My switch from breast milk to formula and all the judgment that came with it
"Formula is never going to touch my son's lips," I remember saying repeatedly to several people while I was pregnant with my son. The regular meetings with WIC only strengthened my resolve against giving my son formula as they pushed (rather hard) toward only breastfeeding.
"There are so many chemicals and some parents have found dead insects in it. There have even been reports of mouse poop being found in some of the formulas." They would tell me at the office meetings. So like any concerned mother, brand new to the ways of child rearing, I fed right into everything that I was told. Could any of that be true? You know, it is possible. Does it mean that you are going to find mouse poop and dead bugs in every container? Absolutely not. As for knowing what you are feeding your baby, it's as easy as picking up a container and reading whats in it.
But there I was, fat with child, and gullible to all the evils that is baby formula. My mom told me not to worry about it, but then again we were never given formula as babies. She always made sure she had pumped enough to make sure we were taken care of.
For the most part everything was going fine after I had my son. He was happy and latching well, the only down side (having to feed him so often) was also an upside. Bye-bye chores, I have to feed the baby. Granted we were living from pay check to pay check, my husband had a job as a server and really wasn't making much money. He made about $3.75 an hour and we relied heavily on the tips that he made. Should he have gotten another job, a better job? Probably. I had tried to find work while I was pregnant and everywhere I went I heard the same thing, "we can't hire you, you're too much of a liability." Really? Well thanks, its not like I need to eat or prepare for to take care of a child or anything. No one cared, I even attempted to hide my pregnancy from people with loose clothing but that didn't work well either, if anything it ended up making me look 'more' pregnant. Things were strained.
My brother in law and his wife were also struggling, he had been diagnosed with some form of disease that basically the body attacks itself ... but I can't honestly recall the correct term. His wife was always sick and refused to go get a job to help support them. So both were without a job and she had just delivered (3 months before me) their fourth child. I would cringe every time they called because it was 'always' to ask for money. Never to see how things were or just to say hi, it was always to ask us to give what we couldn't afford to give. When it had been just my husband and I, it has been easier to accept because we could always figure something out for the two of us. But now we had a baby to look out for, I became a little bit of a b***h.
This would have been great when I was pumping. Being able to do both breasts at once and hands free. Talk about a miracle device, I will probably buy this or something like it when I have my second child....of course I need to get pregnant first ;)
We had a change jaw that would sit on the counter, this would be where my husband would put the change from his tips every night. At the end of the month we would take that change and exchange it for cash, sometimes we would have up to $80 in there. It made a difference when it came to survival. One day I received a phone call from my brother in law, "hello?"
"Hey, are you home?"
"...Yes," I always felt like answering could come back and bite me if I didn't think it through first.
"Great, you know that change jar?" he asked, he sounded like he was in the car. Crap, too late to say I wasn't home. And of course I know about my jaw of change.
"Yup," I couldn't think to say anything else.
"Ya, I am on my way there," I heard him talking to his wife, "I am coming to pick up some money from it," he 'tells' me. Apparently my husband had told him that it was ok.
Ummm....hell no, that's what I wanted to say. Instead I took a breath and said very casually, "Oh sorry he didn't tell me. I've already taken it to the bank to pay our bills." phew, that was a close one.
There was a pause on the other side a moment, "Oh....so it's all gone?"
"Yup, sorry." Pst, I wasn't really sorry.
"Oh ok well thanks anyway," he said as he began to hang up, he didn't hit the button fast enough for me not to hear his wife say, "they aren't giving us the money? I thought he said we could have it?" And then him just as quickly, "She said she already used it to pay bills." Click.
I sat there a moment, annoyed. I looked at the nearly full jar of coins, still safely in our possession. Why would it be our job to provide for their family as well as ours? I was got my son ready and grabbed the jar and set off to do what I said I'd do. Stopping of course to see my husband at work. His co-workers gushed over our newborn and I pulled him aside, "Did you tell your brother he could have our change jar?"
"I said he could have $5," he said indifferently.
"Hmm, because he seemed to think he was welcome to the whole thing," I told him without making effort to remove my irritation.
My husband rolled his eyes, "Sounds like him, did he come get it?"
"Nope," I told him, "It's in the car, I'am on my way to exchange it."
He nodded, "Ok, here take this too," he reached into his pocket and handed me more.
"I thought we agreed we weren't lending them anymore money?" I asked him carefully, I knew he would cave every time his brother asked. He loved his family and would do whatever it took to take care of him. I love that about him but with having invested thousands of dollars into them (always with the promise of being paid back) and never seeing a dime back, I had put my foot down. We were putting us first now, them and their family were not our responsibility, our son was. They knew he wasn't able to say no to his brother, it was why his brother was always the one to call him.
Fast forward a little bit, my husband lost his job. New management came in and cleaned house, now we were out our only source of income. My brother in law and his wife kept asking for more money, even knowing we were in the same boat they were. My patience with them was growing thin. My son was only a couple weeks old and I had begun applying for work everywhere I could think of, even places that I had always promised myself I'd never work.
I went to interviews and tried my best sales pitch, trying my hardest to sell myself into their employment. I finally got a call back from Sears, I thought it would be the answer to my prayers. I went in and had my first interview, I was thankful that the assistant manager had children. I used that as leverage when trying to make myself more appealing.
