BY DR. MELISSA R. BOWMAN FOSTER
“Congratulations, Mom and Dad, here is your beautiful baby girl!” Those were the most amazing, wonderful and terrifying words I had ever heard in my life. Here is this amazing, perfect little human staring up at me with complete trust, and I am in charge of taking care of her.
Being a parent is so rewarding; however, I know all good parents have questioned themselves at some point by wondering, “Oh, my gosh, am I going to screw this up?” Knowing the amount of stress that is already on parents, I thought the one thing that should be easy (at first, anyway) was deciding what my baby should eat. However, some members of our society prevent that from being so simple.
Not everyone in society has embraced both options that moms have—breast milk or formula. I found that out the hard way.
For example, I was at the mall in the food court. My daughter was four weeks old and was eating every two hours like clockwork, so I had not yet had the opportunity to pump. When she started giving me the hunger hints, I took my jacket out of her diaper bag, situated daughter under my jacket and began feeding her. As I scrolled through Facebook on my phone, I thought everything was fine. Then, I felt as though I were being watched. I looked up and met eyes with the woman approaching me.
“I can’t believe you’re doing that in public,” she said. “That’s vulgar! There are children here. You need to go to the bathroom or to your car.”
I almost burst into tears. I am not normally a crier, but I’m sure my hormones were still crazy. I thought I was doing at least one thing right as a mother, and that woman pretty much shot it down. In my mind, I thought, “Why would I force my child to eat her lunch in the bathroom or in a hot car (it was June). Isn’t this the right way to do it?”
I went home, researched and found that other breastfeeding mothers had been shamed as well. The articles and blogs I read made me feel better about breastfeeding, so I got over it and decided that woman just needed some more culture in her life.
However, a couple of months later, I met another interesting lady.
I was at a local drugstore when my daughter needed to be fed. I pulled out a bottle. A woman approached me.
“You shouldn’t feed her that poisonous formula—it can affect her mental abilities, and she’ll have trouble in school and college.”
I responded, “Actually, it’s breast milk. I pumped.”
After learning I was a professor, the lady went on to trash-talk formula-fed babies. “You are obviously an accomplished young lady. Breastfeeding got you on the right path, too.”
I proudly responded, “Actually, I was a formula-only baby, and the reason I am ‘accomplished,’ as you put it, is because my family loved me and supported me.”
Her mouth dropped open, and I walked to the other side of the pharmacy.
Breast milk does not make someone a good mother, and neither does formula. Love, support, and care make someone a good mother (or father). Breastfeeding can be stressful, and in some cases, formula is a better option. Also, some people are unable to make enough milk. They have medical conditions preventing it, or maybe they adopted their child and are having a hard time finding donated milk. However, if that child is loved and cared for, then that child is fine, and they are doing a great job as a parent.
My six-month-old is fed both breastmilk and formula. My baby is loved, taken care of and happy. Fortunately, these above situations are the exception rather than the rule. We live in a mostly pleasant society where most people who approach as I’m feeding my daughter smile and say, “What a beautiful baby.” Unfortunately, those negative situations can stick with us sometimes, so for any moms out there who may be questioning their milk(s) of choice, look at your baby, look at that smile and know you are doing a great job!