My Nursing Journey | The benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding | Fighting the cultural myth that Fed is Best

Nursing: Why breastfeeding babies is better than formula feeding.

Yikes! I want to start off by acknowledging that I'm fairly certain this conversation will spark criticism, affirmation and many opinions from moms on both sides of the breast feeding vs. formula feeding debate. So, buckle your seat belts, let's all take a metaphorical "chill pill" and hold on tight! You're about to be waterboarded with my opinions and experiences! 

A little precursor on my advice, opinions and experience. I truly understand that sometimes things happen, and you run into instances where you can't provide enough food for baby and formula is the only option. However, as a mom whose journey has included a variety of different outcomes, I do recognize and acknowledge the benefits of nursing our babies over formula feeding. 

Let's start with my journey, so you can understand that I do have compassion and understanding for all moms regarding this topic. I understand that sometimes it may be hard to digest opinions on this topic if you're hearing it from a first-time mom with little experience, or a mom that hasn't had any difficulties with nursing, so I want to get personal and share my experiences first.

I have had 4 different nursing journeys with each of my kids. My 1st experience was with my first born son named Jack! Talk about easy. With Jack I had to learn "how" to nurse, but with a little practice and effort, we figured it out pretty quickly. My milk came in on day 2.5 and I had a crazy high supply, to the point where I had to pump and hand express my milk before feedings to make it easier for him to nurse. My boobs were like hard bowling balls which made it impossible for him to latch unless I relieved some of the "pressure" by pumping or hand expressing. It was like drinking from a fire hose for poor little jack, but I had a freezer full of extra milk, and the milk was incredibly thick and creamy. My nipple were chapped beyond belief, but with the help of nipple cream, they were up to speed in a matter of days.

(A sketch I drew of sweet little Jack as a newborn)

My second experience was with Beatrice. Again, easy peasy, minus the nursing cramps that were much worse this time around, as they typically are with each additional pregnancy. My boobs were already stretched out and ready to go, and I didn't even need to use nipple cream my second time around. I had an excess of milk as well, but this time around I got pregnant 2 months after she was born and just like that my supply dried up and was gone. I was very grateful to have a bunch of milk saved in the freezer from the first 2 months, which I was able to ration out over the coming months while she was on formula.

Then came baby #3, Meredith. She came into the world fast and furious, and then to top it off my nursing journey was made so much harder for her because my milk never came in. I was so afraid to supplement right away, so I was sure to have her on my nipples for what felt like 24/7. She essentially slept while nursing on my boobs for the first 3 days of her life. On day 3 when she was crying constantly and I couldn't get her to stop crying, I was changing her diaper and noticed an orange chalky substance (brick dust). I then realized she was probably dehydrated and starving. My husband and I googled "how long does it normally take for a milk supply to come in", during the middle of the night and most answers were "3-5 days". We were only on day 3, but we both decided immediately that we weren't going to wait any longer to supplement with formula. We feed her a few ounces of formula that night and she sucked it down. When morning came, we called his parents to come watch our toddlers while we took Meredith to the ER to make sure everything was okay. She ended up being severely dehydrated and boarder line jaundice from lack of food. Talk about feeling like a terrible mother. I a) didn't realize my baby was starving and not getting any food and B) couldn't produce milk to feed my baby. I realized then that my milk supply was not coming in like usual. I did notice during the 3rd trimester that I wasn't producing as much colostrum like my previous pregnancies. After looking into it more I found that it was most likely as a cause of my low carb diet and prolonged bed rest during my third trimester which was exasperated by my GDM and PSD. I had such bad pelvic pain from pulling my groin during the pregnancy that I was bed ridden, and hardly able to walk without crying from the pain. To top that off I had GDM, so to avoid going on insulin, I cut carbs and sugar to keep my blood sugar levels under control. I ended up pumping like crazy to try to get my supply to come in, and after 2 months of pumping very often (every 1-2 hours) I would produce less than 1 ounce a day, so I ended up formula feeding our little Meredith. I was however, lucky enough to have some amazing mom friends that had an over supply of breast milk and shared some freezer bags with me to feed her with in addition to the formula. My breast feeding journey with Meredith was a curve ball that I didn't see coming. 

