncommitted to our babies’ best interests.
I can’t speak for other women, but I can tell you that I have never worked as hard at anything as I have at trying to breast-feed. I never, ever thought to myself that I wanted to quit because it was too much work. I saw countless lactation experts, read every resource that I could find on breast-feeding and latching, watched every video on the La Leche League website, and kept on trying until I literally could not stand the pain any longer.
When I made the decision to switch from breast-feeding to pumping and bottle-feeding, it was because breast-feeding wasn’t working. It was because I was miserable and my family was suffering for it. And pumping was no easy way out. First thing in the morning I would feed my baby a bottle as I leaked all over my shirt, then hook myself up to the pump and try to simultaneously comfort my baby (who was whining to be held) and pump enough milk for the next feeding. I would hook myself up to that pump every two hours, and my baby hated it. As soon as he heard the whir of the motor he would start crying. I felt so guilty as I tried to hold the pump and bottle with one hand and rock him with the other. When my milk supply dried up, I tried to double my pumping to every hour, while downing upwards of 12 pills a day.
Now that I am formula feeding, it is no easier. As soon as my baby lays down for a nap, I’m in the kitchen washing and sterilizing bottles and mixing up formula for the rest of the day. I always need to make sure that I have a full kettle of boiled water ready so that I can make a bottle if I need to. When my baby cries, instead of being able to put him to the breast, I have to grab a bottle, put it together, and warm it up while trying to comfort him and not feel guilty about making him wait so long to eat. If I’m leaving the house, I must gauge how much formula to bring with me. If I bring too much, it will spoil before I can use it. If I don’t bring enough, I’m making an emergency trip back home or finding a store to buy some ready-to-feed bottles.
I’ve heard many women chastise those of us who tried to breast-feed, citing themselves as an example. “It was hard in the beginning, but I stuck with it and I’m so glad I did, because it got better and now I’ve exclusively breast-fed my baby for a year. You shouldn’t give up just because it’s hard.” I think stories like that are great. I wish that I had a story like that. But the fact that it worked for one mom because she stuck with it doesn’t mean that it will work for everyone if they stick with it. Sometimes the negative side-effects of “sticking with it” aren’t worth it. Sometimes, physiologically, breast-feeding just isn’t possible for some women or babies. And sometimes women choose formula feeding for their own reasons, reasons that don’t include “I’m too lazy.”
Yes, breast-feeding is a lot of work. Yes, formula-feeding is a lot of work. Yes, pumping is a lot of work. Regardless of how we feed our babies, this is one area in which no mom is lazy.
- Evolution of a Formula-Feeding Mom (the8020mom.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Bottled Up (the8020mom.wordpress.com)
- Breastfeeding vs. Bottle Feeding (ktla.com)
- Talk To Your Doctor About Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding Options (viewpoints.com)