I nailed it. I went home feeling pleased with myself, I would come back the following day for a second interview, but for now I was feeling victorious. It was the first job I had ever gotten where my family hadn't stepped in and pulled strings to get me the job. I felt like a grown up, as silly as that sounds. I told my husband about the triumph and we splurged a little bit and bought pizza & Pepsi to celebrate. I had mixed feelings, 1. I was happy to be able to be making money to help provide for my family but 2. I felt wrong leaving my newborn so soon. Well, we all needed to eat and if this was what it too then so be it.
The next day I went in and nailed the second interview. I was promised the job, I was to start the very next morning. Boom! I was feeling good about it. I went home and my husband returned with our son from a meeting with his recruiter, he'd be leaving in 6 months for basic training. Leaving, for 6 whole months? I was sad and excited. Why so soon, and yet why so long? We agreed that since I had gotten a job that I'd work and he'd stay home with our son, since he would be leaving before we knew it. Good idea? debatable.
I was working only part time, we would have to come up with new ways to get money. My husband started donating plasma and we got onto food stamps. It wasn't much but it was going to keep us fed. I took every shift that I could and greedily covered shifts, trying to make as much money as I could. I liked working there at first, but it wasn't long before the politics came into play. Everyone was at everyone's throats, go figure. I am the kind of person who flat out HATES drama, hates 2 faced liars and BS talkers. I tried to stay as far away from it as possible but it found me anyway. I wont get into that though, I'll save that for another time.
Work became hell, I couldn't do a single shift without daydreaming about burning it to the ground. I nearly got into several fist fights with women who were older than I was and should have known better than to do the things they did. The stress was getting to me, my brother in law and his wife were calling almost every day. He'd call my husband and beg and she'd call me in tears telling me how she couldn't afford gas to take the kids to school or she couldn't buy bread or milk. Yet, the always had enough to spare for cigarettes. I hated my job, I was always tired from the baby crying all night and I wasn't getting the bonding time with him that everyone was saying that I needed.
Worst of all, I couldn't keep up with his appetite. I had to go on break at least twice a shift to pump milk, which was becoming harder and harder. That was stressing me out even more which simply added on to the issue. My son was 3 months old and he flat out would no longer take my breast. He wasn't getting enough and he wasn't getting it fast enough, it would frustrate him and he'd let go. I was devastated, I can't tell you how many hours I cried because my baby rejected me.
Whether breast or bottle feeding, these things are simple but so incredibly amazing. It gives your arms a rest for a little bit while the baby eats. These things are always a great investment.
I still tried to pump, but most of the time I was just sooo tired. Before I knew it, I could hardly produce anything. So, we switched to formula. We tried to avoid WIC as often as we could, frankly I always felt like if I didn't do what they said then my baby would be repo-ed at the door. So we got his formula with our food stamps.
$36.90 was what it cost to get the special gentle formula for easily upset tummies. A container only lasted us two weeks at the most and it was beginning to get ridiculously expensive. Much to my reluctance, we made a new appointment to WIC. I got the response I expected, utter outrage that I had switched my son to formula "...and so early," said one woman. Again, I got the "do you know what's in this?" speech and the judgmental looks for not being the forward thinking breastfeeding supermom they wanted me to be.
I wont lie, I felt low. I was stuck at a job I hated; my husband would be leaving me sooner rather than later; my own son rejected me and would no longer breastfeed; I felt like far less of a woman because I couldn't breastfeed; I was struggling to make ends meet; I couldn't spend the time with my son that I wanted to; my brother in law,his wife and I were all at war because I refused to give them more money and wouldn't give them our baby formula. I was miserable, and then I got to feel all the looks of disapproval from the woman 'helping' me to the woman up front who was gave me the checks for baby formula.
I understand that breastfeeding is a the number 1 choice when feeding your children, I just ask those of you who are reading this. Don't judge people who give their children formula, you don't know the story behind it. They could be fighting battles on a daily basis, they are feeding their child the best way they can. Being judgmental isn't helpful and it fixes nothing. I got all sorts of lectures from other mothers who thought just by informing me on what they know about formula would make me switch to breastfeeding. If only it could, I would have sat through countless lectures from strange women if it would have helped me get my milk back. But life is life and we all do what we have to, in my case...formula kept my child fed when my body failed to be able to.
Switching to formula doesn't make you a bad parent, it doesn't mean you love your child less. Even if you could produce milk just fine but just chose to switch to formula, that is your choice and your right. You have your reasons behind them. Frankly, I think everyone is too involved in everyone's lives when it comes to this matter. Use the list below to gauge how well you are doing as a parent...
1. Is your well fed?
2. Is your child clothed? Kept diapered?
3. Is your child housed, kept warm or cool enough during the seasons?
4. Is your child happy and loved?
5. Is your child clean?
6. Is your child safe?
Got all six of those? Then you are doing fine. Parenting isn't easy, and there is no manual to follow. You will make mistakes, there is just no avoiding them. No matter how many stories you hear, books you read or experts you talk to....you are going to make mistakes. There is no such thing as the perfect parent, what will make you a good parent is if you never stop trying to be that perfect parent. Remember, they are only little for so long....relish the short time you have.
Do you use/ did you use to feed your baby(s):
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