Breast Milk versus Formula: What a joke!

Breastfeeding is the healthiest and best way to feed your baby! But you shouldn’t breastfeed in public, supplementing with formula is a bad idea, you’re baby’s digestive issues are caused by your milk, you’re baby isn’t gaining enough weight due to your lack of milk, you don’t breastfeed enough, you breastfeed too often, blah, blah, blah, blah…….

Obviously breast milk is beneficial to a new baby, but breastfeeding is nearly as hard as the delivery. Rarely does a new mom receive the support needed to breastfeed and society makes breastfeeding in public taboo. A stressed out, exhausted, sore, and inexperienced mother is expected to nurse like a pro immediately; but I can tell you from experience, it isn’t easy or pleasant to nurse, (in the beginning.) After time, lots of practice, and some mistakes, a breastfeeding mom can finally call herself a pro. That is, if she is still nursing and hasn’t been discouraged by the sore nipples, engorgement, night time feedings, colic, baby’s constant hunger, endless feedings, inability to pump, leaking breasts, desire to spend more than a couple of hours in public without the need to nurse, etc. I could go on for hours describing how incredibly difficult it can be.

Once optimal breastfeeding has been established, it is the easiest way to feed a baby. No bottles to wash, no formula to prepare, no heavy supplies to carry on long trips; it’s fantastic. But there’s just a little problem: where is a woman to breastfeed when on extended outings, events, or trips? Some department stores, like Nordstrom, will provide a lounge, while others will gladly make room in their largest and most comfortable dressing rooms for mom’s and their little ones. Most places are nothing like these department stores. In one instance, I approached an employee at Target and asked if they had a family room or private seating area that I could us to breastfeed.The young girl looked at me in confusion and said they had a family bathroom I could use. I asked if the bathroom included a chair; her reply, “no, it just has a toilet.” My point is, shouldn’t breastfeeding, the most natural way to feed a baby, be as common as using a baby changing station? Why don’t most places provide a private area for women to feed their babies? Is this a ridiculous request?

I realize that I am able to throw a blanket over the baby while he is nursing, but the looks a woman gets while breastfeeding in public range from understanding to outright disgust. It is easy to tell a mother not to worry about what other people think, but some women tend to be more modest than others. And have you ever tried covering yourselves with a blanket while trying to wrestle your breast out of your nursing tank and holding a squirming baby in a public setting without being completely obvious? All I’m saying is that I would love to be able to run errands and know that I will be able to find a private and comfortable place to nurse my son. Is that too much to ask for?

I have overcome establishing my milk supply, created a convenient feeding schedule, and become proficient at nursing in the car, fitting rooms, my friends’ and families’ homes, and some public places, like the above mentioned department stores. The rest of the time, I have supplemented with formula. Formula has become the best and most efficient way to feed Rylan while on outings and it also allows for Rich to feed the baby when he is home from work. The decision to use formula was not an easy one. Just the thought of one feeding a day with formula made me burst into tears. I can attribute this ridiculous emotional response to hormones, another great side effect a breastfeeding mom gets to endure.

Most of the literature I’ve found online regarding supplementing with formula stated that it would have a negative effect on my milk supply. My milk supply has decreased slightly, but I don’t find that negative since I still produce enough for Rylan. Since we began supplementing, he has slept through the night nearly every night (usually from 9pm until 5am). If I discontinue the one formula feeding a day, he wakes at least once to nurse between 3 and 4am. I am able to take my baby with me to do errands and not worry about  where I will nurse if he is hungry. A huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulder in that regard. The guilt of not exclusively breastfeeding, though, has not abated.

So to all you exclusively breastfeeding mothers out there: Great Job! For mothers that are only able to nurse for a short while or only occasionally: You are amazing for being able to breastfeed even a little. And to those women that are not able to breastfeed and had to use formula from the beginning or chose to use formula: There is no shame in it at all. I grew up on formula, my friends have raised their children on it, and formula has only gotten better with time. The importance of loving your baby and keeping him healthy outweighs what anyone says about breastfeeding versus formula. Care for your little one and care for yourself, everything else is secondary.


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