The Winning Formula
Shopping for nursing bras whilst pregnant in hindsight was a tad arrogant, but there I was holding my breastpads in place whilst an assistant fitted me. Now I look back and I wish I could tell myself:
"It’s going to be OK, you will feed your baby, but with formula not breast milk."
I knew breastfeeding wasn’t a doddle. But I judged mothers who CHOSE formula and the easy option as I saw it. I felt it was a reflection on them. My mistake. My failure alone was a heavy burden but added to that was disgust at having judged others.
When G was five weeks old I attended a baby massage class with eight other mamas; my girl gang. Of the nine minis, only two were formula fed. Ashamed by my bottle of Aptamil, I felt the need to defend myself. Blinkered by my own sob story, I neglected to listen or to truly see my new comrades. If I had taken my head out of my arse for a second I would have seen a room full of new mamas, each battling their own demons of motherhood, needing support with the path ahead.
As a formula mama, you are naturally excluded - I am yet to find a formula feeding support group. But more than that, you’re also on the peripheries of conversations. I was lost when talk turned to the basics of breastfeeding and the lifestyle that comes with it: fashion, websites, social life, food. Over the next few months I became anxious, retreating to the teenage me; worried I had said the wrong thing, fretting I was being talked about. My confidence as a mother was wavering.
At seven months the penny dropped, I had a winning formula. Walking through the park with one of the gang and hearing about her need to be permanently within a two hour radius of her baby. I was gobsmacked. I had independence; with the luxury of long trips to the hairdresser, nights out on the town, even weekends away. I got some down-time whilst my in-laws fostered a close bond with their grandson. At weekends I got a good nights sleep thanks to Mr MilkMade. The impending doom of nursery was my fear of returning to work rather than the fear of my child starving.
I had always seen breastfeeding as a shimmering talisman, just out of reach. A platinum club I aspired to be in, but I was beginning to realise I had a good gig with formula feeding, not my method of choice but boy it had perks!
In hindsight I was a bit daft. My gang never judged me, I only had support and love. Becoming a mother does change you, everyone talks about it. For me… I am kinder on other mamas and myself. On the flip side, I have become more critical of the system.
We put a lot of emphasis on breastfeeding. The campaign for ‘best’ is sung from every rooftop. We’ve become conditioned to believe formula is poisonous. Most know breast milk has added benefits, but that doesn’t mean formula isn’t a cracking good substitute. The campaign works but to the detriment of some mothers. I'm lucky; I have a fantastic girl gang who helped me see the good in myself. My baby-blues ebbed but for some the depression takes hold. I am not suggesting this is all linked to feeding, but for a proportion, feeding difficulties play a critical role.
Perhaps I am still that naive girl in the fitting room, but my dream is that we are educated on our feeding options, with the support to carry out our choice and a sisterhood attitude that we all belong to the same girl gang.