As a young mom, I met a lot of other moms as well. Naturally, your circle shifts from bachelors to family people as you grow. The same happened to me. However, when I started engaging with other moms, I realized everyone had an opinion of their own about how to raise their child the right way, and for some reason, they all felt obligated to force their ideas on you.
Being a young mom, I was convinced that I needed help from others to make sure my child was getting everything he needed. It took me a long time to realize that I am the true connection and carer of my kid and I am capable of making the right choices for him.
The biggest trouble I had was with breastfeeding. It was very common for me to hear the word “selfish” and “lazy” for a mother who chooses not to breastfeed her newborn. I couldn’t breastfeed my little boy. And for a long time, I was told by others I believed myself that I was being unfair to my baby. However, not breastfeeding is not as big of a sin as people make it. It took a lot of research and confidence building for me to believe this fact. I hope other mothers realized that sooner than I did.
Your son needs more than just your milk. I remember being completely shattered jumping from one consultant to another, buying pumps, and bottles and being in a 24/7 regime of breastfeeding, pumping, washing and refilling bottles. My son got to play with other people, I was just the food. And I felt really insufficient in my existence.
Postpartum support advocate Lynn McIntyre states that the difficulty in breastfeeding originates from postpartum mood and anxiety disorder (PMADS). As per their intel, the majority of stress for breastfeeding comes from society and other new mothers. I could relate to this result as I personally went through it. Katherine Stone, founder, editor and writer of postpartumprogress.com says that around 20% of new mothers experience anxiety disorders, meaning, 1.3 million women are affected annually.
Moreover, this figure is only generated from the women who choose to seek help for their disorder. When I decided to understand breastfeeding in more depth, I was saddened by how hard some mothers try to keep the milk coming. I know my time was extremely painful but so many women have even harder than me. I remember a mother saying: “I felt so guilty for having to stop breastfeeding, but I reached a point where my son could either have breast milk or a mother. I was losing myself in the process of being a ‘traditional mother’.”
I read another study that compared a pair of siblings, one breastfed and the other formula-fed. It debunked the ‘breast is best’ idea. The study found that: “Breastfeeding might be no more beneficial than bottle-feeding for 10 of 11 long-term health and well-being outcomes in children aged 4 to 14”. These outcomes include obesity, body mass index, memory-based intelligence, math abilities and reading comprehension.
Something that gave me hope and helped me realize that there is more to child-rearing than just breastfeeding and milk! At the time of the studies release, the lead researcher Colen told the media that: “I’m not saying breastfeeding is not beneficial, But if we really want to improve maternal and child health in this country, let’s also focus on things that can really do that in the long term - like subsidized daycare, better maternity-leave policies and more employment opportunities for low-income mothers that pay a living wage, for example.”
When I opened up about how I was interested in searching for other options instead of breastfeeding and shared these studies with others, not everyone wanted to hear. People actually pitied me, which was saddening but also infuriating. Nonetheless, some mothers appreciated it, the same mothers who were also made to feel guilty for not being able to breastfeed their child.
At this point, even if a mother chooses out of a free will that she will keep her child on formula, it shouldn’t be anyone’s business. However, out of the mothers who aren’t breastfeeding, not all of them get a choice. Some mothers struggle to produce mild due to malnutrition, others deal with severe postpartum stress and cannot afford to feed, others have physical limitations, and some have had breast cancer.
In short, there are so many reasons why someone would choose to formula-feed their baby, and each one of them is justified and valid. I would recommend all new mothers to read Suzanne Barton’s book “Bottled up: How the way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t” and her blog named fearless formula feeder.
I had a hard time fitting in with my lactation consultant as well. I remember telling my consultant that I didn’t even get an hour's sleep and she kept on repeating: “Being a mother was never an easy task. You just have to push harder.” I remember thinking, how much harder do I need to try than being conscious about breastfeeding 24-hours a day. I kept contemplating that there has to be more than just breast milk that the baby needs, and in a state where I couldn’t eat or sleep properly, was I giving him all that?
The first great thing I did for myself is changing my lactivist. I am not saying consultants are inconsiderate. I am just saying that new mothers should consciously choose a lactation consultant who strongly believes that a healthy child comes from a healthy mother. My second consultant was quite a good help.