Guinhyvar's Journal

You Sure You Wanna Go There...?

Let me make one thing perfectly clear- I do believe that breast feeding is nutritionally better for your child, and I absolutely support it. I think it's wonderful that there is so much information available these days; even just fourteen years ago, when I was a new mom, there wasn't anywhere near the volume of information readily available like there is today. 

That being said, I'm a little dismayed at the attitude of several women out there regarding formula feeding. I understand that they feel so totally passionate about breastfeeding, and they want to share their wealth of information and experiences with others; they want to change the outlook of rest of America about breastfeeding moms; it's absolutely natural and beautiful and an experience to be celebrated and cherished and supported. However, the trend I'm seeing is that several of these same women who have felt so persecuted by others are now turning the tables. Now, they're so vocal about their views and expressing them that other moms who, for whatever reason, formula feed, are almost afraid to tell their breastfeeding friends for fear of... being ostracized. Of disappointing. Of being thought less of a mother by their friends. 

There are lots of reasons women don't breast feed, and go with formula instead. Maybe they really can't supply enough to meet the demand. Maybe they have no support and have found it too difficult to continue. Maybe they hate it. Maybe they work and can't pump and supply. Maybe they find it repulsive or gross. Maybe it just hurts a lot and they can't play through the pain. Maybe they take medication that might have an adverse effect on their baby. Maybe they have more than one baby, or two babies, or even three babies, and breastfeeding is too demanding. Maybe there is a medical reason for either mom or baby that makes breastfeeding an impossibility. Or maybe they just really don't want to. There are dozens of reasons why women don't do it, from the most mundane of reasons to the most extreme and heartbreaking, but every reason, I believe, is still a valid one. And not one to be ashamed of.

I hate that there are women on this site, the site that was created for mothers to support others, where they feel they have to hide their parenting choices, even as basic as how you choose to feed your babies. I agree that every mother should do at least some research and I agree that the majority of mothers who can should maybe at least try to breastfeed (because maybe you might be able to, or might really like it after all, and ultimately, I think it is the healthiest option), but do I believe that because you choose to go with an alternative you're less of a mother than someone who breastfeeds exclusively? No. A thousand times, no. For whatever your reason. 

I find it sad and disheartening that there are so many women who feel they have to explain or apologize for formula feeding their babies, lest they are somehow found wanting in the eyes of others. I say, you don't have to explain, let alone apologize or defend, your reasons for not going with breast feeding. It's an extremely personal choice. It's your body. They're your boobs. That's your child. How you choose to nourish that child is entirely up to you and does not, in any way, have an impact on anyone else on this site. And if someone thinks it does....? Well, they have some issues that have nothing to do with you, I think.

The reason I'm writing this is because I have seen several incidents of very good mothers keeping it a secret that they are not breast feeding their babies. Because I'm dismayed at the attitude that somehow formula feeding moms don't care about their babies as much as breast feeding mothers. That it's somehow dirty or shameful or bad. It's not. And I'm sick of the implication that it is. Funny how breastfeeding moms have used those same words to describe how they felt too, huh?

I feel bad for those moms who feel like they have to hide it or feel like they're somehow a failure if they tried and couldn't or wound up not wanting to. I feel that if you're feeding your baby, and your baby is healthy and thriving, then that is good enough and anyone else who thinks otherwise can stuff it. 

We're all moms. We all love our babies and want the best for them. We all want the same things, but maybe we have to or want to take a different path to get there. Guess what? That's okay! 

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 12:57 PM

Great journal!  I've never mocked another mom for any of her choices even if they differ from my own. I am no breast feeding nazi if you will... I will however encourage any mom I know to try it but if for any of the reasons you stated above they can't/won't, that's perfectly fine. They're still gonna be my friend.

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 12:59 PM

clappingWell said!  BOTH my kids were formula fed, the oldest because I couldn't handle the stress of a new baby and all that comes with one, and the second because I went straight on anti-anxiety meds to avoid getting PPD, an easy decision to make because that baby had a broken collar bone from the birth and it was too difficult to nurse without hurting her.

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 1:02 PM

You have such a beautiful way with words, Jenna. 

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Good for you! I have thought this for years. You do not have to slam people because you breastfed and they didn't, because they circumsized and you didn't, because you did Attached Parenting and they didn't, because you vaccinated and they didn't, because you had natural childbirths and they didn't, etc., etc., etc. Everybody has to choose the style of parenting that is appropriate for themselves. What I prefer or don't prefer has nothing to do with how someone else should parent their own child. There are many people on this site who just need to GROW UP. If you don't want anyone else interfering in how you choose to raise your child, why do you think it's OK to tell someone else what to do? Breastfeeding is HARD. I did it, but not without a lot of effort and support. I could deal with the discomfort (mine was temporary), I didn't have medical conditions preventing me from doing it and I didn't have issues with the act of breastfeeding. Other people may not have my POV or constitution or whatever else, and I get that. Good job, sweetheart, you expressed yourself very eloquently.

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 1:56 PM

You're right, of course. There is a very fine line out there about trying spread awareness and educating those that do not know- and being cruel and rude. The point should be help, never hinder.

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Thank you for this journal, Jenna.  I've got my own story, but I'm sure there are ladies on here who've heard it over and over again, so I won't repeat it.

Just thank you for this.

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Well said!  I think it all boils down to respect for others.  It's up to all of us to respect another mother's if help is asked for, support others when you can, and simply respect that the way they choose to parent their children is up to them. 

Kindness and compassion go a long way...looking at things from someone else's point of view can work wonders as well. 

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 2:33 PM

I love you, and I love this journal.  That is all.

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 3:03 PM

You're very right. Everyone needs to respect each other. Around where I live, formula feeding is the norm. Breastfeeding is not. I know what it's like to be judged (I chose to breastfeed my children past whatever society deems acceptable). It freaking sucks.

I respect the choices of others. If she *wants* to breastfeed, you bet I'll support her. But, I will never condemn or belittle if she chooses not to, or if it doesn't work out.

There's an awesome article about this very thing from a "lactivist", I'll have to find it and post it..

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Mar. 16, 2011 at 4:55 PM

I've seen women on this very site state that formula feeding means you won't bond with your child the same as a breastfeeder. I've seen others state that they consider formula poison. And I'm forced to wonder, what would they say if they had been unable to breastfeed? 

After nine years, I STILL feel guilty for not being able to breastfeed my daughter past six months. Intellectually, I know that it's complete and utter crap--she ATE, after all. But I think it really says something about how far we've gone; breast may be normal, and it may even be best... but it ISN'T the only way. Period.

Love you for this, Jenna.

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