Think before you formula-bash 

I haven’t written a poem for about a decade, possibly longer. However, I have some pretty strong views on women insulting people for bottle feeding their babies and I thought I’d try to express it through poetry. Even just a mention of breastfeeding or seeing someone breastfeeding  hurts someone like me. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking people to not mention breastfeeding around me, or to not breastfeed around me or others. I’m fully supportive of breastfeeding, I just think there needs to be some more sensitivity to women who formula feed their babies.

I absolutely loved breastfeeding, I’ve mentioned it in a previous post about My Breastfeeding Journey. I tried my hardest with all the odds against me to keep going as long as I could and felt like I had the experience stolen from me by a cruel turn of events. I felt very down after I had to stop as I felt a massive sense of disappointment and failure.

Therefore, when someone talks about the cost of formula and says “Oh yes, it is expensive. I’m alright though because I breastfeed – and it’s better for them” that feels like a slap in the face for me. When people look at me with a bottle and look like I’m doing wrong for my baby that hurts. Recently, I’ve experienced “Oh, I breastfeed mine so I don’t need to worry about sterilising bottles, or getting it to the right temperature and it’s instantly ready so my baby doesn’t have to cry and wait for anything to be ready”. Why can’t we just support other women and accept that actually, fed is best? Some women don’t breastfeed for a whole plethora of reasons and it’s a very personal choice. My choice wasn’t really in my hands. One option was breastfeeding and continuing to be so ill I was unable to look after myself, let alone my child. The other option was bottle feeding, enabling me to focus on getting myself better, thus enabling myself able to be able to take care of my daughter again. I took the decision that was obviously right for my child.

Here is my (hopefully not too rubbish) poem; I think it has helped to release some of my anguish:

Please think before you judge me,
With this bottle in my hand
My circumstances have been tough you see
But breastfeeding was what I’d planned

In fact, I loved breastfeeding
And we started off really well
I still miss it terribly
But it’s better for me not to dwell

My baby fell critically ill
When she was only two weeks old
So for you to look down on me
Is really rather cold

I tried my absolute best
I really honestly did
So for you to look at me like that
Really flips my lid

I love my baby
Just as much as you love yours
Of course I want what’s best for her
You don’t know my story, you don’t know the cause

The trauma of her illness
Drove me quite mad
I just had so much anxiety
I was ill, fearful and sad

I ended up too weak
To do almost anything
But still I tried to breastfeed
Whilst listening to the machines ping

In the end I tried everything
From oats to power pumping
But ended up getting so little milk
It was almost only worth dumping

After I was done, I felt disappointed and sad
I felt I had let my baby down
As I watched her with a bottle
I felt depressed and would frown

Even now it hurts me
When I see other mothers feed
Or hear their judgemental words
So please do take heed

Instead of saying hurtful words
Be glad that their baby is fed
And that you can feed yours yourself,
Against your breast their little head

What are your thoughts on this? Shouldn’t we just be happy that a baby is fed and thriving, regardless of how its mother is choosing to feed it?

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Diary of an imperfect mum

48 thoughts on “Think before you formula-bash ”

  1. Thank you for sharing, and well done for writing a poem after so long (funnily I wrote one recently for the first time in ages too-it seems easier to expressing feeling about really emotive issues as poetry somehow).

    I am so sorry you’ve felt judged. I think the whole feeding situation is so mismanaged and backwards. All mums end up feeling judged. I breast fed, and worried about judgment (boobs out, baby wrong size, should have stopped by now, should’ve kept going, shouldn’t feed to sleep etc etc). I think its amazing formula exists to step in in situations where babies would otherwise go unfed. I also think its really sad that women who want to breastfeed aren’t provided proper support (I really struggled, but was very fortunate I did have a large supply). I also think it’s wrong some Companies and individuals try and imply fed is fed and there’s no difference. Of course there’s a difference, we all know that, but that’s true of every aspect of parenting! I’d have loved a drug free natural birth, I had an emergency Caesar, pumped full of drugs and my baby spent weeks in hospital. I’d love to never get frustrated or raise my voice at my toddler, do I achieve that-not a chance. What matters is she, as I have no doubt your little one is, very loved, and we are doing our very best. How we feed our baby does not indicated how much we love them, end of.

