Monday, March 17, 2014

A Letter to Formula Feeding Mothers

I have seen some articles floating around about "Mommy Wars" and defenses to formula feeding. I wanted to use this space to express my opinion and personal story on this subject. I know it is not on topic of gluten and dairy free foods, but it ties in a little.

Dear Formula Feeding Mom,

When I see you when we are out, I both envy you and feel sad.

I envy you because no one questions when you feed your child. Your actions do not make people feel the need to run up to you with a blanket to throw over you, call you a slut, say you just want attention, and so many other things. I live in a town where it is much more accepted than other areas of the country, but I still get looks, comments, and I have been asked to leave by an employee before.

I feel sad not because you are formula feeding. I know you are just doing the best you can every single day. I feel sad because it is likely that society has failed you. Yes, there are people who just are not able to breastfeed. I have seen statistics that put that number around 5% of all breastfeeding moms. Whether it was a lactation consultant, doctor, nurse, or family member that convinced you that you were not able to breastfeed and must go onto formula, you were failed. You did not fail, everyone else failed you.

I was probably in a very similar situation. Within hours of my precious baby being born (via emergency C-section), I was told I was not going to be able to produce milk. Yes, before colostrum could even come in, I was given up on. He had formula before he had mama's milk. They said he needs it, he has lost 10% of his body weight with no explanation of additional fluids that had been pumped into both of us during the long labor. They had me pumping to bring in my milk and I was using an SNS system. Basically it means he was nursing while we were feeding him formula through a tube. They sent us home with extra formula.

This is where our stories may differ. I had my mama. My mom who breastfed me until I was 2.5 and my sister till even older. Here was someone who had experience. She never doubted that my body could produce for my child. She helped me get to lactation consultants, she made sure I ate enough for both of us and helped latch. She came to the lactation appointments with me and helped implement what they said. I found La Leche League from where I have all my mommy friends now. They gave me so much support as well.

Even with all this support, I broke down. I couldn't do it anymore. I decided to exclusively pump. So I did. For about a week. My supply went down dramatically. We started supplementing formula more and even more. I finally put him back to the breast because I missed the closeness even with all the pain. It was at this point that I reached out to the internet and the nurses from the hospital. By this time he was about 4 weeks old.

I had mastitis and yeast infections in both breasts. I got treatment for myself and my baby for this. It got so much better after that. I was able to finally, with all that support still in place, to wean the formula off with the help of herbs and skin to skin contact that boosted my supply. There were other problems too that we did not learn until much later. My baby had a lip tie and tongue tie which made it hard to nurse (doctor refused to diagnose it and when we finally got it taken care of, the specialty doctor said it was the worse lip tie he had ever seen). He also was gluten intolerant and had an allergy to cow's milk. Poor bubs! No wonder he didn't do well on the formula. With all our struggles he went from being born around the 80th percentile down to the 10th percentile. The only thing that changed that was discovering his allergies (at 12 months he was at the 30th so we are on track!).

So when I'm out and I see you feeding formula to your baby, know that part of my sadness is that it could have been me. Know that I feel for you and I am not sad for what you are doing, I am sad for what society has done to you. This is why we need breastfeeding advocacy in hospitals, in malls, in doctor's offices, in every place that a mother and baby are together. When you see me breastfeeding my child, I don't want you to feel sad, or worse, judged. I want you to know that you can be a breastfeeding advocate too. And we need you!


A Breastfeeding Mom