If you, as a parent, have spent any time on social media, you’ve heard “fed is best.” The phrase originated in response to “breast is best,” a movement designed to encourage new mom’s to ditch the formula and try breastfeeding.
“Breast is best,” was not meant to undermine mothers who choose to formula feed. It started in response to the decline in breastfeeding that peaked mid-1900s. Breast milk really is liquid gold and great for baby, but after years of formula feeding becoming increasingly popular, by the 1950s, breastfeeding had developed a stigma relating it to lower socio-economic status.
In recent years, medical professionals wanted to put breastfeeding back on the radar in a good way.
the fed is best foundation
A common misconception about “fed is best” is that it argues for formula as a perfect substitution for breast milk. In reality, the phrase was developed to address an issue that originated from the “breast is best” movement…the immense pressure it was putting on mothers to breastfeed, even when it wasn’t working for them.
The Fed is Best Foundation does not encourage women to chose formula over breast milk. What it does is offer support to all parents, whether they chose one or the other. The pressure to breastfeed has, in some cases, had adverse effects on both parent and child.
What happens when a new parent has been told that breast is best and formula cannot compare? Parents who take to social media for support are inundated with misinformation:
- “don’t supplement with formula, the baby will get confused,”
- “don’t let them give your baby a bottle, the baby will get confused,”
- “don’t just pump, you won’t make enough milk…”
Shaming has become an unfortunate normal for new parents. The reality is that birthers are under a tremendous amount of pressure in an incredibly vulnerable state. The Fed is Best Foundation simply wants to bring awareness to the struggle and provide support.
Fed had to be best for me
I gave birth to my son in November 2020. They ask you if you plan to “breast or bottle feed,” and I had every intention to breastfeed. I spent hundreds of dollars on all the gear and mentally prepared myself for the journey. When I said “breast,” the nurses smiled and praised me. I read the ID card on my son’s bassinet….the box for breast was checked, and the nurse drew a heart next to it with a smiley face. They approved.
Within 36 hours after my son was born, three different lactation consultants came to my room at different times. My son wasn’t getting enough to eat. I was exhausted. I had labored for 32 hours, and within that time I developed preeclampsia with severe effects. I was on a magnesium drip for two days, which makes you feel like death.
Just moments after the birth, I lost one fourth of my body’s blood at once. I was holding the baby, trying to breastfeed for the first time, when my face went white and I started to lose consciousness. Fifteen minutes later I had a blood transfusion.
At the time I didn’t even realize how much my body had been through. When the consultant came in and said “we need to talk about supplementing with formula,” I honestly didn’t feel anything. She approached the conversation as if she was preparing for me to burst into a rage. She even looked surprised when I said “yeah, that’s fine.” I just wanted to make sure my kid was fed, and I couldn’t do it.
formula can sometimes be the only option
The first three weeks of my son’s life were extremely difficult for me. I pumped every two hours. I tried feeding him directly, but he would get frustrated and give up. I googled “can breast milk come in late” at least 10 times a day looking for reassuring answers.
I called my hospital and rented the strongest pump they had. I spoke with consultants on the phone, stayed hydrated, and ate every lactation cookie available. When my son was three weeks old, we were finally able to get an appointment with a doctor who had decades of experience as a lactation specialist.
She talked to me for a few minutes, took one look at my chest, and said:
“You have mammary hypoplasia. Basically, puberty failed you. You do not have enough milk ducts to produce the milk you need. That, coupled with the hemorrhage you experienced during birth, set up a perfect storm to stop you from producing milk. ”
In the first three weeks, I never pumped more than 1 mL/day. If you’re not aware…that’s basically nothing. In addition to the mammary hypoplasia, which is extremely rare by the way, the blood loss I experienced stopped me from producing what little I would have produced anyway. Milk production is all about blood, according to the doctor.
I never had a chance. My child is alive because of formula. Period.
Moral of the story is…
If you find yourself in the presence of someone pouring formula into a bottle, and you feel a little judgy, keep in mind that you don’t know that person’s story. The day the doctor told me I would never be able to breastfeed, I cried tears of sadness and relief simultaneously.
I no longer had to coach myself through self-loathing every time the bottle was empty after 30 minutes of pumping at two o’clock in the morning. I put it behind me, told myself I did everything I could, and stopped at Target to buy a couple of 36oz cans of Similac.
I went home and packed up the breastfeeding supplies and put them in the closet. I never looked back. My son is happy and healthy, and I’m grateful.
What’s important to remember is that I’ve scrolled through TikTok and seen mothers on there shaming other moms for formula feeding. I’ve heard it all:
- “Why would you give your baby formula when you have liquid gold that your body produced for your child?” “
- “Honestly, it should be considered child abuse.” (Seriously, people say nonsense like that.)
- “You’re selfish if you don’t breastfeed.”
- “So lazy.”
First and foremost, it’s no one else’s business how you chose to feed your child as long as your child is fed. Second, I’d be willing to bet that the type of people that say these things have never heard of mammary hypoplasia.
I almost feel lucky that I was diagnosed when I was. I wish it had been sooner. I could have saved myself a lot of time spent feeling guilty and broken. I HATED trying to breastfeed, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Not everyone enjoys it. It doesn’t always come easily. Not every baby is naturally good at it.
With that said, the moral of the story is that it takes the same amount of energy to support someone as it does to tear them down, and it costs nothing to be nice. Parents out there abandoning the breastfeeding journey because it was hard or causing you mental distress…I get it. You’re doing great. Give yourself a break.