I Want To Tell Mothers That Bottle Feeding Is Also Beautiful

 

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.’

My story:

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.

February 13. 2014. I put her to the breast on demand as I was told in my baby-friendly hospital. Yet, she kept crying. And crying. And crying. She was making wet diapers, but something was wrong. I just knew it in my heart. So I did what my amazingly supportive husband suggested and I called the pediatrician and took my baby in for an emergency appointment. When the pediatrician walked in the room, she held my baby and handed me a bottle of formula to feed her. She told us we had to take her to the hospital immediately. When we arrived, the nurses and doctors took my baby girl in immediately. After she was stabilized and taking blood tests, she was diagnosed with jaundice, hypernatremia, hypoglycemia, and dehydration. She was critically ill because I was not making any breast milk while nursing her. She spent 3 days in the pediatric intensive care unit and we were devastated. I was STILL rudely encouraged to pump every 2-3 hours while sitting in the PICU with my baby, despite not producing any milk.

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Maternal Mental Health Feels Like it Comes Second to Breastfeeding When It Should Be First

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.

I tried to get pregnant in 2016, but through no fault of my own, was diagnosed with PCOS and had to go back on hormones to re-regulate my cycles. Luckily, I was able to score an appointment with my amazing fertility specialist in Jan 2017 and I soon became pregnant in February. I saw my psychiatrist shortly after and I couldn’t decide if I should bring up how depressed I felt. This pregnancy was very much wanted but I wondered if I risked my stability and my mental health. My husband and I quickly decided pregnancy was not the time to start playing with my medication and I was just going to have to “push” through my depression unless I had thoughts of self-harm.

In this study, researchers found that 1 in 4 women had mental health problems: 15% had anxiety, 11% had depression, 2% had an eating disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, and 1% had post-traumatic stress disorder. The research also found low prevalence’s of bipolar disorder and other disorders.

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Advocating For Lactation Consultant Services When You’re A Fearless Formula Feeding Mom

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.

MicheleSignBlog

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.

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Tube feeding my baby formula was the best I could do.

It’s tricky though because I think there’s a general impression that feeding supports should exist to minimize formula use, not support it.

 

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I Was Ashamed to Ask for Formula in the Hospital, But I Couldn’t Hear Her Scream Anymore

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.

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