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


  1. Fawn, this is a really lovely letter. I am so sad that society has failed mothers in so many ways. With my first child, I breast fed for 5 months and when I had a hard time, I was turned away from the Breast-feeding Support Group that I was a part of instead of being helped or supported. With my second child I made it for 13mos- completely by myself with no support from anyone (other than my husband). I was determined to make it through. It was extremely painful almost everytime I nursed. But I powered through because I was determined. He weaned at a year, which I believed was normal and was ok with because it had been so painful. It turns out that he has an upper lip tie, which is what was causing the pain. If a single one of the practictioners we saw (which were numerous for lots of reasons) had mentioned this, diagnosed this, anything, it could have been fixed and he could have nursed longer. I am grateful that I was able to nurse a year, but still. I have some feelings of being let down by the people that we're trained to put our trust in.

    I'm very glad you have your mom. Family support is the most important!
    Thank you for posting.

  2. Society hasn't done anything to me. I happily and proudly chose to formula feed my second-born, and love it. I formula fed my firstborn after being put through hell--not by society, but by the small segment of it that defines a woman's worth by what she does with her breasts. Society didn't treat me badly, lactivists did, all because they defined me by how my body works, and that's misogynistic. Society didn't fail me; lactivism, however, is a failure of a movement, because the movement about nothing other than promoting this ridiculous notion, which you have bought into, that formula feeding parents are lesser beings worthy of your pity, that are perpetual victims of society. No, we don't need more breastfeeding promotion. Women have it shoved in their faces quite enough as it is, thankyouverymuch.

    Formula is the best feeding method for my babies and for my family as a whole. Formula feeding parents don't need pity. We need people to stop thinking of formula as some lesser substance that people need to feel sad about. It is one option of several, like using glasses instead of contact lenses. People don't write condescending, humblebragging tripe about their feels for people who choose to or must use glasses, now, do we? No, because people correctly define themselves and others by qualities other than how their eyes work. We need people like you to start seeing that we are all truly fortunate to live in an era where women have choices in what to do with their bodies, and the means to feed their babies regardless of what health issues either mom or baby may have. We need people like you to stop defining motherhood by how we feed our babies, because that truly is a failure.

    1. I agree, and thank you for posting this comment! No ill intent towards the writer of this blog, as I'm sure you are meaning to be "supportive" of formula feeders, but like this commenter said, the last thing we need is someone feeling "sorry" for us, b/c that implies there is something wrong with formula feeding our children. And the LAST thing we need is more breast feeding promotion. Every can of formula I buy has to say "breast is best" on it...I think we get it in our faces quite enough as this last commentor mentioned! I fully support breast feeding mothers and am very happy for them if that is what they choose to do and can be successful. I had a similar story to the bloggers in the sense of how breast feeding had failed me, but I did "give up", if that's what people want to call it. But I look at it as giving up on breast feeding, and putting my foot down finally for the best interest of my child, who needed a mom who was not stressed, depressed and fighting with her body to feed him a heck of a lot more than he needed breast milk!

  3. I am a breastfeeder and this letter really upset me. (and before you dismiss me, I'm currently tandem nursing a 4 year and a 19 month old, both of them with multiple food allergies not limited to dairy, mangoes, banana, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers & zucchini )

    You should not feel sorry for mothers who make different choices than you do.

    If the mamas are in America, its a first world country. The ONLY time formula is a really big health issue is if you are in an area where the water for mixing and preparing it is not potable.

    "breast is best" except when its not. I honestly look back and realize I probably should have formula fed the first kid. It certainly didn't help ANY with my children's severe anaphylaxis when exposed to what they are allergic to.

    Being a mother is HARD. No matter what choice there is some santimonious person telling you "ur doin it wrong". Breast feeding, formula feeding, baby wearing vs stroller.... Really its all about choices. You might think its "non ap" of me to own a stroller. I'll retort back with my daughter loves to be worn but she also adores her "chariot" while I go for runs.

    I'm really trying to be gentle here with what I say, because when you have a second child, you realize, that its not black and white, and you get humbled. The first kid is easy. I will say, i used to think like you did. And then I had friends whose hearts were literally broken from not being able to breast feed. Who were manhandled. Or like my sister, who really hated every stinking second of it and was abused by a power tripping lactation consultant. Her hurt at not being recognized for her choices was just as valid and cutting as the hurt I endured by experiences of a lack of support.

    I wonder how confident you are in the choice you made. Generally people who are TOTALLY cool with the parenting choices they make, own them, and are gracious to others who make different choices. Please, look around, explore, find other parents who do things differently and realize, this all really does not matter in the long run. What does matter is if you are happy with YOUR choice.

  4. Um, when I read your post I feel sad that you're on such a high horse and writing such ridiculous things. And society hasn't done a darn thing to me. I happily made to decision to formula feed my baby before she was even born and it has been one of the best decisions I've made as a mother! Yes, it's nice that you're breastfeeding and overcame some obstacles to do so but you're living under a rock if you think every formula feeding mother out there made the decision to formula feed as a last resort because she didn't have the resources and mighty inner strength you have to overcome such harsh obstacles. There are many other reasons a mother may not be able to breastfeed or may be able to breastfeed but realizes it's probably not the best decision for her family or she may simply chose to formula feed because it's her preference. I breastfed my first two babies without any problems breastfeeding whatsoever but for other reasons decided formula was the best way to go for my third baby and it's a decision I do not regret at all. It's been a wonderful decision for my family and I! I'm a little embarrassed for you that you've written this "letter" because you honestly come across as a first time mom who lives in her own little world that revolves around breastfeeding and what goes on in your own little life. You need to realize that a lot of formula feeding moms (like me) happily made the decision to formula feed from the get go with no regrets at all! We're happy to formula feed and wouldn't have it any other way. You sure don't need to waste your energy feeling sorry for us. Mothers who made the decision to formula feed with some regret don't want your pity either. You need to stop assuming you know the reason why every formula feeding mom made their decision. You don't. Even if you did know the reason(s) I can promise you none of us need or want your pity or want to read a letter like the one you wrote. What we do want is people to quit obsessing over breastfeeding like it's the only thing in the entire world that matters. Sure, it's a great thing if you want to do it and if you can. If you don't want to or can't then move on. Not a big deal either way. We love our babies. We feed them. The end.

  5. Dear Breastfeeding Mommy,,

    I both envy you, and feel sad for you. I feel sad that you pity formula feeding mothers, and that you buy into the 5% that can't "actually" breastfed.. that statistic is highly inaccurate for a variety of reason you can feel free to look into. It is sad that you felt the need to post this biased opinion and perpetuate the feeding wars even more. That you are unable to see the value of formula not just for the "5%" but for all who dont feel breastfeeding is best for their situation, whether it be from life saving medications, past sexual abuse, or those who simply want to own their own bodies.. her body her choice, right? Or does that only apply to children..

    I envy the bubble you live in. Your ability to actually write garbage like this and still believe you're doing something good. That you believe this is something that formula feeding moms would want or need to hear this drivel. Ignorance is bliss, so you must be just so pleased with yourself.

    1. I should add that I breastfed my daughter for just over two years, the first year exclusively. I also over came mastitis. She had a bad latch at first and I needed help from a LC. The first one I met with, I refused to use again, because she too pitied formula feeders. This who lactivist culture is doing nothing to help the cause, and actually damaging it. It's no wonder the term breastfeeding nazi is out there.