I recently polled my Instagram followers and asked if anyone supplemented or formula fed and wanted to share anything about their experience. I was overwhelmed by the response and I’m excited to share a series of posts on this topic. There is so much information out there now about breastfeeding — support, resources and stories (tons right here on The Mama Notes). But what if it doesn’t work for you? What if you find yourself supplementing or exclusively feeding your baby formula? What I’ve found in talking to moms is that this can be an extremely isolating, confusing and emotionally difficult time or transition. I hope to open up the conversation for parents who find that breast may not be best (or possible) for them! Today a bunch of mamas are sounding off on the stigma of formula feeding. I posed the question–
Did you feel a stigma from society when you decided to supplement? What made you feel better about your decision?
“The stigma is REAL. But I felt better once I saw how well my daughter did on formula. Within 24 hours she was a new baby! Happy, fed, and not in pain from the intolerance she had to my milk.”
“The pressure was from my own insecurities and imagining something very different. What made me feel better is seeing my son healthy and grow.”
“Yes!! I felt like I was failing as a mother when I didn’t have enough breast milk to feed my baby. I talked with friends who struggled with supply or could never breastfeed and their experiences and support helped me get over the mental hurdles of using formula.”
“Yes, I would time feeding my first before my moms group so I wouldn’t have to bottle feed her in front of them. Wonderful Lactation consultants and time made me feel better.”
“I did feel a stigma, even though I had a lot of support. Breast is best & I applaud those who do it, but I felt a lot of guilt and shame about supplementing and eventually going fully to formula. Guilt that I let down my baby, and shame that something so natural just didn’t work for me.
“If I had allowed my identity and basis of being a good Mother be defined by that, I would definitely have been crushed, but I continually had to tell myself this does not define me as a Mom. I am a good Mom who loves her baby, and doing the very best she can.”
“Yes, I still do! I’m slowly feeling more comfortable and confident just due to the fact that my baby seems happier and more content when he gets that extra couple ounces. It has taken a lot of stress of the both of us, he was like a totally different baby once he was full.”
“Yes absolutely! The “breast is best” campaign is everywhere these days. Everyone just assumes that you are going to breastfeed. I was lucky enough to have an amazing lactation consultant that helped me come to the decisions that we needed to supplement. But i constantly had to explain my decision to the outside world.”
“I felt guilt and disappointment when I had to supplement. My baby was not latching on and was basically not getting any milk the first few days of his life, so supplementing was more of a necessity at that point. I am a nurse and when i noticed my baby was dehydrated The nurse in me took over. Then it was about taking care of baby versus the stigma of supplementing.”
“Definitely. This is my second baby. I figured it would be similar to my first, who breastfed until 13 months. But when she wasn’t gaining weight and wasn’t happy nursing I considered switching to formula. My fear though was (and still is) people asking why I didn’t just “try harder” since I was able to breastfeed my son for 13 months. Ultimately I switched to formula because I felt like I was being selfish by wanting to breastfeed out of my own fear of being judged. When ultimately it’s better for her to be happy and fed. It’s still something I’m meantally struggling with.”
“There are a million messages out there on the subject of feeding baby. A tour of the latest articles on social media can be overwhelming, inundating the reader with a lot of contradicting advice. However, I was comforted by the emphasis placed by many doctors and child care professionals on the “fed is best” philosophy. Ultimately, I personally felt that my decision to supplement would be greeted with understanding and respect from others- and that has certainly been my experience.”
“It’s wonderful that breastfeeding is so highly encouraged, however with that much expectation, it felt like I was doing something wrong by choosing to switch to formula.”
What began as supplementing while pumping, quickly became switching to formula all together. In the end, my baby was hungry and needed more food than I was able to pump. I made my decision based on what was best for my baby. It wasn’t worth the stress. My baby was hungry and I was no longer dealing with the stress of pumping enough.”
“I slightly felt a stigma from society when I decided to supplement. I feel like these days, people assume you are going to breastfeed. Therefore, when you have to supplement due to not producing enough milk you have to explain why!”