Formula = Failure

formula

Now before I have parents jumping all over my ass for the title of my post, let me just say that I AM NOT knocking formula feeding moms!

Nope.
I’m here to debunk this bullshit.

So all you formula feeding moms out there, calm your jets and unwad your panties. And all you lactivists out there, unwad yours as well and open your mind.

Before I get started, I’d like to tell you folks a little story and give you some of my own history.

I am a breastfeeding mom. I consider myself to be a lactivist. I breastfed my son for one year and my daughter is still going strong at 16 months.

So you may be wondering now, “If she breastfeeds, why in the hell is she supporting formula?”

Well, because I am also a formula feeding mom.

That’s right. You heard me. I used formula.

When my son hit 8 months, I brought him in to the docs because I felt like he hadn’t been gaining very well and because I felt like my supply was lower than normal. According to WHO standards, breastfed babies (6-12 months of age) should gain about 1.75-2.75 ounces per week and grow 1/2 inch per month. At that visit, I found that he had gained 2 ounces and grown 1/4 inch… over the course of a month. He had gained a quarter of what he should have over the course of a month.

Considering he was eating solids 2-3 times per day and nursing about 6 times a day at this point, he should have gained more than just 2 ounces.

For those of you lactivists out there who are probably rattling of the numerous methods I could have used to boost my supply, you can stop now. I know about the majority of those methods and gave several a try when I began seeing signs of my supply dropping. Pumping. Skin to skin. Herbs. Cookies. Teas. Beer…

At this point in MY life, I was dealing with a lot of stress in my relationship with his father and battling postpartum depression (PPD) as well. My stress and anxiety levels were through the roof and now I had to add my son’s weight gain and my supply to that list. If you didn’t already know this, stress can have a negative effect on your supply.

So I made the choice to supplement with formula. I continued breastfeeding – we just added in a few bottles of formula each day. Man! What a difference it made! My son gained a pound over the course of a month and continued with his healthy weight gain up until a year. But it didn’t only make a difference for him – it changed things for me as well.

I no longer had to dread feeding time and worry about whether or not I was making enough milk and I no longer had to wonder “is he getting enough?” My stress level decreased significantly and I felt better equipped to take on the monster called PPD. By the time he was 10 months old, I was able to stop taking my antidepressants, I felt the happiest I had in months, and I was enjoying my little boy more than ever and FINALLY enjoying nursing him!

Formula changed our lives and saved my sanity.

So now that you know my history with formula, let me continue on with the rest of this post.

When my son was about 20 months or so, I got pregnant again. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to breastfeed again. I was armed with more knowledge than I had with my son and in a much healthier and happier relationship. By this point, I had helped many other women battle their breastfeeding struggles and learned from there experiences as well. I had also researched the benefits of breast milk versus formula and, thanks to the pro-breastfeeding pages I have “Liked” on Facebook, been bombarded with information on how BAD formula was for baby.

Let’s just get this straight: formula is not “bad” for your baby. Pretty much everyone knows breast milk is the best thing for your baby. It contains all kinds of things that cannot be replicated in formula, the composition changes as your baby’s needs change and throughout the day, it lowers the risks of many illnesses and diseases, and it raises IQ levels. There is no denying that “breast is best.”

But formula is not bad.

Formula has come a hell of a long way since it first started being used. Hell, I know people who fed their babies Karo and condensed milk for crying out loud (their babies were born in the 1950s). You can now buy organic, soy based, made for sensitive tummies, cow’s milk based, goat’s milk based, hydrolysed protein formula, etc. They now add essential vitamins, minerals, and things like DHA, ARA, and even Lutein (which IS found is breast milk).

If you ask me, that doesn’t sound like it’s bad at all. Is it ideal? Maybe not. But it most certainly is not BAD.

With that being said, many breastfeeding mothers encounter issues at some point in their breastfeeding relationship. Sometimes these are minor issues that can be corrected with a simple adjustment and other times these issues require a lot of time and effort. I recommend speaking with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) any time you feel you are hitting a brick wall. They can encourage you and give you plenty of helpful tips. 

If any of you are like me and run into an issue and someone says the word “formula,” it’s like someone walked up and deflated all of the air out of your balloon.

For whatever reason, formula is seen as “failure” or “defeat” within the breastfeeding community. There have been times that I’ve told people I supplemented formula with my son and instantly got a look that said, “Oooohhh… You’re one of those people. You’re not a true breastfeeder!” Nose in the air included.

