A father has admitted he fed his underweight baby formula, without his wife’s knowledge, because she was convinced by the message that “breast was best”.
In Joey Lombardi’s confession on Baby Center, he says he literally snuck into his son’s day care to feed his baby.
Yesterday, a judge sentenced a Brisbane mother to 18-months jail (suspended) for child cruelty, when she too refused to feed her child formula as she didn’t want to look like a “bad mother”.
The Brisbane mother’s five-month-old was found malnourished, with bones protruding, as his mother dogmatically continued to breastfeed him despite a recommendation that the infant needed formula.
The anonymous mother and Lombardi’s wife, Allison, are casualties of the “breast is best” message.
The New Jersey father said that when his wife was pregnant she was adamant she was going to breastfeed, a decision he supported.
But after Allison gave birth to their healthy baby son the doctor at his first check-up gave them a “gentle statement” that they had to watch his weight as he wasn’t gaining enough.
“Those gentle nudges became less gentle as the weeks went on,” Lombardi says.
Although his wife was not a fan of formula, a lactation consultant recommended supplementing with it while breastfeeding “via a little container and a feeding tube that my wife taped to her nipple.”
“It worked. And she was okay with it because the bonding elements were still in place. My son was making weight and all was well in the world.
“Then my wife went back to work.”Lombardi says: “My son’s day care is close to both of our offices. My wife worked out a deal with her manager that she could go over to feed Ben (instead of being given a room and time to pump). Soon enough, the doctors were on us about weight again.”
“To make this long story shorter, the doctors figured out Ben needed an extra four ounces of food a day. I asked my wife if the day care could give him one formula bottle a day, she refused because she didn’t want Ben developing a preference to formula. At this point, it was more of an emotional decision because our son was consuming formula in small increments and he was getting a few meals in bottle form.”
Lombardi says he then was force to sneak into the day care once a day to feed his son a bottle – after the staff there refused to feed it without Allison’s permission.
“I had to pick a time when my wife wasn’t over there feeding him or he wasn’t napping and not close to those feeding times where he would still be hungry when my wife showed up. It got really complicated.”
He says that he did tell his wife about it in the end.
“I told my wife the whole story. So I am clear, this was never about deception. When it comes to your children, bonding, and breastfeeding - there are high emotional factors at play. Dealing with the doctors saying 'you aren’t getting the job done, time to tap out' is deflating. I wasn’t going to add to the pressure of the situation.”
It’s that pressure that many women are clearly feeling overwhelmed by.
While the breastfeeding "above all else" message is one pushed by hospitals, midwives and mothers’ groups it is becoming slowly understood that in many, many cases it’s not a choice that suits every mother.
But perhaps too slowly.
Of course, it's important that new mothers know breast milk is the best first choice for a baby what they also need to know is that it may not be the best choice for a mother.
While there have been some cracks in the “breastapo” mentality it is still hard to break. There is still a certain – (unwarranted) shame to formula feeding.
Breastfeeding mothers are put on a pedestal up with those who had natural births.
We know that breastfed babies aren’t any smarter, healthier, skinnier, or happier than formula fed babies.
Studies have shown that BMI, obesity rates, hyperactivity, parental attachment levels, behavioural compliance and intelligence of formula fed babies really are not different to breastfed babies.
Would you let a stranger breastfeed your baby? Post continues after video.
Yes, breastfeeding can help to build a child's immune system, can be a protective factor against SIDS and it does offer a mother protection against some cancers but let’s be clear formula feeding is a beneficial way to feed your baby too.
So why don’t we believe it?Perhaps it’s a symptom of the unproven, yet popular belief we have that “natural is best”.
Natural births, natural feeding, natural medicine. We lob them all in the same basket and without examining the evidence behind each belief we give them all the same importance.
But we mums are more discerning than that.
We believe in and trust in science in our medicines. We know that a safe birth is the most important thing, not how the birth comes about, so what we need to also start doing is also be discerning about the implications of “breast is best.”
Because surely to be fed is the most important thing. Right?