No Mom-Shame in this game: The Breast, the Formula, and Everything in Between
It’s the question every new mom faces, disguised by a compliment on your baby’s weight, hair, or plump cheeks (sometimes all of the above), “Oh your baby is so cute! Are you breastfeeding?”
New moms constantly face criticism for either choice they make. Unfortunately, no matter who or how many children they have, or if they even have children, this seems to be a topic that everyone has input on. From prattling on as to the benefits of breast milk (It’ll build your baby’s immune system! Breast milk is the most nutritious option! It’s free!) to those who have an arsenal of benefits that come from formula (It provides added nutrients! Your partner can help out with feeding! You can drink wine!), everyone and their mother has an opinion. While some of their findings may be true, those on Team Breast vs. Team Formula are missing a key element of the discussion.
The debate, formula or breast, is one that mom’s must make but truly this is nothing more than a trick question. The important question is not formula or breast milk, but “Is my baby fed?”
Formula based feeding has a number of benefits, including allowing for more flexibility with feeding times, the ability for a partner or other caregiver to easily make a bottle, and the fact that formula is not digested as quickly as breast milk, leaving babies fuller for longer periods of time, which leads to less feedings.
Breastfeeding also holds great benefits, including being in tune with your baby to change depending on the needs of your baby, being able to be pumped and available if properly stored, and being able to be quickly digested. Breastfeeding is great for moms who are able to be around for consistent feedings or have an employer who allows for pumping time and has the capacity for storage.
In a unique study conducted in 2018, babies who were on a combination breast milk-formula feeding schedule were also prone to less hospitalizations in babies who were experiencing significant weight loss after birth. Proving that the best method is not always breast but perhaps a combination of both methods. At the end of the day, ensuring that a child is fed and is receiving necessary vitamins and nutrients is the desire of any mother, no matter the method.
Feeding a baby is no easy task with either method that mothers choose to use. While breastfeeding moms struggle with angle and placement, formula mothers can struggle with having their baby refusing to be bottle-fed. However, these feeding times, once a method has been established, is a perfect way to bond with your baby. Watching them take part in one of life’s simplest joys of having a full stomach is worth all of the pointless debates in the Target baby aisle and opinions in the family group chat. Many mothers also use this as a time to familiarize the baby with key figures in their life and increase voice recognition by talking to their child during feeding time. Either way, this method serves as an incredible part of the bonding experience, no matter what your baby is being fed.
Motherhood is hard enough without the constant mom-shaming of women who maybe prefer formula over breast milk or vice versa. At the end of the day, a child - your child - is fed and goes to bed without wonder of their next meal. Rather than shaming or offering a very telling and disappointed “oh,” when each mom reveals their plans, perhaps moms and parents alike could work together to offer tips and tricks. For example, offering the advice to parents who have decided to use formula to stir the powder in and not shake the bottle, which creates more air bubbles and therefore leads to more bloating. Or telling moms who are breastfeeding which holy grail nipple cream worked wonders and absolutely changed your life.
The world of motherhood would be a much better place if a baby’s health was the first and foremost concern, but that world is riddled with potholes of shaming and one-upping that leads to a toxic environment that can have new moms questioning the quality of their parenting skills. Unfortunately, this shaming ensues beyond breastfeeding vs. formula, and goes into the debates of private vs. public schools, cell phone vs. no cell phone, daycare vs. nanny, the list goes on and on. However, there is a changing tide in the motherhood sphere, with moms breaking the vicious cycle that has become mom-shaming.
Online platforms and a steady normalization of the difficulties of motherhood have helped to change the tide when it comes to motherhood. It takes a village to raise a child and sometimes that village includes a woman on Instagram who lives across the country and has discovered the life hack to weaning your baby off their favorite pacifier. With a normalization of asking for help and talking about issues like postpartum depression, feelings of inadequacy, and constant worrying, moms around the world have been more vocal about the struggles they face on a day-to-day basis. Sharing their thoughts and feelings only serve to comfort other moms, who may wonder if what they are going through is normal. Together, these communities of moms coming together, whether virtually or in person, serve as a gentle reminder that motherhood is anything but easy and is full of difficult decisions, but the outcome is worth it all.
While many parents will continue to have their opinion and what works for them ready for any baby shower or birth announcement that comes their way, at the end of the day, moms should take comfort in the joy of watching their baby be lulled to sleep by an empty stomach or delivering a burp of satisfaction from their last meal. So whether choosing to decide between breast or formula, remember that there is no right or wrong answer. Either choice achieves the goal of feeding your child and providing them with the tools to promote your baby’s health and growth. And no one can shame you for that.
Thank you to these beautiful #YEG mamas
Photos by Valley Of Edyn Photography
 Claire McCarthy, MD. “Why We Shouldn't Demonize Formula Feeding.” Harvard Health Blog, 11 Nov. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-we-shouldnt-demonize-formula-feeding-2018040313557.