In Defense of Formula.

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by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

 

I have to touch on a political hot button for a few minutes. And it has nothing to do with the Middle East but everything to do with mammary glands. I'm just sick of the culture of breastfeed or die out there right now. A woman named Hanna Rosin wrote an article for The Atlantic which stated that breastfeeding may not be everything it’s been extolled for. She received vicious backlash from other women! And she even breastfed!

 

Why do so many women have so much animosity toward other women based on the way they feed their children? In my first book, Sippy Cups, I wrote a chapter about my bad experience with attempting to breast feed. For me personally, it was a terrible trauma that entailed malfunctioning milk ducts, nonstop crying on my end and the baby's, a fenugreek addiction, not to mentioned how much it exacerbated my postpartum depression. In the end, wasn't even worth the three weeks I endured it. Yet, many many readers attacked me for daring to state my own experience. If you don't believe me, check my Amazon reviews.

 

The reason I'm still fired up over this is because I am still approached women at various functions (okay, fine, the few - very few- book signings I've had) who tell me how relieved they were to read my first book and find out they weren't alone about breastfeeding becoming a huge ordeal for them. Quite a few of these women told me they quit breastfeeding but were afraid to tell their friends because they've been openly judged. You (and by you, I mean everyone out there) have no idea how many women among you don't breastfeed but will lie to your face and tell you that they do! Why is that? I'll tell you why - the anti-breastfeeding of the 50's and 60's has experienced a backlash so huge it's gone completely the other way. I know that there are moms out there who still feel they are stigmatized by breastfeeding. I hear you, believe you and feel for you - sure, someone was booted from a plane for exposing a nip and Starbucks booted a breastfeeder from the premises. That’s wrong, But I don't feel it nearly competes with what is going on in the opposite direction. Women, are proud of openly judging other moms who don't breastfeed and will tell women straight out with passion usually reserved for religious zealots that they are lesser for their choice (or non-choice for many many women).

 

I know of a million breastfeeding fanatics yet I don't know one person who is vehemently opposed to people breastfeeding. I read a blog awhile back where the author said she was at a park and saw a woman bottle feeding her baby. She said that she pitied that woman and her baby because the woman wasn't breastfeeding. I was so angry I wanted to punch my very expensive computer screen, but, many readers commented that they related to her feelings! First of all, how did she know the bottle feeder wasn't feeding breast milk but secondly, how is it anyone's business?

 

annapringle
05.08.10

Thank you for being brave enough to write this article! I went through HELL trying to breastfeed my son for two weeks and when I switched to formula, it changed our relationship. I was finally able to bond with him and he was a totally different baby - so much happier and more alert. He is now 2 1/2 and in the 99% for height and perfectly healthy weight, increadibly smart and never sick! I am so glad I bottle fed! Now I am expecting my second and have already made up my mind to bottle feed, even though the pressure is mounting from all directions including friends, I will not give in to peer pressure when I know what is best for me and my family!

lonelymommy
07.12.09

Well I did have people telling me what to do : breast feed! No bottle fed! etc. So I DID what I WANTED. Breastfeed and suplemented with formula until I Decided. The people who dared tell me otherwise... well imagine what happened. ;) Nobody told me nothing again. So Mommy's it's your decision do not explained to nobody just do what you have to Do. OK! No worries.

spcjones203
06.09.09

Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for posting this, Stefanie. I, too, have been rather ruthlessly attacked on more than one occasion because I had no choice but to feed my son formula. I was diagnosed with cancer 6 weeks after having him and was told to immediately stop breastfeeding while they started treatments and surgery to save my reproductive organs, as what medicines could save me would kill him and they would pass through the milk. By the time I had the all clear to even try for children again, my milk had completely dried up and there was no amount of fenugreek or pumping that was going to bring it back. So thank you so much. It's been such a hard struggle trying to prove to myself that I'm still a good mother, that I'm still doing the best for my kiddo, and the relentless attacks between breastfeeding and my religion have slammed my self-esteem in regards to motherhood down the tubes. Thank you so much. I needed to hear this.

