10 Things NOT to Say to a Formula-Feeding Mom
After nourishing three babies with formula, I've heard it all. (I don't deserve to be a mom because I'm not breastfeeding? Ouch!) These are just some of the things people say to moms who use baby formula—and they're not helpful at all.
1. Don't you know breast is best? Yes, yes, yes, we all know that breastfeeding offers a multitude of benefits for baby, kind of like a seat belt offer safety in a car. But what if your car breaks down, and is just sitting by the side of the road, useless? Are you going to just leave your baby in the car, strapped in, and walk away? Or are you going to take her with you to find help, somewhere, anywhere, so both of you can stay safe? That's basically what I did when I made a different decision for how to feed my child. Trust me, this was after much consideration and angst. So please respect that!
2. Why aren't you breastfeeding? I can't tell you how many times I was asked this very intrusive question from people I barely knew. I'm sorry, but the reasons I am not breastfeeding are personal, and none of your business, person who waxes my eyebrows. And mailman.
3. Breastfeeding came so naturally to me. Inevitably, a friend, neighbor, or acquaintance who saw me bottle feeding my baby shared her own experience with breastfeeding. And it was always so easy! So natural! Hey that's great—for you. Not so much over here. But thanks for making me feel even more like the only person for whom breastfeeding just wasn't a fit.
4. Bottle feeding doesn't promote bonding. Certainly, breastfeeding offers an incredible opportunity to bond with a newborn. But I assure you that cuddling up with my sweet baby, inhaling her intoxicating smell, feeling her soft-as-velvet skin against my own, and listening to her adorable sucking sounds in the early morning light provided bonding on the deepest of levels. So we are just fine, thanks.
5. Yeah, formula feeding is easier, so I understand why you do it. Do you really think I chose not to breastfeed to make my life easier? Because nothing about having a newborn is easy, from the sleepless nights to the fact that my body looks like it belongs to an alien. I assure you I am not formula-feeding so that I can just coast through new motherhood! Besides, you weren't there when I cried my eyes out because breastfeeding wasn't working for me. Nor were you in the room when I told my husband I felt like the worst mother in history for choosing formula. And I don't recall seeing you in our bed when we stayed up all night trying to figure out if I should try to keep breastfeeding, or switch to formula so I didn't hate every second of having a new baby. Or, when I finally felt empowered enough to do what was right for me and my baby. So I'm sorry, but you don't understand.
6. At least you'll save your boobs! Yes, again, you so nailed the reason I am formula-feeding. Incidentally, I can assure you my boobs are forever changed after filling up with milk, getting harder than granite, then deflating when I let my supply dry up.
7. Look of disgust, no words. I have yet to figure out why the way I chose to feed my baby is of such concern to other people. If you don't want to feed your baby formula, that's your decision, and I support that. But this is my baby. Save your angry looks for people who text and drive.
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8. You aren't breastfeeding? Why didn't you call me? Seriously, people have almost taken offense that I didn't consult them when I stopped breastfeeding. I apologize that I failed to realize meeting you at the neighborhood block party six months ago meant we were tight enough to warrant a 3 a.m. text of desperation when my baby wouldn't latch on.
9. Breastfed babies are healthier and smarter. There are tons of studies that prove the benefits of breastfeeding. But one recent study found that breastfed babies really aren't smarter than those who are given formula. And data suggests many other factors contribute to a baby's overall health and well-being besides just breastfeeding.
10. Do you know what's in that stuff you're feeding your baby? I can read, if that's where you're going with this. Look, I wish I could only give my baby the purest of foods gathered from pristine organic soil for the rest of her life. But the reality is I am doing my best. And I love my baby. So darn much, it could kill me. So you don't have to worry about her. She knows I love her, and will protect and nurture her every day of her life. We. Are. Great.