Throughout social media I've come across this hashtag quite a bit. Sadly the breastfeeding vs. formula feeding is still a debate amongst many mothers. My question is why? What a mother feeds to her baby should not be up for debate by anyone else- the decision is for the child's parents or Doctor. Yes studies have shown that breast milk is very good and nutritional for babies, however what if a mother can't provide that for her baby? Or what if they can only provide it for a short time? I've spoken to a lot of mothers who have babies in the NICU and are pumping around the clock every 2-3 hours, I was one of them. Some take supplements to boost their supply because when a woman gives birth to a premature child her milk hasn't fully come in. Yes there is a such thing as donor milk but most mothers try to provide the milk first before exploring that option. We want to be able to give our baby something, having a baby in the NICU leaves you with such a helpless feeling. So we pump and pump some more until our well runs dry.
In my case, my son was a micro preemie so about 6 hours following my emergency c section, I was awaken from my groggy state of being to learn how to pump! Talk about a shock to the system! The recovery nurse was patient and kind in assisting me as I now had to navigate through a crash course in pumping milk. This is the case for the majority of preemie moms. Because our baby is premature, and hasn't yet developed the ability to suck, swallow AND breath- we aren't given the opportunity to bond skin to skin immediately following their birth and able to establish a breastfeeding relationship immediately. We are automatically at a disadvantage and like most, we want to breastfeed! I was able to provide breast milk for my son for 5 months. My supply wasn't great but I pumped my little heart out! I had alarms going off all day and night reminding me it was time to pump. I cleaned parts after every pump session whether I was at home, work or the NICU. I was dedicated and committed to giving my baby all of the nutrients he needed to grow and develop. I took supplements, drank teas, ate gross lactation cookies and bars even drank lots of water- but once he came home his demand completely out grew my supply. Jaxson also had 5 different medications- some he took twice a day and others 4 times a day...the medicine had to go into each of his bottles which was quite a task. So juggling him breastfeeding a little then chugging the bottle to make sure he got his medicine started to become taxing on all of us. I was stressing myself out because of the decrease in my milk too. Stress of the NICU and bringing baby home (and working full time prior to Jaxson coming home) really didn't help to keep my milk supply up. I started thinking people would judge me for giving my son formula so I kept pressing on and stressing over it.
What most don't know is that most babies in the NICU are given breast milk AND fortifier. The objective is not to only give the baby nutrition but for the baby to also gain weight healthily and steadily. My son was so tiny that once they began fortifying my breast milk with the fortifier (formula), it was mixed to a very high calorie of 27! Once he was gaining steady weight and, was discharged we were able to reduce the calories to 24 and eventually 22.
Now you may ask, why did I feel like I would be judged for ending our breastfeeding/pumping journey and why did I care? The reason is because we live in a #breastisbest culture. I had someone leave a comment on one of my sons pictures saying, (in regards to a post regarding formula) "that's why I'll be breastfeeding". To that I responded as nicely as I could. She then wanted to be combative which I shut down very quickly and moved on. Here's the thing, we all make plans to do certain things but the reality is, plans change and crap happens to defer those plans. At the end of the day we are all doing the best we can for our babies. After 5 months I made the decision that it was time to move on from breastfeeding and pumping- I owned that decision and my husband supported me 100%. I had people look at me sideways and question my decision and yet again, I owned it! Besides, my son has never been sick or had any other issues. He received the nutrients and antibodies from me and it helped to build his immune system during the time he needed it the most which is when he was in the NICU. Formula is not the devil, Jaxson is happy, healthy and pretty smart for a 10 month old baby. I just wish our culture would show the other side of feeding and not just celebrate mother's who breastfeed.
If you are fortunate enough to breastfeed or even pump, that's amazing and yes it's an accomplishment because it's not easy. I will say, though, don't bash or look down on the mother who feeds her baby formula. Don't make her feel like she's letting her baby down or say insensitive things. She too is doing the best she can for her baby, it doesn't make her any less of a mother or lazy or whatever society tries say! (Society tries to say that a mother isn't doing her best if she formula feeds) And if you are a mom who has to switch to formula feeding, please don't beat yourself up. You are doing the best you can and you aren't a failure or any less of a good mother.
In Motherhood we all have different experiences and we should acknowledge that, celebrate it and uplift one another. We are all in this together!