Each time I see that look, I want to grab them by their stupid shoulders, smack them across the face, and shake them as hard as I can while I scream,  “I AM A BREASTFEEDER!!! I made it one whole year. I did everything I could think of to regain my supply! I spent all night pumping, hours doing skin to skin, I stuffed my face full of cookies, dammit! I sacrificed MY happiness, sanity, and health. How DARE you look at me that way, as if I am less of a mother than you because I supplemented with formula!”

I want to pause there because I realize NOW that there is a very important statement made in that.

“I sacrificed MY happiness, sanity, and health.”

Each and every single one of us parents understand sacrifice. We sacrifice our time, sleep, schedules, hobbies, money, etc. All so our children will be happy. And if you’re a parent, you understand that those sacrifices are worth it in the end.

However, some things should not be considered “sacrifices” when it comes to our kids: happiness, sanity, and health.

Happiness 

I’m sure some of you read this one and thought something like, “Oh how selfish of her!” and you know what? You are absolutely right. It is selfish, but it’s also necessary. If you aren’t happy, how on earth do you expect to be able to make someone else happy?! I don’t know about y’all, but in my house, if Momma ain’t happy, no one’s happy! Okay… not really. But if I’m in a crabby mood or feeling overworked, under appreciated, sad, angry, or anything other than happy, I’m much more likely to lose my temper when it comes to my kids. I’m also more likely to yell. I also have less patience for playing games like peek-a-boo, teaching them how to do something new, or answering a thousand questions in a row.

When my supply dropped, my happiness went with it. I became so stressed that it was all I could think about. I spent all my time worrying about how much I was producing. I spent hours online reading articles about low supply, how to boost it, how much weight gain was normal, how often he should be nursing, how often he should be eating solids… you get the point. I didn’t want to leave my house because he was easily distracted when nursing in public. And this all leads to my next point…

Sanity

As I mentioned before, I was diagnosed with PPD after having my son. I struggled with it for months at first and finally came to terms with it when he was around 5 months old. I went to my doctor and spoke with her about how I had been feeling and we decided I would begin taking Prozac. It was like someone turned on a light, after the initial adjustment period. I wasn’t exactly happier, per se, I just felt… better. It was easier for me to recognize the things that were minor and somewhat easier for me to handle the things that were major. At least I felt much calmer than I had before.

Encountering low supply was really difficult for me. I was just starting to feel as though I had a good handle on the whole parenting thing and then my supply dropped and it was like someone came and tore down the walls holding in all of my anxiety. Everything crashed down and I was more stressed than I had been before. I spent a lot of time focusing on the issue of my supply. I didn’t want to talk to my friends, didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to do anything except hide somewhere until my supply went back to normal. I had trouble sleeping, trouble waking up, I ate too much, and just felt flat out bad.

Health 

So I’m sure by now you are getting a pretty good idea of just how much these three things go hand in hand. Because I was unhappy and stressed, my health began to suffer. I began gaining weight, felt sleepy all the time, and started getting sick more frequently. If you aren’t already aware, let me tell you right now: your health is important!!! As a parent, it’s your responsibility to set a good example when it comes to health and wellness. How can you do that if you’re over eating/skipping meals or constantly wearing yourself so thin that you get sick often? Besides that, how do you expect to keep up with your kid(s) when you are like that?

It’s just a downward spiral – or at least it was for me.

I am a firm believer of making sure you take good care of yourself. Yes it is our responsibility to take care of our children and do whatever it takes to ensure they are happy and healthy, but it’s also our responsibility to take care of ourselves.

One of the many things I have seen over and over again from parents is that we are all too hard on ourselves. We live busy lives, place unreasonable expectations on each other, hold ourselves to extreme standards, and because of all this, we have a tendency to get wrapped up in the little things. So much so that we miss the big picture.

Many of us lose sight of the big picture right off the bat. We come up with “birthing plans,” decide to breastfeed or use formula, organic foods or not, homegrown veggies or store bought, green, clean, perfect, pristine… we plan everything down to the moment they become adults with their own lives.

When something comes along and throws a kink in our plan, we freak. We don’t know how to handle it because it isn’t what we had “planned.” So when things don’t follow these “plans,” some of us feel like we have failed.

We compare ourselves to other parents who’s plans are still on track. We wonder, “How do they do it? They make it look so easy.” Or, “What did I do wrong? Why am I having such a hard time with my supply? I don’t want to stop breastfeeding!” I have seen moms struggle with these thoughts time and time again. Only thing is, they are so busy being concerned about their “failure” that they lose sight of the REAL issue at hand: feeding baby.

