Earlier today I heard a news teaser asking if pacifiers could stunt the emotional growth of your children.
What the heck? This is seriously a story? One more thing to freak parents out. Super.
I’m not even going to get into the topic of pacifiers and whether they are or aren’t ok. You know why? I have no damn idea. Here is what I know, they were magic for two of my kids-one with terrible teeth and one with beautiful teeth. And they didn’t work at all for another of my children who happens to have the same exact lispy/tongue issue as my other paci-kid. So, based on the results found in the study I conducted in my house, I could make BOTH arguments effectively.
The same holds true for nursing and formula feeding in my house. Three kids, three entirely different stories about how and with what I fed them. The only shared quality being, I chose what worked best for me and my baby each time, and then I felt guilty about the decision, because it never involved exclusively breastfeeding for a year-the magic number we’re told for optimizing the experience.
Sometimes, it’s a Dirty Little Secret Club-the moms who didn’t exclusively breastfeed. Members run the gamut from shame to pride to total indifference but they’ve all experienced the stink-eye at least once. Sometimes they’ve gotten it twice, once when nursing and once when bottle feeding.
Seems you’re damned if you do and dammed if you don’t. Everyone has an opinion and like much of motherhood, those opinions fall on opposite teams and both teams can be vocal and mean. I don’t blame breast-feeding advocates for this. Certainly their zeal to spread the word about breast-feeding in places where formula samples are thrown around is admirable. I think Pro-Nursing people should keep shouting from the rooftops about how their way is a great way. I just wish the shouting didn’t include, be it on purpose of peripherally, judgement on those who can’t, won’t or currently aren’t choosing their way. The same goes for the other side. If you are someone who formula feeds, please know the breastfeeding world as a whole isn’t out to get you. There will always be rogues in both camps. I just wish they weren’t the loudest ones.
As a childbirth educator and health coach, I’ve made it my mission to provide the information that allows women to make empowered decisions, free from judgement. This mission is fortified by my experience as a both a nursing and a supplementing mom.
I was invited to a luncheon yesterday by Perrigo Nutritionals. Perrigo are the makers of 14 infant formulas that are sold under store names in 78 retail chains, including Target, Walmart and Babies R Us. Their products are made in the United States and because of strict FDA regulations they are nearly identical to the big names that are shoved down your throat in hospitals across the country.
I was lucky when I was feeding infants that I learned about Perrigo brands and researched to find out they were the same as their more expensive counterparts. Economically, I relied on store brands with at least one of my babies and I am very appreicative of what they do. I also was lucky enough to have a doctor that made it clear that formula wasn’t poison. Yes, Breast is Best, but if one must supplement or can’t nurse at all (it happens people), your kids are getting all the nutrients they need from infant formula. There may be studies touting the advantages of breast-feeding and while those studies aren’t wrong, their conclusions also don’t mean that the alternative is bad or in any way harmful to your children. Breast may be best, but formula is more than fine.
But my use of Perrigo is not why I went to the luncheon. I went because of my mission and because I was looking forward to the conversation. I was correct in assuming it would be respectful and informative. The Perrigo rep didn’t do much talking, we did. The moms and dad around the table as well as the Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, a NYC pediatrician shared our experiences with feeding, hospital treatment, social stigmas and our own guilt or pride surrounding infant feeding.
I learned from these parents, who came from all different “feeding backgrounds” if you will, that the most important part of this whole debate, and perhaps the thing that is missing the most, is education and the ability to make informed choices that are best for you and your family. Parents should be taught all they need to know on all sides, so that they can make the right decision for themselves. The teaching shouldn’t happen in a lecture in an OR Recovery room and it shouldn’t happen only in direct mail from brands. We should all have doctors like Dr. Trachtenberg who meets with her patients before the baby comes for some lessons on health so they’re ready for delivery day and beyond. We should all have access to classes like the one I teach about Empowered Birth and new baby care. We should all have teachers whose only bias is toward our well-being as a family.
It’s a common joke that parents always wonder why they’re being allowed to drive away from hospitals with babies, since they clearly have no qualifications for this job. Sadly, often the information we do have is so tainted by each source so that it’s hard to feel good about any decision we make after that baby comes.
No one here is arguing that breast feeding isn’t the best option. Heck, even the Perrigo people weren’t making that claim. They make a product that they consider a supplement that happens to be nutritionally complete. No one is arguing Breast vs Bottle. What I am arguing for is honest discourse and unbiased information. It can happen, we did it yesterday.
What I want more than anything for parents, new and old, is for them to have options for creating the best life for their families and that they can exercise those options without any stink-eyes.
Perrigo nutritionals sponsored my lunch yesterday. However, all opinions here are my own. Fore more information on the Perrigo line of infant formulas and other baby products, visit www.storebrandformula.com
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.