There’s no denying that breast milk is the best nutrition for a baby. But at what point is encouraging a mom to breastfeed turning into bullying? At what point does it put the health of the mother and the health of the child at risk?
Of course breastfeeding is natural and breast milk is tailored to the baby’s specific needs and contains antibodies to protect the baby. However, formula is also able to provide necessary nutrients if a mother is unable to exclusively breastfeed.
“Baby friendly” hospitals encourage and support breastfeeding and bonding between mother and child. Sounds great right? Well of course it is as long as hospitals are still protecting the health of the mother and insuring that the baby is getting the nutrients they need.
I gave birth to my son in a birthing center that pushed breastfeeding. They did not suggest formula as an option, and would not even entertain my suggestions that perhaps my baby was not getting any colostrum or milk and that is why he would not stop crying.
They encouraged “rooming in” and even made me feel like a bad mother for finally asking them to take the baby to the nursery for two hours since I had not slept in two days. When the baby wasn’t crying, someone from the hospital was in the room at least once or twice every hour.
I was exhausted, emotionally drained, and felt like a failure. No matter how hard I tried, how long I fed him, my son would not stop crying.
There were materials and mandatory videos that said to not under any circumstance give the baby a bottle because it would confuse him. So I didn’t.
We got home after two days. I’m thankful it was a short time because I don’t think I could have taken more sleep deprivation and my baby couldn’t have taken more time without milk.
Luckily my mother was there and I told her my concerns. She encouraged me to give her the baby and go into my bedroom and try and pump for thirty minutes. Not a single drop could be expressed. My poor baby had not gotten anything at all in the two days I had done nothing but nurse.
I was devastated. My body had failed me and I had failed my baby. After being told time and time again that giving a baby anything but breastmilk was not the best option, I didn’t know what to do.
I had samples that had been mailed to me from Enfamil in my cabinet. At first I was upset that they had sent this to me. Where did they get my mailing address? Why don’t they think I could do it?
At the encouragement of my mom, I opened one of the samples, put it in a bottle, and gave it to my baby. He drank every drop as if he was starving and finally stopped crying.
I continued to try and breastfeed and pumped every couple of hours to try and get my body to produce. It took a full week but I finally started to get some milk. A baby would not have lasted a week without any milk.
The bottle did confuse him and we were never able to breastfeed exclusively. I tried power pumping, I ate lactation cookies and made lactation boosting shakes every day. I was never able to make enough milk to not supplement with formula.
I was embarrassed that I was not able to breastfeed my baby. I did get comments like “you should breastfeed naturally, the way God intended.” It made me feel like even more of a failure. I felt the need to explain why I couldn’t breastfeed when I gave my son a bottle.
It took me quite a while before I finally stopped caring. I am a great mom. I do whatever I can for my baby and he is happy and healthy as a result. Breast or bottle, as long as the baby is fed and healthy, that is what is truly best.
In the end I was thankful I had those samples in my cabinet and I gave the samples I didn’t use from other brands to other moms that needed it too. They were very appreciative because formula is expensive.
There is a point where encouraging moms turns into bullying and increases their guilt if they are unable to provide breastmilk for their baby. Saying “breast is best” when you see a mom feeding her baby a bottle is bullying. The hateful comments you see on posts about breast versus formula fed is bullying and unnecessary.
Encouraging a mom to breastfeed in the hospital if that is their choice is great but if they can’t or don’t want to for whatever reason, that should be respected by hospital staff. The health of the mother needs to be better protected so that she can care for her child.
If I hadn’t given in and given my baby formula, he might not be this happy toddler smiling up at me right now. I am thankful for a supportive family and for my precious baby boy.
Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing. One I wanted more than anything to do for my baby exclusively. I couldn’t and you know what? That’s okay.
You breastfed for two years- that’s amazing and you are an incredible mother. You put your baby straight on formula? You are still an incredible mother and do what is best for you and your baby. So mom on my friends.