At some point, you have to stop focusing on those “goals” and “plans” you have made.

Just take them, ball them up, and throw them out the damn window.

Life is unpredictable. You can’t foresee every event. This is especially true when it comes to parenting!

We become so focused on OUR “goals” and “plans” (natural child birth, pain med free birth, home birth, being induced, not being induced, breastfeeding, pumping, blah, blah, blah) that we forget what our goal was back when we first got pregnant!

Unsure of what I’m talking about?
I’ll give you a hint:

“I just want him/her to be happy and healthy.

Ohhhh… yeahhhh…

THAT is the big picture!!!

So if you have ever been in a situation where you have had to supplement with formula or stop breastfeeding all together, don’t you ever feel as though you have “failed” as a parent. Kudos to you for keeping your focus on your child and their health and for taking care of yourself as well.

Breastfeeding CAN be difficult. It can present you with many challenges, but it can also be a lot easier than you expect. It is also one of the most rewarding things you can do for your child. But if you ever run into a situation where you have to supplement (short or long term) or even switch over all together, don’t beat yourself up over it. You are still doing the best you can for your baby.

And that makes you a wonderful parent.

 

To the lactivists out there: I understand how important it is to educate people on the benefits of breastfeeding. I do it all the time. But if you ever encounter a mom who is struggling with breastfeeding, don’t press the issue. Offer words of encouragement and if she asks for your help or advice, then help her. Give her the facts and allow her to do with them as she pleases. IF she chooses to use formula, for whatever reason, do not belittle her, shove statistics down her throat, or continue flood her with tips and information. Recognize that it is ultimately HER decision because it is HER baby. And also recognize that formula is NOT bad.

And formula does NOT equal failure.

Myth debunked.

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Pay It Forward

I recently started watching my friend’s little boy during the day. He’s just over 11 weeks old and as sweet as could be. Her maternity leave was up and she was returning back to work. Like MANY first time moms in that situation, she worried. Will I have enough milk? Will it be too much trouble for her to watch him? How will I handle my first day back at work? What will his day be like? Will I cry? Will he cry? Will he be okay? Will I be okay?

Before he started coming here, she and I had several conversations; many of which included the topic of sleep, or lack thereof. He is a VERY smart, alert, and active little boy and because of that, he fights off sleep – much like my son did around that age. He wants to take it ALL in – no breaks!

Isn’t he just precious?!

However, sleep is extremely important for babies and little children. Their bodies need the rest – especially if they are highly active. Plus, us moms need some quiet time too! (I don’t know about you, but after about 30 minutes of “peek-a-boo” and another hour or so of rattling toys and clapping and quietly saying, “Look at you,” “Great job,” or “Yay,” I’m beyond ready for nap time. I have to regain my sanity.)

When I had my son, I knew that sleep was important and did everything I could to make sure he got plenty of it. And I’m serious when I say I did everything I could. From spending and hour and a half pacing my living room while gently bouncing and swaying my screaming/fussy/tearful infant son to rocking for 45 minutes in the chair while I said “Shhh…” over and over or putting him in his swing or bouncy chair and sitting right next to it for 30 minutes while I stared at him and tried to will him to fall asleep… Those are things that would drive ANYONE crazy.

But when you’re a sleep deprived, determined, frustrated first time mom… I can’t even accurately describe what it’s like.

You become frantic and willing to do anything you can think of. The longer you listen to them cry, the more difficult it becomes to maintain your cool, calm demeanor. Then you start to cry because, dammit, you just want to sleep (or eat, or pee, or shower, or put the dishes away… etc)! But you can’t until this tiny person closes their eyes and drifts off into dreamland. Even when that happens, you still hold your breath for another 30 minutes because you’re afraid you’ll have to start all over if you accidentally wake them up.

I experienced all this and more with my son. It wasn’t until he hit 6 months that I finally realized that my sleep was important too. Little guy’s mom and I were talking about sleep again today and she said, “I don’t know how people do it with no support system.” I replied, “With medication.”

Okay, so that isn’t true for EVERYONE. Some of you out there just might be Miss Perfect Mommy and you totally had the hang of it all the second they handed you your tiny bundle of joy. If so, you’re not normal.

No. Seriously. You’re not.

