parent opinion

'I'm a proud formula feeding parent. Here's what I want you to know.'

Soon after I stopped breastfeeding, if anyone asked me why, I told them my sparse supply had finally dwindled to nothing. 

It was true, and I felt like it was the answer people wanted to hear. 

Often, I was given sympathetic looks and told about ‘amazing’ lactation consultants, milk inducing recipes and hospital grade pumps. 

Ultimately however, I hadn’t enjoyed breastfeeding. I don’t even think the laundry list of reasons why mattered; I just didn’t like it.

Listen: On this episode of Me After You, host Laura Byrne chats to actor Teresa Palmer, author Ashe Davenport and other mums about what 'self care' really looks like to them after kids. Post continues below.

When I was first faced poor milk supply, I realised I had two choices: persist, or formula feed my baby. I stared down the road of persisting and saw a relentless schedule of feeding, pumping, feeding and pumping. 

My already exhausted body would get few breaks and I could see myself obsessing over lactation consultant advice, what I should and shouldn’t be eating and possible tongue ties. 

The women who go down this road are legends who I take my hat off too, but that isn’t me. If there was no other option I would do it, but there was another option. An option that made the already difficult world of transitioning into parenting much easier for me and ultimately made me enjoy parenthood significantly more; formula feeding.

Sarah chose to formula feed her son, pictured. Image: Supplied.

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When I stopped breastfeeding, I got the impression I was supposed to be flooded with a plethora of negative emotions. From conversations I’d had and experiences I’d read about, there was an expected spectrum of feelings associated with formula feeding ranging from disappointment to guilt and even failure and shame. 

I didn’t feel any of those feelings. I felt relieved, renewed and positive I had made the right decision. It made me wonder, are women biologically programmed to feel despair when ceasing breastfeeding or is peer pressure fuelling many of these emotions? 

I concluded it probably varies from person to person, but for myself I didn’t feel a strong natural pull to breastfeed and peer pressure has never been a very effective form coercion. In fact, feeling pressured tends to make me dig my heels in harder and run in the opposite direction. This made accepting my decision to stop breastfeeding easy.

‘Breast is best’ is extensively communicated by health care professionals, wellbeing influences, the lady at the post office and even on cans of formula. 

But there are plenty of ‘best’ things I don’t do. I don’t practise mindfulness, avoid sugar or exercise enough. If I ticked off everything on the incredibly long list of things I ‘should’ do, my bucket would overflow and mental health would suffer. 

So, I do my best. That doesn’t mean I abuse or neglect my body, the same way formula feeding is not abusing or neglecting my baby. 

Sarah and her family. Image: Supplied.

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Am I concerned I’m not doing what’s natural? That I’ve failed as a mother? Absolutely not! My baby was conceived in a lab, born via c-section section and fed formula. Natural went out the window a long time ago and yet my baby is utterly divine. He did not fail to thrive and we did not fail to bond.

I am a proud formula feeding parent. Proud that I made the decision that was best for my family, despite the ‘breast is best’ rhetoric.

Now when people ask me why I formula feed, I no longer say it’s because of poor supply. 

I tell them the whole truth: it just wasn’t for me.

Sarah is a Victorian mama of a son who was conceived, born and is being raised in lockdown. She's an ex-primary school teacher who is rapt she 'got out' before home learning. She currently works as an admin officer at a school and will soon commence her Masters in Speech Pathology. 

Feature image: Supplied.

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