Unpopular Baby Decisions: Formula Feeding

This guide is the second in a series on unpopular decisions we parents make about our babies. Formula feeding is something that is a choice for some parents, a necessity for others. But regardless of why they started doing it, most formula feeding parents will encounter critics who look down on anyone who does not breastfeed. This can range from the sympathetic looks from breastfeeding moms who “feel bad” that you can’t share the same glorious bond they have with their own babies to the outright scathing, hurtful remarks about how horrible and selfish it is that you’re depriving your baby of breastmilk. We all know how healthy breastfeeding is for babies, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

Grandma Debbie giving TJ his bottleMy name is Christina. I am a formula feeder.

(“Hi Christina,” the rest of the formula feeders intone, as if this was an AA meeting.)

Before my son was born, I had really wanted to breastfeed for at least the first six months. I wanted him to be as healthy as possible. But when he was born, he had problems latching. And it hurt… really badly. More than I think it was suppose to. But I tried. The lactation consultants came in to help with every daytime feeding, but it ended up with one of them telling me it wasn’t going to work for us. I bought an expensive breast pump so that I could give him breastmilk in a bottle instead. To make a long story short, I made it for six weeks before exhaustion and an inadequate supply (less than 6 ounces after pumping for 4 hours a day) brought me to the heartbreaking decision to stop.

It was hard. I cried for a week before and after. It didn’t help that I had both an OB/GYN and a pediatrician (both men) tell me I should give breastfeeding (as opposed to pumping) another try. And other moms who breastfed their babies looked at me sadly when I told them it didn’t work for us. One of the first things I figured out was I didn’t want or need sympathy. It was the right decision for both me and my baby. I wasn’t so exhausted and depressed all the time; I had more time to spend with my little man instead of being hooked up to a pump all the time. We discovered that my son had a sensitivity to milk proteins, so by being able to give him Enfamil Gentlease, he was in less pain and was a happier baby for it. And now he’s older, he’s perfectly healthy. He’s smart, he’s strong, and he’s even a little ahead when it comes to certain developmental milestones. The fact that he drinks formula instead of breastmilk hasn’t hurt him at all.

That’s my story. There are as many other stories as there are parents who formula feed. There are many different medical reasons, some emotional reasons, and some just personal preference. None of these reasons are wrong or bad. Only a baby’s parents know what is right for him.

So what’s a parent to do when confronted with critics? (There is an unflattering term for these people. They are called Boob Nazis.) You could go ahead and explain the whole story of how you came to choose formula feeding. Talking someone’s ear off could prevent future problems, but some people will try and argue with you point for point. (I had someone call my story a “lame excuse.” How dare she!) I’ve opted to go with, “It just didn’t work for us.” I have heard some amusing responses from other parents in an online support group for formula feeders. There’s always sarcasm. “Yeah, I know. I’m selfish and heartless, and I don’t want my baby to grow up healthy and strong.” That’ll shut them up. I don’t think I could pull that off unless it was someone I already disliked, but it’s an option.

Most importantly, don’t let the critics get you down. Regardless of what you say to them, or don’t say to them, don’t take it personally. They don’t know you or your baby. I was formula fed from the beginning, and I turned out just fine. Remember, there are plenty of other parents going through the same thing, and you can turn to each other for support.

Christina Gleason (975 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I'm a multiply disabled autistic woman doing my best in this world built for abled people. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including Twitch Sings and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.

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