The normal thing to do is question yourself. Wonder if you’re doing everything right. Question how one tiny choice now could possibly affect their lives later on down the road. Compare yourself to all the other moms you know…

Motherhood is one big mind game. 

Honestly, I think motherhood has changed a LOT over the years but I’m not completely convinced it’s all for the better. Social media has a lot to do with that, in my opinion. So does television. It’s like society has placed some unreal expectations on mothers these days.

I see so many moms who try to do it all and they end up focusing on the mom they think is ideal. In reality, they spend so much time trying to meet the standard set by society and they lose sight of the mom they really are.

  • Instagram – Thank you for showing us that all moms can be “photographers” and document every second of our lives and ensure perfection with just the right filter. Oh, and to the moms who have time in the morning to dress themselves well, do their make up, take a picture, and then upload it to Instagram, pleaseeeee stop! You’re making the rest of us wonder if you have a maid, a nanny, or if you place your children under some kind of magical spell while you get ready for the day. Maybe it’s all three.
  • Facebook – Susan’s daughter can play Pachelbel’s Canon in D on piano at the age of 5? So what! Let me upload this video of my 3 year old solving algebraic equations while reciting the alphabet backwards. Let’s see her one up THAT! Oh! Looks like Catherine has been hard at work today! They’ve made pancakes from scratch, had a snack, built an intricate train track, chased butterflies outside, and created those… whoa! What IS that? Those must have taken forever! Wait… you mean to tell me it’s only 10 AM? But HOW did she get all of that DONE?!
  • Pinterest – Ah, yes. Thank you a million times for shoving in my face how creative every other mom is, except me. Please. That’s an excessive amount of glitter and there’s no way I can get my kid interested enough in that.
  • Mom Forums – You know… The Bump, Cafe Mom, etc. Those horrible places where moms go to post questions, in need of legitimate help, and then are shot down, judged, and belittled by their peers. There are even pages similar to this on Facebook. Usually they are run by a set of admins who post your question anonymously, but there’s almost always someone who walks into that post with a baseball bat – ready to send heads rolling, just because they think they are number one and screw your opinion (I’m very familiar with this. I am an admin on a Facebook page and we see a lot of this).

Whatever happened to it taking a “village” to raise a child? Seeing a struggling new mom and offering words of comfort? Putting the offer to help on the table every chance you get? Sharing the stories of your own struggles? Encouraging her or playing peek-a-boo with her baby in the grocery line while she unloads her cart? Us moms need those things too!

Call up one of your mom friends and offer to watch her kids for a few hours so she can get her grocery shopping done in peace. Talk with her about a time when you felt like you had failed as a parent. Offer encouraging and kind words. Give her a knowing smile and then offer to help unload her cart if you see she’s dealing with a fussy baby too.

When we become mothers, we are expected to become selfless and place the needs of someone else before us. It may not always come easy, but it’s a learning process and something that can be mastered. But who says that selflessness has to only extend to our children? Why can’t we extend it to those around us as well?

Say you see a mom at your child’s preschool trying to juggle a four year old, a two year old, an infant in a car seat, backpack, diaper bag, and find her keys in her purse. Do you sit back and watch her struggle with everything she has and think to yourself, “Well, I have my own issues to deal with. She will be fine,” or could you take 5 minutes of your day and offer to stand next to her van and watch the two little ones while she runs the older one inside to school? Personally, I would pick the second option. I can usually spare 5 minutes and if I know it’s going to make someone else’s life just a little bit easier, then it’s totally worth 5 minutes of my time.

I always try to think, “If I were in their situation, would I be glad someone had offered me a helping hand?” If that answer is, “Yes,” then I do it. Even if it means maybe my life gets a little more complicated.

I have applied that thought to countless situations. I’ve helped multiple women with their breastfeeding journeys. I could have easily given them a virtual pat on the back and sent them on their merry way, but instead I chose to keep in contact with them, check up on them periodically, send them articles I found that related to their issues, etc.

Why did I do that?
Because I was once a first time breastfeeding mom and had someone done the same for me, I would have been on my knees thankful.

So now I’m helping my friend out with her son. I watch him for her while she’s at work. Yes it provides us with some additional income, but that isn’t the main motivation behind it for me. I know how worrisome it can be to return to work and know that you are trusting your child into the care of someone else. I’m not a baby expert, but I have had two of my own and they seem to be thriving so far! She also breast feeds and uses cloth diapers. I am extremely familiar with both. I have also been giving her advice regarding her son’s latch and tips she can use for encouraging a strong latch and bond between them.

