All Women's Talk

How to Deal with the Stigma of Formula Feeding for Moms ...

By Judy

Are you dealing with the stigma of formula feeding? It is true that breastfeeding has many added benefits when compared to bottle feeding. However, women who choose not to or are unable to breastfeed are sometimes looked down upon. Being a fairly new mom myself I chose to formula feed my daughter and several factors played into this decision.

When I was pregnant I read all the books and talked with my mother as well as other experienced moms and decided I was going to breastfeed. However, there are several factors that are often not considered. Will your baby latch easily? Will they have a hard time learning to suck as forcefully as necessary? Will you be able to provide enough milk? Do you have the time and the patience it takes to breastfeed? There are also many unknown factors.

In my case there were several reasons I chose formula over breast and the first being is my daughter did have a little trouble with latching and ultimately, I decided it would be in her best interest as well as mine to use formula. Upon this decision, almost immediately I had doctors and nurses asking me if I was sure? If I truly didn't want to give breastfeeding another try. When in fact I had given it several chances and did not feel like it was the best fit for us. To which I had assured them I had given this a lot of thought and wanted to formula feed instead of breast. And so started my journey in dealing with the stigma of formula feeding.

From that day forth my daughter was formula fed and I have never looked back. However, even to this day, and my daughter is currently 8 months old, anytime I encounter a mom or a new doctor I'm confronted with "well is she breastfed or formula fed?" Each time I answer I can almost see the judgement and looks on their faces. Surely, I am not the first women to formula feed her child and I will not be the last, so why was I getting these looks?

Something we don't realize is that just as breastfeeding in public is looked down upon, there are several groups that look down on mothers who choose to formula feed over breastfeed. While we know there are added benefits to breastmilk, formula today has been made to very closely mimic the properties of mother's natural milk. Formula contains iron, DHA, lutein, and even vitamin E. All of which a baby from birth to a year old needs to grow and develop normally. These are the same nutritional values that are typically found in breast milk.

So then why do mothers who breastfeed think they are better than those who choose to formula feed? The answer isn't 100% clear, but in my experience, it seems it is thought mothers choose not to breastfeed because they are lazy and don't care enough about their child's well-being. This could not be further from the truth, as stated earlier there are many things to consider when deciding between formula and breast milk.

I know that formula is the best option for my daughter, as it is for hundreds of other children out there. Other factors come into play such as postpartum depression, which can inhibit a mother wanting to breastfeed her child, and ultimately in this type of situation it is a better choice to formula feed. Postpartum depression can make a mother feel disconnected to her child or overwhelmed and the added pressure of breastfeeding could potentially make that worse.

Another factor people don't think about is when a woman breastfeeds, she needs to carefully watch her diet. This is because the nutrients from food also go into the breast milk and can cause an allergic reaction in some babies. This is often difficult or impossible for some women, as we do not know the exact reaction that is at play. This, of course, is with the exception of things like caffeine, because as most of us are aware, too much caffeine can contaminate breast milk.

Finally, we need to also think about convenience. Sometimes formula feeding is nothing more than a choice. A choice to give the baby formula, simply because it is easier for the mother's lifestyle. Whether it be a partner or spouse wanting to participate in feeding, or a mother having to go back to work, these are things that need to come into consideration. As women, we all know what it's like to bond with our children. We need to stop shaming one another for our choices. Both breast feeding and formula feeding each have their own stigmas, but the stigmas begin with our actions towards one another.

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