It’s about time we stopped beating up bottle feeding mothers. Far from making me a bad mother, as the pro-breastfeeding lobby would have me believe, I am quite sure that choosing to bottle feed made me a better mum to all my sons.
While the reasons for doing it may be varied, the condemnation many bottlefeeding mums feel seems to be universal, and today an increasingly vocal breastfeeding lobby leaves many bottlefeeding mums cringing with guilt.
This horrifies Dr Heather Wittenberg, a parenting psychologist who runs the website BabyShrink. “For some reason, people – especially other mums – feel entitled to criticise other families’ feeding choices,” she says. “But often they’re not choices, they’re decisions driven by necessity. I can’t tell you how many mums I hear from who, despite the best efforts of midwives and lactation specialists, simply can’t breastfeed. Why should these mums feel like a failure? What a terrible disservice to mums and families, and what a difficult way to start out a baby’s life!”
Rather, I think — and let me not mince words here — that bullying women into breast-feeding and vilifying those who don’t is disgusting. It is, I believe, profoundly wrong to make mothers feel that because they bottle-feed or bottle-fed their babies — from birth, as a supplement or after a return to work — they are unnatural, negligent, selfish idiots.
That’s what I wish would go through other people’s heads when they’re watching me feed my girl. No, that formula isn’t full of all the incredible goodness of mother’s milk, but the whole time Isabel drinks a bottle, we are looking at each other and she is tapping her fingers on mine and she is curling into me while I’m rocking her gently. It’s very, very sweet and intimate. It’s wonderful. Heavenly even.
Most moms know that breastfeeding is best for baby and for the moms that decide to breastfeed (it is a choice) there are a lot of great support groups online. Breastfeeding.com provides an online community that helps support moms and Baby Center has many articles for new mothers to help them learn the benefits of breastfeeding and the how-to’s to help moms problem solve. The support and encouragement to breastfeed is certainly more common then it used to be but what about the mothers who do not breastfeed their babies? Is there support and guidance for those mothers on the formula to choose, safe BPA free bottles to use, how to prepare the formula and how much to feed the baby? I am sad to report my findings are showing there’s very little out there.
If a baby is starving because of neglect then judge away, get outraged beyond comprehension. But if a mother is doing everything she can to make sure her child is happy, healthy and fed, don’t you dare judge her for it.
This was an article from The Leaky Boob that Lucas’ donor milk mom shared with me recently. As she put it: “[This is] why I donate… this article pretty much sums it up. I am so glad that I am able to help my ‘milk baby’ grow and get the nutrition he needs!”
Every human baby deserves to have the normal nutrition for a human infant: human breastmilk. To every lactating woman, past, present and future that has ever shared or will ever share even a drop of her milk with another woman’s baby I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Whether you give through safe direct donation or through an established Milk Bank such as one approved by the Human Milk Banking Association of America, I thank you.
This is a story about a woman who had something negative said to her about breastfeeding in public; however, I believe it can apply to any parenting situation!
We’ve all had those moments when someone said something hurtful or insensitive, or downright rude that just shocks you to your core, and you’re stunned in to silence. If you’re at all like me, afterwards you go home and think of the thousands of things you would have loved to say to the thoughtless person.
Life didn’t go as planned. I came home from the hospital feeling as though every other mother was looking at me and judging me. Those who were not yet mothers made comments that made me feel as though I were weak. Older mothers didn’t understand why I couldn’t just “deal” with his colic and move on. And mothers who were my peers who had never struggled with breastfeeding didn’t get it. I was so ashamed of having to bottle feed my son that I wouldn’t do it in public. I actually hid the box of formula so people wouldn’t see it if they visited. I have only one photo of myself giving him a bottle… I’m crying in it. During that time, I had friends who were still breastfeeding their babies who were unable to grasp the difference in our lives. One friend did not speak to me for 3 weeks and quite honestly, our relationship has never fully recovered. Other friends who had stopped breastfeeding earlier than I did welcomed me with open arms into the circle of moms with bottles. And there was one friend who stood by me, no matter how many bottles I had to feed in front of her.
Mama-bashing is like a playground fight. The sides gather, drawn by a controversial opinion – often genuine, sometimes trollish. If our children were involved in such vicious behaviour, we would not find it acceptable.
You’ve heard that it takes a village to raise a child …we certainly have come to believe that it also takes a village to breastfeed a child!
In the past (and still in some countries and cultures of the world) a woman would always have her mother, friends, sisters, and other female relatives to help her when it came to the sometimes surprisingly difficult task of breastfeeding her baby.
In many of our lives today, we just don’t have that support network in place — and we may not be aware of how to create it.
We, Krista and Kelly, are here today as part of your village. We want to connect with you and share our stories, in hopes that they may be of help to you and other moms in this rewarding, though at times seemingly impossible, journey.
