This cartoon from electricbreastpumpwomen.com popped up on my social media
one day, and struck a nerve.
The reasons women do not breastfeed are not “falsies.”
They are actual reasons, likely hard wrought by moms who find themselves stuck with no other option. It was said to me that this was a way to offer support and encouragement to moms struggling with breastfeeding. There is no logical reason that belittling mothers is the way to achieve that goal.
All this does is tell us that if we feed our babies formula we aren’t smart enough to nurse. There are enough advocates that push breastfeeding so much that giving formula is seen as a sign of weakness open to criticism.
In fact, the overwhelming pressures put on moms to choose breastfeeding over formula feeding can contribute to postpartum mood disorders, like postpartum depression or anxiety, according to this article posted on romper.com.
I can hear the shouts now, “Breast is best! Breast milk has antibodies that formula simply does not! If you’re having trouble, just try harder; it worked for me! Why would you even have kids if you weren’t willing to do everything for them?!”
I’ve heard all of these and more, some directed towards me, some stated more passive aggressively. For reasons beyond me, how a baby is fed is controversial.
Why does keeping our children alive fall into that category? Why is loving our kids enough to feed them however we can unacceptable?
I went through my first pregnancy with a picture in my head of what it would be like to be a mom. I dreamed of the close, intimate relationship I would have with my daughter. The key to that relationship was breastfeeding.
It is all that is talked about during pregnancy by your OBGYN and by your unborn child’s pediatrician, by friends and family alike.
The wonders of breastfeeding are marveled at all over the Internet. I didn’t know anything about formula, and I wasn’t concerned with it at all because it wasn’t in my plan!
Then my daughter was born. In the hospital, the nurses guided me through breastfeeding sessions. They gave me tips and sat there with me, the whole time strongly suggesting I not opt to give her a bottle. That first night in the hospital I sobbed uncontrollably. I was at a loss. I couldn’t feed my baby. She screamed constantly. She would stop screaming when she got a bottle, much against the nurses’ advice.
I did everything I was told by nurses, doctors, friends, family, and lactation specialists. Every 2 to 3 hours I would nurse for 20 minutes, but would have to make a bottle when her screams didn’t stop. Then, I would pump for 20 minutes and get mere drops of milk. I did this with every feeding, praying my milk would come in soon. It never did.
I can’t count the hours I spent in tears because I couldn’t do the one thing I had planned on. I was robbed of that experience that was touted as the epitome of motherhood. On top of that, I felt immense guilt over having to fit the cost of formula into our already-tight budget as a single-income household.
But my children were fed.
After months of guilt, I finally started to believe that it was perfectly fine to feed my child formula. I began to realize that how I fed my child was not the most important thing in her life. I began to see that formula-fed babies grow up to be intelligent, successful, and healthy adults. I began to understand that breast milk may be better for babies nutritionally, but that fed is best.
I am so thankful for my breastfeeding failure. It was a struggle, and it was devastating, but it helped prepare me for exactly what motherhood is at its core.
Motherhood is humbling. Motherhood is hard. Motherhood is full of struggles that no one on the outside may ever see. Motherhood is trying our best to raise healthy, happy children and stay sane in the process.
The last thing motherhood should include is guilt over how we are able to feed our babies.