Recently, I saw a post by a twin mom “influencer” that she had been exclusively breastfeeding her twins for 6 whole months.
Immediately my heart sank. Immediately I thought, What’s wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do that?
Of course, her situation was different than mine. She’d delivered full term, where my twins came early. She didn’t have gestational diabetes, but I did. Her twins didn’t need to boost their blood sugar with formula, but mine did.
Yet, in the moment, those things didn’t matter. I felt less than, like I wasn’t good enough.
Because society has a way of doing that to moms. If you can’t nourish your babies by breastfeeding alone, you are not as great a mom as you could be. On the flip side, don’t nurse your child in public…no one wants to see that. *cue eye roll*
Honestly, my breastfeeding journey has been one hell of a roller coaster ride. It’s been far from perfect. For something so natural, it has a tendency, to me, to feel very unnatural.
Before I had kids, I very much leaned towards “Breast is Best.” But, like, what the heck did I know? I’d never been a parent. I suppose it’s because everyone around me had always breastfed and I didn’t know many who had actually used formula. I saw breast milk as the purest, most natural thing you can give your child. On top of that, I dug deep and did tons of research about breastfeeding before the boys arrived and the entire system is fascinating. I truly believe it’s one of the most awe-inspiring and perfect processes that God created. I know there are tons of benefits to breastfeeding and nutrients they won’t get anywhere else and people should try to breast feed, if possible. But now I’m a big believer in “Fed is Best.”
To anyone who has an opinion on “Breast is Best,” but hasn’t actually tried breastfeeding: unless you have experienced a tiny human attaching itself to your nipple, biting down, and then attempting to rip it off your body (or if you are a man), you are not allowed to have an opinion on this.
And let me tell you why. Breastfeeding is hard. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve had to do that challenges me mentally, physically and emotionally. Add on top of that the unsolicited advice and frowns from a demographic of people that judge moms who decide to bottle feed and formula feed their babies. Add on top of that the demographic of people who judge moms for breastfeeding their babies.
Deciding the best plan of action when it comes to feeding your child as new parent can be difficult. Breastfeeding is really hard. Impossible, sometimes. And it’s definitely not for everyone. But guess what? There is good news! Bottles are not the enemy. Giving your child formula is not a sin. In fact, I sometimes feel like formula is a gift from God. Because when you have two crying babies that are red in the face and hungry in their bellies, and your body has nothing left to give, and your nipples are chapped and bleeding (TMI? Oh, well), I promise you will hope that there was another way. I might argue that you will be singing a happy tune as you scoop that powder (or pour your expressed breast milk) into bottles for your sweet little ones.
It is okay to give your child formula. Let me say that louder for the people in the back. IT IS OKAY TO GIVE YOUR CHILD FORMULA. (I will add DO NOT SHAME WOMEN FOR BOTTLE FEEDING BABIES). The ability to breastfeed your baby does not define your worth as a mother.
On top of it all, breastfeeding can take a toll on mental health. When you’re having an off day, or baby is having an off day or nursing is physically painful, it can be detrimental to a mommy’s mindset. I know on the days where my children refuse to latch or nurse, it can feel like they aren’t rejecting the food source, but rather they’re rejecting me. Breastfeeding can also feel like a job (it certainly requires many hours). So on days where I feel like nursing is a struggle, I feel like I’m not fulfilling my sole purpose. I’m not doing my job. It’s devastating. So it’s those times that I find it most beneficial to take a step back and offer food in a different way, like bottled breast milk or formula. It’s okay to take a break from nursing if you’re losing your sanity. And it’s okay to stop nursing altogether if it protects your mental health.
Formula can have its hardships, especially finding a formula that sits easy with your child’s stomach. It’s almost an art finding the type that won’t cause gas, extra spit up or constipation. Not to mention the cost! (Formula for two can be expensive). However, I think the hardest part about formula feeding might be the ridicule. The other day on one of my mommy Facebook pages, a new (and nervous) mom posted that someone said to her, “If you formula feed, you won’t bond with your baby.” What?! First of all, what a horrible thing to say to a new mom. Second, this girl will grow that baby inside of her for 9 months…if that’s not bonding, I don’t know what is. When you find the kind that works for your babies, formula is a blessing. Don’t let a soul tell you differently.
If you give your child formula exclusively, there isn’t a better mama out there for your baby. If you exclusively pump and bottle feed your baby, hats off to you. Your children couldn’t be luckier to have you as their mommy. If you exclusively breastfeed your baby, what a gift that keeps on giving. If you do a mix of all of these, what a way to give your child the best of both worlds.
Because motherhood is hard, and worrying about what society thinks about how you nourish your child is a waste of head and heart space.
My opinion on “Breast is Best” versus “Fed is Best?” What ever keeps you sane, mama. Don’t forget to take care of you: mind, body and soul. A happy mommy is a happy baby.
I might add a fed baby is a happy baby.
All in all, whether you are pro breast or pro formula, I want to validate what you’re doing. You’re doing what you believe is best for your child and that’s proof enough that you’re an amazing mama.