I hate it when people shame mothers for choosing to bottle feed their babies with formula. Especially when the judgement comes straight from other mothers who make it seem like breastfeeding is now the new qualifier for a being a good parent.
There’s been a lot of media buzz on breastfeeding in public recently. This is typically followed by a heavy defense of the mother and applause for how breastfeeding is natural. Sure, some are still extremely rude and judgmental of public breastfeeding but moms will almost always defend each other when it comes to the topic of breastfeeding and the right to do so.
Doctors and nurses praise mothers who breastfeed because it’s beneficial for the baby. We continuously hear “Breast is best”. But there isn’t any enthusiasm surrounding mothers who choose to bottle feed their baby. In fact, often there is pure judgement for those who choose to use formula instead of breast milk regardless of their situation.
I got weird looks and questions from my OBGYN when I told them I was no longer breastfeeding. I felt pressure in the hospital to be great at breastfeeding and when I hinted that I may not want to do it, I was met with shocked expressions and felt extremely judged like my parenting skills were now compromised because of that decision. I’ve seen mothers on Facebook and other social media outlets who make it known that breastfeeding is the best choice and speak down to you if you suggest otherwise.
I’m not saying that every breastfeeding mom or medical professional is judgmental toward those who choose to bottle feed but I’d be lying if I said I had never encountered some who were.
When I had my first child in 2012, I had no knowledge about breastfeeding and figured I would do it because that was what was expected of me. I soon found out that I hated everything about it.
I didn’t want to give up easily so I spoke with a lactation consultant. I tried really hard to like it and be good at it. Breastfeeding just wasn’t working for me and it left me feeling unhappy and like a failure. I moved on to the pump pretty quickly thinking that it would be a good solution; I could pump and give my baby breast milk without being burdened by breastfeeding. This sounded like a great plan until I realized that pumping was just as bad as breastfeeding. I couldn’t stand how consuming it was and how everything in my life had to be planned around it. After carrying a baby for 9 months, I just wanted my body to be my own again. Breastfeeding and pumping was making me feel like a milk receptacle more than my own person.
For my own sanity formula was needed. Breastfeeding was hurting me more than it was helping. Motherhood became so much more enjoyable when I decided to stop forcing myself to like something that I hated. Without the stress looming over me, I felt free to enjoy the little moments with my children and focus on myself.
My daughter was fully transitioned to formula by the time she was 3 months old. My 2 sons were each transitioned to formula within 2 months of being born. And all three of them are happy, healthy and well fed.
Motherhood is such a hard job that we need all the support we can get. We need praise for choosing to feed our babies and taking care of ourselves so we can be the best possible mom for our children. Mothers need to lift each other up and respect each type of parenting even if it doesn’t fit with our own. So many women don’t enjoy breastfeeding or can’t for medical reasons and those women don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Recently, in my state of New York, a new regulation passed that forbids the state’s hospitals from giving out formula goodie bags, which usually include coupons and samples, to new parents starting January 2017. It’s understandable how this could encourage new mothers to stick with breastfeeding but this could also lead to needless guilt and pressure for someone who is already under the stress of having a new baby. Before even leaving the hospital, a woman could feel shame when she’s already at an emotionally vulnerable time. This is the optimal time for lifting a new parent up and supporting them not making them feel doubtful about their decisions.
Moms need to know that it is perfectly fine NOT to breastfeed. What really matters is that your child is fed and happy. Your child will benefit more from a happy and well-adjusted mother than a stressed mom and some breast milk.
**Disclaimer: Before someone comments on this, I’m going to state for the record that I fully support breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public. I’m merely defending those like myself who decide not to breastfeed and instead feed with formula.**