  2. Lovely poem! Got to say I always say things like. ‘Oh, I breastfeed mine so I don’t need to worry about sterilising bottles, or getting it to the right temperature and it’s instantly ready so my baby doesn’t have to cry and wait for anything to be ready’ BUT that’s not to knock formula fed babies – I’ve been a parent who was unable to breastfeed due to medical reasons and I understand the hurt when you can’t – but I’ve also been the parent who has really struggled to breastfeed and would use things like this to justify to myself to keep it up and not to quit just for my own benefit. Genuinely if I had to ever bottle feed a baby again I would spend the whole time moaning about washing and sterilising bottles because I hate it that much ?. I’ve come to learn that often when I’ve taken offence or been hurt by something someone has said it’s because I’m being he sensitive one, the person saying it is very rarely doing so to make you feel inferior (or vice versa make themselves feel superior!)

  3. I think you’re absolutely right – it doesn’t matter what we do, we’ll be judged by someone for it! You’re right about poetry too – I started to write this as a normal blog post, but I felt it was going into rant territory and would come across better as a poem x

  4. My best friend struggled to breast feed, really wanted to but ended up turning to formula- I was so disgusted to see the shaming she got from it! Especially from her lactation specialist! Professionals! Ugh. I will send her this post! Sorry you have to deal with this, but glad you found what works best for your babY!

  5. Poor thing 🙁 It is awful the amount of shaming you get, when you’re already feeling down about it! I hope it’ll help her to know she’s not alone.
    Thank you and thanks for commenting!

  6. Oh my word what a beautiful, honest and moving post. I am so sorry that you had to feel judged when you have clearly given everything to do the very best that you could. I absolutely agree – Fed is best! Every new mum deserved the right to make an informed choice that works and fits for them and their family. Happy mum = happy baby. I did breastfeed, but my second baby lost a frightening amount of weight in his second week after birth and ended up in hospital. The guilt that I felt was devastating and I will never quite get over that feeling. Maybe if I had given him formula from day 1 that would never have happened to him? It just goes to show that nobody can judge and that everyone’s circumstances are different. Thank you for sharing this. xx

  7. Thank you so much, that means a lot. I’m sorry you went through the experience you went through too. You’ll never know – the same might have happened with formula, it may have just been ‘one of those things’. I hope your guilt continues to lessen over time xxx

  8. Loved your poem! It is horrible when you feel judged for bottle feeding. I bottle fed both my boys and I am firmly in the camp of fed is best. If you breastfeed great, if you bottlefeed great either way your feeding your baby and they are gonna love eating! Just like I do xx

  9. Thank you lovely. It turned out to be Group B Strep with my little boy and thankfully once they picked it up they managed to turn it around quite quickly. I do think that I’d have probably noticed sooner if he’d been formula fed as I’d have been able to see how much he was taking. The problem with breastfeeding is that you can’t tell. It just goes to show that there is an argument for both sides. Thank you for your very kind words and likewise to you xx

  10. It’s such a difficult topic! I’ve felt bad doing both. I’m a BF’ing mum, but don’t shout from the rooftops about it, or put my opinions upon others unless asked for them. I feel judged either way! Snide comments and looks when BF’ing and then mum guilt when I’ve occasionally used formula out in public – like I should explain why I’m using it.
    I’d like to say second time around, I was less fussed what others thought, but I’d be lying. I just want people to see I’m doing the best I can for my children. Xx

  11. I think that last sentence sums it all up really. When you try your absolute best for your child, you just want others to realise that too rather than judging you and putting you down in various ways. Thank you for your comment xx

  12. I love this. From the outside we looked like the perfect breastfed family, however it took 8 weeks and a LOT of formula to reach a point where he could breastfeed. Piglet was tube fed from birth, and although I expressed I couldn’t match his demands and of course gave him formula – the alternative would have been to starve him which is of course ridiculous. Pro-feeding!!! #postsfromtheheart

