Growing up my mom pounded a quote from the movie “Bambi” into our heads. Anytime we said something mean or judgmental my mom would quickly respond with “What did Thumper’s daddy tell him?”
We’d roll our eyes and have to say aloud, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I was recently having a conversation with a woman who, with no knowledge of how I fed my child, expressed her opinion on how women who choose to formula feed their babies are selfish. She continued to say how breast feeding is the most selfless thing a mother can do, and it creates an ever lasting bond with the child, a bond that can’t possibly be shared between a mother and her formula fed child.
I took a deep breath, and simply responded with “Hmm. This whole time I thought Mickey and I were super close. I guess I’ll never know that bond.”
I chose not to defend my “decision” to formula feed. One reason was that I could feel how insanely defensive and angry my response was going to be. And the other, because it was none of her fucking business.
This woman didn’t take into consideration that my daughter was born not breathing and immediately whisked away to the NICU. And I’m sure she was unaware of the fact that my child needed to be formula fed to grow stronger over the first five days of her life. And that once she became accustom to being bottle fed, she screamed and cried and refused breast feeding.
I spent the first six weeks of her life, pumping and bottle feeding her my breast milk. I met with multiple lactation consultants. I read books. I talked to friends and family. I cried. And cried. And cried.
Like I’ve said openly in past blogs, I also struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety. Throw the inability to breast feed on top of that and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. When my OB told me it was okay to stop, the relief I felt was incredible.
I went home from that appointment feeling a calm I hadn’t experienced since delivering Mickey. I needed someone to tell me it was okay to stop pumping. It didn’t make me any less of a mother. In fact, it made me a strong enough mother to admit that it wasn’t working for us. Instead of trying to force it, it was time to do what was best for my daughter, and myself.
The bond that Mickey and I developed once the pressure of breast feeding was gone was extraordinary. This is when I was truly able to embrace motherhood and accept that even though I felt that my body had failed her, my child was better fed and happier with formula in a bottle.
I could have told this woman all of this. I could have defended myself and shed some light on what some of us go through. But I didn’t. Because I don’t feel she was deserving of it. And frankly, if none of that had happened and I simply chose to formula feed my baby from day one, she has no right to an explanation.
I went home that night and couldn’t stop thinking about it. My husband kept validating my feelings as I talked through it for the majority of the evening. He brought up a really good point from his perspective. He said he “selfishly” enjoyed bottle feeding because he was able to be a part of it. He wanted to take turns getting up in the middle of the night and bonding with Mickey. And, if I had solely breastfed, he wouldn’t have had that opportunity.
I am in NO way saying that formula is better than breast. We all know “breast is best.” It’s literally plastered everywhere reminding us that it’s the preferred method of feeding your baby. I think it’s a beautiful, wonderful, and extremely selfless thing to do. And, I’m envious of the women who are able to do it.
I think the majority of us go into motherhood wanting to successfully breast feed. Actually, let me reword that. I think the majority of us go into motherhood wanting what is best for our children. And sometimes, breastfeeding is not that.
I recently read an article about a woman who was shamed in Target for buying formula. A stranger approached her in the formula aisle to remind her that “Breast is best.”
The mother buying formula’s response was “Fed is best.”
I then read a blog about a woman who attended a party where friends of hers gossiped about a woman who allowed her husband to bottle feed their baby in the middle of the night, so she could get some sleep. The women at the party called the mom “selfish and ignorant.” The blogger felt so ashamed that, she too, bottle fed her baby; she hid in the bathroom to feed her newborn.
This woman hid in the bathroom to feed her baby because she too ashamed and scared to be labeled as a “selfish” or “ignorant” mother.
She recently encountered a similar scenario. When she responded with “Fed is best.'“, one of the women responded with “Breast is best, fed is minimum.”
Fed is minimum.
Read that and think about it. Feeding your child is minimum. Do we really think that?
Listen, at the end of the day, it is a mother’s personal choice, IF it’s even a CHOICE, not to breastfeed. We as mothers should be supporting each other, not bullying those who don’t do things the way we do. We’re all just trying our best. And whatever works for you and your child is best.
What’s best for your family is best.
And let’s all try to remember what Thumper’s daddy told him. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”