Formula…Why are we so quick to judge?


As Tasha and Anna have previously commented on breastfeeding, and because we are all clearly pro-breastfeeding here, I thought I’d talk about another experience, formula feeding.

Throughout my pregnancy I was bombarded by midwivies, nurses, prenatal class instructors, the health system with information on why “Breast is Best“. I didn’t need any convincing, I was sold on the benefits long before the birth of my son. I’d read the literature, understood the benefits but there was one nagging worry in my mind – what if I have no milk?

My sister, didn’t have a drop of milk despite trying the best she could for weeks after both her 1st and 2nd child. By her 3rd she knew the mental anguish of trying wasn’t worth it and she brought formula to the hospital with her, despite being judged by the nurses. A friend with a similar issue also told me about how other mothers were very judgmental when they saw she used formula, and initially she felt guilty and horrible about her self, when all she was doing was trying to provide her child with the nutrients she needed to survive. I also remember other new mother’s with ample supply who judged our mutual friend so harshly for resorting to formula that our mutual friend’s mother had to ask her to stop talking to her daughter about breastfeeding. I have even met a mother at one of the parent and infant drop-ins I attend who was terrified that because she needed to supplement with formula there would be something wrong with her baby. In the Canadian public health system’s push to convince everyone that “breast is best” are we in turn ostracizing mother’s who must or choose to use formula?

What right to we have to judge mothers who use formula? NONE. So why do so many of us who breastfeed tend to see themselves as superior? Yes, I’m sure some of us have met moms who choose formula was they thought it was easier or hadn’t been bombarded with breast is best, but most moms I know do not use formula for that reason. They are using formula to some extent due to milk supply issues. I firmly believe that many of us judge because we don’t look past the formula to understand the entire picture, we are so caught up on “breast is best” that we forget that first comes ensuring our babies receive enough nutrients to grow and thrive and that formula fed babies can and do grow up to be healthy happy people. Mother’s who don’t breastfeed still bond and love their babies as much as breastfeeding mothers.

Think about it the next time you are happily breastfeeding your child and you see a mother providing a bottle of formula to her child. Don’t feel smug or judge her. We’re all doing the best we can to raise our children.

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About OneMoreMom

One more mom with one blog, one kid, one husband, one dog and one cat.
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6 Responses to Formula…Why are we so quick to judge?

  1. Little Sis says:

    Such an important post. I had a tough time with my twins. Both got breastmilk for a lot longer than it was easy to do and I got a lot of looks and comments whenever they had a bottle (ironically much of the time their bottles were filled with breastmilk). It is one thing to be concerned that folks have good health information and to offer assistance whenever possible; it’s quite another to assume that you have any idea what is going on in another family’s home. Thanks for the thoughts.

    • mammanonie says:

      Whoa twins, I couldn’t imagine. Congrats!

      I notice too often people feel that they are helping and supportive by offering quick advice, when really all a new mom needs is reassurance to to know that she is doing a good job.

  2. Good points in both the post and the comment. In my circle of pro-breastfeeding friends, several have used formula due to supply issues. I almost had to do the same when I went back to work after my first child. It felt like I pumped day and night, and still would come up with barely just enough milk to feed my daughter while my husband or sister-in-law watched her. Let me just say that pumping at work is tough. I had to set Outlook reminders and they inevitably popped up when I had someone on the phone and three people waiting to talk to me. I had a restroom where I could pump, but it was awkward and I always felt that someone might be standing outside waiting. It was a really stressful time and I have to remember that when I feel inclined to roll my eyes at a formula-feeding mom.

  3. mommyhoodhk says:

    Great post! I agree with all of the above. Pumping is hard work and like Tash has shared, not always easy. I pumped dutifully for baby number 1 til I couldn’t breastfeed anymore which was about 7.5 months. I got pregnant again and my OBGYN told me to stop breastfeeding when he prescribed me some medication. With baby number 2, we’ve just slowly weaned him off the breastfeeding in the day around 10 months and still doing night feeds and he’s just turned 1 year. I only have this luxury because I’m a stay at home mom and also because I didn’t have supply issues. I feel lucky and I know that not everyone can keep feeding their baby this long. I met a fellow mom that around 8 months, she just had no more milk so both of her babies had to adjust to formula pretty quickly. Like Nonie said, the main thing is that baby is being nurtured and nourished whether it’s breast or formula.

  4. mammanonie says:

    I just came across some interesting stats on breastfeeding from Stats Canada, check them out here http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2010002/article/11269-eng.htm. A couple of things stood out to me. First in the province I live in just over 97% percent of women start out breastfeeding. This says that clearly the message is getting across where I live. But I also notice that number drops quickly to just over half at the 6 month mark, telling me that we’re not alone in the challenges of having enough milk.

  5. So what is happening at the six month mark? This article popped up when I asked Google the question – http://healthland.time.com/2010/09/17/most-moms-dont-follow-breastfeeding-recommendations/. Given that US laws provide mothers with three months unpaid maternity leave, it stands to reason that a percentage of working moms have not been able to sustain breastfeeding past an additional three months. But six month old babies are completely different than newborns – some of them bite! The American Association of Pediatrics recommends to bf your baby to a year as the World Health Organization suggests (with a lean to bf until the child is two years old, if possible.) I think six months is the first milestone that is floating around out there, and some people feel that it is adequate. I do think it is more complicated than a supply issue though, Nonie. Support in the states for mothers of infants is not nearly the same as what you see for mothers of newborns. Dare I say that I have been not been as present and supportive to my own friends with older babies as when their children were first born.

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