11 Mar 2016

When Breast isn’t Best…

What I’m about to write here may go against what most new mothers are told, but I feel like it has to be said…so here it goes, Baby Formula is OK!!!

Last year, when my son was about to be born, I had so many plans. One of them being that I was going to breast feed. I couldn’t wait to be a part of the supermom community providing him with the liquid gold that was going to keep him healthy and happy. When it was time for my son’s first feeding, I remember feeling a rush which was quickly followed by fear because he wouldn’t latch on right away. I was told by my hospital’s Lactation Consultant that sometimes this happens for many reasons. She encouraged me to press on. I was given a contact nipple shield that helped him latch on and then the process was much easier. As days and weeks went by I noticed that Kwasi would take a long time feeding and when he’d pull away, he’d do so aggressively. I couldn’t understand why. It wasn’t until I took him to his doctor and started pumping that I understood why.

I wasn’t making enough milk.

When I pumped I was only getting an ounce from each breast. That meant that Kwasi was only getting half the food he needed per feeding! I felt so bad because my son wasn’t gaining weight and it was because of me. Under my doctor’s recommendation, I began supplementing with Enfamil Gentlease and under a little less than 3 months Kwasi was solely on formula and gaining weight beautifully.

I was so happy because I noticed the difference. My baby was healthy and the formula was giving him everything he needed. But when I spoke to other mothers who breastfed I always felt ashamed about my decision, like I wasn’t doing enough. I always felt compelled to give an excuse as to why I was giving my baby formula. I dreaded getting into the conversation about feeding. My heart would start racing and as I gave my simple answer, “Yea I just didn’t make enough milk…”, I would immediately feel a cloud of guilt over my head. It was a horrible feeling and one that could have easily lead to post-natal depression because of what society was telling me was best for my child. I remember one day talking to a woman with three kids and when I told her I wasn’t breastfeeding, she looked at me with disdain and asked “Why not?!” as if I had purposefully intended to deny my son his mother’s milk. I left the conversation feeling so upset, but more confused. Was I being selfish for not trying harder?

Thank God for a supportive family. My mother and mother-in-law were encouraging and told me that I was doing the right thing. My Mom definitely could relate as she used baby formula to feed her 8 children. Because she didn’t make enough milk either, having their support really helped me feel better. I stopped with the excuses and became confident in my decision.

Why do mothers who decide to give their baby formula have to feel this way? Are we not part of the super team because we don’t breastfeed? Women all over the country are fighting for their natural right to publicly breastfeed.  However, what is not being addressed, is the shaming that occurs to mothers who can not or even choose not to breastfeed. Don’t get me wrong, I think breastfeeding is a wonderful thing and if that’s what you want to do, great! But I also feel that formula is great too. It provides an option to those who can’t or choose not to breastfeed. Don’t let the myth of not bonding with your baby stop you from making the best decision for you and your family. Holding your baby close and loving him or her will create the bond needed.

I think the important question here needs to be, “Is your baby happy and healthy?”. If they are, then you know what, you are doing a fantastic job and don’t ever feel any other way. You gave life to another human being and in my book that makes you a superwoman!