kaznicki
06.03.09

I, too, tried, pumped and drove myself off the deep end of post-partum depression trying to breastfeed my first. I followed all the advice and it didn't work. With my second, I knew pretty quickly I was in for the same thing, but this time I just quit. I'm still angry about the backlash I sometimes get, but my role model is a woman in my first mom's group, who calmly said "My son is exclusively bottle fed" and then kept on going with what she was saying. No one said a word.

tvo1991
05.28.09

You know, I breastfed my twins for 8 weeks, and when I stopped (for my own sanity) I received some pretty nasty comments on my blog. I've since gone private, because who needs to be judged when it comes to their mothering skills? Especially when they're doing the best they can? I couldn't agree more with you...as usual.

iselfidentify
05.27.09

brava kenmac - although, it sounds like you need some new friends - "friends" that like to see you fail are not friends. An possibly a new husband ;)

kenmac722
05.21.09

i got it from both sides when I had my baby. one of my friends was really rotten and loved to see me fail, so she started with - "you'll never keep it up..." and then when i stopped..."i told you so" she never breastfed any of her kids, so think her negativity was due to her own guilt. then when i stopped i got it from the other end...it's so much healthier, look at all the money you would be saving...even my own husband asked if i was stopping because i was lazy...it was a terrible time. i was just going back to work and leaving my little precious 3-month old in the care of my mom. my job didn't have a place for me to pump except for the bathroom and to be honest, i was just DONE! it was so much harder than i thought. not just the actual action of it, but the lagistics of it too. if god forbid i forgot a pumped bottle when i went out, i had to BF in public. i know it's sometimes acceptable, but i just can't do it. so i would end up feeding him in a dressing room or my car. it was awful. and i just felt so isolated and lonely. so i switched to formula and i now have a perfectly happy 2-year old son. no harm, no foul.

luluandmoxley
05.21.09

I found it nearly impossible with twins to breastfeed. I tried for the first few weeks and I was TORTURING MYSELF. And the babies it seemed. When the babies were sleeping, I need to SLEEP not pump. I would sit there pumping -- in major pain -- just crying. Awful. I felt guilty giving it up but it was the best thing I did and actually started enjoying motherhood more. I am perplexed by the judgments. You'd think bottle-feeding moms were giving their infants Coca-Cola or something. Good article!

briemarie
05.20.09

Thank you for this article. I had a difficult time with my son and am expecting a girl in August. I have been beating myself up over if I want to try breastfeeding or not. If it were easier, I would do it, but for me, it just was not. I remember nursing my son for almost an hour one night after he was born. When I put him down because I though he was full, he immediately screamed and my husband fed him almost 4 oz. of formula. That's when i realized I wasn't feeding him enough and quit. I wish I could get my husband to agree with me that for some women--breastfeeding just doesn't work.

VeniceMamacita
05.20.09

I had a terrible time pumping and started supplementing with formula when I returned to work (part-time) when my son was 13 weeks. I cried thinking he would wean immediately and forced myself to continue to try to pump until my husband stepped on and broke my the pump. I was so relieved to get rid of that damn thing! That was 6 years ago, and my son continued to nurse just fine, very gradually weaning himself at the age of 5 years 2 months. (Go ahead an gasp and/or roll your eyes now.) When my daughter was born 7 months ago, I bought a hand pump and decided to give it one more shot. Both times I tried pumping I wound up with mastitis. So I quickly gave the pump away to another new mom who had no trouble pumping whatsoever and began supplementing with formula when the baby was just 3 weeks old (my father died then, too, so exclusive nursing just wasn't possible all the time under the circumstances). I don't know how long Miss Baby will continue to nurse, but I plan to allow her to self-wean as her brother did. I agree that we mothers should SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER. I find myself feeling some shame when I whip out a bottle of formula in public, but all those years of publicly breastfeeding my son left me scarred. So there really are two sides to this issue. Just as I don't look down my nose or make assumptions about a bottle-feeding mother, it would have been nice not to have had so much judgment about our extended nursing relationship.