Before I ever became pregnant, I knew that feeding my future babies formula would be the right way to go. I have fibromyalgia, several chronic stomach problems, and mental health struggles, so it made sense to formula feed. I would need to go back on medications I’d have to stop while pregnant. My husband agreed that formula feeding would work best for us.
When I got pregnant, I felt sure of that decision, until I started reading, prepping for the new addition to our family, and talking to other people about the baby. I, much like every parent-to-be, was bombarded with the message everywhere that “Breast is Best”. It was in articles and books. It was labeled on everything related to baby feeding. It was in every online forum regardless of the topic. I was even hit by it when I went shopping online for car seats and strollers. But I expected all of that. So, when I came across it, I would roll my eyes and laugh about it with my husband.
I was not been prepared for the well-meaning friends and coworkers who hit me with the same message. They all said it in different ways and tones, but the meaning was the same. Sometimes it was an assumption: “You’re obviously going to breastfeed, right?” Other times it was an attempt to convince me: “It’s so much cheaper and better for the baby to breastfeed!” I even got the plea: “Just do it for her for a little bit!” Even my obstetrician assumed that I would breastfeed, judging by the time I tried to ask her for a refill on my anti-morning sickness medicine and she finished my sentence thinking I was asking for a referral for a free breast pump through my insurance.
This message coming from all directions put me into a position where I felt like I needed to justify myself. Suddenly, I doubted my decision. What if I wasn’t doing what was best for my baby? Obviously, I wanted to. What if I was being selfish about wanting to go back on the medicine that made me feel like I could function? I wondered if maybe I did not need to go back on my meds right away. If I had gone this long without my meds, what was a little longer, if breastfeeding was that important?
Thankfully, I am surrounded by amazing and supportive family. My husband has seen me on my worst health days and knows how much my medicine helps my quality of life. He reminded me how important it is for me to feel as best as I can, because there is so much more to caring for our baby than just how she is fed. My mother was a voice of reason. She agreed that I needed to take care of myself to take care of my daughter. My mother-in-law added her support for us to formula feed. She knew formula was a great way to feed a baby and was not buying into the supposed “facts” from the “Breast is Best” message. My sister-in-law reminded me of how much formula had helped her when she struggled to produce enough milk for her daughter. My sister-in-law was also the one who introduced me to The Fed is Best Foundation’s website, which is filled with scientific facts and resources about all types of infant feeding.
By the time I was five months along, I was once again sure of my decision to formula feed my baby from day one. I was armed with an explanation why I was not going to breastfeed and why formula feeding was going to best for my family. I noticed a significant difference in the way conversations went once I made my statements with the confidence my family helped me find. And then, another phrase came along…
“It’s okay because you have a reason not to breastfeed.”
Woah, okay. Let’s unpack that statement, shall we?
First and foremost, this statement does not actually provide any support. It is non-support veiled as a supportive comment. By someone stating my choice is okay, it means they are passing judgement on my decision. THEY deemed it was acceptable for ME to feed MY baby this way because of what THEY considered to be appropriate reasons. It did not matter to them that I had decided this was appropriate reasoning and only my husband and I could decide what was best. My decision was acceptable because the person speaking decided it was. The focus of the statement is still on the fact that I won’t be breastfeeding.
Why does the focus of this conversation need to be about breastfeeding? Why can’t the focus be on my informed and logical choice to feed my baby formula?
Ultimately, I realized that this conversation has absolutely nothing to do with what’s “best” for me and my family and everything to do with the way everyone else feels about infant feeding. And that positively infuriated me. Who the hell did these people think they were? But despite raging hormones, I just smiled politely and moved the conversation onto a different topic. I had no desire to start a fight at work or in a group of friends.
The last several weeks of my pregnancy were filled with extra appointments and ultrasounds to watch my daughter’s growth. At the first trimester screening, the scan showed that my placenta never formed correctly. It had a fold down the middle and looked like a coffee bean instead of a pancake. The doctor thought that my placenta may not be working as well as it should, so my baby’s growth needed to be closely monitored. At thirty-six weeks, she had dropped from the fortieth percentile to the thirteenth percentile in growth. By thirty-eight weeks, she had dropped below the tenth percentile, so I was induced during that week. After several days of hurry up and waiting in the hospital, my daughter finally came out and was 20 ½ inches and weighed only 5 lbs., 6 oz. You could see her ribs, she was so scrawny. Within an hour of being born, she took right to the bottle and ate about 10 mL of formula.
The first weeks of her life are a blur, even though she was only born about nine months ago. We had to do a few formula changes before we realized that our baby had inherited my acid reflux. She had a terrible time with sleeping at night for the first month and a half or so. I struggled with post-partum depression and anxiety, and recovery was a little tough with my fibromyalgia.
My husband and I just kept saying, thank God for formula. Our daughter was gaining weight. Her pediatrician was so pleased with how well she put on weight. Thanks to formula, we never worried if she ate enough or was getting the proper nutrition. Thanks to formula, I could take my meds that helped my body and mind transition from carrying a baby to caring for a baby. Formula feeding truly was best for our family.
So, mothers, fathers, non-binary parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and anyone else who cares for a baby, I have one plea for you:
Do what is best for your family. Your baby matters. You matter. Your significant other (if you have one) matters. It can be hard to feel sure of that when you have people talk to you this way. It can be horrible to read the wrong, nasty comment from some judgmental stranger online. If you are struggling with your decision to formula feed your baby, just remember, you do not owe anyone an explanation. And if you need support, I and everyone at The Fed is Best Foundation have your back.
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST
There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:
- Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
- Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
- Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
- Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
- Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
- Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
- Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and every thing in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
- Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child. Your messages of support keep us all going.
- Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
- If you need support, we have a private support group– Join
Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!