You know the dirty words -- most of them are four letters long and super fun to use to punctuate sentences (if you're a potty mouth). But there is one word, featuring seven letters, that sets off the alarms in mothers everywhere even worse than the c-word and it's (whisper now) formula. It doesn't matter if you breastfeed or mix a powder in a bottle or go for the liquid stuff, formula triggers some insane reactions. Some for good reason, some for pure evil, but all of it comes with a whole lot of misunderstanding.
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I'm happily in the breastfeeding camp. I'm all set up with my Fenugreek, and oatmeal cookies, and pretty nursing bra from Target with the easy snaps so I can nurse my 13 month old twins.
I was also in the formula camp. Not as happy there with all the bottles to clean. But as a working mom with twins to feed and not enough milk to pump I did what I had to do.
I stand by both camps and yet both camps really piss me off sometimes.
There were times, I felt like a terrible excuse for a mother because I couldn't make enough breastmilk to feed my babies. I felt less than a woman. Damaged. I would get annoyed when I would read about some moms speaking to other moms about where they went wrong when they failed at exclusive breastfeeding. I did everything I could do within my power and ability to EBF my twins. I felt like a failure that I couldn't. I got secretly mad at women who produced a lot of milk and then stopped nursing at three months. Why couldn't I have her production level?! So along with the breastmilk I was able to pump while at work, my babies had -- shhh -- formula. And despite what some might think, I'm very close friends with some of the loudest lactivists out there. And I think I am one, too. Even though some might reject me.
There was a part of me that was jealous of moms who could produce five ounces of breastmilk in one 20 minute pump session. Why couldn't I? What was I doing wrong? Turns out ... nothing at all. I have one breast that is a good producer, and another that never wanted to make much more than an ounce.
The guilt of motherhood -- no one warned me about this!!
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Just like every baby is unique and their needs are different, so is every mom, so is every mom's breastfeeding issue they may or may not encounter. With every new issue I faced, I read books and talked to people -- lactation counselors, lactivists, La Leche League leaders, women who have breastfed for years. I also have a husband who is extremely supportive (some do have issues with lending "their" breasts to their kids). So I was lucky. And through the help of all of that, I'm still breastfeeding despite the fact that some people in my extended my family think it's really weird.
My twins are entering the toddler years and don't need formula anymore (thank God!) -- it's just solids and breastmilk, no more possible (ready for it?) synthetic poison. Which leads me to that. Exactly that. The synthetic poison comments, which stung me so bad, made me feel like a monster of a mom for having to give my twins formula even though I had to. And it was comments like that which made me get really mad at EBF moms. It's not always what they said, but HOW they said it. Formula CAN be bad. The industry isn't regulated enough and that is a HUGE problem. Moms who breastfeed could go a little easier on the language used when pointing it out. And moms who formula feed shouldn't be mad at the moms who point out that formula can be bad (as long as they don't throw daggers when they do it).
New moms are sensitive creatures. Our hormones are raging. Sometimes we feel vulnerable and most of us are trying to do the very best that we can.
With all the possible obstacles, there is also the back to work and pumping issue. I've got a job that created a room for me to pump in, and the flexibility to pump when I needed to. They even bought me a pump (well the generous gift card they all chipped in to give me purchased it). But not every working mom has that. Doctors, nurses, teachers, receptionists, store clerks, waitresses -- these workers and many other professions can't consistently set time aside to pump. Some moms have to go back to work right after baby. This is one of the reasons our breastfeeding rates are low.
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It shouldn't be the breastfeeding camp versus the formula camp. Both sides have unique knowledge and issues to face and we should really all be fighting for more benefits for working moms and stricter rules to make better and safer formula for those of us who have to use it. We should all be careful of the words we use because they hurt, attacking us moms where we feel most vulnerable -- at our ability to BE a mom.
Let's not let the bigger issue get lost in the heat of the breastfeeding mom versus formula mom battle. Not all formula feeding moms are bad moms just like not all breastfeeding moms are good moms.
Have you ever felt like I have felt? Which camp do you stand in?
Image via Michele Zipp