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The Unbearable “Failure” of the Formula Feeding Mum

standard February 17, 2017 2 responses

So a post went up on another site about the fact that they’ve decided not to promote formula milk on their blog. Of course, that’s their choice as to what they do and do not want to place on their part of the internet. I love that, I love that a blog gives you the freedom to talk about what you want and refuse to talk about what you don’t. I won’t be promoting dummies for example (not that I’ve been asked) – but way more blogs will, because they like them. Totally cool. This is not a “refusing to promote formula is incorrect” post. It’s really, really not.

However, I felt compelled to write something on the subject. An alternative viewpoint from someone who has decided to (and would totally continue to) promote formula feeding. One that I feel quite passionately about, because it explores the one part of my pregnancy experience that left a sour taste in my mouth. I don’t normally do these type of in-depth posts… I’m not really into baring my soul to the internet but this is an exception.

I think my problem with this issue is the fact that it’s an issue at all, and more to the point, that ultimately it’s the people who breastfeed that get to the forefront of it. For good reasons and for bad reasons, be it lying about a Primark security guard assaulting you whilst breastfeeding or whether it’s feeling super empowered by being able to provide for your child naturally. In parenting circles, there is nothing more prevalent than “breast is best”. I’m not denying that fact at all. Nobody is.

But what about the rest of us? Those who tried but couldn’t. Who desperately wanted to, but couldn’t. Those who didn’t feel they could. Those that just didn’t want to. Why are we sectioned off? If there was ever a stigma attached to breastfeeding (and I’m not sure there ever has been really) then it has flipped 180 and is now firmly with formula feeders. From poisonous social media telling us we are unfit mothers and forums accusing us of “poisoning our children with chemicals”, the perpetuation of shame and guilt is never-ending.

Which is why I feel like this post needed to be written. Needed to be put out there for the mums who can’t, won’t, didn’t, shouldn’t breastfeed. For whatever reason. You’re not alone and you’re not doing anything wrong.

With Short Rib, I really, really tried with the whole breastfeeding thing… I felt that it was the only acceptable option.

From almost my first antenatal appointment to my last, I was asked about what my plans were for breastfeeding him, what I’d do about it when I went to work. Every leaflet I was given was very much “breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby”. We all know it is and the fact is never rammed home more than when you are expecting. The pressure on expectant mothers is already incredible, so to try and have that at the back of your mind before the sprog is even here is pretty unbearable, even if it’s something you want to do.

The “promotion” for breastfeeding your child is everywhere, even in promotion for formula milk. Everybody, everywhere, knows that “breast is best” – what more promotion do you need?

I had a plan (a good one too!) about breastfeeding and then expressing for Short Rib… for at least the first six months or so of his life. I had it all sussed out and that was that. Every appointment, I dutifully told the midwife what I would do, that I was going to breastfeed.

The weight of that expectation though, never ever lifted.

So when the little bugger arrived and downright refused to latch. Refused to do anything I was trying to make him do, I felt like a failure. They called him a “sleepy feeder” but he wasn’t. The minute he got donated breast milk out of a bottle, he was fine. He was feeding just fine when given his preferred tools to do it. Nothing sleepy about it. But I was made to feel like a failure as a mother within 12 hours of giving birth, because he would not latch on to me. No midwife, breastfeeding support woman, nobody could change that.

No matter. We’ll just express instead. Short Rib clearly liked bottles, so he can have my stuff out of that. Except yeah, no. It took me excruciating hours to get the tiniest amount of milk. I tried so hard. Every hour or so, I was there with the pump. When he was in the room, when he wasn’t, when he was happy, when he cried. Nothing. I just couldn’t get the flow going and eventually, I had to admit defeat. The breast pump got chucked in the bin in disgust and I avoided the internet for a while.

I had failed at the one thing I was supposed to be naturally good at.

This is why I will always support formula milk and feeding on this blog.

Nobody tells you that it’s okay to feed your child formula. Whatever formula you like. Just feed your child something… anything that you can. If that is formula, whatever your reasoning, it is a good reason and it is the right thing to do.

I don’t promote formula because I believe one brand is better than another, or because I think it needs to get its name out there.

I promote it because in recent years, it’s a thing that needs normalising. Breast feeding mothers feel unfairly treated sometimes (and in some cases they aren’t, they just like a bit of attention on social media) but formula feeders have a stigma that is there through no fault of their own, and nowhere more so than amongst other mothers. How outrageous is that?

I promote formula, because sometimes I needed to be told that I wasn’t a failure. That I am a good mother, and that formula feeding is perfectly alright. I needed to be told that my decisions were good decisions and that I wasn’t failing my child. I needed that reassurance, and I think a lot of other formula feeding mums need that too.

Formula feeding is normal – so in my opinion, I have no reason to exclude it from my blog.

So I won’t.

Breastfeeding, bottle feeding, baby food, baby-led vegan weaning, whatever. You’re all welcome here because you’re all doing a fantastic job. Keep doing what you’re doing.


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2 responses

  • Great post. This is such an emotive topic. I have no issue with formula at all. Babies need to be fed one way or the other. It’s not my business what other mums choose/have to do. I breastfeed but occasionally give a bottle of formula which puts me in the middle of the two camps. It’s weird there’s such a divide. We all feed our babies and that’s the most important thing.
    I didn’t read the post you are talking about, but it sounds a bit odd. If that blogger doesn’t formula feed themselves, then why would they promote formula? I don’t smoke so I’d never promote cigarettes/vaping, but I also wouldn’t write a post explaining that, because it’s irrelevant.

  • Becki Parsons

    This is such a good post. I had similar problems to you, my son wouldn’t latch and expressing was too difficult and time consuming. It’s so, so important that while we appreciate that “breast is best” that doesn’t mean that formula is the devil! It is an excellent and healthy alternative, and should you choose to use it, or not have a choice but to use it, you shouldn’t have to defend yourself for it. Huge hugs hun xx

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