This piece is a Q&A style article with co-owners, Shari Medini & Karissa Tunis
For more on this topic, check out the full Postpartum collection
The first year of motherhood is downright difficult, and the last thing that moms need is more judgement and guilt about how they feed their baby. There are so many different factors at play when it comes to breastfeeding or formula feeding, & each mom needs to make those decisions based on what is best for everyone involved. Mom’s health, happiness, & well-being are so important when it comes to raising healthy, happy kids, which means that Mom’s individual needs also need to be taken into consideration! There is no reason to pit breastfeeding against formula feeding in an effort to determine what is best because at the end of the day… fed is best.
Shari: I know that trying to breastfeed was a very difficult experience for you… can you share more about your story with us?
… Wow, where do I begin?!
I have been blessed with three amazing healthy children. However, none of them were born healthy, and each of them experienced a very difficult first year of life.
Our first was a little girl. Unfortunately I had developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy. After the delivery I was fine, but it took her a bit longer to recover. But eventually she did, and eventually we got to go home.
However, from the moment we arrived home from the hospital, our little princess would cry and scream for 8+ hours a day, and was up every 1.5 hours at night.
I was beyond exhausted and frustrated! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, had their opinion and advice to offer. But no matter what I tried, things did not get better. Eventually I began seeking medical help. Our pediatrician continued to reassure me that this is just what babies do, and eventually I would figure out this first time mom thing.
But this first time mom had a gut feeling that something was wrong. So I did my research, found a new pediatrician that specializes in all things gastro, and at 4 months we finally had a diagnosis.
After 4 months of an emotional rollercoaster filled with tears, difficulties with trying to breastfeed, hours and hours of pumping, I finally learned that our sweet baby had silent reflux and a milk protein allergy. No matter how I changed my diet, this little lady could not digest my milk, or any formula, except for a very special kind (and very expensive) that had all of the protein broken down.
So after a small fortune in baby gadgets, tummy wraps, new bottles, and more, we finally had our answer and paid up for the golden formula that in return gave us a new and happy baby!
I will spare you the details, but my two boys that followed suffered from the same diagnosis plus more! We have had our luck (bad luck) with eating issues and challenges. So when I say Fed Is Best – we 110% agree!! Every baby is unique. Each one requires their own type of milk, their own bottle nipple, their own feeding times, and so on.
I know what it feels like to not be able to produce the milk your baby needs, and it’s awful. It’s awful because you feel like you are failing them. Furthermore, so many people judge and say really hurtful things. But I know with my whole heart that I did every thing that my baby needed; I met their needs, I continue to meet their needs, and there is a reason that God trusted me to be their mommy. Not you, not the negative know-it-alls, just ME. And I am so incredibly thankful that he did, and that my precious three are now thriving!
Shari: Did you hear negativity from doctors, friends, and family because of formula feeding?
From my doctor and pediatrician no – and I am so incredibly thankful for that! I remember sitting in my pediatrician’s office and discussing the new formula my baby needed. We were talking so much about my child, but suddenly he paused, looked at me and said “Are you ok with all of this?” In that moment I lost it and just sobbed! I felt like I was letting my baby down by not producing what they needed.
He very quickly gave me a hug and reassured me that I was doing exactly what my baby needed. His comments and advice restored my confidence in myself, my body, and my abilities.
Unfortunately, I did have other people make rude and insulting comments about me no longer breastfeeding. It was very hurtful and upsetting, but I also knew they did not know our circumstances, nor could they even comprehend what was happening without going through it themselves.
Thankfully I had my amazing pediatrician’s words to remember, and between him and my husband, I got through it all without too much guilt.
Shari: When did you know that you were making the right decision to give up breastfeeding once and for all?
With my daughter it was at 4 months. With my two boys it was within the first two weeks.
Shari: Isn’t it weird how just a few years later this topic is a non-issue? No fellow elementary school parents are worried about whether or not your second grader was breastfed or bottle fed.
Yes, and I am so happy that I do not need to talk about it anymore! It was such a challenging and difficult time in my life, so I am so glad it is all in the past!
Shari: What would you tell a fellow mom who is struggling with breastfeeding?
There are some details that I have chosen not to share. The main reason I gave up breastfeeding was because my children could not tolerate it. But another reason is that my body could not handle it either. I actually still have scars and pain from trying to force something that I simply wasn’t meant to do. The only thing that I regret is that I did not give it up sooner.
Once I freed myself from trying, and decided for myself that I was not guilty of anything other than loving and caring for my baby, I felt free and at peace. A huge hurdle and weight was lifted, and I could spend my day caring and thinking about other things.
I honestly believe that if breastfeeding is not working for you, there is a reason. Whether it is your health or your babies, you are just not meant to breastfeed, and that is OK!
Because if you continue to try and force it beyond the point of enjoyment, you will eventually resent it, and may even begin to resent your baby at feeding time. And if you allow it to get to that point, your baby will sense your frustration, and in the end it will be a vicious cycle of unpleasantness for you and your little one.
So if you are struggling and want/need to stop, just stop. Trust your gut and do what you feel is best for you and your family. You do not owe other’s an explanation. Simply tell them that you are caring for your baby in the best possible way.
Shari: Do you have any formula/bottle feeding hacks to share?!
Ha! Cleaning bottles is not fun!
What I found made it easier was to buy enough bottles for one day’s supply. I have an extra sink in my kitchen, but a basin of soapy water would work to. As we finished a feeding, I would rinse the bottle thoroughly, and then leave it soaking in the extra sink.
Before bed each night, my husband and I would take turns washing all of the bottles, and prepare them for that night and the next day.
In our bedroom we kept a mini fridge filled with night time bottles, and a bottle warmer on top of it. When our little one would wake, one of us would change their diaper while the other heated the bottle next to our bed, and then we would take turns feeding, burping, and rocking them back to sleep. Our set-up allowed for us to stay in our room (our babies always slept in our room because of reflux and choking throughout the night), saved time, and kept us from having to run all over the house to prepare a nighttime feeding.
My advice for formula is this:
- When trying new formulas give it a week. It takes about a week for the old kind to be out of their system and to get a good feel for if the new kind really agrees with them. Unless they begin vomiting or experiencing other symptoms – then stop immediately and call your doctor!
- Once you do find the right formula, purchase online from a trusted retailer in bulk – it will help you save money in the long run since most offer large quantities at a discount.
I want to extend a sincere thank you to Karissa for sharing about her experience. These personal & emotional experiences are never easy to relive, but if it helps a few fellow moms in the process, it is all worth it!
*For more on this topic, check out the full Postpartum collection*