by Jeanne Sager
Dear Breastfeeding Advocate, I've heard you loud and clear. You say formula is poison. I understand that you're just really gung-ho about breastfeeding, and you're trying to make a point. You care about babies and moms.
But please, can you just take a moment and read those words out loud?
Is that what you really mean to say?
Do you think that moms who give their babies formula are trying to kill them? That's what poison does, right?
Do you think these moms should go to jail for child abuse? That's what happens to moms who feed their kids other poisons -- rat poison, pesticides ...
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Would you tell that to a mother who just adopted a baby, who has no choice but to put a bottle in the mouth of her precious little girl? Is she selfish; is she abusive for choosing bottle over breast?
What about the mom who had a double mastectomy because she had breast cancer? Her milk ducts are gone, but thanks to the the miracle of egg harvesting, she's living her dream of being a mom. Is she a child abuser? An attempted murderer?
She is, after all, knowingly feeding her child -- as you call it -- poison.
Still standing behind your hyperbole?
If you haven't guessed by now, I too fed my daughter formula.
Not at first. I had every intention of breastfeeding from the moment I became pregnant. No, before that. I was breastfed. My husband was breastfed.
I think breastfeeding is far superior to bottlefeeding.
I say that now. I say that even though my daughter was raised primarily on formula.
I think breastfeeding is the best thing that can be done for a baby.
That is why, when I couldn't do it, it tore me in two. I spent hours crying. I was paralyzed by a fear so deep that I couldn't leave my house. Literally, stepping off the porch made me hyperventilate.
There was no one to help me. There are no lactation consultants where I live. There is no La Leche League. I didn't have a mother there to help me get the proper latch.
When I turned to the Internet for help, I found a lot of angry women like you, women who were quick to judge me for allowing my husband to give our daughter a bottle of formula, women who dismissed me and coldly told me how selfish and useless I was.
This was their way of "encouraging me to breastfeed."
I gave up after two weeks of crying and paralyzing fear and sore nipples and pumping one breast that quite simply never filled with milk, no matter how hard I tried to encourage it to produce.
I gave up and gave my daughter formula.
I gave up and gave my daughter something to sate her insatiable hunger.
You say I gave her poison. I say I gave her life.
I gave her a mother who could go on anti-depressants to fight the demons in her head. I gave her something to fill her tummy and help her grow big and strong.
She is almost 8 years old now, and still I feel guilty that she wasn't breastfed. I feel guilty even though she's never had an ear infection and, up until this year when a wicked virus made its way through her elementary school, never been sick for more than a day or two. I feel guilty even though she's an active soccer player and dancer who makes good grades and stays up late reading Pippi Longstocking and Ramona Quimby. I feel guilty even though her smile brightens a room and her laughter lights up my life.
I feel guilty in my heart even though my head tells me not to.
I feel guilty because every time I make the mistake of reading about breastfeeding and formula, I'm faced with you, dear breastfeeding advocate, telling me that the very thing that helped keep my daughter alive was poison.
So tell me, are you proud of yourself?
Do you still think formula is poison?
A mom just like you