Parenting Wars
Parenting Wars

The "Mom Shame"

by Kaitlin Lee about a year ago in pregnancy

Formula Feeding

The "Mom Shame"

When I was pregnant, people would ask what I planned to do with feeding for my baby. I would answer, "Half and half. I'd do half nursing, half bottle." Now, I wasn't quite sure what I would do with the bottle, I wanted to use breastmilk as much as possible, but if something were to happen and formula was needed then that would be okay, too... At least, that's what I thought.

Come labor and baby time, something suddenly changed. Everyone kept asking me if I was nursing my baby, or *very distant tone* I was using formula. I got in my head that I HAD to nurse my baby NO MATTER WHAT. And, to make it worse, my baby wanted to eat every hour. EVERY. HOUR. If you have never nursed a baby before, then you have no idea how much of a toll it takes on you physically and mentally, especially with me being a first-time mom.

At first everything was okay. My milk came in fast and it was great, but when my baby was wanting to eat every hour my milk supply took a sudden drop. I suddenly wasn't able to meet my baby's needs and I was a mess. No matter what, I was crying. (The sudden drop in hormones also didn't help the situation... ha.) What kind of mother can't help her own baby? I was crushed. I did not, could not, use formula, because why would I? My body supplies the nutrients that my baby needed.

After a few days of this going on, my mom finally had enough of a crying mess. She sat me down and said, "What is more important: crying over not being able to feed your baby with your milk every single time or feeding your baby when she is hungry and sustaining her?" Of course the latter is more important, and when she brought that up it clicked in my head that it would be okay... So my mom fed my baby her first bottle of formula, and she liked it.

Then, the thought came. "What if she only wants formula from now on??" I got so paranoid that I started freaking out again. (Yay for everyone around the crying mom.) My mother had to sit me down again and tell me to shut my ears to those around me who were telling me that, "breast is best," and, "formula is of the devil," and so on, and that I just need to look at what is best for my baby. Do I want her to be hungry? No, of course not. Do I want her to be healthy? Yes, of course.

Long story short, my neighbor came over and I cried to her about everything. She told me that her mother-in-law gave her a secret about this because she had the same problem and had ten children. The secret? Popcorn. I was all, "whaaaaaa???....." Yeah, dunno. Could it be the carbs? No one knows, but, I gave it a try! Also, I don't like popcorn, but I was diligent for my baby! And guess what? My milk supply increased like crazy and could feed my baby more than she needed at the moment! *Cue angel chorus.* All was well in the mommy world again.

Now, let's go down a couple months in time. My baby was six months old and I could tell something was off/weird when she was eating. After a couple days, I decided to pump the extra so that I would have some more on hand. When I did, I found that my milk was green. GREEN! I was so surprised and disgusted. No wonder my baby wasn't eating like normal! So, I decided to be done with nursing (which I also thought about before because my baby was starting to bite me, and that hurt). Onto formula once again.

I had such a hard time with this because I felt like she was ripped out of my arms and into someone's else's (sometimes literally; when she was hungry, they would feed her her bottle instead of me feeding her). I felt like I didn't get to say "goodbye" to nursing, to our cuddle time, to the one thing that no one else could give her but me... Usually when moms decide to be done with nursing, they start to skip feedings to decrease their milk supply, but I wasn't given that option. I went off cold turkey, and that hurt. Whenever I couldn't stand the pressure anymore, I would have to hand press some of the milk out to relieve it. And seeing my milk go to waste was hard.

I remember the first time someone saw me feed her a bottle when they knew I nursed. They gave me such a crusty look and basically shamed me from society. "How could you do that to your baby?" Um... Feed my baby? How could I do that? How could I NOT do that?? I would always be quick to say something like, "I had to," "I had no choice," "It wasn't my fault." True, it wasn't, but looking back... How does it mean that I don't love my baby as much as the next mother just because I stopped breastfeeding my child? It doesn't.

Yes, there are great nutrients in breastmilk that aren't in formula. Yes, it's our special bonding time. I know. I lived through it. But that doesn't mean I don't love and care for my child. I got the extra needed supplies that aren't in/that are needed for formula. It was a very hard transition, but now I get to watch my husband give nutrients to our child. I remember the first time he fed her a bottle; the smile on his face said it all. I gave that to him, and that moment was priceless. I wasn't the only one that had to get up in the night anymore. I didn't have to be with my baby every hour to two hours anymore (although it was hard being apart).

Moms, dads, everyone: it is okay to feed your baby formula. There is no shame in it. Yes, it can be hard for multiple reasons, but think of your baby. Do what is best for them. That's why it's even there. Seeing my little girl be the chunk she is (she was chunky since a month old) and so happy is worth any sacrifice to me. Shouldn't it be?

Kaitlin Lee
Kaitlin Lee
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