And then there’s the topic of sleep. She’s brand new to this and still learning the ins and outs. However, sleep “schedules” are something I mastered with both of my kids. I offered to work with little man on his and he’s been napping a grand total of about 5 hours a day every day he has been here.

I’m pretty sure she’s now convinced I use some kind of black magic.

I can assure you, it’s not black magic. And I don’t have him on a rigid schedule. But I already know what common sleep and hunger cues look like for babies his age and therefore, it’s much easier for me to recognize at what point he needs to be laying down. Because I know that, I have pretty much figured out about how often he naps and when we hit that “sleep window,” I know to keep my eyes open for his sleep cues.

Is it time consuming? Somewhat. But it’s far less time consuming for me than it is for her and if me taking some of my time now saves her time later on down the road, eases her life, and allows her to better plan her days, then it’s totally worth it.

That’s the kind of attitude I’d like to see more mom’s take.

“If I take         minutes to help                        with                         , will it make them happy? Will it make their life easier in the long run?”

If the answers to those questions are, “Yes,” then just do it!

I’d be willing to bet not only do you put a smile of their face, but you will put one on yours too.

Pay it forward.

Life on display

I feel pretty confident in saying that pretty much every parent has felt eyes watching them, judging their parenting, at some point during their travels through parenthood. I know without a doubt that I have. And even if no one is ACTUALLY judging you, it still feels that way at times.

You go to the store and your toddler has a meltdown, out to eat and the baby is throwing food on the floor, go to breastfeed your newborn in public because she’s screaming her head off and hungry, or your little boy is asking you a TOTALLY inappropriate question in the checkout line at the grocery store and it’s instantly all eyes on you. But it doesn’t happen just in public. It can happen in your own home too.

Say your water heater breaks so you call someone to come out. They arrive and you realize you’re dressed in pajama pants with your hair falling out of the messy bun you put it in that morning and spit up on your shirt. Then you look around the house. Oh. Shit. Toys everywhere, the baby took off his diaper, and Cheerio crumbs are ground into your carpet. You wish you could ask them to come back in 30 minutes, but you can’t. It needs to be fixed and they are here. So you reluctantly open the door, baby on your hip, and apologize for the mess – it’s been one of those days. You show them where the water heater is, making note of every little mess you spot along the way.

I have done this SO MANY TIMES. Not that exact scenario, but you get my point. Sometimes there just isn’t enough time in one day to get everything done. Other days, you feel as if you could conquer the world. Even on the days when your house is perfectly clean, you can still feel like you are judged.

For example, say you’re part of a playgroup and it’s your turn to host a play date – you clean your house from top to bottom, plan out super fun activities that you probably don’t do on a daily basis because you’re usually too busy trying to stay on top of things, get together healthy snacks and arrange them in a Pinterest worthy display, and then begin greeting the parents and kids. I know my house is NEVER like that on a regular basis. My children are far too energetic for that to be possible. If your house is always perfect and pristine, you have perfect aliens for children and I really DESPERATELY want to know your secrets!

See the thing is, I WANT that. I have seen a lot of blog posts lately where it seems like moms are almost admitting defeat – saying they are okay with having a messy house because it means more time with their families. I see where they are coming from, but I don’t want to do that. I’m not saying that I don’t want more time with my family, because I do. More than anything. But I know it’s possible to balance the two. If you’re content with having laundry heaped on your couch, dishes in the sink, toothpaste stuck to the bathroom sink, and Goldfish crumbs on your dining room floor, then more power to you. I can’t do it. I don’t judge when I see houses that are like that because that’s how my house is a lot of the time. But there is one person I judge for it all the time: me. I know it’s perfectly acceptable to let some of the little things go from time to time, but I also know it’s completely realistic to have a house that stays clean the majority of the time.

Here’s my theory:

If I sacrifice a little time with my family now to get our house in order, organized, and clean, and then find a routine that works well for me and stick to it, then that means I’ll spend less time cleaning later and I’ll get to spend more time with my family. THAT is what I want. I want the perfect house not only because I secretly have OCD and it drives me nuts when things are out of place, but also because I believe that is the type of house my family deserves and I want to provide it for them. That’s my job.

I LIKE seeing this every time I walk into my kitchen.

Right now, I’m not a big fan of having people over to the house (with the exception of family). I’m making changes so I can have my “dream house.” Maybe then I won’t be so afraid to have my life “on display.”