Soap Box Central- Breast vs Formula

I’ve been following a post on “Sanctimommy”‘s Facebook page since yesterday morning and it’s causing my blood pressure to rise. I’ve got all sorts of finger shaking, soap box standing monologues going through my head.
The topic is formula feeding vs breast feeding when there is a choice. The page is intended to be satirical and to allow mothers to vent freely about what they see others do that they don’t agree with. The page also shares a dual purpose; allowing mamas who do make different choices to laugh at themselves and one another by going overboard with their comments in a fun, lighthearted way.  The comments on the page are often biting, sanctimonious and however humorous  tend to have a blinding ray of truth that can frequently start arguments. I know to take everyone’s comments with a grain of salt because of the very nature of the page, it’s not to be taken seriously. However, on this and many other topics that are brought up, a grain of truth shines through like a golden star in a black night and as I read through the 165 comments, I became more and more frustrated. Not with the comments or the people on this page, but the fact that the opinions, however sarcastic and intentionally satirically overblown they may be… are real. The realization that people really do believe formula is just as good as breast milk and think it’s just fine to “opt out” of breast feeding for their own needs had my head spinning with frustration.
Now, let me make this clear- I am NOT talking about women who don’t have a choice. Those who have to go to formula, do so because there is no other option. Primarily they don’t like to, they don’t want to, they don’t plan on it ahead of time and they know it’s not the best for their baby, but sometimes mother nature just doesn’t give us what we want. They don’t enter into it with any illusions that it’s “just as good” and try to stand on some flimsy moral high ground about being a modern mother who is independent and doing the right thing according to the government standards to make themselves feel better. They KNOW it sucks and they don’t want to do it, it hurts them deeply that they can’t nurse and they fight every day to keep trying, even if it simply isn’t in the stars for them. It’s not their fault and those women should never be made to feel like they are bad mamas.
Also, I don’t see myself as a judgy mom. I find that I cannot and do not judge moms I see on the street, simply because I don’t know them or why they are doing what they are doing. I have no clue what goes on in their lives and I don’t know why what I’m seeing is happening.
That being said…
The fact remains that mothers the world over choose formula over breast milk. I believe this is primarily due to a lack of education and understanding of the value of breastfeeding in tandem with a growing culture that is primarily “all about me” and whatever is easiest, fastest and doesn’t interfere with daily life is the preferred method of parenting. Nursing is hard. Formula is easy. Nursing is painful. Formula doesn’t require a whole lot, especially once the child is mobile and can hold the bottle on their own. Ultimately, formula feeding is easier and for today’s busy women, it’s the simple way out of what would be a time consuming process of feeding their child that requires them to sit down and actually spend several hours a day just being quiet with their babies.
That may sound like a horrible thing to say to say these women are choosing an easy route, but from my observations, I really believe it’s true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. In fact, just today someone told me “I had to stop nursing after a year, it was just too much of a pain and I was getting angry with how much time I was wasting”. That’s the sad reality- American (and many in England and Western Europe) women see nursing as a time wasting endevour that does nothing for THEM, personally. They begin to view their babies as needy, demanding and manipulative when really, they are just hungry both for nourishment of milk and of loving attention from their mamas. It’s a gross act of selfishness that causes women to turn against nursing before a baby is ready in my opinion and our culture supports that selfishness by making it easy and accepted to parent at arm’s length.
These women successfully craft a lifestyle that causes them too much stress or too much time away from their baby, causing milk production to go down. Once that happens, everyone around them pats their heads and tells them it’s acceptable, normal and perfectly fine to just give up and go live your own life. They are encouraged by women who either don’t have children of their own, or did the same with theirs and all too quickly the baby is refused the breast because the moms supposedly “had no choice”.
Here’s where I get a little crazy… Let me tell you what no choice really is. No Choice is a tragic situation that no one would enter into willingly.
