So there I was at one of my first mommy play dates with my newborn baby in New York City’s beautiful Central Park, all of us moms sitting on blankets, homemade snacks in the middle of the circle, a ton of Bugaboo strollers parked near us, designer diaper bags sitting next to us that were filled to the brim with hand sanitizer, pacifier wipes in case they fell on the floor (mind you, these are different from regular sanitizer wipes because these suckers are made from organic fruit enzymes), 100% organic cotton blankets, BPA-free baby rattles painted with non-toxic paint, all natural, preservative-free butt paste, and PVC-free changing pads, and as we chatted about our babies’ sleep routines, our pregnancies and our (ok, mine) PTSD from labor, IT happened; it became baby-feeding time. One by one the nipples came out, the colorful My Breast Friend wraps and covers lining up on each mom like a uniform of sorts and then, well, there was me, the formula feeder of the group.
I slooowly reached in my new, bad ass diaper bag and began the process of digging out the bottle and formula holder as my eyes shifted from mom to mom, assessing the situation; clearly I was the lone formula feeder there. “Maybe they won’t notice,” I reasoned. “After all, they are busy feeding their own babies.” Wishful thinking. This was the Upper East Side’s high-end version of the Le Leche League.
As I pulled out my Born Free bottle with its filtered water and my new accessory, the powdered formula holder that has three different colored sections for each bottle I may need while I am out, and as I held my baby in my arms and managed to pour the formula into the water and shake the bottle, a collective silence fell over the group as people watched in horror. Was she really about to FORMULA FEED? As if I was giving my child poison. Then, as if on cue, as if I must not already get this question a million times, came the inevitable, “So how come you decided not to breastfeed?” Translation: “What is wrong with you?”
I could almost hear the assumptions being made out loud, maybe that I am a parent who is not concerned enough with my baby’s health, or maybe I am not motivated to breastfeed and stick with it. Maybe you assume I am someone who can’t be bothered to learn to get her baby to latch on, but whatever you think it is, it’s probably far from the truth (Although maybe the real question here is why is there so much judgment that I even feel the need to explain it at all?).
I am usually the health conscious mom, a lifelong vegetarian, the daughter of a prominent vegan chef, my brother and I were both breastfed…for a really long time…and yes, I still did not breastfeed my own child.
I am healthy, but I do have a daily medication that I need to take, and it is excreted in breast milk and is not safe for an infant to consume. When my doctor informed me that I could not breastfeed due to this, despite what I may have wanted to do, it put me right smack in the middle of this never ending feeding debate, a debate that has even led to some hospitals asking new moms to sign a breastfeeding pledge right after delivering their baby. Ummm, please, the only thing I wanted to sign after my crazy labor was the receipt for my prescription pain killer refill.
So here I am, a bottle-feeding mom starting to feel, well, REALLY pissed off. I am sick of the looks, the assumptions and the ever-present “why didn’t you breastfeed” question. One time a friend actually asked me, “Are your boobs real?”
“Ummm, yes, I was born with these.”
“Oh,” she replied as she sighed heavily. “I thought maybe they were implants and that was why you decided not to breastfeed.” Good grief! I am glad we cleared that up; silicone had nothing to do with this.
I am here to tell you that as a mom who loves her son so much it literally hurts, I care very much, as most moms do, about my son’s health and I found the next best thing to breast milk with my organic (BPA-free jar, of course), probiotic filled, DHA added formula, and guess what? My baby was fine. No, he was more than fine; he was doing great. Growing bigger each day, meeting all of his milestones. Hell, he even walked at nine-and-a-half months. He was thriving as a healthy and happy infant.
When I hear people say that breastfeeding moms bond more with their children during the feedings than formula fed babies, I literally laugh so hard I almost spit out my organic, low acid, fair trade coffee. As I (and other formula feeding moms) fed my baby and held him close to my heart, warm in his blanket, kissing his forehead and nurturing him as we rocked in the rocking chair, sometimes I sang to him and sometimes we rocked in a peaceful silence. The moments were tender and beautiful. It did not matter if the nipple was from a human breast or a bottle; what mattered was the love and affection that I took care of him with.
So, I will no longer be made to feel bad. I will mix and shake that bottle PROUDLY because I know I am doing what keeps me healthy and being healthy and able to take care of my child is the best possible thing.
And because I support all moms and moms’ right to breastfeed anywhere their babies need to eat, I signed all the petitions against stores that shame women who breastfeed out in public and the companies that do not give moms a clean and safe place to pump, and I rallied like my organic, hippy (albeit now Jimmy Choo loving!) roots told me to do, but it made me think, “Where is the support for us formula feeding moms?”
So, from now on, just give us formula feeding moms a break and for once support us, knowing that we had to make a hard decision and this was the choice that we made, whatever the reason behind it may have been. Parenting is never black and white, and this issue should never be used to shame mothers.
Can’t we just end this inflammatory nipple debate here and now? I say here is to moms united, not in a feeding debate, but in the spirit of raising happy and healthy children, no matter how they took their first sip of milk.