I recently read an article that said dozens of hospitals around the country are starting to forego free baby formula for moms, including an announcement that has met with controversy in New York City to put formula on lockdown in hospitals there. Their objective is to promote and encourage breastfeeding. But what if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you or your family?
When my first son was born, I had a strong desire to nurse him, as I’d heard it was a great way to bond with babies. I even took the nursing classes offered through my workplace. However, I learned quickly that nursing wasn’t meant to be for us, try as I might. It was a very intimidating process because E did not want to latch on. Added to that was that fact that I was not producing enough milk to make it worthwhile for him, giving him jaundice (and a huge headache for us on our first night home) and had to supplement with formula. Meanwhile, the lactation consultant was breathing down my neck and trying to sell me overpriced products, like a special nursing pillow (a Boppy worked the same way). My husband was getting frustrated, saying I should just give up nursing altogether. I wanted to give it my best shot, though. For the first few months I was home with him, I kept trying to nurse and would then top E off with formula if he wasn’t completely satisfied. I pumped at other times — and that was another extremely uncomfortable process. After about four months and very little success (even with pumping at work), I gave up nursing altogether.
When both M and my daughter were born, I immediately ruled out nursing in favor of formula. Both feeding experiences were pleasant and stress-free. It didn’t necessarily mean my husband and I were going to take turns for middle-of-the-night feedings, but they were fulfilled from each bottle. The first few days were painful for me, but ice packs and a chest wrap helped the first time, cold cabbage leaves helped the second time. If I had the chance to go back and nurse either of them, I would still choose the formula method each time.
If I had a baby in one of the hospitals in question, I would be absolutely furious. It is no one else’s right to tell me how to feed my baby. If formulas weren’t safe and didn’t provide the right nutrients, doctors would find another way to make things work. I physically can’t produce enough milk to feed my babies and moms in a similar position should not be forced into doing so, either. Whenever a friend tells me how she gets looks of judgment from other mothers when they find out she formula feeds, I am quick to say that breastfeeding is not for everyone. Personally, as long as my babies got the proper vitamins and nutrients from their formula (and our doctor has confirmed that they’re growing and functioning just fine), why is it anyone’s business what or how I feed them? I’m not giving them something harmful! I’m thankful that such an alternative to breastfeeding exists. I don’t know what my babies would have done without it, considering that I couldn’t fulfill them with what I had available. Just like it’s not another mother’s business to tell me how to feed my babies, it is also not the hospital’s business to tell new moms how to feed theirs. If the hospitals participating in this program continue to carry it out, I have a feeling they’re going to lose a lot of patients, as people start to lose their patience with such an agenda.