To the Formula-Feeding Mom: An apology

Published by Bert A. on

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To the Formula Feeding Mom. An Apology

I have breastfed all three of my children. My girls were exclusively breastfed. My son was primarily breastfed, however, due to jaundice and slow weight gain I supplemented with formula for the first six weeks of his life. I have so many friends who have used formula for their babies. I have family members who formula-fed their children. I’ve never judged these women or their decision on how they were going to feed their child.

When I’m really honest with myself, and after I wrote about how much admiration I have for mothers who exclusively pump for their child, I had to look at things from the perspective of a formula-feeding mom. At first glance a formula-feeding mother’s life seems easy: you have formula in a can, dump it into bottle and then shake, shake shake. Wam bam thank you ma’am! You’ve got baby’s food in a jiffy without breaking a sweat. But do I really know what it’s like to have to prepare a bottle of formula for my baby? No, I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve never done it nor have I even tried to do it. Something tells me that it’s not as easy as I’d like to think it is. Something tells me that formula-feeding mothers deserve credit for the work they do too.

Formula-feeding mom

The truth of the matter, is that us mothers who breastfeed or exclusively pump are kind of heralded for the dedication we have for our children. You, the formula-feeding mom, isn’t. Why is that? I don’t know your story and I haven’t bothered to ask. Maybe, for some reason you cannot produce milk and this wasn’t your choice. Maybe you tried in vain to nurse your newborn but it just wasn’t working and when push came to shove you made the choice that while breast is best it wasn’t for your family. Maybe you needed to take medication that wouldn’t allow you to nurse your child because your milk was contaminated with the medicine. Maybe your baby was born prematurely and you gave it your all to nurse him but the stress of an early delivery and the hormones coursing through your body made nursing all too emotionally difficult for you to do it all. At that point, maybe you were advised by your doctor to take care of yourself emotionally and use formula. Maybe this child is not yours biologically, you didn’t give birth in the common connotation of the word, but you unabashedly love him because he is yours through adoption. I want to hear your story; tell me.

What I do know is that you are not a failure. You are not lazy. You are “mom enough.” You love your child fiercely.

What I do know is that you are not a failure. You are not lazy. You are "mom enough." You love your child fiercely.

I cannot take those truths away from you and I’m sincerely sorry if there was ever a time I made you feel as if you were less of a mother because you were giving your child formula.

You are the same as me: We both love our children sacrificially; whether it’s cracked nipples or researching the right kind of formula and bottle, we both will do whatever it takes for our children to thrive. You, my friend, are a wonderful mother and you too deserve credit for the dishes, the bottles that work best for your baby, the formula that doesn’t make baby’s tummy upset, and for how prepared you have to be all the time. I tip my hat to you. I have not done it and honestly, I don’t know if I could do it. But you, you do it day in and day out: Measuring, buying more formula, having clean bottles, being prepared all the time. Pretend that I’m looking you in the eye, we’re standing at a playground while our littles play, hear me when I say, “I’m sorry if you have felt unappreciated; you are appreciated and you are amazing.”

Is there a formula-feeding mom you feel could hear this encouragement? Does she need a hug or pat on the back? Share it with her and tell her she’s a great mother.

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Bert A.

As the creator of the lifestyle blog and book, Me Before Mom, Bert supports millennial moms facing the challenges and changes of motherhood. Me Before Mom is an online community that offers support through real life stories, encouraging advice, and answers to questions about how a woman maintains herself during this self-sacrificial time of parenthood. Stories from Bert Anderson have helped women across the globe through the Huffington Post, Today’s Parent, and on the Harry show. Whether weathering the first year of motherhood or walking through the later stages of motherhood, Bert has helped many continue to find herself while still in the throes of motherhood. Purchase your copy of Me Before Mom: Putting Your Oxygen Mask on First today!


Stephanie Newman · October 12, 2015 at 9:11 am

Thank you for this post! I have formula fed all of my boys, one by choice and the other two because I couldn’t nurse anymore. There are times when I felt ashamed because I gave them bottles and all my friends and family were nursing their babies who were the same age as my boys. I always felt like there was this stigma for parents who bottle-fed their babies, that we were looked down upon because we did. That we weren’t giving our children the best nutrition because we bottle fed and not nursed.But I know that there are parents like you that look past that and know that we are doing the best for our children whether its nursing or bottle feeding our babies.

    Bert @ First Time Mom MN · October 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I wish we could all look past the decisions each other make. We’re all doing what we can to give our children the best.

