I wrote more than two years ago when I introduced formula to Pepper. At the time, I didn’t know that moving exclusively to formula would help my mental state. I wouldn’t say I suffered from postpartum depression. At least, not in the traditional idea of seeking professional help. But I wasn’t doing great.
My mood swings were drastic. My sleep was irregular. My sense of self felt like it was swimming in the North Pole, cold and constantly trying to cling to the cold edge.
With the formula shortage still continuing to plague parents, I find myself reflecting on the stigma around using formula. How strangers, fellow moms, and even medical professionals can make you feel inferior for making that choice.
So here are some raw emotions, written by a momma who had recently started using formula and discovered that it was best for the entire family.
Written May 2020
Breast is best. The number of times I’ve heard moms, medical professionals, and the odd man who thinks he needs to weigh in chant ‘breast is best’ you’d think everyone from little old ladies to budding teens would be walking around flaunting their nipples.
And here’s the deal: breast may very well be best…for some people. It can certainly be less expensive if time is not an object. And in 18 years when my little is asking me to pay for college, she’ll appreciate every penny I saved during her spit-up years.
Breast may also be best for my waistline. And goodness gracious, breast is definitely best for not making me feel like the world’s worst mom — especially as a mom who produces enough milk to feed my baby.
But you know what breast isn’t best for? It’s not best for us. It’s not best for my ability to feel like a human. It sucks for wearing anything I care about or feeling the least bit sexy. Breast isn’t best for my husband helping with feeding.
It’s not best for the sleep-deprived moments when I forget my nursing pads. (If I had a nickel for the number of times I suddenly found myself splashing breastmilk on my feet like my own personal milk-filled rain cloud I’d have my daughter’s college fund set.) And you know what else breast isn’t best for? It’s not best for my baby sleeping through the night.
Our former pediatrician (that’s a story for another time) said formula wouldn’t make a difference. The lactation consultant cautioned me against it with a tree’s worth of pamphlets. One very angry man on Instagram wagged his digital finger at me, admonishing the gall I had to give my baby anything but ‘the best.’
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the beauty of being ‘all-natural.’ And I can attest that breastfeeding requires fewer dishes and less stuff to pack in a diaper bag. And I definitely want to be the best mom I can be.
But when it comes right down to it, a happy mommy is better than anything for my baby. This happy mommy can coo and cuddle, rather rock her child in a fit of sleep-deprived rage. I introduced formula because it’s best for me, which is best for my baby.
And the whole experience filled me with an entirely new mix of rage and guilt. Why is it I have to defend my decision? Why have we made women who use formula feel like they are subpar? There are a lot of women who need formula. Who don’t produce enough. Who can’t share their milk for medical reasons. Who adopt!
The stigma around formula these heroic ladies have to endure breaks my heart. Because any gal who volunteers to spend the rest of her life caring for and worrying about a child deserves a standing ovation. We deserve pedicures and sandy beaches and a big hug.
The number of articles I’ve read from women about introducing formula which go into lengthy explanations about why they simply didn’t have enough milk makes me want to swan dive into a five-layer chocolate cake. I mean, here we are dealing with blowout diapers and screaming tiny humans testifying to society about how, ‘we really did try.’
Why isn’t it enough to just say, ‘I’m a mom. My baby’s fed and clothed and loved on.’ That should be enough to award us all a huge ‘ATA GIRL!’
This isn’t to say breastfeeding is bad. Nor is it to pooh-pooh those who exclusively do it. But girl, if you need formula, if you want formula, if you’re using formula for any reason — you’re also doing great. You’re a rockstar. You are a success.
Pediatricians, lactation consultants, and strangers on social media be damned. Breast isn’t best for everyone — especially me. And none of us ‘formula mommies’ need to ‘explain’ why, unless of course, we want to (cough cough).
I introduced formula and I don’t regret it for one second because formula is best for us.