The other day when I was scrolling through my Facebook timeline, I couldn’t help but open an article from Parents Magazine called “Millennial Moms Choose Formula Feeding for Convenience.” The article was fairly short and it stayed very much on the surface not really touching on to any details. Here is a quick summary of its key points:
- A formula brand surveyed moms in 2017 on their baby feeding habits
- Formula feeding has increased a lot
- While the vast majority of moms over 35 feels guilty about formula feeding, the majority of moms 34 and younger does not feel guilty about giving their baby formula
- The nr. 1 reason that the moms stated for formula feeding is convenience
- Moms reported that they would breastfeed if their maternity leave was longer, and moms with multiple children were less likely to breastfeed
- The article concludes by stating that breastfeeding is beneficial but that the world is not making it easy for moms to do so due to short maternity leaves (or the lack thereof), nursing shamers, and lack of provision for pumping moms
I felt like this article left a lot to be desired. Without a doubt, the real reason why so many women turn to formula is that society expects mothers to go back like nothing happened after they had a baby. The word “convenience” is completely misplaced in my opinion. Convenience is when you order food because you do not feel like cooking, or when you do not clean up because you rather want to chill. Modern society making it impossible for mothers to do it all can hardly be considered convenient. It boggles my mind that this article emphasizes how millennial moms do not feel guilty about formula feeding. It is the society that should feel guilty about the way moms are being treated nowadays. There are several reasons why moms may not breastfeed and there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty about it:
Breastfeeding is extremely challenging for working moms
A lot of families nowadays depend on both parents’ income. Hence, many mothers nowadays do not have the luxury of staying home with the child/children even if they would want to. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not offer paid maternity leave and the allowed amount of non-paid leave is only a meager three months. Most European countries offer paid maternity leaves ranging from anywhere between 6 months and 2 years. Before 2020, working from home was not a common thing. So, if moms who breastfeed go back to work 3 months or less after giving birth that means they will rely heavily on pumping. Needless to say that it is a huge sacrifice moms make by leaving their little baby with someone else to go back to work while being sleep deprived (most babies do not sleep through the night at that age and getting ready in the morning with a newborn takes extra time which means less zzz’s for mom). But pumping is a huge ordeal. Having to pack the pump every day with its gazillion pieces in order to take it to work makes you waste a lot of precious time in the morning. But not only that, it is very uncomfortable and time-consuming to take a break from work every 2-3 hours to pump for at least 20 minutes and then wash the individual pump parts every single time. I would not even consider my situation the worst since my office was able to provide me a private room with a connected bathroom where I was able to wash my pump. I would take storing bags (which are pricy by the way) and ice-packs to keep the extracted milk as well as a microwavable sterilizing bag. However, I still found it extremely challenging and exhausting. So I cannot even imagine what these poor women have to go through who work in shared offices with worse conditions. Hence, the word “convenience” is very out of place. It is almost impossible to perform at work while doing the excruciating pumping at the same time. This is why I believe a lot of working moms resort to formula. Additionally, breast milk production is a supply and demand kind of thing. Since babies extract the milk most efficiently, pumping also lowers the milk supply which brings me to the next point.
Milk supply issues
Exclusively breastfeeding is very difficult for a lot of reasons. Society puts a lot of pressure on moms regarding nursing. Before I was a mom, I vowed that I would exclusively breastfeed given that breastmilk has so many benefits. But when I gave birth my son was born coombs positive with low bilirubin levels so I was encouraged to give him formula to get the bilirubin out of his system. Then at home, after not having slept for days, I took my husband up on the offer to take some of the nightshifts. Skipping several nursing sessions at night also led to a decrease in my supply. When I was researching methods on how to increase your milk supply, I was surprised how many women there are who have serious issues with their milk supply. I would have never thought that after seeing women bragging on Instagram about their freezers full of pumped milk, that there are so many women with a low milk supply.
Hence, it is safe to say that exclusively nursing, as much as moms would want to, is not the easiest thing to do. I did actually feel guilty about not being able to exclusively nurse. But looking back, I realize I did what I could. Now, I have a healthy and smart 2.5-year-old and I do not feel that nursing him exclusively would have changed anything. I encourage every young mom to not feel guilty about her choices. Motherhood is tough and we do the best we can.
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