Breastfeeding is healthy for babies and mothers, and there are countless scientific studies backing this up. Medicine and science had to do a lot of work to undo the anti-breastfeeding, pro-formula rhetoric that dominated the U.S. for much of the 20th century. But none of this should come at the cost of a parent’s health, physical or mental. One pregnant mom on Reddit is speaking up after being shamed for deciding to formula-feed her baby, even though she’s doing so for her own mental health.
“Had a midwife appointment today and the nurse was taking my vitals,” began esmereldaskysurfer, who said she is 33 weeks pregnant, on the pregnancy subreddit. “She asked me if I planned to breastfeed. I said, ‘No, I am not.’ She laughed in that fake incredulous way and said, ‘Oh, you’re like I’ve carried you for nine months; I’m not doing any more?’ … The Lion, the Witch and the fucking Audacity of this Bitch.” (This will now be our new favorite expression.)
“I looked her in the eyes and said coldly, ‘I have type 1 bipolar disorder. Being up all night, every night, feeding and pumping and never getting good sleep is a guaranteed manic episode, actually.’ I wish I’d taken a photo of her face lol.”
Esmereldaskysurfer knows that this hospital has a reputation for pushing breastfeeding, even on parents who don’t want to or can’t, but she has no choice but to go to this one because of health insurance. Given her bold attitude, it seems like she’ll be just fine standing up to nurses like this, but her complaints need to be heard for those who feel bullied and shamed by this attitude.
“One former patient said the nurse in Mother and Baby told her, ‘You’ll get so tired of listening to him scream with hunger that eventually you’ll just breastfeed him,'” she wrote. “If anyone tries that shit with me, I promise I will not stop until I have their license revoked for starving a baby to get their own way.”
Other redditors chimed in with their stories of being discouraged from supplementing with formula when they had low supply, or being shamed for opting out of breastfeeding altogether.
“I got shamed by many doctors, nurses and a lactation consultant because I simply wasn’t producing enough milk,” Spkpkcap wrote. “My son was nonstop crying because I couldn’t get a good supply. Poor thing latched perfectly, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. My son was formula-fed and is healthy and happy! My mental health got so much better when we switched to formula.”
Another pregnant mother described the dilemma she is currently facing:
“I had to go off my antidepressant due to being pregnant and it’s not safe to breastfeed while taking,” coolplantsbruh wrote. “We are still sorting out if there are other medications I can take but honestly I’m at 26 weeks like I could just hold out and re-titrate up once baby is born and not breastfeed. This medication works for me and other medications have caused me to have manic episodes so I am reluctant to try something else.”
Issues like this don’t get a mention in the oft-cited World Health Organization guidelines for breastfeeding. We think that’s because it’s written to encompass the whole world, including places where safe drinking water may not be available for formula, and/or affordable formula may not be available. It’s intended to make sure public health officials remove obstacles to breastfeeding for mothers, because it does apparently provide immune support but also because it prevents many babies from starving. But these WHO guidelines never instruct health-care providers to force mothers to put their own mental health at risk for the sake of breastfeeding.
People like to say “fed is best” as a replacement for the “breast is best” mantra. Can someone come up with a clever rhyming way to say “mom’s health is important too”?
Childbirth is nothing like in the movies, as these beautiful photos show.
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