W E L L M E A N I N G P E O P L E
People mean well when they tell you “formula is rocket fuel”. It’s really easy to misinterpret this, I know that I did. When I got pregnant I knew nothing about breastfeeding or formula. I know that my mom breastfed me until she went back to work (about 6 months) and then she fed me formula. I figured this was the norm, just like I figured that giving birth in a hospital was the norm… so why stray? Well, I obviously learned a lot during the pregnancy and ended up going with a natural birth at home and of course that led to a strong want to exclusively breastfeed. Attachment parenting feels right to me and it’s really important to go with your instincts when it comes to your baby. During discussions with other natural birth Moms and Dads, it’s been thrown around over and over again that formula is the devil and just wrong to give to your baby. I nodded and agreed assuming that I would never need formula, I’m gonna be a breastfeeding mom. This scenario reoccured several times during my pregnancy and little did I know that every time I said it, I was slowly reinforcing the insecurities that would inevitably occur when my milk never came in.
It’s all well-meaning but I’ve learned that it’s not explained properly at all. Moms and doctors are constantly saying that formula is bad and breastfeeding is good, when what they should be saying is that breastfeeding should be your first choice, supplementing with donated milk should be your second and formula should simply be a last resort. This would really clear up a whole mess of anxiety and depression that occurred when I failed to produce my own milk for my baby. I was SO angry at my body for betraying me. I swore that every time my baby cried it was because I was letting her down (so not true). The first time we gave her formula was completely bittersweet. I was SO happy she was eating (and so was she) but so angry that it wasn’t at my breast from my supply.
M A K I N G A C O M E B A C K
Breastfeeding is making a comeback, did you know that!? How cool is that? Basically, for the last 50 years formula has taken over as the first choice of new parents. Formula companies have even made claims that formula is just as good if not better than breast milk (wtf). Well, we all know that this is not even kind of true. Because formula has taken over for so long and women are learning better- a lot of women preach the evils of formula. This message is meant for women who don’t know that breast feeding is a much better choice. But what about the women who do know better and can’t breastfeed for whatever reason? I mean, REALLY can’t breast feed.
Some moms have their babies, attempt breastfeeding on day one and if baby doesn’t latch, they immediately give up. This is easy because usually you’re in a hospital and you’ve got a nurse saying “we can call in the lactation specialist if you want, but I’ve got formula right here….”. Well, what are mothers who don’t know any better gonna do? First, moms make the mistake that if baby doesn’t latch and drink then the baby will starve. The truth is that baby has some reserves. Baby wont die if you dont feed him/her immediately. You have enough time to call in a lactation specialist and really work on that latch. They can usually pinpoint the reason immediately and offer solutions. Sometimes the babies introduction into the world is part of the reason why breastfeeding is hard. C-sections, however necessary can throw off this biological want to breast feed for babies, but not always. Sometimes C-sections and epidurals don’t throw anything off but the chance is much higher. Either way, it’s important you do whatever you can to encourage baby to breast feed if you’ve got the supply.
Now, sometimes you don’t get the supply. I have a hormonal imbalance called PCOS that means I probably should’ve never gotten pregnant, avoided a miscarriage and had her with no complications. It also means that my milk would not come in naturally and easily. I didn’t know I had this imbalance until after I had her. Here is my breast feeding story. I believe that after day 3-4, if that milk doesn’t come in- that’s just the beginning of the fight! First, I started pumping like a crazy woman. I rented a medela symphony hospital grade pump and used that thing every 2 hours like clockwork. At the urging of my lactation specialist I took Motherlove which includes goats rue, fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle and fennel; these are all herbs used for milk promotion. I also took alfalfa and moringa. Pumping plus the herbal supplements was my first attempt at getting that milk supply in. Unfortunately, it did nothing. If these things don’t work there are prescriptions you can try too: Reglan and the compound, Domperidone.
The point is that there are a lot of things to try and they’re all worth the effort. But while you’re doing all of these things, formula is an ok supplement. It’s more than ok: we’re lucky we live in a country where the water is clean enough that we can make formula for our babies. If you’re lucky enough to have a network of caring moms (like I do here in Nashville), your second choice can be doner milk! Another mama’s milk is a great choice. From the beginning of baby making the village mothers fed all of the babies, not just their own. It’s not weird or gross. I would say just make a good judgement call: ask if she’s taking any drugs, legal or illegal.
I T ‘ S A L L R E L A T I V E
The hardest part, I thought, of giving baby formula was that I wanted her to have the best. I learned while I was pregnant that babies who are formula fed have more health issues and a lower IQ. I don’t want my baby to struggle in school because I couldn’t produce milk. I talked to my Dr. about this and she brought up a great point. Those tests really are relative! Moms who don’t consider breast feeding are usually uneducated women who don’t know any better! Well, babies raised by uneducated moms usually have lower IQ’s for whatever reasons. These babies often have health issues because their mothers just aren’t as aware of all of the preventative care to take. They’re not bad moms, they just know very limited amounts of information and don’t really question what they’re told. So it would make sense that when these statistics were taken the results would be what they are. Is it the formula or the women who generally use formula? Just something to think about…
S U P P L E M E N T I N G A T T H E B R E A S T
Another amazing alternative to breastfeeding or while you’re working to get your milk in is this great little device called the LactAid trainer system. You fill up a small bag with doner milk or formula or your pumped milk, hang the bag from your neck and tape a tiny little tube with the end at your nipple and when baby latches and sucks, she gets fed at your breast! I love this because I love the experience of bonding with her. I love watching her at my breast and I love being skin to skin with her. She prefers this method but will take a bottle under fire.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is be careful what you say about breastfeeding. While preaching the evils of formula is only well-meaning (of course)- it can easily throw off a mom who genuinely cannot breastfeed and make her feel like the biggest disappointment walking the earth. Instead, consider saying that breastfeeding is the ideal choice! Be supportive of moms who cannot produce and if you can, donate milk! So far, I’ve had 3 wonderful women offer their milk and although I’ve never been able to supply enough for her she’s consumed about 75% breast milk and 25% formula since birth! That’s amazing to me and I am eternally grateful to these women. I’m still working to get more and more milk in- but I realize now that what’s important is that I do my best. That I explore all options and that it’s important to ALWAYS question what you’re told. Formula companies make a killing off of people who just don’t know any better… ALWAYS question especially when there’s millions of dollars involved lol.
Thank you for reading this. I hope your breastfeeding journey is amazing no matter what and remember what’s important is that you show baby your love however you can.