MYTH: Breast is Best Debunked
MYTH: Breast is Best Debunked
Whoever said don’t cry over spilled milk, obviously never spilled the two ounces of breast milk that they spent all day desperately trying to pump out of their breasts.
Now, before I start getting hate mail, let me start by saying I have nothing against breastfeeding. I think it’s a beautiful and natural thing between a mother and child. If you breastfeed your children do it proudly. I am a staunch support breastfeeding. However, there is a lack of support for women who formula feed their babies. Even worse than the general lack of support, is the mom shaming that I see all the time.
This post is for those mothers (like me) who struggled with feeding her babies. Either because they tried to breastfeed and for whatever reason couldn’t. Or those mothers who for any reason at all, chose to formula feed their baby from the get-go. Frankly, this post is also for those moms who breastfeed their babies, as a reminder that women that we should support each other.
Let me start with what I dislike the most. The rhetoric, “Breast is Best.” This simple phrase, that I am sure was started with the best of intentions makes my blood boil. Just saying “Breast is Best” implies that anything other breastfeeding is inferior. It’s the words that I have a problem with. Because let’s be honest, words matter. They have meaning. And during what is probably the most emotional and hormonal time in a woman’s life. They can be devastating.
I remember when I was in a prenatal class while pregnant with my first son. The instructor asked who planned on breastfeeding their babies. Without hesitation, 100% of the women proudly raised their hands. After all, everyone is told that breastfeeding babies have been linked to so many advantages.
I too was certain that I would breastfeed my son. I felt as though it was a valuable gift that my body was going to give to my child. Despite the best of intentions, things don’t always go according to plan. In my case, it was due to a complete undersupply.
This was not for lack of trying. I was taking Fenugreek, Blessed Thistle, eating lactation cookies, making lactation smoothies, pumping, drinking Guinness (and I strongly dislike beer), constantly pumping, and feeding my son through a tiny tube attached to my breast. I went to lactation consultants. I filled a prescription for Domperidone. Side note: Domperidone will apparently make men lactate, but not me.
After a month and a half of this exhausting schedule, I was lucky if after a full day of pumping would produce a grand total of 2oz of milk. At this point, my son was having 4-6oz of formula in a single feeding (still through that tube attached to my breast).
I felt so guilty for having to supplement with formula, but nothing was working, my supply was not increasing. I felt as though my body had failed me. It had produced this miracle, but couldn’t feed him.
Everywhere I went, people asked me if I was breastfeeding. I felt such guilt when I would tell them that I was using formula. The disapproving glares I received when I told them I was using formula didn’t help.
My son was crying. He was hungry. He was starting to lose weight because he was working too hard to get the formula from the tiny tube, and falling asleep before he was full. I was told by his pediatrician that I could continue pumping, but that I had to stop the tube.
I cried. I had done everything right. I had read the books. I did everything I was told. It didn’t work. I felt as though I had let myself down. But more importantly, I felt as though I had let my son down.
At that point, I gave up. I realized that instead of enjoying this precious time with my newborn, I was creating unnecessary stress. I had to give myself permission to let it go.
At that point, I gave up. All at once, I stopped the madness, stopped all supplementation and formula fed my baby with a bottle. I stopped pumping and trying to breastfeed. And do you know what happened? My son began to gain weight. He was happier, healthier, and frankly so was I. My son is how a normal healthy toddler, and is in no way any worse off in life because I stopped breastfeeding. Shocking, I know.
Despite my general health and well-being significantly increasing after I stopped pressuring myself to breastfeed, the stares and the comments did not stop. I was being mom shamed for feeding my baby!
There are no shortage of reasons why women don’t or simply can’t breastfeed. However, there seems to be an inherent need for women to justify this decision to the world. I remember being at the supermarket bottle feeding my son when a woman approached me and told me I should be breastfeeding. I was shocked. I was embarrassed. I was tongue-tied. I didn’t know what to say, and so I just looked at her and said nothing. When I got to my car, I cried. All the guilt and shame came flooding back.
That’s when I realized, why was I justifying my parenting decisions to anyone. More importantly, why should I have to.
I am not a scientist. However, I can make two statements with complete certainty:
1. Fed is best!
2. A happy and healthy mother is best!
As a mom, we already have enough pressure to do what is best for our children. Not every parent will raise their children in the same way. Parents will make tough choices on a daily basis that are based on what works for them and their families. We should be uplifting and be supporting each other. Not finding ways to judge and tear each other down.
So, if you are struggling to increase your supply, or agonizing with the decision whether to breastfeed or formula feed your baby, know that whatever decision you make, your baby will succeed. Give yourself permission to do what is best for you and your well being.
If you are breastfeeding your baby, do so proudly. It is a beautiful thing. But no more or less beautiful than a baby being fed by any other means.
I just ask one thing – no matter how you feed your baby – please, please stop saying breast is best. Because the truth is, Fed is Best!