By Alix Dolstra
I never realised there was a war between breastfeeders and formula feeders until I became pregnant and suddenly my breasts became everyone’s business. I found this rather odd as, outside of pregnancy, it’s usually seen as a form of harassment when others start commenting on your breasts, but I digress.
Very quickly after the “congratulations” came the “will you be breastfeeding?” I very openly admitted that I’d be formula feeding, unaware that I had metaphorically stepped in dog poo and wiped it on the clean carpets in the eyes of shocked onlookers. Apparently, I’d said the wrong thing. I couldn’t understand why, and that’s because I hadn’t actually said anything wrong in the first place.
I planned on formula feeding. I have absolutely no interest in breastfeeding. I support breastfeeding but I won’t do it myself. It has always been that way and I don’t feel like I owe an explanation. Though, quite often, I’d found myself being asked very personal and confronting questions about my body.
It made me feel… invalid — like somehow I owed it to them to have my personal space invaded.
When my brothers and I were children in the 90s, my mother formula fed us, while our neighbour breastfed her children. There was never an argument. We’d visit each other and it was normal. Some of us breastfed and some of us didn’t and that was okay. It was all the same to me. The babies were fed and happy. Breastfeeding was normal and so was formula feeding and that was the harmony in my mind when it came to my decision. It was quite a shock to find that it was a different world for me when I got pregnant.
Very quickly you learn that you are no longer seen as a human being with feelings and preferences. You’re an incubator that must meet societies ever-changing, sanctimonious expectations and you can never please everyone because there’s always someone who will strongly oppose and shame you. Through reading, I found that even if I had chosen to breastfeed, I would likely have been shamed and labelled a harlot for breastfeeding in public. You simply can’t win… at least, you can’t win if you’re always trying to please others. In reality, whatever choice you make, you’re likely winning as long as you’re not feeding your newborn soft-drink and coffee.
While I was buying the bottles, the steriliser and the prep machine and lovingly creating a “formula station” in the kitchen and neatly lining up the tin of formula until everything looked picture perfect, I was being compared to a drunk-driver because “feeding rat-poison formula to your baby is as irresponsible as driving drunk because you’ll ruin their lives”. That was a real thing someone had said to me.
I’d also had my mental health questioned, told that I was being lazy, that my child would be dumber in school and fall behind, that she’d be sick all the time and it’d be all my fault for not “loving her enough”.
Pregnancy wasn’t fun. I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and pregnancy was just one, big argument over what I should do with my boobs. I never swayed as I knew that I was doing the right thing for my family.
People that know me may know that I am scared of needles. I don’t like them. I had a drug-free birth and avoided that monstrous-looking needle that was the epidural. I simply do not like needles. I shudder at the thought. When my daughter was born she came out with her arm as well as her head and I needed A LOT of needles before getting stitches. That is the last thing I wanted when I was already pretty sore.
The midwife had taken my husband out, helped him make a bottle (bless supportive hospitals!) and guided him back to the birthing suite to give our daughter her first feed. One of the most precious first memories I have of my daughter was watching her from the chaos that was my bed, all bundled up in the arms of her loving father, he cried tears of joy as he fed her her first bottle and gently greeted her between sobs. It was so precious and it took my mind completely off the mess I was in. Every time he fed her, that memory was there and brought me joy. That he could look after her in times when I would be unable to was very reassuring and he’s been a fantastic father for it. We do things 50/50, even feeds. We slept in shifts and both of us, though still exhausted, were rested enough.
Formula feeding, for us, really connected us all as a family unit. No one felt pushed out. Not everything was dumped on me like society had expected it to. We were a team from the very start and that was important for us.
Everyone tries to scare you and tell you that you won’t connect with the baby and if you claim that you did connect and bond, they’ll claim that it wasn’t as much as they did with their babies but that always sounded weird and competitive. How would they even know? We lovingly made our daughter a bottle and talked to her, sang to her and adored her little features, blown away that we made the most perfect baby in all the world. To us, she was our treasure and we treasured those times. We’d hover over her as she slept, whispering to each other about her cute expressions and wondered who she’s going to be when she grew up. Every time she looked at us and smiled and laughed, our hearts melted. She would do this cute little dance whenever she could hear the prep machine making her a bottle and it was part of our routine. All of it.
That bond that others threatened we’d never have? We had it. It’s no competition and it’s not up for speculation or debate.
She was also rarely sick, slept well, very smart and ahead in her age group. All the things that I was told would happen didn’t happen. I honestly wasn’t surprised.
I’d always strongly believed that genetics and environment played a big part in the overall outcome of our children’s development and reading the article, The Case Against Breastfeeding by The Atlantic, I learned that a lot of what I’d been told wasn’t entirely accurate at all and it was all based off groups who made a profession out of making mothers guilty. I felt even more relaxed in my decision and I’m going to be formula feeding my next baby from the start as well.
To me, it does not matter whether you breastfeed, formula feed or tube feed. We are all doing a spectacular job and if we can just leave the sanctimonious tripe at the door, and stop trying to outdo each other, I’m sure we’d have a more powerful village of mums supporting mums.
Fed is best, always!
—Alix Dolstra, Australia
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 the cost of creating and publishing educational material. 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.
Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!