There are many moms out there who bottle-feed their babies. Maybe formula is the right choice for them and their babies. Maybe they tried to breastfeed and couldn't. Maybe it's no one's business. But that doesn't stop people from commenting!
Just like breastfeeding moms who must endure ridiculous commentary from strangers, bottle-feeding moms also get their share of completely insensitive remarks. You might be stunned at what people have the nerve to say to moms who are just trying to feed their infants. Mom Marci M. sums it up in one sentence. "I bottle-fed both my kids. Boob Nazis were harsh."
Mariana O. knows all about that. She struggled to nurse and didn’t need any input from strangers. But still, she got it. She tells us, "I bottle-fed because my baby would not latch on and someone said, 'What if you were on an island and couldn't get formula?' I said 'then my baby would starve to death.' It was a nice exchange."
Jessica R. bottled-fed because of latching and milk-production issues. She pumped for 10 months and supplemented with formula. She was on the receiving end of some unsolicited commentary, too — but it wasn't from a stranger. "So there I was, sitting at my desk at work (the baby was with me for the day) feeding my baby the last bottle of breast milk I'd ever feed her, feeling heart-wrenching guilt over the whole thing, when this nosy, busybody, annoying co-worker of mine walks in and starts in on the whole, 'You should really be breastfeeding that child; it's really so much better for her.' Remember, at this point, the child is already 10 months old so her 'advice' was a tad late anyway," she recounts.
Did the co-worker stop there? Oh, of course not. "Then, she launches into her favorite retelling of how, when she was younger, she had sooooooo much milk that she breastfed not only her child, but the children of two other women in her Russian village. I'm sure they appreciated her just as much as I did," Jessica says.
Lea F. also has no room in her life for judgy moms. "I was in a play group with a new mother who had recently adopted a baby from China. While she was bottle-feeding her child, I overheard another mother tell her, 'If you ever do have your own baby, it's best to breastfeed.' We both packed up our bottles and left!"
There’s a lot of public shaming about giving infants formula. The implication seems to be that somehow these moms don't want a smart or healthy child, which (of course) is ludicrous. Catherine M. got that message from a woman who had the gall to say to her, "I mean, it's just a shame [that you bottle-feed], because breastfed children end up with so many more advantages in life."
Issa D. was told, “that I shouldn't have had children since I obviously didn't love them enough. Also that it was really sad that I wanted stupid, obese children.”
Single mom Becky S. actually had someone say to her, "Oooh, you're not breastfeeding? Like ever? Oh. OK. I'm sure he'll be fine."
Julie B. got shade thrown at her too. "You think maybe she [the baby] has a reflux problem because you're not breastfeeding?" someone asked.
Tessa C. had to bottle-feed because her son was lactose intolerant and needed soy milk. "I was told I was doing him a disservice, and babies weren't meant to have that. And I was like hmmmm... the alternative is 12 months of a miserable and sick child. I don't think so."
Strangers can be cruel, but sometimes, it's the things friends say that crush us the most.
Leah M. couldn't breastfeed because of her own health issues. And she heard just about everything. "'He's going to do poorly in school' (lots of variations on the low IQ/stupid theme). 'He's going to have allergies.' 'He's going to get ear infections all the time.' 'He's going to be sick with other things all the time; how can you subject your baby to that?' 'He won't bond with you.' That one really pissed me off. 'You're going to suffer from postpartum depression if you don't breastfeed.' Those comments came from close friends and co-workers — and I worked in a hospital!"
Cherie W. wasn't supplying enough milk and her baby was losing weight. She says, "I started formula on doctor's orders, and friends still advised against it. 'Once she starts on the bottle, she'll never go back.' I risked it versus starving my baby."
Beth B. did everything she could to produce enough breast milk for her twins, but once they were 3 weeks old, she needed to supplement with formula. But she encountered a problem. "One of my twins threw up every time we gave him formula — so I had to make the terrible choice of only feeding one twin breast milk — and the other formula. I was like many new moms, petrified that my son would miss out if he was formula-fed. And then the other moms in my mom groups kept saying, 'Babies need breast milk for six months or else they will get allergies.'"
So, what happened?
"Both twins were fine! There is so much misinformation out there. Funny enough, the twin that had formula (after the first three weeks) has no allergies, but my breast milk twin has allergies."
The truth is, moms are doing everything they can to take the best possible care of their babies. So if you see a mama bottle-feeding or breastfeeding or just wolfing down three chocolate croissants herself because she's so darn hungry and tired, don't raise your eyebrows or chime in with warnings or opinions. Just smile, and say, "Congrats on your beautiful baby!"
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