My 4th experience was with Phoebe. And now with a little more experience and understanding that every birth, pregnancy and baby is different, I was prepared for what felt like everything. I was paying very close attention before and after birth to my colostrum and milk production. My colostrum production seemed to be much better than it was during my 3rd pregnancy, but I noticed on day 2 after having Phoebe that my production was much lower than "normal" and similar to my 3rd experience. I didn't experience any "let down" like I did with my first two babies between day 2 and 3. So once the 3rd day postpartum came around, and my milk supply was still low, I did the one thing I could think of to try to get my supply to come in. I pumped. I pumped, and pumped and pumped every two hours during the day and 3 hours at night for 2 weeks starting day three. And guess what? My milk came in! I came in very slowly, which is not typical for me, but at the end of week two I was getting about 1 ounce every hour, which is a relatively "normal" supply for a newborn baby. I then switched over to nursing while pumping, and guess what! Lil miss phoebe is a champ! She latched and nursed! I was so excited that my efforts paid off and that I was able to provide my baby a healthy supply of breast milk. I did feed her through a curved syringe as well with formula and breast milk, to keep her familiar with breast feeding during those two weeks, but at nights my husband did bottle feed occasionally if she woke up during one of my sleeping periods between my frequent pumping sessions at night. Sleep and rest is critical for milk production, so we wanted to make sure that I was getting sleep and stressing as little as possible during those first few weeks. 

Now that I've shared my journey and struggles with breastfeeding, and formula feeding, lets dive into why I think breastfeeding over formula feeding is better for both infants and mothers.

It is my belief that we as women are being pushed by the powers that be to believe that formula is a wonderful and equal substitute to breastfeeding to get women back to work and out of the home. This is being done to their own detriment and for the benefit by and for large corporations and consumerism in general. It seems this propaganda is in part lead by large brands and corporations who are afraid to offend anyone with the truth for the sake of maintaining their bottom line ($$$), and by our western culture and institutionalized education systems and their desire for women to become "girl bosses" and turn away from their mothering instincts to replace it with a career.

Society no longer champions motherhood and building a family in the traditional sense. It instead seeks to fill our brains with selfish ideas and consumerism to help support their bottom lines. And although this is a much larger topic than what we have time for today’s discussion on formula, pushing formula feeding on women and claiming the "fed is best" is just one of their many way to make more money, get women away from their babies and back to work, and to get these mothers babies into the institutionalized education system at an even younger age than normal, so they can brain wash the future generations into believing the same. 

So that's why I'm here writing this. I want you to hear the truth from a ex-corporate mom that has had multiple experiences with breast feeding and formula feeding, who isn't afraid to say something a little polarizing and controversial. The truth is, that women should stop fighting their God given instincts and start leaning into them more. I don't want any of us to have regrets later in life of throwing away our fertility and the opportunity to raise of family, because we prioritized girl bossing and corporate America over motherhood. 

There is no job or career as meaningful or fulfilling as raising a family if you are given the opportunity and privilege to do so. Imagine someone coming to you with a once in a lifetime career opportunity to do something truly amazing and with more purpose and fulfillment you would ever get out of another career path. Now imagine your current employer expecting you to turn the opportunity down and say no to such and incredible opportunity. Well, raising kids is that career path, and we no longer as a society fully appreciate the value in the mothering career path like we should. Instead we are filled with unrealistic ideas that we can have it all, and it is done through the help of formula and slogans like "fed is best". 

Culture wants us to believe we can have it all, when we truly can't. Having a big career while raising a family (ideally a larger family in my case) is just not possible. It's like being torn in fifty directions at one time and doing a sub-par job within all your roles as a mother, spouse and girl boss. When in reality, most women would be incredibly relieved and happy to quit their 9-5 jobs and embrace the role of motherhood and all it entails. I think that formula feeding is good in theory, but is turning out to be a sort of gate way drug to into moms being forced into entering back into the work force too early in most cases. I'm not saying we should get rid of formula all together, I'm just saying we should re-evaluate what we are being spoon fed by culture and have all the information around mothering, so we can make fully informed decisions independent of what is being pushed on us form the institutions.  

Here are some of the key advantages of breastfeeding:

Benefits for Infants:

  1. Optimal nutrition: Breast milk is specifically designed to meet the nutritional needs of infants. It contains essential nutrients, antibodies, and hormones that support a baby's growth and development.
  2. Immune system support: Breast milk provides passive immunity, as it contains antibodies and immune cells that help protect infants from infections and diseases. Breastfed babies are less likely to experience respiratory infections, gastrointestinal illnesses, and ear infections.
  3. Easily digestible: Breast milk is easier for infants to digest compared to formula, which can lead to fewer instances of constipation and diarrhea.
  4. Reduced risk of allergies and asthma: Breastfeeding may lower the risk of developing allergies, asthma, and eczema in infants.
  5. Cognitive development: Some studies suggest that breastfeeding may contribute to improved cognitive development in children.
  6. Lower risk of obesity: Breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of childhood obesity.
  7. Bonding and emotional benefits: Breastfeeding promotes skin-to-skin contact and bonding between the mother and baby, which can have positive emotional and psychological effects.
  8. Convenient and cost-effective: Breastfeeding is readily available, requires no preparation or cleanup, and is free of cost.

