A few nights ago, while perusing Pinterest, I came across a pin that read:
“Formula: $25 per can
Bottles: $10 each
I make milk. What’s your superpower?”
After reading those words, I felt a range of emotions; anger, shame, heartbreak, envy. And then I got pissed off.
We all know breastfeeding is the very best way to feed your baby. It’s nature’s most perfect food. We get that; we ALL get that. But where does that leave you when breastfeeding just isn’t an option? A terrible mother? An outcast? A failure? That’s what I felt like.
I am a formula feeding mom and have been since Cassidy was 3 weeks old. Which means, for 3 weeks I worked and worked and worked on breastfeeding. And when breastfeeding didn’t work out, I pumped like a milk cow. I cried and pumped, and cried and pumped, and cried and pumped some more. I know 3 weeks may not sound like a long time to you, but to me…it was an eternity. A very unhappy eternity. This is the story of how I finally (finally!) came to my senses and entered into a peaceful coexistence with formula.
When I was pregnant I read all the books. I read online articles, discussion forums, magazines, and I talked to other moms. I got all the info I possibly could on what to expect after having a baby. I was prepared for everything; especially breastfeeding. I researched it, watched educational videos, consulted professionals, and talked to friends. I had all the tools every successful breastfeeding mom needs: a breastfeeding pillow, a top-of-the-line breast pump, boxes and boxes of nursing pads, even a fancy nursing cover so I could breastfeed in public. I was devoted, Joel was 100% supportive- I was going to rock at this, I just knew it.
I bought one small box of bottles just to have on hand. Just in case. After all, a breastfeeding mom doesn’t need bottles (I was so cocky!). Little did I know I would later go on to buy 3 more boxes of bottles and spend huge amounts of money on formula. And it was a long, hard road getting to that point, too.
When Cassidy was born, we noticed she was “tongue-tied”, meaning her frenulum (the little flap of skin under the tongue) was too long and restricted her tongue movement. Breastfeeding in the hospital was a struggle. She couldn’t latch well because of her tongue, so it was incredibly painful for me and frustrating for her. The lactation consultants helped us so much, but eventually suggested I stop trying to breastfeed for a few days to let myself heal (I was cracked, bruised and bleeding). They also suggested we have Cassidy’s frenulum clipped (a painless process done in the doctor’s office and lasting only seconds) then retry breastfeeding. So in the meantime, I was pumping 10 times a day and feeding Cassidy with a bottle. After we had her clipped (much more painful for me than her!), I began trying to breastfeed once again. Cassidy wasn’t interested. She screamed in my face and struggled against me. It broke my heart being rejected by my own baby. All those mental images of nursing a calm, peaceful baby and quietly creating a bond between mother and daughter shattered like glass. She wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding. I cried during bottle feedings and I cried while I sat at the breast pump day after day, night after night. I hated that breast pump. As Cassidy grew, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with her huge, growing appetite. Every time Joel suggested we start supplementing with formula I would bark at him defensively, “no! I can keep up!” and I’d sit at the pump longer and more frequently, just trying to eek out every drop I could. The first time I was forced to supplement with formula, I sobbed during the whole feeding. Eventually, I found myself sobbing for no reason. I felt like I had glasses on that made me see everything gray. Instead of enjoying my time with my baby girl, I was too busy feeling like a failure. I was depressed and everyone around me knew it.
After a long talk with my mom (ok let’s face it, several long talks…) and tons of encouragement and support from Joel, I made the decision to start feeding Cassidy formula. It was a relief to some degree, but I still found myself feeling like a huge failure because I couldn’t breastfeed. It’s all I thought about. I replayed the scenario in my head over and over and over again; maybe I could have done something differently! I drove Joel CRAZY with my constant doubt and self-loathing. It seemed everywhere I turned, I saw “breast is best!”. Doctors and experts talked about how the bonding between breastfed babies and moms just can’t be achieved between bottle fed babies and moms. Heck, even the formula bottle says, “breastmilk is recommended”! So now, not only was I a failure as a mom, but my baby and I weren’t going to bond. Great. I felt totally alone and totally hopeless. Society caters to breastfeeding moms. So where does that leave us formula feeders?
Eventually, I began feeling much better about my decision. Cassidy is thriving and growing beautifully! She’s a whole year old now and still has an incredibly healthy appetite! I know I never would have been able to keep up with it if I was still pumping and I’m ok with that. Society puts pressure on us moms and makes us feel that if we’re not breastfeeding, we’re not giving our babies the best we can. Well, that’s just not true. That. Is. Not. True. I am a formula feeder and I have still managed to develop a deep and very special bond with my baby girl. Not only that, but I made it through the first year a happier mommy. When I was chained to the breast pump, I was miserable and unable to enjoy my time with Cassidy. I wasn’t giving her what she needed. She doesn’t care if I’m breastfeeding or formula feeding as long as a happy mommy is feeding her.
I’m sharing this story because I know there are so many other moms out there who are going through the same thing. I felt so alone in my misery and searched the web for articles or other testimonials from formula feeding moms (I wanted to feel better. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone), but I found nothing that helped. I wish I had been able to read a story like this so I could have known there were others out there in my situation. Yes, breastfeeding is a wonderful, special experience. Breastmilk is best. But for a lot of moms, it just isn’t doable. And that’s ok. It really is. Don’t let ANYONE make you feel like less of a mom. Your baby still loves you. You will still form a bond. I defy any breastfeeding mom to tell me she has a stronger bond with her baby than I do with Cassidy! Be confident in your formula-feeding. Go to sleep at night knowing you’re doing the absolute best thing for your baby by giving her a happy, peaceful mommy and a full tummy.