Sunday, 2 February 2014

The unnecessary shame of using formula

Image taken from this site


Any mum who has ever formula fed will know exactly what THAT look is. They will know what it is like to sit in a mum's group amd be asked "but why aren't you breastfeeding?" Or "don't you want to do the best for your child?" Then there is the damn right obnoxious rolling of eyes and looks of judgement others prefer. Formula feeding your child does not make you a bad parent. Leaving your child to go hungry so you can take the moral high ground or driving yourself insane after weeks of not being able to breastfeed efficiently makes you a bad parent.

When I was pregnant I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I read articles online and bought all the pads and creams in preparation, but what I wasn't ready for was a baby that just didn't want to latch. After the emergency caesarean that shot the Mini Grumpy Egyptian into our lives, I was in shock not just from the surgery but the realisation that I was now a mother. After being wheeled into my hospital room, a scrunched up ball of baby was thrust into my arms, my gown pulled down and her face shoved in the direction of my boob. There was no magic moment of her searching for my boob or latching on immediately, in fact I remember having to literally stick it in her face! 

We did manage to breastfeed, but the bad latch continued and after 2 weeks she had struggled to gain back her birth weight. I started pumping so I could supplement her with a bottle of my milk rather than turning to formula. Things didn't get easier but she began putting weight on. I remember crying down the phone to my mum one day in agony and sheer disappointment that breastfeeding wasn't turning out to be that amazing experience I had read about. When we got to the UK, I asked my health visitor about the Mini Grumpy Egyptian's slow weight gain and voiced concerns that I was feeling the stress of cluster feeding. I was told she was gaining at a steady rate and didn't need to have formula.

I was never asked whether I NEEDED - for my own sanity - to give her formula. I couldn't bring myself to say that I thought I needed to introduce formula once or twice a day so that I could relax for just a moment and allow someone else to deal with a feed. There was this shame in the back of my mind that if I said that then I wasn't being a good mum. After all we are meant to sacrifice ourselves for our children, but what about a little me time? Is that being selfish or by doing so would I be a better more relaxed mum?

When the Mini Grumpy Egyptian was five and a half months old, I gave in. I went to Boots and bought some formula. She drank it so fast and her weight began to follow a proper pattern! I started on 120ml a day and increased to around 180ml a day with breastfeeds when required. I'm more relaxed as it means someone else can feed her while I pop the washing in or eat my lunch. She seems fuller and now that she is on 3 meals a day, her sleeping patterns have got less erratic. 

I have friends who wanted to breastfeed, but weren't able to despite their best efforts as well as friends who chose not to breastfeed for personal reasons. And I tell you what.... They are bloody good parents. This post isn't meant to mock those that solely breastfeed - congratulations by the way - but I'm sorry to say I don't believe it makes you a better parent than someone who doesn't. Breast is as we all know best, but it doesn't give you the right to judge those who don't or indeed can't. So take a moment next time you are about to say something about a mum who is formula feeding and think about how you might be about to make them feel.


The Egyptian Mummy


27 comments:

  1. TBH I feel that breastfeeders get a bad time because people who want to breastfeed either don't get the right support or just decide they don't want to and so then feel guilty for stopping. I think everyone should have a choice. Now my choice was to breastfeed my babies and you know what I had to fight for that right too - it's never easy whatever we decide, I just think we should all support each other whatever their choices.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you about how important the support angle is because I felt I was almost pushed/guilt tripped into continuing! That guilt shouldn't exist as long as you're doing what's right for you and baby.

      Delete
    2. I agree and I think it is the mothers themselves who should decide what that is either way

      Delete
  2. I agree with this so much as a mum who couldn't breast feed due to medications. I was made to feel inferior.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bet you're a damn good mum though :)

      Delete
  3. I had a very similar problem with my 1st baby, although I never lasted as long as 5.5 months!! He had formula after 3 weeks, he just wouldn't latch properly after he had a difficult birth too and it felt like a massive struggle and fight to get him to latch and feed every time. My 2nd baby I also didn't bf for long at all, its only my 3rd who I have bf exclusively and now he has ended up going extended breastfeeding. I need to wean him off now!! I don't judge anyone as I have been on both sides of the breastfeeding/formula feeding thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear things worked better for you in the end :) It is just horrible when things aren't going well

      Delete
  4. As a formula feeder (am awful at breast feeding) the only thing that annoys me is owoole asking if I 'feed the baby myself?' Sadly, I do not have staff come round and feed the baby for me...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! Yeah a friend of mine was told once "Oh well at least you can go out and get drunk..." Uh no... she still comes home and is responsible for a child regardless of how she chooses to feed them!