Our stories are amazingly similar — though they ended quite differently. May they encourage and help you along your path, wherever you may be.
Breastfeed or formula feed? Epidural or au-naturel? Organic or conventional? Vaccines or no vaccines? Re-usable or disposable diapers? Time-outs or Time-ins? Crib or Co-sleeping? School, homeschool or unschool? The questions seem so simple on the surface but most parents know, the choices, the possibilities are endless and these questions have started wars in the parenting world.
Having planned to breastfeed, I didn’t have much knowledge about bottle feeding, and a lot of what I did find didn’t seem helpful or a good fit for my parenting style. Ultimately, we acted on much of the advice given to breastfeeding moms together with a good dose of instinct.
I’ve been wanting to pass on some of what we’ve learned for awhile as a resource for those who may have found themselves surprised by a similar situation. I fully support and advocate breastfeeding, but as it’s not always an option, this post is for moms who – for whatever reason – are looking for ways to bottle feed with love.
The loss that I felt as a result of not breastfeeding took me by surprise. No one tells you that you will experience grief. No one tells you that it hurts. No one tells you the sense of regret you will experience when you think back to those early days of your child’s life and you question the “what ifs” that might have made things different.
But this is not a story of grief and sadness; instead it is a story about enlightenment and healing.
The most recent data show that nearly 74 percent of women try breast-feeding, a rise of 50 percent since 1973. This is great. Breast-feeding is great. The problem is, breast-feeding advocates have become so anti-formula that they are alienating moms who don’t, or often can’t, do it. And as a result, the bottom line — the fact that we’re all trying to raise healthy babies — has gotten completely lost.
Parenting can bring out the most interesting advice and remarks from people who we may not even know and of course, those close to us as well. Sometimes we don’t want this advice. Sometimes we resist it with every fiber of our being. There are many reasons for this, some of which we will explore. I would also like to offer some alternatives to reacting in such situations and instead responding respectfully.
These research findings suggest that a process of cultural transmission has turned provision of health information about the benefits of breastfeeding into a campaign against formula use. The effects of this upon women, babies, and health professionals, are very problematic.
The main recommendation that can be made on the basis of our research is that use of formula milk needs to be depoliticised and treated objectively as a routine aspect of baby care, rather than as a moral issue. Politics need to be taken out of communication with women regarding the health benefits of breastmilk. While women need to know the health benefits of breastmilk, informing them about this nutritional issue needs to be detached from negativity about formula use.
Nursing is simply a good method of feeding your newborn, but it is not the only safe or best way for all. The word is choice, and it is a big mistake to force one method for everyone. When some children fail to thrive on breast milk, there is, and should always be, an alternative feeding method, and it does not include the guilt be placed on these equally caring parents. Formula, despite the claims of some, is not poison and is in fact life-saving at times.
I have made a choice when it comes to my parenting style and practice. This choice was made after countless hours of research and contemplation. I fully believe in the choices I have made, but I don’t believe that this parenting style is for everyone. After all, it takes all sorts of people to make the world go round, and I am thankful that we are all so unique.
Lately I’ve been wondering if “breastfeeding failure” is an oxymoron. I mean, to fail at something don’t you need to have a predetermined understanding of what failure is and what success is? Must you not be able to assess and quantify? But breastfeeding is a relationship—not a test—and success looks different for everyone. A teen mom, the mother of a preemie, a woman working outside of the home, a stay at home mom: might breastfeeding not look different for a woman in each of these situations?
So why is it that so many women in our society today feel as though they failed at breastfeeding? Is it possible to even fail? If you breastfed, even for a short time, were you not a breastfeeding mom? How is it then that you can do something, but yet fail at it?
My goal here is to build on those posts further and present a few ideas for communicating with fellow parents in a positive, peaceful manner. Following are four things I consider when conversing about parenting, whether that be in person, online, with a friend, or with a random stranger.
If you are not able to breastfeed, or if you are feeding your baby EBM (expressed breast milk) from a bottle, you can still recreate some of the bonding experience of breastfeeding by bottle-nursing. Other people can use this method with your baby if they are watching them for you, but it’s best if you are your baby’s primary source of milk, just as if you were breastfeeding.
When my youngest child was born two years ago, I had no qualms telling the nursery I’d be bottle-feeding. The fact that he was my third bottle-fed child and that I had medical complications that made breast-feeding unrealistic eased my guilt considerably. But many moms hear “breast is best” and feel guilty about choosing not to breastfeed.
