I Chose to Formula Feed and I Don’t Owe Anyone An Explanation

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Donate to Fed is Best

Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!

 

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Jillian Johnson: My Message To Parents During World Breastfeeding Week-Just One Bottle

By Jillian Johnson

It took all of the courage I had to put aside the debilitating amount of guilt I carried for five long years to tell Landon’s story—his birth, the first days of his life and how he died. In fact, I still don’t know where I found that courage, but I am convinced Landon gave me the strength. I wasn’t prepared for the intense scrutiny my story received. I was utterly shocked because people came out of nowhere to discredit my story with a vengeance, but I quickly learned how to be gracious in such a vulnerable time.

After all, nothing anyone could say to me could hurt me more than the death of my newborn baby.

I can remember a very specific time, when I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital and Landon was on life support. My dad was there with me and we were talking about Landon’s prognosis and I won’t ever forget him telling me what a special little boy he was and that he would do great things. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around what his words meant because Landon was most likely going to pass away, and my dad was talking about how he’s going to do great things. I never dreamed that his death would change the lives of so many people across the globe. Continue reading

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My Baby Starved at Kaiser Permanente – I Was Told Her Stomach Size Was Only 5 mL

My name is Cynthia G., a first time mom at the age of 39 with our miracle baby who we never expected since we were told we had “unexplained” infertility. Our daughter Amelia was born in 2016 at Kaiser Permanente in Irvine, California. I didn’t have a birth plan nor was I one of those moms-to-be that had it all planned out and knew every detail about having a child or going into labor. But what I did know was that I intended to breastfeed our daughter.

We were very happy with Kaiser’s baby-friendly approach and their pride of being one of the hospitals with a very high breastfeeding rate. We were told from the beginning that bottles and pacifiers were not allowed in the hospital so that the newborns and mothers had a chance to breastfeed. Of course, this information was never a red flag, but instead I found it to be another step towards encouraging breastfeeding. We even took the breastfeeding class they offered, but again we thought we were in good hands with great experts and completely trusted them. Continue reading

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Moms Thank The Fed Is Best Foundation For Safe Infant Feeding Support

Every day we hear stories from parents who were able to feed their babies safely and confidently with our help.  These stories are the fuel that fills our hearts and motivates our volunteers and advocates to continue our important work to teach parents and healthcare providers about safe infant feeding, and giving babies what they need to thrive and have the best possible start.

#fedisbest #safebreastfeeding #thrivingisbest  #fedismaximum

Read on for their words of thanks and encouragement:

Do you have a #fedisbest story? We’d love to hear from you. Send us your stories.

There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers
  2. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation.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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
  10. If you need support, we have a private support group – Join

We believe all babies deserve to be protected from hunger and thirst every single day of their life and we believe that education on Safe Infant Feeding should be free. If you would like to make a donation to support the Fed is Best Foundation’s mission to teach every parent Safe Infant Feeding, please consider making a one-time or recurring donation to our organization.

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Breastfeeding, Supplemental feeding, Formula-Feeding, Fed is Best

Letter to Doctors and Parents About the Dangers of Insufficient Exclusive Breastfeeding and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

(En español)

Dear Colleague and Parent:

My name is Christie del Castillo-Hegyi and I am an emergency physician, former NIH scientist, with a background in newborn brain injury research at Brown University, and mother to a 6-year-old child who is neurologically disabled. I am writing you because my child fell victim to newborn jaundice, hypoglycemia and severe dehydration due to insufficient milk intake from exclusive breastfeeding in the first days of life. As an expectant mom, I read all the guidelines on breastfeeding my first-born child. Unfortunately, following the guidelines and our pediatrician’s advice resulted in my child going 4 days with absolutely no milk intake requiring ICU care. He was subsequently diagnosed with multiple neuro-developmental disabilities.  Being a physician and scientist, I sought out peer-reviewed journals to explain why this happened. I found that there is ample evidence showing the links between neonatal jaundice, dehydration, hypoglycemia and developmental disabilities. I wish to explain to you how I believe this could apply to my son and the many children whose care you are entrusted with. Continue reading

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I Shared My Story a Year Ago And I Was Told To Go Kill Myself – How I Am Healing

By Mandy Dukovan, MS, MFT, Marriage and Family Therapist, Fed is Best Foundation Senior Advisor

It’s incredibly hard to put into words all the things that The Fed Is Best Foundation has done for me the past year.  I happened to stumble upon the Foundation when I noticed a friend of mine “liked” one of their blog posts. I was a first-time mom who was struggling with many different feelings, and wasn’t sure who or where to turn to. My son was 2 months at the time, and was just beginning to thrive after I had begun to supplement him with formula. While I was so happy to see my baby finally gaining weight and thriving, I had haunting memories and raw emotions that I was struggling to sort out. I had immense guilt that I didn’t see the signs that my baby was hungry, which tortured me non-stop. I was embarrassed that I could look at his 1-month picture and now see that he was obviously malnourished, but how on earth did I miss this at the time?

MandyBrock

1 Month Old

I was angry that I didn’t follow my own instincts that something was wrong with him and was angry that I believed all the terrible things I was told from lactivists that would happen to him,  if I gave him a drop of formula. I worried that we would not have the kind of bond that babies who were exclusively breastfed (EBF) experienced with their mothers. I now know that our bond is so much stronger because we bottle-fed him and no longer experienced the immense stress that came each time I tried to breastfeed my baby. I got to a point where I dreaded even trying to breastfeed him, but I was told that was the best thing I could do for my baby, so I kept going, at the expense of my baby’s health and my well-being. I honestly believed I was the only mother who had experienced what we went through because I only heard the stories about how amazing and natural breastfeeding was and every mother could breastfeed if only she tried hard enough.

