To the Formula-Feeding Mom: An apology
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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.
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.
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.