After my second child was born, I decided I wanted my boobs back. It was a long journey, learning I deserved my boobs. Everyone had been telling me they belonged to my babies since my daughter was born three years ago. I tried breastfeeding her, but stopped when she didn’t gain weight. I felt less guilty about my first attempt than my second effort with my son. After all, he wasn’t losing weight yet — no more than a normal newborn, anyway. He started at a healthy 9 lbs 7 oz, so he wasn’t exactly wasting away.
I’m not sure if I agree with all of the “black or white”/judgmental comments in this article, but this is an opinion piece written to inspire a different line of thinking.
The end result of the constant “breast is best” browbeating and the expunging from public life of all images of infant formula for babies under six months is to communicate the idea that there’s only one proper, decent, good way to feed your infant: with your breasts. And if you don’t, you’re an “appalling” mum.
"We are very happy to put our hands up and say that over the years we have perhaps been evangelical about breastfeeding because at that time, it was needed," said Mrs Fox. "Now we don’t believe that that is the right approach.
"Most women want to breastfeed and most stop before they want to because of external pressures such as a lack of support. We want to work with parents and make sure the barriers that might be there are taken away."
"The social pressures, the moral pressures on mothers, in the name of these so-called health benefits is to a degree that is absurd," says Linda Blum, the author of a book on the ideology of breastfeeding. “Mothers feel tremendous guilt.”
Many women, for medical reasons, find breastfeeding impossible- period. That was the case for one woman, a gynecologist living in California. Unable to produce enough milk, but strongly opposed to formula, she hired a wet nurse through Certified Household Staffing. The woman lived with her and her young daughter for almost two years.
Feminism has achieved so much, but we have lost a lot along the way. The battles of feminism and those of abortion and breastfeeding are tainted with women trying to validate and define their own identities and worth. In the 21st Century, can we not find some level ground of respect? Wouldn’t treating other women with respect, who hold opposite viewpoints, demonstrate an accomplishment for feminism?
I think back to the times when I was told that this bonding would not happen as long as he fed from a bottle. I remember the comments about how nothing could compare to the bond between a child & nursing mother & I wonder why I take that phrase so personally. How two years later, those thoughts still sting me because I love my baby, too & I think we’re pretty okay together. I worried I would never experience my child needing me physically & now he finally calms as his head rests against the breasts that never fed him, & I know that bonding flows deeper than milk in all mothers & babies.
I know this all sounds scary. I am not going to lie to you. Tube feeding isn’t an easy road to take, it is a last resort. We tried like hell to get him to eat before and after the tube. However, as it became very clear that medical reasons were going to require tube feeding for a longer period of time, we embraced it as another way to eat. I am just so thankful that the technology exists now. If he was born when I was, he most certainly would not have survived.
…no matter how many times women post pictures of themselves breastfeeding on Facebook, and no matter how many protests are staged outside Facebook’s worldwide offices, nothing substantial is likely to change. So, what do I think about all the drama over breastfeeding censorship? I think it sucks. But I also think it’s time to move on.
This Finnish prospective cohort study investigated whether breastfeeding compared to non-breastfeeding was associated with lower hostility in adulthood.
While the research featured some laudable methods, such as assessing participants multiple times over a long study period, its results are somewhat unclear. The difference between the average hostility scores was reported as being just under 0.2 points, but the clinical significance (if any) of this difference was not described. As such, it is not clear whether this difference would have any noticeable effect on the life of the person or the people around them.
The researchers themselves acknowledged other limitations of this study:
as breastfeeding was self-reported parents may have remembered inaccurately or said that they breastfed when they did not, perhaps if they thought that this was a more socially desirable answer
the most disadvantaged participants dropped out of the study
Crucially, this study did not ask mothers who had not breastfed why they did not do so. Without this it cannot fully explore potential reasons for a theoretical link. We cannot tell if breastfeeding might produce some biological change that affects hostility or whether breastfeeding is associated with social factors that might also shape personality.
Foremilk vs. hindmilk seems to be quite a popular topic among breastfeeding mothers. If I switch the baby too soon to the other breast, will he get the hindmilk? How do I ensure that my baby is getting all of the fatty milk that he needs? Sometimes I feel like too much breastfeeding information can add stress to a new mom. And this is why…
All breastmilk, whether it is 1 minute into the feeding session or 25 minutes into the feeding session, has both foremilk and hindmilk. As your baby drinks from the breast, she/he gets both the low-fat milk (foremilk) and the cream (hindmilk.) The better your baby drains your breast per feeding, the more hindmilk she/he has access to, as this creamier milk hangs out back further in the milk ducts, so it has further to travel.
Thank you so much for sharing this post! My daughter is now almost 7 months old and I've been an "Eper" for almost 4 of those 7 months and have felt so alone the entire time. I can definitely relate to not feeling like I "fit" with either the exclusive breastfeeders or the exclusive formula feeders (and the feeling of defensiveness when trying to explain why I made the decision to go that route) and it's so nice to know that there are others out there "like me"!
