Formula Shaming

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Hey, mamas. I experienced something strange and sad last year, and I’ve kind of been sitting on it ever since. But seeing as it’s World Breastfeeding Week, I think it’s time to talk about it.

I was at the grocery store with my 1-year-old son and we were in the baby aisle stocking up on diapers and those super overpriced organic puff things that taste like nothing. Another mom with a much younger little babe was beside us looking at the infant formula. She was poring over labels and instructions and was looking pretty stressed out, so I offered up what I thought was a pretty good “mom empathy smile” cause, girl – I’ve been there! But as soon as we made eye contact she sheepishly put down the canister of formula she was investigating, blushed a deep red, and awkwardly pretended to be looking at something else on the shelf. Weird, I thought!

I figured she was maybe having some trouble picking a good brand from the mass of options. My son was breastfed, but we supplemented with formula now and then for convenience and volume, so I’d tried a few different kinds and thought I might be able to help. I pointed to a can on the shelf and said, “My son liked this one best, if that makes the decision any easier!”

She just looked at me for a second, then let out a huge sigh as her shoulders slumped forward and tears filled her eyes (Shit. I’ve become that overbearing, a-hole mother who offers up unsolicited advice and offends people and makes them cry!) But then the word vomit came pouring out of this poor woman as she said something along the lines of, “Thank you SO much! I’m so embarrassed to even be buying formula, I know it’s not the best but I’m just struggling so much, and he’s losing weight, and I just want him to be healthy, and… etc. etc”.

Like, WHAT!? What kind of messed up, backwards world do we live in where moms have to be embarrassed and fearful of feeding their baby formula? Why should this awesome, badass new mother feel the need to explain ANYTHING about her feeding choices to me – a complete stranger? She actually thought I was judging her for standing in that aisle trying to find the best way to nourish her child. THIS IS RIDICULOUS and it has to STOP.

Yes, I am aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and I know that breastmilk is the most ideal food for a baby. WE ALL KNOW THIS. But for some reason this knowledge has turned into a militant mentality that “Breast is Best” and anything else is a big fat mommy failure. There are about a million and one reasons why a mom might choose not to breastfeed, and none of them say anything about her success as a parent.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Maybe she has a low milk supply and her child is legitimately hungry and needs a top-up to fill his tiny, grumbly tummy. You go mama! You’re protecting your child from legit starvation so you’re basically a hero right now.

Maybe she had breast cancer, or another illness that requires medication and prevents her from making enough or a safe milk supply. Mom WIN, cause being a parent isn’t easy when you’re the healthiest, so you’re basically a mothaf*#&ing warrior and we salute you!

Maybe breastfeeding has ripped her nips to shreds or she’s exhausted or depressed or stressed past her limit (or all of the above…) and needs a little bit of break. A happy mama with a bottle in hand is a HUGE success compared to a mama who is stretched beyond the point of competence! A+ for self-care and self-reflection, you boss mom, you!

Maybe that wicked woman adopted that little babe and isn’t quite comfortable or doesn’t have access to donor milk. You’re still the coolest mom around, cause that baby is getting FED and LOVED and you’re AWESOME.

OR MAYBE it’s some other reason. And that reason is absolutely nobody else’s business.

Breastmilk is amazing. It’s magical boob juice that does super cool things.

Formula is amazing. It’s basically a miracle of modern science that has saved the lives of moms and babies alike.

So, let’s just stop judging and shaming women for how they choose to nourish their children and celebrate the fact that happy, chubby, perfect little babies are being fed and loved around the world, in the best way for their family.

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