No choice is the single mom who had an “oops” baby and then did the best she could with her situation, raising a child on her own, most likely with a full time job on top of parenting, who may, or may not have any family or friend support. No choice is the mom who ended up in divorce situation and has to return to work unexpectedly. No choice is the couple who want a secure future for their baby and need to build up savings, pay off debts, become financially independent before one or the other parent gets to stay home. No choice is the mom who’s partner died and she had to make changes to their lives they didn’t expect. No choice is the mom who quit her job and then the market crashed, her husband was laid off and they both had to find work to support the family in times of need. No choice is the mom who tries and tries and simply cannot produce milk; she simply can’t stimulate that chemical reaction in her body no matter what she tries and she desperately tries everything from lactation consultants to tea, oats, cookies, Chinese herbs, alternative therapies like massage and Reiki, yoga and acupressure and still, nothing happens. No choice is the baby who has a tongue tie or a cleft pallet and can’t latch on, causing milk production to go down because of the stress of being unable to do it. Or the baby who spent days in a NICU, unable to nurse due to complications at birth and then refused to latch or even try once the mom was able to give it a shot. No choice is the mommy who has a horrible accident causing her to need dangerous medication in order to survive and her milk is no longer safe for the baby, so she pumps and dumps and cries and cries as she watches what should have been nourishing goodness for her baby get tossed in the trash like garbage. These are the “no choice” club women who deserve and should demand respect for what they MUST do. None of these women WANT to move to formula, but in the moment of these crisis’, they truly have no other options. No one else has an excuse, in my opinion.
Now, along side this, is the topic of milk banks- I believe these are amazing options, but the sad thing is most doctors won’t even tell you about them because breast milk can’t be regulated by the government. It can’t be pasteurized or processed or monitored, it’s donated by amazing women who have extra and want to help those who have none. Which means the doctors don’t like it and the government doesn’t either, because it cannot be controlled. As a result, if a mom doesn’t already know these places exist, no one will tell you voluntarily! One who is unfamiliar with this option may not understand why such a thing is important, but here is a true story example for you; A young woman has a stroke and can no longer exclusively breastfeed her five month old baby due to the medication keeping her alive. She is told by the medical staff, “pump and dump till the milk dries up”. They tell her, “you will no longer be able to nurse your baby because you will have to remain on this medication for the rest of your life and it will harm the baby. Here’s this formula company that our hospital approves of… we’ll even give you a free sample.” All the while, in her town, just miles from her home is a place that collects and stores breast milk, offered at no cost, by the way… by volunteer moms who pump in excess and want to share it with babies in need. The baby is weaned from breast to formula in a bottle, goes through three months of restless, traumatic and painful transition full of tummy aches and lots of inconsolable crying and that’s the end of the story. My point is, unless these “no choice” mamas are all very well connected online and in mommy message boards, they probably don’t know such a thing exists. That is unacceptable negligence to me, on the part of the medical staff to deny a mother such vital information and a true tragedy for mamas who WOULD have used it, had they known it was even there.
ANYway, back to the original topic…
I find that the longer I do this mommy stuff, the more I realize I don’t identify with most modern mothers. I don’t have that desire to have a “girls night out”. I don’t want a “quiet night alone” or even a date night more than once every few months. I want to be surrounded by my family and to take care of my own children. That’s why I had them- so I could be a family, not so I could be a family when I felt like it, then pay someone else to take over when I was bored. I am a full time mom. That means 24 hours of every day, they are my priority. Not money, not movies, not tv, not personal projects, ambitions or anything else. It’s the babies that are the rulers of my life, my days and my schedule and while yes, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss those things, I couldn’t even fathom putting any of those things ahead of them. Maybe I’m really strange, but I truly believe that when you have a baby, it’s your job to do everything you can for them and that anything less than EVERYTHING is less than they deserve. Period. The occasional night out to see a movie or something is totally different and not a big deal, but I’m not going to make a regular thing of taking off and leaving my kids with a sitter just so I can go watch people drink and be idiots at a bar. I’m not going to hop on a plane to Vegas for four days and leave my infant with grandma. I left that part of my life behind and I’m happy to have it stay in my past. I wouldn’t mind revisiting that life from time to time for nostalgic purposes, maybe take a night and go out to the club once the baby is on solid foods and can sleep through the night without nursing… sure, why not? But in general, I’m over it. I’m not that girl anymore and I’m comfortable with that life being a part of my past.
I know not all moms are like me, though. I know from personal experience with those around me, I am the minority and everyone pretty much thinks I’m crazy.
I want to have compassion for all mothers regardless of their parenting styles. I want to be here to help and support them even if I don’t share their beliefs, because regardless of the details, they all love their babies and I know they really do want the best for them. It’s just that some women have limits, as to what they are willing to do (for a myriad of reasons) and will go no further. I don’t understand those women, but I do want to be compassionate of their situation and just because I don’t agree, doesn’t mean I won’t help them in any way I can. It’s difficult to reconcile this issue for me because I don’t really feel they are “wrong” for what they have chosen to do, I just know that I couldn’t do it because I only want to do what’s best for them. That’s all there is to it for me- I believe baby’s needs come first. Period.