Since I am a therapist, I knew I needed to share my story. I found courage in my strong desire for other babies and mothers not to struggle. I also found courage in the fact that I needed a reason for all of the suffering—I needed to know that Brock’s struggle was not in vain. I kept telling myself, “If I reach even one mother and prevent even one baby from suffering like Brock, then I have to do this.”  

Then I shared my story… Continue reading

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I Closed My Eyes As I Bit Down On My Gum And Waited For The Latch

My daughter, “little L,” was born a healthy 8.8 pounds, exactly on her due date in late September, several years ago. Like most new moms, I had spent all 9 months months studying up for my new job as a parent. And all the literature out there agreed that “Breast is Best!”.   I read and believed the unfounded claims that children who were exclusively BF had higher IQs, and were healthier than formula fed babies. I read that I should NEVER, under any circumstances, feed my child formula. I decided to leave work and stay home for a solid 6  months to exclusively breastfeed. After all, the books and doctors made it sound so magical, easy, and most of all, crucial. I had no idea what I was in for.

My problems were not related to supply. My milk came in roughly 8 hours after she was born, and by the time I left the hospital, I had enough milk to feed a village. (Her growth stayed in the 90th percentile for that entire year.) My problems were depression, loneliness, and sleepless nights,  all stemming from the unbearable pain I had with breastfeeding. 

When I left the hospital, I had several blood blisters already on both nipples, and at home, my nipples became black and  blue and cracked. They were open sores that bled constantly. I went without a shirt for a month, basically becoming a shut-in because wearing a shirt was excruciating. I couldn’t even shower because of the pain. 

EricaBlog3

Continue reading

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I Found Breastfeeding Success In The Fed Is Best Support Group

I have been praised in pro-breastfeeding groups for my tenacity.  For overcoming overwhelming odds.  For persisting when others would have “given up.” Along the way there were people who told me that I should just feed formula, that I should just stop breastfeeding because of the horrible experiences I was having, but I honestly thought those people were just misinformed.  I never thought that formula was bad, horrible, or poison, but I honestly thought that I should keep going.  It wasn’t until I broke down crying in front of my midwife with my second child, my second bout of severe PPD, and my second struggle to breastfeed (26 months into my parenting journey) that a medical professional or breastfeeding support person told me that my mental health was more important for my child than my milk. And I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.

My first pregnancy was textbook.  Very uneventful. I took the classes, read the books, had supplies, had supportive friends, ordered my pump.  I had heard it was very important that I not have any formula in the house because it might be “tempting” and that babies shouldn’t get bottles until 6 weeks, so I had no bottles and no formula.

My baby arrived at 36 weeks, 6 pounds 5 oz and quite healthy for a preemie. I was encouraged to supplement with formula from birth because we were afraid he wouldn’t be able to latch and suckle properly.  I used a nipple shield because of my flat nipples.  I wasn’t even 2 hours postpartum the first time I was hooked up to a pump to get a drop or two of colostrum which got smeared on baby’s lips.  We spent the first week in and out of the NICU and on and off phototherapy for jaundice.  By 3 weeks old, he was diagnosed with severe GERD, and we cut dairy and soy.

I triple fed for 3 months, every feed taking 1.5 hours if my husband could help, 2 hours if I was home alone.  I woke my baby to feed every 3 hours for the first 5 weeks.  I took all the galactogogues.  I took prescription drugs that I really shouldn’t have taken because I have a cardiac condition and aren’t even approved by the FDA. Continue reading

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The Benefits That Come From Breastfeeding Doesn’t Automatically Make It Best

My breastfeeding relationship seemed like it was going to be perfect from the start—I had no problem producing colostrum, my milk came in while in the hospital, my daughter latched on easily, and she had a very strong suck. The pediatrician even told me not to tell people how easy it was for us because “other moms would be jealous”. My daughter was back up to birth weight by the end of her first week.

Bethany5

My newborn daughter.

Although my daughter had wet diapers and was nursing well, she would spit up, quite often and something was stopping her from continuing to gain weight. When I took her to the pediatrician’s office multiple times, none of the doctors were concerned by the amount she spit up. They all said that I couldn’t know how much it truly was. Let me tell you something, though, watching my daughter choke and vomit all of her breast milk, I knew that she was spitting up too much. She was born above the 95th percentile but rapidly dropped her weight. Continue reading

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When A Mother Says She Isn’t Making Enough Colostrum, Believe Her The First Time

My son, Jackson, was born healthy and weighed 6lbs 15oz.  As a first-time-mom, I trusted my hospital would help me to exclusively breastfeed my baby.  The nurses and lactation consultants helped me with proper latch and positioning and told me he was doing great.  He wanted to nurse every hour, and I was exhausted. 

AmyPCS2 I began to think something was wrong because he cried and cried and continued to cry even after every breastfeeding session.  I kept asking the nurses if I was making enough colostrum and they said I was, but they never, ever checked to see if I was even producing colostrum.

I had brought my pump to the hospital so I could learn how to use it since I was going back to work. I asked if I could pump my breasts to check and they said no, that my baby would become nipple-confused. I then asked for formula because I just knew he was hungry. They very strongly discouraged me from using formula every time I asked. Continue reading

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