August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, this month we celebrate the wonderful benefits of breast milk, the efforts of breastfeeding parents and raise awareness for the importance of evidence-based support for expecting and postpartum parents that are choosing to breastfeed. All of this can make those who bottle feed feel isolated, judged and misunderstood. I thought it was important to make a post this month acknowledging the struggles, triumphs and experiences of bottle feeding mothers.
These are words from local moms on their feeding journey with their babies.
“ I felt judged all the time for using formula. I always got the “breast is best” comment from a lot of people”
“I bottle fed all three of my kids. No shame. If I had another I would still choose to formula feed. My kids are all fed, happy, and thriving and I never felt judged or a lack of connection”
“ I was forced to top up with formula as she was failure to thrive and they blamed my milk. I was sad, hurt and a bit angry and I felt that if I didn't do it the doctors would think I was a bad mom. I felt pressured and overwhelmed. Frustrated and angry.”
“ I was definitely judged for bottle feeding but mostly by family. I wish I had more guidance and education from a knowledgeable professional”
“I pumped and bottle fed. My daughter was 2 months early and the hospital suggested I pump and bottle feed. I still got the formula judgement comments… and my baby was getting breast milk”.
“The judgement I felt almost sent me into PPD. I cried in my doctor’s office feeling like a complete failure as a mother. Thankfully he was able to genuinely convince me that a good mom feeds her child, period”
“People made me feel like a complete failure for turning to formula. It was so bad that I got anxiety when even considering breastfeeding my second. Parenting is like anything else, someone else always has an opinion or judgement. You just have to do what works for you and your baby to keep them fed and thriving”
“It was so hard sitting at drop-ins and getting the glares. I struggled so hard with breastfeeding. I struggled with it a month longer that I should’ve thinking I needed to”
“There is no support for bottle feeding moms. You actually feel like you can’t leave your house at feeding time because you don’t want the judgement. I remember feeding my little guy a bottle when this lady came out of nowhere and said she couldn’t believe I was poisoning my child. And I lost it on her. I didn’t choose to bottle feed, I had a breast reduction and when I tried to breastfeed I ended up with mastitis. I took my kids out to my van and bawled my eyes out. I’ve cried like that 6 times in my adult life and that was one of them. Being a mom is so hard and feeding your kidlets well is so hard right from the start. So if you see a mom bottle feeding, be kind. You don’t know their struggle”
“ I was exclusively breastfeeding, but after returning to work at 3 months my supply tanked and I topped up with formula. I didn’t have a single person judged me, but I didn’t need them to. I was judging myself”
“I definitely feel judged, especially when asking for hot water to warm up her bottle at restaurants or public places.I desperately wanted to EBF my daughter but for medical reasons I wasn’t able to. Strangers don’t know her story and why she is having a bottle instead of breast”
“I had no help, no support and I didn’t know who to contact being a first time mom. Formula was expensive and trial and error, I wish I had someone explain to me what the different kinds were, what the stages meant, how to better prepare and keep bottles. Any support would’ve been great. I found none”
“The glares didn’t bother me, but how many people voluntarily tried to cram the “breast is best” facts down my throat! As if I’ve never opened a book or read a single article for myself”
“I have my reasons for not breastfeeding and I don't feel that I need to explain myself. I don't feel guilty. My kids are healthy and well fed. If I could’ve breastfed I would’ve but they’re thriving regardless.I wish the type of support for formula feeding was similar to breastfeeding. Education and encouragement. Breast is best if you can, but formula is great too.”
It is especially important to remind our doctors, nurses and community professionals how important and necessary it is for there to be a network of non-judgemental support for bottle feeding parents too, as there is for breastfeeding families, including:
- Information on the types of formula and stages.
- Guidelines for preparing and storing formula and sanitising bottles
- Ways to bond with your infant when bottle feeding.
- Support when transitioning from breast to bottle.
- Support groups and accessible printed and online resources.
If you weren’t able to breastfeed, didn’t produce enough milk or simply didn’t want to, you deserve unconditional guidance and support. Any choice made with love is the right choice.
Note: Thank you to all the mothers that took the time to share their experience and permitting use of their words for this blog post.