For the love of formula!!

When my first child was born I was planning to have this perfect little boy, live with his dad in our beautiful apartment, kept clean and organized, and I’d breastfeed, of course. Leave it to a child to completely turn those expectations upside-down. Having a child is complicated, and as life got more complicated my relationship with his dad fell apart, we moved out of the apartment (Which had not been clean or organized for several months), and the fancy crib didn’t get used for almost the first year.
Breastfeeding? Didn’t happen. Not because I didn’t want to – I couldn’t! My son was in the NICU for a month and, despite pumping every three hours on the hour, the milk just stopped coming. I had one nurse who was great about it, she said I tried and if I just couldn’t then there was no shame in it. Other people on the other hand? It was like I was failing the “good mother Olympics”. I wasn’t even going to get bronze. I got looked at like I was pathetic, or stupid, even though I explained that I tried. My son had tubes in and out of everywhere, couldn’t cry, couldn’t latch… there was nothing natural about it. Yet here I was, expected to be able to nurture my child in the “natural” way. I got everything from “well you know, breast is best” to “if you started letting him try breastfeeding again you could start making milk again”… soooo starve my child when he is hungry by trying to make him eat where there is no food? Sounds like I would be causing a lot of un-needed stress. Truthfully, you wouldn’t know the difference. Had I not said he wasn’t breastfed you wouldn’t look at him and KNOW. He isn’t weak or super sick – in fact he is one of the healthiest, smartest, most agile five year olds I know! But there is this guilt that goes along with not breastfeeding, even if it isn’t really your choice, that you are somehow failing as a mother.
When I got pregnant with my second child, I was going to make up for it by breastfeeding. I KNEW that formula feeding didn’t mean my child would not be taken care of, or loved, or cuddled, or get nutrition, but something inside of me said I HAD to breastfeed to be a good mom. That something is known as pressure. Expectation. Guilt Culture. We live in a culture that thrives on guilting people into doing the “right thing”… well, turns out the right thing for my baby was NOT breastfeeding. She was always crying, always hungry… every thirty minutes. My milk was just not cutting it. I was tired, worried, upset – she was crying, hungry, stressed. I made the decision to switch to formula, she is so much happier, and so am I.
I miss having her cuddled into my flesh, eating until she eventually passes out on the most comfortable and warm human pillow ever made. I miss not having to make bottles, or buy formula. The rebellious part of me misses feeding in the middle of a restaurant while onlookers gave me looks of disapproval. I really enjoyed getting to send a great big “mind your own damn business” out there. That’s it. I HATED the painful letdowns… and I mean PAINFUL! I hated pumping. I hated not being able to go pee without my daughter screaming because she was hungry NOW, dammit! I hated that if I got one of my famous migraines I couldn’t take my medication for fear that it would pass through my milk and somehow hurt her. I hated that if I was exhausted I couldn’t just ask my partner to do the night feedings just once so I could sleep. I hated the pressure of being the only one who could feed her, and that every little thing I put in my body would effect her… the wrong vegetables could give her gas, my morning coffee could cause a stomache ache, heaven forbid I decided to have a pepsi, or a piece of cake, then she would be up all night. Some women love the all consuming job of breastfeeding, and I loved the look I got when it was me, always me, who calmed the screaming and gave the nourishment my baby needed, but that is a lot of pressure.
On top of that, people love technology. We know that organic, homemade foods are better for us. We still hit up a drive-through and buy pre-made pizza and junk. We know that walking, biking, rollerblading is better for us. We still drive. We know that water, milk, real fruit smoothies are better for us. We still drink beer, wine, pop. We don’t feel guilty about it. Or, maybe we do, but we don’t feel like we are BAD people for it. We have technology to feed our babies with formula. This wasn’t invented because someone decided that breast milk wasn’t the healthier choice… but it is a choice. It is there for people who can’t breastfeed, either because they physically can’t, or emotionally can’t, or because they just don’t want to.
Truthfully, I still get the cuddles, I make sure to give my baby skin on skin time and hold her all the time. I show up with a warm bottle and I still get that look that says “oh, thank you – I was starving!” But now, her daddy gets that, too. Now I don’t have to endure my migraine for 24 hours or more because I can take my medication, pass her off to her dad, and sleep it off for a few hours. I can feed her and then know she will be full for an hour or two so I can wash some dishes, or make supper, or read a few pages in a book. These things may seem trivial, but they make me feel less stressed, and I am a better mom for it.
So, maybe I am failing the “Good Mom Olympics” according to all the other moms out there who do breastfeed. Maybe I am not excelling like society says I should. But to my kids, and my newborn, a less stressed, happier mommy that has time to cuddle and play and laugh because she made a choice that worked better for everyone? That’s worth the gold medal – every time.

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