      Delete
  5. I'm so glad that when I gave birth to my son nearly 15 years ago I wasn't made to feel bad for not breastfeeding. The sooner people get out of new mums' faces and let them get on and do what they feel is right for THEIR baby, the better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! I can't help but feel sometimes that women are our own worst enemy. I was talking to my mum a while ago and we were saying how 15 odd years ago it was seen as being better for your child to formula feed. Ah how things change!

      Delete
  6. Your post threw me back 8 years, my story was so much like yours, except I gave up after 2 weeks because it was either giving up or admitting him to hospital. It was a long time before I felt good about myself. Wasted time of water guilt. Good for you for trying, and good for you for doing what was best for you and your baby. Don't let other people views colour your parenting. You are excellent :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww thank you. It always cheers me up to hear stories about other mums facing similar problems because you are made to feel as though you are the only one sometimes.

      Delete
  7. In the end of the day the choice is up to you, and me, and every single mum out there... people have to learn how to stay out of others life's sometimes and just shut up...

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's difficult to have confidence in your decisions as a new parent. Glad everything worked out well in the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still feel like a total amateur! Thank you though :)

      Delete
  9. It is hard to be a new parent and feel like you are being judged by other parents. You just have to do what is right for you and ignore other peoples opinions. Everyone, whether breast or bottle feeding their child is doing their best and shouldn't be made to feel inadequate about it. A brave post x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you :) I wasn't sure how it would go down, but I am glad people have seen it in the way I intended.

      Delete
  10. VaiChin @Rambling Through Parenthood3 February 2014 at 21:10

    Each one to his (or her) own is my philosophy. Do what you are most comfortable and happy doing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's sad really that people feel the need to judge new parents whether breastfeeding or not. I breastfed for the first 5 months then had to start weaning POD onto formula before going back to work (she was a snacker so fed all the time!!!). I was congratulated by a health visitor when she gained weight - she was 100% on formula at that point! You can't win :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ohh yeah I had THAT look, THAT comment, THAT opinion. I also had THAT many tears about it. In the end we all just have to do what suits us and our kids. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  13. i wasn't breast fed (I was adopted - I haven't ever asked lol) and I think I turned out ok - I can't imagine looking down on someone for the choices. x

    ReplyDelete
  14. I combined fed my first 16 years ago and I felt pressured into formula feeding, had some negative reactions to bf in public which put me off. With my youngest child I bf and she would not take a bottle of breast milk or formula which was quite difficult in some aspects as she could not be left with anyone. I think that there should be more education and information available on breastfeeding - explaining cluster feeding etc and more support in the community for parents with their newborns. I also think that formula ( as well as pumped milk and donated milk too) and bottle feeding/cup feeding/spoon feeding should be seen as a possible choice and there should be more education and demonstrations on how to prepare a bottle etc.

    ReplyDelete
  15. we should be supported in our right to do whatever we want. Great post as a mum we are made to feel guilty whatever we do!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Good on you - you should do whatever is right for you and your baby. I went through the breastfeed shaming too - which I truly believe heavily contributed to severe PND with my first. It was only years later, with the memories of my child regurgitating blood, and the midwife saying 'don't worry - it's only your blood', that I realised both of my children are tongue tied, and this should have been pointed out to me at the time, as it makes successful breastfeeding almost impossible. Phew - hot topic for me. I do truly believe that a mother should be supported whatever her choices x

    ReplyDelete
  17. Yes. It's very important that we improve and continue awareness of the importance of breastfeeding, but the support needs to be there for those who formula feed for whatever reason. Shaming doesn't help anyone, and the guilt can be damaging.

    ReplyDelete