I will never forget the moment we decided to give our son formula for the first time.
After days of trying to breastfeed without luck, my midwife told me it was time to consider supplementing. It was questionable whether or not I’d be able to breastfeed to begin with, given that I’d had two breast reduction surgeries, but I was optimistic. However, there was no more optimism left in me. My big 9 pound 7 oz baby boy had dropped too much weight, and waiting any longer to nourish him would compromise his health.
After the midwife left, my husband and I looked at each other, puzzled, unsure where to begin. No one had taught us how to prepare formula. No one talked to us about bottles or sterilization. While I was nursing I had swarms of people around me willing to help, but as soon as we made the choice to formula feed, everyone was gone.
Everything was so unknown. I didn’t know what to expect and I felt very alone in that moment. Hurtful words from a few of my mommy friends lingered in my mind. Sweeping generalizations about the “dangers” of formula feeding ran through my head like a broken record. I suddenly felt like a terrible mother.
Because I literally didn’t know where else to turn, I reached out to a friend who I knew formula fed her children. I cried as I explained to her our situation, and she graciously came alongside me and supported me as I began my formula feeding journey.
I can honestly say that she was my only true supporter during this time, other than my husband (who was absolutely amazing!) She came over to my house and showed me how to prepare formula. She told me the brands she liked, which ones had worked for her. She showed me how to properly sterilize bottles with an amazing invention called a microwave steam sterilizer. She told me stories about her own journey, and how bottle feeding had given her a bond with her son that she never felt when she’d nursed him. She celebrated with me when my son took his first sips from the bottle. She was my doula through that tough time. She was a huge source of comfort for me and my husband, and I will forever be grateful to her for what she did for us.
After a few weeks, we’d gotten the hang of bottle feeding and I won’t lie… it was awesome! It just worked for our family and my son thrived! I realized that all those scary generalizations about formula feeding were just that… generalizations (many of them not founded on any actual, concrete evidence.) They didn’t hold weight or bearing in my life. My son was going to show me who he was and what he was capable of.
I learned a few more things during this time. I learned that, contrary to my original thinking, I was NOT a terrible mother for giving my son formula. I was, in fact, the exact opposite. I was a loving mother. A providing mother. I was being wise. I did the right thing for me in my situation and to this day, I have no regrets.
I also learned that everyone needs someone when the going gets tough. We humans need support, we aren’t meant to do this life alone. Thankfully, I did have my amazing husband, but he didn’t know a lick more about formula feeding than I did back then (we have since both become pros!) My friend (who I affectionately refer as my “formula feeding doula”) was exactly the kind of support a new, young mom needs in those rough times in motherhood. She was non-judgmental, knowledgeable, kind and understanding. I wanted so badly for more mothers to experience the support I had received through her, so I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to support other mothers in their various parenting decisions. And so I became a doula.
It is now my absolute pleasure to be able to help mothers achieve their feeding goals - whether breast OR bottle. I am happily pro-mom, meaning that I believe it is the mother’s right to receive non-judgmental support for all her parenting choices (whether with feeding, birthing or other!)
Fast forward almost three years later. My son will be three in July. He is smart, tall, kind, healthy, and he talks as well as the average 5 year old. He is everything he should be and more. My bond with him is like nothing I have ever experienced before. We are closer than close. He loves me and needs me. I couldn’t imagine being more in love. He now has a brother. A smart, tall, kind, healthy brother. I nursed his younger brother for much longer than I did him, but my bond with them both is the same. Strong.