Lily: I’m glad that we are able to help you feel less alone, so to speak! It’s too bad that people have to be judgmental of the way we choose (or perhaps, were forced) to feed our children! You are doing an amazing thing for your daughter by pumping for her!
There is no room or need for guilt here - the mother who has done all she can to [breastfeed] “normally” isn’t a failure - she is just doing the best she can in the situation she is in. Mothers who choose to exclusively pump are very dedicated mothers - determined to do the best they can for their precious babies, and they deserve respect and support.
Now I won’t lie and say that pumping is easy…it’s not. It’s time consuming and it can be frustrating to be tied to that pump when you have a fussy baby. But the tradeoff is fantastic. From day one, I was never “tied” to Elnora. I don’t say that in a bad way, because I love her dearly, but it was nice to be able to leave her with my mom or mother-in-law for a few hours if I needed a break. I also didn’t have to wake up with her every single time because Greg could feed her just as easily as I could. Basically, I had all the benefits of bottle feeding, but I was still giving her breast milk. Yes, I had to wash more parts and yes it took time to pump, but for someone like me that worked at home and that could express plenty of milk, it actually wasn’t that hard. In fact, I’ve given serious thought to pumping from the start with my next child.
This is a great one for both moms and dads, but it is uniquely written from a father’s perspective.
…the loneliness persists. It’s borderline debilitating some days. Thank God for the internet, though. Without it, I’m sure I would have almost no link to the outside world.
This isn’t a cry for help, but I figured someone should address the elephant in the room that most of us stay at home parents know is there, but feel slightly embarrassed to talk about. After all, we don’t have a 9-to-5, so how hard could our life possibly be, right?
TREATMENT: Once diagnosed, the first step to treating mompetition is to acknowledge that you have it. Understand that it’s not just a problem – it’s a sickness. Then, begin to examine the root cause of your mompetition. Determine how you contracted it and examine why and how it has progressed. From there, engage in activities specifically designed to counter the symptoms of mompetition as they manifest.
This blog was a beautiful idea! I think I'm going to have to start supplementing Emberly with at least one bottle of formula a day (she is 3 weeks old) because she isn't gaining weight like she should. She is still almost a pound under her birth weight! I was pretty bummed when I heard that from our pediatrician, probably because I've tried to do everything "all natural", but I need to stop beating myself up about it!
Lizzie: Hi there! Thanks for your nice comments! I’m not a lactation expert but if you are not 100% happy with this advice could you get a second opinion? My only reason for suggesting it is that supplementing would decrease your supply. Maybe it would help to feed her more often? Having said that, the most important thing is that your baby is happy and healthy, so whether you decide to get a second opinion or not, don’t beat yourself up, you care more about your baby than anyone, and you will do the best thing for her. :)
Lily: I agree with Lizzie. When it comes to weight gain, remember that most doctors are comparing your breastfed daughter’s weight to the weight gain of an average exclusively formula-fed baby. On average (though certainly not all the time), formula-fed babies are bigger and gain weight more quickly than breastfed babies (who are usually longer and leaner). The best thing you can do is to offer your breast as often as you can (though I know having a newborn is already insanely EXHAUSTING)- Emberly will eat enough when she is hungry. Remember, she is still getting used to ingesting nourishment from the breast and not through the umbilical cord, so try to give it a little more time before supplementing. As for your pediatrician, I’d try to find someone who is more supportive of breastfeeding or nursing-on-demand. A doctor who immediately offers formula after only 3 weeks is what I like to call a “booby trap.” ;) At any rate, however, please don’t allow ANYONE to make you feel guilty over any choice you make- whether that be to supplement, nurse, pump, or switch to formula. YOU are Emberly’s only mother, and a dang good mom at that! :)
Something she said the other day that made me cry:
I know this may sound weird, but I like donating because it gives me the motivation to be a better version of myself. I have found that I have started to eat healthier and make sure I am drinking plenty of water. I take my vitamins everyday so that my milk will not only be better for my own daughter but better for Lucas as well. Sorry if that sounds a little odd…
And then today, I get this message from her on Facebook:
10 more ounces in the freezer for Lucas…it still amazes me that I am able to pump that much. I have found that in the morning on the weekends since “G” tends to sleep in a little longer that I can get about 5 ounces from each side and that is doesn’t even count if I am able to do an afternoon pumping session. I was reading something online about how your pumping output could go down after 6 months and continue to decline at 12 months so right now I have just increased my water intake but I may start taking some fenugreek or brewer’s yeast to proactively keep my supply up. Have you read anything about this? Because I would like to keep pumping for you until Lucas is at least a year old if I can.
I am certain that God is working through this woman. WHAT A BLESSING.