Brittany Littlefield is a mom who shares with her experience trying to breastfeed her children. She discusses the challenges she faced breastfeeding and needing to find a community that accepted her experience and ultimately, her decision to stop breastfeeding. She discusses the shame and guilt mothers are subject to based on how they feed their babies and calls for society to support every mother, regardless of how she feeds.
Mandy talks about her experience with her son who developed failure-to-thrive after a month of “cluster-feeding.” She discusses how it felt to find out her son was starving despite hours a day of nursing. She talks about how harmful it is for moms to be told that exclusive breastfeeding is the only way to provide the best for your child.
Kristen Elise Umunna
Kristen joined the Fed Is Best Foundation’s Mental Health Advocacy Team to be a voice for mothers, especially mothers of color who are struggling to breastfeed and are experiencing shame for feeding their babies formula.
‘ I want to be a voice that tells every mother that bottle feeding is also beautiful and formula is the best nutrition for the babies who are being nourished by it.’
February 12, 2014. I was just 1 day postpartum after delivering my firstborn and I remember bawling my eyes out. The nurses at the time were assuring me that I was doing everything “wrong” in regards to feeding my daughter. They woke me out of my sleep at least 7 times in one night to feed my baby and they assured me she was getting enough to eat. One nurse told me to stop crying about breastfeeding pain as it is going to hurt! “If you want to build your supply, you have to keep going!” Never has I felt like more of a failure.
This story is for you mommas whose mental health feels like it comes second to breastfeeding, when it should be first.
I have a long history of mental illnesses in my family. I inherited most of them. While they do not define me, they are a part of me. I have Bipolar 1 Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and a Panic Disorder.
By: Michelle Klimczak, Registered Nurse, Population and Public Health, with a focus on health equity.
We frame infant feeding success as exclusive breastfeeding, so maybe it’s surprising that I got support with formula feeding through local lactation consultants? In fact, I think the support they offered was exactly the kind of compassion, kindness, and respect that new moms deserve. It’s possible to be inclusive.
When our fourth baby arrived we knew our family was complete, and so I’ve savored every milestone even when it feels a bit bittersweet. He just passed 18 months so a lot of the baby stuff that all 4 of my kids used is now packed up. It’s amazing to think of how I agonized over decisions about strollers and car seats and now those things are just “stuff”. It’s amazing too to think of what was meaningful, like what was actually good advice, what was actually helpful, what was actually supportive. These conversations about support are undoubtedly well-intentioned, but I learned time and time again that there are all kinds of ways to find support for a specific version of mothering, but not much widely available when you don’t match up to that version.
That “version” is largely reflective of the kind of mothering that happens when you have the privileges of wealth, and education, and an able-body, food and water security, and the social status that comes with a hetero-normative/traditional family structure. When you have those privileges, your baby has a pretty good chance of having good outcomes, and so by and large, we try to carry out the practices associated with that version of mothering.
So what happens if you can’t “do the thing”? Well, given that I hold all the privileges I talked about above, it’s quite likely that I never would have had a clue, and could have ascribed my own kids’ greatness to my practices rather than my privileges. But, life has had a way of teaching me big, humbling lessons and as it turns out, it wasn’t that I needed support to do the “right” thing but I did need support (and lots of it) to figure out how to do things differently. All four of my kids were by-and-large formula fed. I desperately wanted to breastfeed because that’s “the thing” but it just wasn’t in the cards. No amount of support would have changed something I couldn’t physically do. The support I needed (and was so lucky to find) helped me figure out the practicalities of feeding and feeling successful.
It’s tricky though because I think there’s a general impression that feeding supports should exist to minimize formula use, not support it.
I took some time to write up my story and let you all know why this cause is so important to me. Thank you for welcoming me to this community.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’ve had some issues with post-partum anxiety following the birth of baby Ariya – I still struggle with irrational anxiety from time to time at 8 months post-partum. One of the biggest reasons was because of my ‘failure to provide for my daughter’, AKA struggling, and ultimately deciding not to breastfeed her due to my inability to produce milk at the time of her birth.