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January 05, 2009

Proud to be a Bottle-feeding Mom

Bottle_feeding_2 After one year of bottle-feeding and a brief run in with a breastfeeding relative this holiday season, I can finally say I am proud to be a bottle-feeding mom.  The choice to bottle-feed has not been easy; in fact there were times I felt like “Worst. Mother. Ever.” was permanently etched on my forehead.  However, after 12 months of constant debates and badgering over the subject, I finally feel confident that I made the right choice for me and my baby.

Looking back, the criticism regarding my choice to bottle-feed started right around my baby shower, as guests observed that I didn’t register for a breast pump or the usual nursing apparatus.  On more than one occasion I tried to nicely explain that I completely respect the choice to nurse and envy the women that do, but the whole idea makes me uncomfortable and I just didn’t think it was for me.  For my closing argument I threw in the fact that I was going back on medication for panic attacks following the baby’s birth and didn’t think it would be a good idea to introduce those chemicals to a newborn.

I was sadly mistaken when I thought that would be the end of the conversation.   Aside from the dirty looks I received, people insisted that I ask my doctor for special time released medicine so I could nurse anyway and told me I needed to move my comfort issues on the backburner, as I was putting my child in medical danger by using formula (which was apparently equivalent to filling the bottle with arsenic).

I was also told that my son would not bond with me if I did not breastfeed from birth.  I mean, we are talking threats of serious psychological damage here for not spending hours a day with my son attached to my breast.  Not to mention the prophetic warnings of chronic allergy problems and sickness that would plague my son’s life because I chose to feed him from a can.

I can’t say I wasn’t shaken up and almost persuaded by the constant badgering I received about breastfeeding my baby.  I really did research the subject, including the medical benefits and bonding issues listed above—but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind about it.  I also thought about the millions of children that have been bottle-fed- including myself and my husband- that turned out to be healthy, normal adults.  I figured it really couldn’t be as bad as everyone said.

My only saving grace came two months later from the pediatrician who nicely explained to me that food is food and I would have enough parenting guilt to deal with for the next 18 years.  Apparently the choice to bottle-feed wasn’t supposed to be on that list.

However, in our society, the choice to bottle-feed secretly is on that list and it’s a source of guilt and embarrassment for otherwise wonderful mothers.   I personally know a ton of moms that either chose not to breastfeed or couldn’t breastfeed due to medical issues that felt utterly embarrassed whipping a can of formula out and feeding it to their child in front of their friends or pro-breastfeeding family. I’ve been there.  It’s a terrible feeling and extremely undeserved--as I conveniently learned this holiday season.

To come full circle, I saw my husband’s cousin on Christmas who gave birth 3 months before I did.  I’m not lying when I say this girl is as earthy as they come—still nursing after 18 months and only introducing healthy, non-sugary foods into the baby’s diet as he leans more towards solids.  She dresses the baby in as much organic clothing as possible and rightfully takes pride in the fact that her son is being raised without exposure to chemicals or other environmental toxins.   

However, after a brief conversation I learned that the baby has allergies.  He has trouble digesting dairy products and his body has trouble tolerating soy.  She also told me how he suffered terribly from colic and reflux for the first 10 months of his life.  He was also just learning how to walk at 18 months by holding on to objects and taking guided steps around the room.

I was really taken back by all of this as my son doesn’t have allergies, never gets sick and started walking at a mere 8 ½ months old.  My son also seemed just as alert, playful and bonded as her son was.  Clearly, I’m doing something right in the mom department to have a son just as beautiful and healthy as their breastfed little boy. 

It was this revelation on Christmas day that allowed me to make peace with the fact that I bottle-fed my son and felt compelled to share the story with other moms in the same boat.  The choice to bottle-feed is nothing to be ashamed of, as there are far worse things that a mother can do to her kid. For example, a mom could allow her kids to chomp on lead paint toys a whole year after they were recalled by the FDA or name one of them “Talula Does the Hula from Hawaii.” When you look at it that way, clearly the choice to bottle-feed really isn’t all that bad.

This an original New Jersey Mom's post.  When she's not suffering from motherhood guilt, Amber Watson-Tardiff can be found on her own blog, jerseymomma.com, or writing freelance articles to pay for that expensive formula she speaks so highly of.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons Artist Alessandro Perilli


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