the one about formula

My baby is one year old. I'm still trying to come to terms with that.

She decided to take 6 consecutive steps on her first birthday. So basically she was trying to kill me.

With turning one comes lots of changes. Walking. Talking. Full-on table food meals and no more bottles. No more formula.

Yes, you heard that right. Formula. Poison Powder. Devil's Food. Everyday, 4-5 times per day, I scooped chemicals from a can and mixed them with water to make a meal for my child.

I know. I rock.

Now, do I really think formula is Poison Powder? Devil's Food? Chemicals from a can? No. I don't. My sarcasm comes from a place of self-defense. That whole make fun of yourself before someone else can tactic. Because the truth is, I used to have a ton of guilt about formula feeding my girls, and I'm here to help other mothers with the same guilt not feel, well, so guilty.

There seems to be  a lot of support for breastfeeding moms. There are Facebook pages, support groups, and even demonstrations where groups of breastfeeding moms will  get together at a public park and feed their babies uncovered to "show what real women look like."

Look around. Are there any support groups for the women who chose, for whatever reason, to formula feed their babies? Have you ever seen a large gathering of women at a park, circling up to shake their formula-filled bottles and feed their babies together as a unit? Do formula moms proudly proclaim that they don't breastfeed?

No. I was doing the exact opposite. I was embarrassed to scoop formula into the bottle in front of other moms and shake it vigorously, which surely was going to give my child the most painful gas bubbles ever. I used the Medela and Tommy Tippee bottles to make it appear that there was breast milk in there. I felt annoyed when I had to make room in my travel bag for the giant Big Gulp can of formula, rather than fill that space with a cute pair of shoes. I was only hoping the TSA agent at the airpot would think the "suspicious white powder" in my carry-on was Anthrax, rather than formula, the worst thing a mother could give her child!

The truth is, I would rather have breastfed my girls until they turned a year old. I am married to a freaking doctor...so I know that breast milk is truly amazing. I know that on the Island of Rainbows and Unicorns, it rains breast milk. And I know that when those breast milk rain droplets hit the ground, they turn into nuggets of gold. I just know it.

But I also know that my breastfeeding failure story is not unlike a lot of other moms' out there. I started out a nursing queen. Exclusively breastfeeding and loving life. Giving formula cans the stink eye when I passed them in the grocery store. Not for me, Formula! Nope!

And then this slice of Heaven called maternity leave ended, and I had to go back to work. Day in and day out, I lugged my pump to school along with a mini cooler and an ass-load of other accessories. I had tubes and bottles and ice packs and wipes and power cords galore. Each day, on my 40 minute prep time, I would lock my classroom door, sit under my desk, and pump all while trying to grade papers, respond to emails, and plan lessons for the week.

I would pump for about 25 minutes and get about .00008 ounces (due to stress? low production? lack of stimulation? Jesus hates me?), and then it would be time to clean up and go pick up my students.

My only other time to pump during school was during lunch. After eating my Lean Cuisine over the sound of the milking machine for about a week, I began to think the pump was talking to me. If you have ever used a breast pump, you know what I mean. The thing starts to sound like words after a while. I decided that I needed to get back to the lounge with my friends for lunch. I needed to vent, laugh, talk, share ideas, and get away from my classroom for a while.

Only pumping once per day ultimately lead to the depletion of my milk supply and the end of my breastfeeding experiences. I was able to feed Charlotte in the middle of the night until she was about 6 months old, but her frustration with a low milk supply caused her to bite me once...and, well, no.

Did I give up? Yes. Could I have made more sacrifices? Absolutely. Am I a bad mom because of it? I like to think that I'm not. I mean...wouldn't a bad mom be one who doesn't feed her kids at all?

I enjoyed breastfeeding...when I was physically able to do just that. Breastfeed. I loved holding my girls, knowing that they were relying on me for all of their nutritional needs. I loved the bonding time, the extra cuddles, and I grew to love those dead-of-night smiles that only a breastfeeding mama would be awake to see.

I didn't, however, enjoy being a slave to a pump, only to get what felt like 2 drops of "liquid gold" to ooze out of me. I didn't enjoy locking myself away in a room at family gatherings, cowering under my desk at school, or hunching over the pump while sitting on the floor so I could still somewhat interact with my children.

And so began my relationship with formula and placing endless amounts of guilt on myself and making me believe that if I was a dedicated, loving, worthy mother, I would have stuck with breastfeeding. Now my kids are going to be obese, unhealthy, and will probably end up on the streets. 

See how twisted all of this becomes? Even though I was still feeding my baby, holding her at all hours of the day and night, loving her, talking to her, making sacrifices for her...I still felt like less of a mother because I wasn't breastfeeding.

But you know what?

Enough.

My girls are and have always been healthy. In fact, Noelle has never really even had a sick doctor visit (with the exception of a couple mystery rashes), and she's nearly 4 years old. Charlotte has had a run of RSV and an ear infection, but other than that, she's happy and healthy. My girls are developmentally on point. I'm actually afraid of how brilliant Noelle would have been if I would have breastfed her for a  whole year (if it's true that breastfed kids are smarter than formula-fed ones).

They aren't obese, but they have some darn cute leg rolls!

And they love me. They know I'm their mama, and I don't think they love me any less for feeding them formula.

You never know a woman's reason for not breastfeeding her child. It could be due to medication. It could be due to an anatomical abnormality on either mama or baby. It could be due to an allergy or sensitivity for baby. It could be due to a low milk supply. It could be due to a crazy work schedule. It could be simply due to the fact that she doesn't want pancake boobs.

Whatever it is...let's not make a formula mama feel like any less of a woman...any less of a mother...than a breastfeeding one. Remember, let's stop the mompetition once and for all. Let's be supportive of each other, because this world is scary-crazy-isolating-competitive enough as it is.

Fellow formula mamas-- raise your bottles in the air, and shake 'em around like you just don't care. I am one of you.





2 comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I tried breast feeding with both my children and it didn't work out. My body just doesn't produce milk the way it should. I spent hours with a breast pump and got nothing. When my son fed he would cry and bite me constantly because of the low supply. I gave up with him at just under 6 months. I am still feeding my daughter at 5 months about twice a day and I have to take meds to produce that. I loved the idea of breastfeeding but formula was and is my reality. Thank you for helping with the guilt. I am a good Mom and I hate all those dirty looks for have formula. I agree lets all raise the bottles in the air.

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  2. So happy to help with your guilt, Kathy! You are a good mom....you're feeding your children with love!

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