2012 09/03

Formula feeding does not make me a failure.

Guess what…I am officially fed up feeling like a failure. Done.

I gave birth to three beautiful, smart, and healthy babies over the past six years. And none of them were breastfed for more than a few months. Actually, none of them were technically breastfed.

My first born received breast milk that I pumped for the first 2 or 3 months. She never latched on. I didn’t know what I was doing and the nurses at the hospital and the one lactation consultant I saw didn’t help much. Honestly, the pain I experienced while healing from an unplanned c-section was a huge deterrent.

My second born received breast milk that I pumped for the first three weeks. Again, we tried getting her to latch on but it was not working. I was overwhelmed with trying to get her to latch on while taking care of a toddler.

My third born actually latched on! But he was a big baby and I was not making enough milk to sustain him. He lost too much weight while in the hospital. I would nurse him, supplement with formula when I ran out but he was still hungry, then I would pump in-between feedings to provide him some bottled breast milk and try to increase my milk supply. I did this (and other things to increase my supply) for two weeks. I did not sleep. There really wasn’t time for sleep. And so, after two weeks, we decided that my sanity and the health of our entire family was more important. And so we began formula.

All three of my babies received formula for the bulk of their baby-life. All three of my babies were and continue to be healthy. And smart.

I made sure that I was the primary person who bottle fed them. We created that mother/infant bond while bottle feeding.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much I beat myself up over the last six years about not breastfeeding. Blaming myself. Hating myself. Feeling like somehow I was less of a mom. I lied to people when they asked me about breastfeeding. I was ashamed.

Why?

I understand that breast milk is best for baby. I fully support breastfeeding moms! But I believe that what I did was best for my babies. Bottle feeding my babies allowed me to be a mom to them. While trying to breastfeed, I became so physically exhausted from pumping all the time and emotionally exhausted when I couldn’t get them to latch. It was not healthy for either one of us.

I’m writing this because I recently saw that Mom It Forward was going to have a #gno Twitter Party sponsored by a formula company. During that Twitter Party they were going to be discussing safety and feeding tips for baby. Unfortunately they cancelled the party after a number of moms took issue with it on Twitter. They were appalled that Mom It Forward was working with a formula company.

Really? You guys! I get it, I understand that you were being advocates for breastfeeding but let’s be honest. Not everyone can do it. I couldn’t. I didn’t. Adoptive moms can’t. So, what? Should we just pretend like we don’t exist? Like our babies don’t need to be fed?

Here are the facts: formula companies exist because, like it or not, there is a need. It sucks. I wish there wasn’t a need. I wish that all moms could breastfeed. But they can’t. Or don’t. And those babies need something. My babies needed nourishment that I couldn’t give them.

So please, continue to let new moms know that breastfeeding is absolutely amazing. That is unbelievably the best thing for a baby. Share with them tips and support. But stop making the non-breastfeeders feel like failures.

I did not fail my three babies.

I DID NOT fail my three babies.

I am not a bad mom.

If you are pregnant or are a new mom, I encourage you to breastfeed. Try. Talk to lactation consultants. Not just one. Ask a friend. But ultimately, do what is best for you and your baby.

You are not a failure. You did not fail your baby! You are not a bad mom!

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7 Comments

  • Amen! I did not breastfeed my first three kids for any significant length of time, for various reasons. I was able to nurse my last 3 for at least 9 months each, but supplemented with a bottle a day. It was what was best for all of us. I am so tired of the bottle vs. breast war.

  • Well said!

  • You are not failure. You did not fail your three babies. You are not a bad mom. Not at all. Not for a second.

    But the companies that mail unsolicited formula samples to breastfeeding moms “just in case”, the companies that put formula ads up on breastfeeding support articles on every website out there, the companies that wine and dine doctors to convince them to push formula on moms, the companies that give bad breastfeeding advice in an effort to undermine moms — those companies are unethical and harmful.

    Every mom should have access to objective, authoritative information on how to feed her baby, whether that is by breastfeeding, formula feeding, or using donor milk. But a formula company, that is in the business of trying to convince you to buy their product, is not the place to get that objective, authoritative information.

    I’m sorry that you had a rough time with breastfeeding and that you feel guilt over it. But other moms deserve a fighting chance to breastfeed successfully without predatory formula marketing practices confronting them at every turn.

  • Annie, those are all good thoughts. I am a huge breastfeeding supporter. Nearly all of my friends breastfed their babies and I would encourage any new mom to do it. As a mom who could not/did not breastfeed, you do not get that same support. At least I did not. Even today, when someone hears that I did not breastfeed, I often get comments like “Well, that’s too bad that you missed out on that bonding time.”

    I don’t feel like my children, nor I, missed out on bonding. At all.

    And, after countless trips to the OB, hospital, and pediatricians, I never felt like formula was pushed on us. While in the hospital we were given the opportunity to supplement with donor milk. I guess maybe I’m lucky because I’ve never felt like a formula company has pushed their agenda on me. I appreciate the coupons they sent. Just like I appreciated being sent diaper coupons and butt cream coupons. Just because I’m sent a coupon for a free candy bar doesn’t mean that I need to go out and get it if I don’t think it’s good for me.

    It’s funny because my pediatrician has never offered me formula samples. My hospital only gave me formula samples after it was apparent that I would need to continue to supplement at home. And it was my choice as to which formula I took home with me. On the other hand, I could walk into my family doctor tomorrow with a cold and leave with a bag full of pharmaceutical samples to try.

  • I’m so glad that you did get the opportunity to breastfeed your babies, Nicole. And I’m even more glad that you did what was best for you and your family. I agree, I’m tired of the bottle vs. breast war. It’s ridiculous that, as moms, we continue to wage war on each other.

  • Thankyou so much! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has felt this guilt over something I really had little control over.
    My son sustained trauma to his neck during birth from being vacuumed out and combined with some rough midwives and seriously engorged boobs he could not and would not latch. I have made myself crazy pumping for hours on end, sterilizing bottles and still trying to get him to attach. Everytime he would scream in agony and we would both become very distressed.
    After 3 months I stopped trying to attach him and gave in the pumping. My son had EBM and I had so much milk I have become a donor for premm babies. My son is now 4 months old and we have just made the switch to formula.
    It’s like having a whole new relationship with him! We took out the stress factor and now enjoy feeds, he doesn’t need to wait while I pump a bottle for him, he sleeps better and his terrible colic has basically disappeared (I turned out to have a vitamin deficiency that was poisoning him)
    Despite all this I have been wracked with guilt and received so little support from people who I thought would understand.
    MY baby is HAPPIER, HEALTHIER and I am no longer at breaking point, all because he is now formula fed.
    Thankyou so so much ! I shouldn’t feel guilty, your right I’m not a bad mum!

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