In talking about breastfeeding, I also wanted to talk about formula feeding. Like the mythological Ancient Greek character Tiresias, who has lived as a man and a woman, I have lived as a formula feeder and an exclusively breast feeding mom. It is a unique perspective.
I think parents who formula feed should never, ever feel guilty. But yet, we do. I certainly did. Whether it’s the little bit of formula we give to make up for a supply or pumping deficit, or if a baby is completely formula fed from the moment of birth, so many moms feel guilt.
If I had returned to work 40+ hours per week, as I did after my first child, my baby would be getting formula. I need to pump 2-3 times to get the amount my baby takes in one feeding. I would have continued nursing, and pumping, but formula would have made up the differential in the pump-to-feeding ratio.
There is also a prevailing thought that formula companies’ relentless marketing is what makes mom switch. While this may be true for some moms, and I do not doubt there are “formula pushers” in our midst, this vilifying of formula companies is a little ridiculous. Honestly, who should formula companies market to? 60 year old men? Or, since we operate in a free market economy, marketing to the target consumer base-women 18-35 who are the most likely to have kids…yup, that would make sense.
There is also this one simple fact: babies and mothers who could not breastfeed before formula was invented often did NOT have happy outcomes. As long as there have been babies and moms, there have been problems with breastfeeding, and moms looking for solutions. Also, let us not forget the high maternal mortality rates that long plagued women. Wet nurses, goats milk, homemade concoctions- none were as fail-safe as modern formula. Formula saves lives.
I could reiterate the millions of GOOD reasons women formula feed, but the good folks at The Fearless Formula Feeder have already done this. This is an amazing website. Everyone should read it.
Instead, I’d like to share the benefits that I’ve found to formula feeding.
1. You really can co-parent with your partner. In my home, we split it all-night feedings, mealtimes, formula prep. I have found this impossible to do while exclusively breast feeding.
2. You have the certainty of knowing how much your child is eating at each time of the day. This does wonders for a new parent’s state of mind.
3. You can include other caregivers in feeding your baby with little to no issues. As a working mom whose second baby refused a bottle, let me tell you, this is huge.
4. I think it’s easier. This is widely disputed on breastfeeding websites. I’ve had very little trouble nursing on the second go-around. I still found formula feeding easier.
5. Your body becomes your own again. As a person who is very sensitive to hormonal changes as it pertains to my mental health, and in ways I didn’t anticipate as it pertains to my physical health and comfort, I have found breastfeeding to keep my body in a constant state of flux. This is challenging in ways that has nothing to do with my ability to feed my baby.
All parents who love, feed, and take care of babies are awesome. Period. Let’s make the baby feeding game “No shame, no blame,” from here on out.