Dear Parents Magazine {Formula is not an F word}


A few weeks back, I wrote a post on this blog about growing out of Parents magazine. And it's true, I'm at the point in my parenting life where I'm more confident and more interested in reading about anti-aging creams than "Ten ways to get your toddler to try broccoli". That said, I'll be receiving copies in the mail for another year, so why not read them on my lunch break. That is exactly what I was doing when I came across an article about breast feeding.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, then you know that breast feeding is a hot button issue for me. I wasn't able to breast feed either child, and today, I'm okay with that. I should say, today I'm finally okay with that, because for years I was a wreck about it. Not being able to breast feed my oldest daughter completely sidelined me. It set in motion a full year of self loathing and a loss of confidence I hadn't seen since middle school. Fast forward to a much better place in my life as a mother, and know that every time I see an article or blog post referencing breast feeding I stop to read. Just to make sure all points of view are represented. Sadly, in last months Parents Magazine, this was not the case.

I do have to point out that the article was very informative. It was also very encouraging. It was a cheerleaders point of view of breastfeeding and how to make it one of the most successful things you will do as a mother. Fine. Fantastic even. I realize that there are more mothers who can breast feed than mothers who can't. LeLeche League was mentioned. Doulas and Lactation Specialists were mentioned. All the things you would want in an article to help you become a breast feeder were written in the article. And I know that eight years ago, first time pregnant Megan would have read the article three times, used a high lighter and post it notes, and then read it all over again. This article was perfect for a woman who had never had a baby before, because it was written with a perfect world in mind.

Which is unfortunate because nothing about motherhood happens in a perfect world.

While there was no mention of what happens when you have inverted nipples (anyone else?), there were plenty of tips on what to do when your milk supply is dwindling. Also plenty of tips to get your baby to latch. And lots of mention of nipple confusion. Which eight years ago was my biggest fear, not whether my baby had ten fingers and ten toes, but whether she would suffer from nipple confusion. Which I can now admit and reflect, is all sorts of bat shit crazy.

I wanted to scream and yell that this article was doing a huge disservice to mothers everywhere. This was setting many moms out there for utter failure because their experience is not going to be black and white, like an article in a magazine or a chapter in a book. I wanted a side bar or a little highlighted box to mention things like formula and bottle feeding. I wanted there to be a note that said that it is understood that even with the best of efforts, breast feeding may not be part of your mothering story. I wanted someone to say, "Look, even if you do all of this and none of it works, giving your kid a bottle will not make you a bad mother. It will not make you a failure. It will not make you unworthy". I wanted just one line to say, "It's your choice. And your choice is always the right choice". I just wanted it to have one encouraging word for someone who will be at a crossroads with a screaming baby, sore nipples, and a can of formula.

But no one said that, so I'm saying it here. To quote someone in a Redbook years ago, "Formula is not an F word". Nipple confusion isn't the worst thing that will ever happen to your child, and it certainly won't kill them. The "latch" may never happen. Your milk may dry up in a week. Your kid might be allergic to everything you eat, and cutting out cheese may not be what you want to do. So the hell what? Formula is not the enemy. Motherhood isn't perfect and breast feeding isn't either. Maybe you can and you just don't want to. Maybe you do it for a few months and it's killing you. Maybe, we should all collectively wise up and just let you decide what is best. That's good too.

My only fear is that somewhere there is a first time mother reading last months article, finding comfort in the facts and the tips on how to properly breast feed. Possibly she is taking notes and writing a birth plan. My hope is that it all goes swimmingly for her. I hope that her journey is as picture perfect as the article. I hope that she finds the latching process with ease. That she has an over abundance of milk, and never has to use a bottle. I hope that it's everything that she planned and everything she wanted.

And I pray that if it all goes to shit, she has a best friend like mine that will lay down the law and exclaim,

"If Jesus didn't want you to bottle feed, he wouldn't have invented 
formula or the Walmarts to buy it in".


8 comments:

  1. I needed this 9 years ago. My body did not produce milk. It just didn't.

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  2. Amen, Sista! There is so much danger in articles like the one you're referencing. There is already so much pressure on new mom's, ANY mom, EVERY MOM, articles offering any kind of insight should be balanced. And I'm not talking Pros/Cons. I'm talking facts and facts. Then we can make informed decisions that work for US. Keep on this crusade you're on. I dig it.

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  3. Your best friend is amazing! haha. Seriously though, I needed this article. As a fellow mommy who tried, and failed to join the boob brigade, I constantly feel like I did something wrong. There's a mom I'm "friends" with who's all about breast feeding and feminism and even lets her children run around naked all he time (which is totally not ok to me). Some of the things she says to me about our choice to formula feed make me want to smack the hell out of her. You never know someone's situation. It's not like she came out of me and I shoved a bottle in her mouth. We tried long and hard. I even had my fiance hold her while I laid in awkward positions to try to make it more comfortable. Then when that failed we tried pumping. After over an hour I had only pumped 2 oz of milk. From each side! I tried eating different foods, etc, but I just wasn't meant to do it. In the long run it worked out. Yes it was difficult, but we made it. I still tend to feel bullied by others, so it's really nice to read another mom's story. Thank you for sharing girl! (:

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  4. Thank you, Thank you! I felt like a complete failure the first year of my sons life for not nursing, I wanted to so badly but it just didn't happen. I had people telling me that giving my son formula would cause him to have asthma down the road and he would be ill a lot. Well he's 2 1/2 now and perfectly healthy. Thank you for providing the alternate view on this and reminding mothers everywhere that what we choose to do is best! :)

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  5. My boobs and my body didn't cooperate. I felt awful and like a failure. So many people wanted me to try this and that and it made me more frustrated when it didn't work. Mothers need to be reminded that it is all going to be all right even if they are formula fed. Shame on any parenting magazine that doesn't point out all aspects of breastfeeding.

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  6. I tried breastfeeding and it just wasn't for me. Didn't fit into how we were going to be handling a new baby in the house (I went back to work three weeks after Louis was born and Bennett was the stay-at-home, still is). So we did formula pretty much from Week 2 on. And it was fine for us. No shame in my game.

    I remember my sister calling me in tears after her baby was born. She had so much pressure to breastfeed my niece from "the mothers" in her family but it was making her life a living hell to do so. I told her that it doesn't matter how the baby eats as long as she's eating. Boob or not, the choices she makes are her choices, not anyone elses. The "breast is best" pressure out there is horrifying for new moms. I say do what feels right for you. To hell with anyone who says different.

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  7. As I always say: Breast may be Best but Formula is Fine too!

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  8. I would never forget the feeling of emptiness, guilt and not-worthiness when I realized that I have troubles with breastfeeding and I won't be able to provide for my daughter. I wish that there was someone like you Megan who would tell me that feeding your baby formula is not a crime. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by mothers whose milk supply was abundant which made me feel even worse for being the first one to nurse her baby to formula. My husband is my hero and I can't thank him enough for making me join a community of formula feeding moms and also for researching and finding a very good formula for our daughter. After reading this article we decided to go for organic formula. At first, our daughter had troubles getting used to the bottle but she loved and still loves the formula. It was only after she turned 10 months and I saw her thrive that I forgave myself for not being able to breastfeed. This experience made me realize how important it is for us mothers to support each other regardless of the feeding we go for.

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