  13. Oh! You sweet mama. Please don’t let anyone make you feel like you are anything less than a RockStar Mama, because that’s what you are. You are a RockStar! You are loving that baby with all your might, and you are doing what is best for her. I was a 100% formula fed baby (and I was born in the 60’s and I know formula has come a long way since then!) and I am here to tell you that I am SO healthy, and I was always such a healthy baby and child. And I’m smart, too! So formula did well for me. Moms need to just chill and support each other. I don’t get all the judging. There’s no point to it. And I just have to add that I love your daughter’s name! All of my children (all 11 of them!) have names that start with an “A” so I am, of course, partial to names that start with A — #postsfromtheheart

  14. LOVE THIS!!!!! It doesnt matter how the child is fed, just as long as they ARE getting fed. I started on the boob but Ben never really took to it and I always needed a shield – then after a short bout of Mastitis; my milk dried up and then I had no choice but to bottle feed. #PostsFromTheHeart

  15. Even though rationale brain knows people tend to make these kind of comments because they’re thoughtless or forgetful rather than deliberately unkind, it’s still painful. We’re all just doing our best and you’re right – as long as baby is loved, cared for and fed well, does it really matter how. #ablogginggoodtime

  16. Yes, as much as I try to think like that it does still hurt! I definitely agree – my daughter is such a happy little thing and that’s what really matters. Thank you for commenting xx

  17. Your poem is beautiful, but in such a sad way. I just wrote a post about formula myself, but from a different angle. I think it’s vile that anyone would judge any mother for how/when/where/what she feeds her baby. We all know the difference between breast and formula, but for lots of us there simply isn’t a choice, and we would all rather that babies were fed than not, for whatever reason. #ABloggingGoodTime

  18. You don’t need to feel guilty in the slightest! It’s clear for anyone to see, as most mums do, that your child’s best interests are at the fore! If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t worry!!x

  19. It’s a beautiful poem. I struggled with breastfeeding too and so did Peachy. I did it for over a year but it was an uphill battle. I wanted that bonding experience so badly but we really had to work hard at it and it was never easy. It was nothing like they say it should be. i often felt like a failure. In the early days I supplemented with formula to help Peachy along and it was the best thing I did. It helped us a lot and got us on some sort of road o success. A long road with many bumps along the way, but a road nevertheless. I’m sorry for all you went through and that you didn’t have that picture perfect breastfeeding experience either. You’re a good mom. #ablogginggoodtime

  20. Thank you. I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t a smooth road and you didn’t get to have the experience you hoped for, a big well done to you for battling uphill for a year x

  21. Mothers should be supportive of one another. We are lucky to live in a country where we have a choice over how they are fed. #PostsFromTheHeart

  22. This has got to stop, I don’t understand where the shaming comes from. It is not always a choice, and even I is a choice more than likely an informed decision was made. We are lucky to live in a time where formula is as close to breast milk as it is. When my mom was a baby she was given rehydrated powdered skim milk, and I was given evaporated milk! Nothing like we have now. #ablogginggoodtime

  23. Great poem !! Thanks for linking up to #TodaysmomentinTime i too had a poorly baby in hospital who due to breathing problems wasn’t allowed to feed on me and we had to use the bottle.It’s no one else’s business !!

  24. I think as long as a baby is happy and healthy it shouldn’t matter how they are fed! There’s so much judgement with everything like how you feed your child, how you make up a bottle, how you sterilise your bottles. I really wish people didn’t care because I certainly don’t! I only managed to breastfeed for a week because my milk never fully came in and so my daughter was constantly hungry, I was exhausted and my nipples were bleeding! Switching to formula upset me a great deal but seeing how content and settled she was after that first formula bottle made me realise I 100% made the correct choice!