Megan Burlingame · October 12, 2015 at 11:16 am

I’d love to share my story, 3 VERY different experiences…due to Eli’s CHD and hospital stay, I wasn’t allowed to nurse him. I pumped and pumped and pumped and pumped. I missed consultations with doctors due to pumping. I missed meetings at work due to pumping. I missed the opportunity to really snuggle and get to know him due to pumping. Did I try nursing? Heck yes. Did it work, hell no! Did I give up? Nope, but I wanted to. Did he fail? Nope, he thrived. He grew. He was well loved. He was snuggled by Daddy while I pumped (he still prefers to snuggle with Daddy than with me and that’s ok). I pumped for 9 months for that little man. He grew, he thrived and he survived…3 open heart surgeries. That was my greatest victory…surviving. Noah…he was a champion nurser! Never had any problems. He gained weight, he was a porker. He loved to eat and he is still my snuggler! He eventually weaned himself at about 9 months to just night and morning feedings, then was completely done at about 10.5 months. Tessa…oh my word! Worst experience ever! She had severe reflux, I had low milk supply (tried everything under the sun), she had a tongue and lip tie, lack of weight gain…nothing seemed to work. She would nurse, spit up, nurse, spit up, nurse, spit up…it was a vicious cycle. I was so stressed, so drained, so frustrated, so scared, so worried. I felt like such a failure. My body wasn’t producing enough milk to keep up with her nursing demands and she was constantly spitting up. The emotional toll that it took on me was worrisome to my family and friends. It was such a blessing in disguise when she decided to be done nursing at 5 months old. I grieved. After my amazing nursing experience with Noah, to have such an awful experience with Tessa was so heartbreaking. However, my husband was amazing. He was encouraging, supportive, loving and kept reminding me that she is going to be ok. Well, she is 8.5 months old and adorable! She is gaining weight, loves to eat, loves to snuggle and is super busy. She is thriving and doing so well!

    Bert @ First Time Mom MN · October 12, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Megan! It’s so sad that we’re so hard on ourselves for those things that in the grand scheme of life don’t matter. Your experience with Tessa sounds so difficult. I’m so happy you have a good support system.

Lisa · October 12, 2015 at 1:07 pm

This is awesome!! I have 3 girls, the first one was only breastfed, the second was breastfed until 7 months due to my milk production stopping, and my last is about 10 months, still nursing, but I also just added formula too (for mommy time while she’s at grandma’s). I love breastfeeding and I think it is such a beautiful gift we have to give as a mom. HOWEVER!!! There is no right or wrong! Formula, breast, both…moms that love their babies are amazing and I send you love and encouragement <3

Kelley Baker · October 12, 2015 at 2:14 pm

One of my kids was supplemented with formula and one was exclusively breastfed until almost 3! We’re all just doing our best here!

    Bert @ First Time Mom MN · October 12, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    We are totally doing our best. That’s all any of us can do. #endmommywars

Leanne · October 12, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I breastfed all of my kids, but for the last two I had to stop before I was ready – one at 10mos, one at 6mos – due to a medication I’m on. It had been harder than I thought and the stigma of formula feeding has only made the tough decision harder.

elizamatt · October 13, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Everyone just does what they have to do to see that their child is well fed. Some can’t breast feed, others don’t want to, it’s everyone’s personal choice or it’s a necessity to do what’s best for their child. I believe that breast feeding is the easiest of the two, the milk is always there, baby gets to drink as much as it wants. Formula has to be measure, bottles sterilised, temperature checked – there are none of these problems when breast feeding.

Bert @ First Time Mom MN · October 25, 2015 at 2:26 pm

You’re welcome! I’m so sorry that you’ve felt ashamed and I’m truly sorry because I’m certain I’ve made other mothers feel the same way.

LindsaynHunter Nuttall · October 30, 2015 at 11:01 pm

I nursed my oldest till he was 7 months when we found out I was pregnant with my second. Never felt bad about. I swear he would still be nursing now at 2 1/2 if I had let him. My second, I could tell about two minutes after he was born that nursing was going to be different with him. He didn’t want to latch on. I knew what I was doing, and he just didn’t want it. So we struggled, for 4 months. He would whine and scream every time I nursed, he got diagnosed with acid reflux, the medicine helped some, we still kept up the dance of trying to nurse plus taking care of a 16 month old boy. Finally my husband lost his job and we moved down to AZ to be with my parents and my milk dried up with the hot air and formula was the only option. He loved it from them moment we first started, and lo and behold his acid reflux went away.
It was so hard for me to stop nursing. I wanted to nurse, I wanted that bond, I wanted it. And it took me 4 months to realize that he didn’t, and that it wasn’t about me. And it took me till he was a year old and drinking whole milk for me to not think I was a bad mom for not nursing.

Beth R · January 23, 2016 at 1:51 pm

I have to say, sometimes moms drive me nuts. Does it really matter? Aren’t we all just doing the best we can? It would be so much easier for everyone to just be supportive because it is hard enough having people make you feel bad for choices that are best for your child

    Bert @ First Time Mom MN · January 24, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    I think some of the guilt is brought on by ourselves and not necessarily others. Yes, we do all need to be more supportive though.

Aprille { · May 23, 2016 at 8:33 am

I wrote a similar post just last week! We are now combo-feeding our son and I couldn’t be happier!

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