We're told there are two topics you should never discuss with other people - politics and religion. I happily venture into both realms on a regular basis, being the my profession is in one of them (religion), and that one often influences the other (politics). Even though I am passionate about my perspectives and strong in my beliefs, I'm not nervous to debate or disagree with another person about these things. We can agree to disagree and continue on our merry way.
But bring up breastfeeding vs. formula feeding and I'm a little (A LOT) afraid to speak up.
I always knew that people were passionate about parenting choices. I just never knew how passionate other people could be about my parenting choices. That have nothing to do with them. At all. Holy guacamole.
Now, there are some parenting choices that do affect others. Vaccinations, for example. Unvaccinated kids can spread preventable disease to other kids, like those too young to be vaccinated (or who couldn't be for other reasons, or who are just especially vulnerable). That's not the kind of choice I'm talking about here.
Parenting choices like how to labor, where to birth, and what/how to feed? Those are my choices. They affect me and my family. They are choices I make for me and my family. They don't apply to anyone besides me or my family.
So why do I feel so flippin' "under the microscope" all of a sudden?
Similac (a formula company) recently released a very well done ad with the message that instead of judging each other, parents need to realize that we're all on the same mission (raising healthy, happy kids) but there are many ways to do so. There's a lot of backdraft from this, because a formula company made it, and isn't that just a sneaky, manipulative way for a formula company to trick mothers into buying their product? Some see it as a massive attack on breastfeeding. A way to sell more formula to unsuspecting parents who would otherwise breastfeed. As though they weren't aware that breastfeeding is or was an option for them to begin with.
I promise you, they are aware. It's probably not an option. By necessity, by choice, whatever. Let them buy their formula so they can feed their babies and love their babies and keep on being the best parents they can be.
I realize that many, many years ago, when formula feeding was on the rise and formula companies discovered how much money they could make that cheap shots were made at breastfeeding. Breastfeeding declined. I've heard it was hard to find support if you were trying/hoping to breastfeed.
My heart breaks for all the women who did not (and do not) receive the support they need as they try - desperately - to do what they believe is best for their baby.
I can speak to that.
I tried to breastfeed. There are many reasons why I decided to stop trying, none of which I owe to anyone besides my baby and myself. But I had support - I had nurses and lactation consultants and friends and relatives all supporting me and encouraging me to "just keep trying." I scoured the internet for help with latching, holds, and more, especially for post-cesearean mothers. There is a TON of information out there. There are TONS of support groups. There are a million and twelve (okay, not really, but there's a LOT) of websites and blogs and articles dedicated to the promotion of breastfeeding. And there should be. It's important, it's hard as hell, and if a woman wants to do it she's gonna need every single one of those resources.
But when I tried to find information on exclusively pumping and bottle-feeding expressed milk, foregoing nursing entirely, there was a significant drop in support/info. Still stuff out there, but not as much. Harder to find. Still, I tried that too. Bottle-feeding and burping and playing and trying to get the kid to nap - so I could pump every 2-3 hours - was a beast. Some women do it for months and months - rock stars, I call them. (I call all mothers rock stars. Doesn't diminish their awesomeness in any way.)
Ultimately, after 4 weeks of trying and pumping and not sleeping and rising farther and farther up the Beck Depression Inventory, I decided to go with formula.
We are told by everyone, everywhere - even on formula packaging, as if we need the reminder - that breast is best. Books on parenting/baby care barely give formula feeding a paragraph of acknowledgement, and even that paragraph begins with a soliloquy about why breast feeding is the preferred way to go. Breast milk is certainly able to offer antibodies and nutritional elements that formula is not. But formula - no matter what anybody says, or any misinterpreted/misread research results seem to indicate - is a perfectly healthy and good source of nutrition for your baby. A little more guidance on how to do this best for our babies would be appreciated.
If you're a formula feeder, you're doing great. You're making the choice to give your baby the best that you are able to give. Full speed ahead, parent.
I think sometimes we forget the part about what we are able to give or do. Because all loving parents are doing their best. Everyone's best looks a little different. For some, it's the breast. For others, it's the bottle. What we need is a little more support no matter our feeding choices, because ultimately FED IS BEST.
(Side note: I would add that in addition to fed, a mentally/emotionally stable mother is also best, something I was not able to offer to my baby until we switched completely to formula. Even then, it's questionable. Sleep deprivation, you know?)
Boob or bottle. Keep 'em eating, people.
(Here are a couple sites/articles I have found really helpful on this formula feeding journey -