  25. Totally with you – I managed 9 weeks of breastfeeding, through cracked and bleeding nipples the works until I finally had to concede that my daughter wasn’t getting enough to eat. Despite being heartbroken I knew I had to switch to formula as it was what was best for her!
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

  26. Absolutely – I don’t know why other people make it their business, when they don’t know the whole story! I’m sorry to hear you had a poorly baby too. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  27. Yes, it sounds like you did make the right choice! It doesn’t sound like there’s any way you could have carried on like that. The first line of your comment says it all really! I can’t stand all the judgement. While I sometimes see women do things I wouldn’t do with my baby, I certainly don’t talk to them in a judgemental way about it.

  28. It is heartbreaking, but we do what’s best for our children, even if others can’t always see that. I’m sorry to hear you had problems with breastfeeding 🙁 Thank you for commenting x

  29. Thanks for sharing! I also have a September 2016 little 🙂 My plan was to exclusively breastfeed her as I did for 16 months with my oldest daughter. I had zero problems with my oldest and it was so natural and easy. It made me proud. When our second was born, she did great at first, even the nurses at the hospital commented how great she was doing. Suddenly at two weeks old she went on a nursing strike. We had already has issues with her gaining weight and now we were faced with the difficult decision to introduce formula to get her weight up. Once her weight was up I made the decision to pump and I had every intention to make it to a year. I couldn’t do it and at first I felt so guilty, eventually my goal became 6 months and have a big enough stash to keep her going for a few more months. I made it to 4.5 months and had to stop for my own well being. I HATED sitting down with the pump and my husband made comments I snapped very easily every time I had to go pump. I knew it was time to be done.

    She is now 6 months old and is the most smiley girl ever and knows nothing but love. She is formula fed but in the grand scheme of things that means absolutely nothing. She is happy, healthy, and just lovely. FED is BEST. Thank you for sharing this I really appreciate it. Sorry for the novel!

  30. I’m sorry that you had to go through all that 🙁 Your last paragraph says it all really. As long is she is happy and healthy, that’s the main thing, no matter how she’s fed!

  31. Yes! Exactly what Intrepid Bebe said! In addition, I think that most of the world needs to let go of the notion that they know what’s best for everyone else. Good grief! Why does everyone have such strong opinions on how everyone else does things? It doesn’t affect you or your kids! Leave us alone! I breast fed too, and I frequently felt judged. People even suggested that I was inappropriately tempting any men who might be around! I say, if a man is sexually aroused by my baby eating lunch, then there’s something wrong with him. Ugh!

    Ok, off my soap box for now. ?

  32. Fabulous post and we have shared it amongst our support network Don’t Judge Just Feed
    Thanks for writing such an important piece and poem!

  33. You have hit a nail on the head here (and I loved your poem by the way). My oldest daughter (now 11) was breastfed by choice, I was a 21 year old mum and that was my decision after latching issues and mastitis, two weeks of agonising pumping by hand (couldn’t afford an electric pump) led me to formula and I was so grateful. Based on this experience, baby 2 (now 6) was a no brained. I had the milk drying tablet the day after she was born and she went straight to formula.

    Like you, I felt judged by society. I feel that the UK are a lot more hung up on this issue (and pushy on breast is best) than in South Africa where my kids were born.

    At the end of the day, formula fed babies fair just as well as breast fed ones. My daughters are healthy, happy and not underfed in the slightest. It is sad that society is still judged for using the tools made available to us to assist struggling mums.


  34. I’ve done it both ways, and both have their pros and cons. Sterilising bottles etc is a pain. But breastfeeding puts all the feeding pressure on me. I’ve not had more than 2.5 hours of unbroken sleep in five months.

    Don’t get me wrong, I bottle fed my first from birth after a difficult labour and a baby who just wouldn’t latch so I know the mummy guilt all too well. You question everything you did, did I give up too soon? What could I have done differently? It was pretty awful. But my second baby is a total natural, 5 months on and we’re still breastfeeding strong, and I don’t really know what was different, other than the baby! I feel better that my failure and success with breastfeeding didn’t actually have all that much to do with me!

    What I’m slowly getting at, is we all need to cut ourselves, and each other, some slack.

  35. I definitely agree! Not everyone can do everything the same and as long as we’re trying our best and our babies are being looked after does it really matter that much?

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