When a mother deliberately places her personal needs higher than the needs of a completely helpless person who has no choice but to go along with whatever bad or selfish decision is made, I am sad for the babies. Somehow, many millions of modern mothers have found loopholes through several parenting issues to justify their actions and to quiet the “mommy guilt” (I have a whole, separate blog on that just waiting to get finished on the computer that doesn’t work right now) so they can go back to doing whatever they want to do and to feel like independent people.
From formula to sleep training, potty training to bed sharing, I find it difficult to reconcile it all within myself because the type of mom I am is the minority here and I love all these women who do things differently and I respect them as mothers. How can I respect them and disagree with them, simultaneously ? It’s all very confusing, so I just have to look at it like this; I understand that as soon as those cells split- I was no longer an independent person and I had no right to make a decision as though only I were being effected by it. Doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes, doesn’t mean I never have a selfish moment or cut corners sometimes… just means I do my best- just like everyone else. My best isn’t someone else’s best.
See, I’m not a crazy person, here. I’m not a psycho, crunchy, hippy mom. I don’t I don’t use crystal deodorant to stay away from the aluminum in it, I don’t grow my own wheat to grind it myself to bake my own organic bread. I drive a Toyota Tundra, I vaccinate on a modified schedule, I use shampoo and I dye my hair. I buy non-organic food at the big-box store and occasionally I make Top Ramen. I buy Liam “fries and stars” from Carl’s Jr because sometimes that’s all he will eat and I let him watch Disney Jr and Sprout and Star Wars and Nightmare Before Christmas. I have the occasional Guinness and glass of wine and I eat steak from time to time. We eat chips and junk food and I order pizza about once a week. I am not a psycho demanding everyone do everything my perfect, healthy, hippy way. That’s not the way I live, I don’t even have a “my way”. I don’t have a plan, I just… do what seems right at the time and I follow my instincts. I keep the crap to a minimum, but I don’t freak out if we have a junk food day from time to time.
What makes me different I think, is that I don’t demand respect because I chose to do things a certain way. I don’t shake my finger and tell everyone how much better I am because I do things a certain way.
I read, research and decide which aspects of what I read I’m going to incorporate into my lifestyle. If someone asks, I’ll tell them what I believe the right way is according to what I’ve learned and I’ll share information that I think people should know about, but ultimately it’s up to the parent to make the decision for their child. Ultimately, it’s the parent who will have to deal with the choices they’ve made and if they don’t like what I say, it’s probably because the truth makes them feel guilty so they get defensive and all haughty and stupid about it, which is just silly.
I mean, really- if you’re going to ignore the findings that something is bad for you and do it anyway, admit it and move on. Don’t stand there and try to defend your actions by saying “formula is just as good”. It’s not. Even the formula companies know it isn’t and they say that in their commercials! I don’t sit there and try to convince myself or anyone else that Carl’s Jr is just as good as homemade dinner when I give it to Liam and I think that’s the difference.
I don’t sit here on any sort of a high horse demanding people do everything the way I do and I don’t defend my poor decisions with a “everyone does it” attitude. All I’m saying, all I’ve ever said… is do your homework. Don’t allow your ignorance to prevent you from truly doing the right thing. Don’t lie to yourself about what your choices really are and why you are making them. Most of all, don’t demand respect when what you have chosen to do, is done because it’s easy and not because it’s the right thing to do. If you make a decision about how you want to parent your child, defend it- but don’t demand anyone accept it. I certainly don’t… I’ve learned the hard way in just these last two years that I simply can’t because it’s not going to happen. There will always be someone there to question your parenting. Be honest with yourself and with them and learn all you can while also knowing that by next year, new studies will be done and half of what you are doing now will probably be wrong.
I don’t believe that I have the right or the luxury of being an independent person as long as I have a dependent one looking to me for every aspect of it’s ability to live and breathe on this earth. If that makes me a bad person for thinking this way, for being willing to say it out loud and offering it as advice to consider, so be it.
I promised my babies on the day they both were born that I would never, NEVER give them a reason to question where my priorities were and I demand that of myself every day. Is that easy? Heh.. no. Is it fun? Umm… not always. Do I like it? That isn’t really the point. I don’t feel they deserve anything less than everything I can do. It doesn’t matter what I want. I want a new car and a new phone and a bigger house and a kitchen table that isn’t a hand me down that doesn’t match anything I own. I want a debt free life and to never worry about bills. I know I could have those things if I just put them in day care and got a job, but I don’t want any of those things as much as I want to make sure my kids always have a deep connection with me. None of those things are worth losing out on the opportunity to be home with them every day and to build a solid foundation to start their lives. Maybe I am crazy… nothing I’ve never heard before. 😉
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