Benefits for Mothers:

  1. Faster postpartum recovery: Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract, reducing postpartum bleeding and aiding in the mother's recovery. Even if your milk supply doesn't come in, I still recommend letting baby suckle on your breast while syringe feeding, so you get the benefits of a faster recovery.
  2. Weight loss: Breastfeeding can help mothers shed some of the pregnancy weight as it burns extra calories, but honestly please don't stress about the weight. You just built an entire human and birth them with your body, so cut yourself some slack and just appreciate your postpartum pooch for just how amazing it is!
  3. Reduced risk of certain diseases: Breastfeeding may lower the mother's risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
  4. Cost savings: Breastfeeding eliminates the need to purchase formula, bottles, and sterilization equipment, saving money.
  5. Convenience: Breast milk is always available and at the right temperature, making it convenient for feeding.
  6. Emotional benefits: Breastfeeding can strengthen the emotional bond between the mother and baby.
  7. Natural birth control: Breastfeeding can provide a degree of natural contraception, though it is not a foolproof method. It obviously didn't work for me between babies number 2 &3, as I have Irish Twins (babies less than a year apart). But honestly, I'm not personally a fan of birth control and still want more babies (did someone say population collapse?), so yay for more babies! 

I recognize that while breastfeeding is best and has many benefits that formula does not, some women (including myself) face challenges, and cannot breastfeed exclusively. I think many narratives are being pushed on moms to decide to formula feed before our babies are even born. This is not advice that is given to you based on what's best for you and baby, but instead advice that best for corporations and cultural agendas. 

For those of you that want to breast feed, but are having issues, here are some tips & tricks for just for you!

  • Nipple Shields for oversupply and fast let down.
  • Nipple Cream. Apply generously after each session if you're having pain from chapped nipples.
  • Ask your friends. If you ask fellow moms, they will typically love to talk about and share their advice and experiences. Oftentimes your moms that are currently having babies will know best. It's easy to forget once you are out of your baby bearing years, so you moms that currently have infants nursing or have nursed in the past 1-2 years will be your best resource. 
  • Ask fellow moms for freezer milk. Many mom friends would be delighted to help you if they have an over-supply. They worked hard to pump the extra and store it in the freezer, so most are happy to share and help a friend in need. And most of them will donate it to you for free! We all can imagine what it’s like to not be able to provide your baby with the best nutrients, so moms can be extremely empathetic and willing to share if you're open to accepting the help! :)

The reality of the debate though is that "fed isn't best". What is best is breast milk.

Formula feeding is an amazing alternative, when necessary, but it is not an equal replacement to breast milk like so many companies and brands say it is by parroting the slogan "Fed is best". I think it's so easy to treat moms like simpletons that can't handle complex conversations by lying to them just to make them feel good and sell products by saying "fed is best". But I believe we deserve all the information, so we can decide what really make the most sense for our family with the knowledge of the reality is that breast feed is better than any other substitute including formula, and then that formula feed is better than other milk alternatives and/or starving your baby. I'm a mom that is incredibly grateful that my body could produce milk for 3 out of 4 of my kids, and very grateful that formula existed for my breastfeeding journey with Meredith, but I wanted to remind moms that breast milk is best and to encourage moms to prioritize the well being of themselves and their babies by providing their babies the best nutrients possible. 

We don't need to buy in or listen to corporate Americas slogans about "fed is best" or the people parroting that saying on social media. I often suspect that they mostly push that narrative so they can get us back to the office to make more money for them as a corporate cog, and to get more of us to buy more formula than we necessarily need to have.

I also think that in order to reclaim the breast is best saying, we as mothers need to normalize milk stains on shirts and stop trying to look like a model within 3-6 months after giving birth. Seriously though... very few post-partum nursing moms can wear tight, sexy, non-nursing friendly clothes after just had a baby, unless they are formula feeding. Why do we insist on posting picture perfect memories from photoshoots that were so stressful, but we convince ourselves it was necessary to get those airbrushed family pictures? Why don't we instead embrace the raw pictures that showcase what the reality is after having a baby, and wear clothes, (which can still be fashionable and cute), that support the mothering and breastfeeding journey? Isn't that more beautiful and truer to our nature, body and souls? This isn't to say if you have the gumption, don’t do these things, but rather to say to give ourselves grace an focus on what really matters if your body doesn't bounce back or you are too overwhelmed with toddlers and an infant to take the fancy photoshoots. If you want to, and can, great! If you can't and it feels too daunting, then don't worry. All our babies really care about is spending quality face to face time with their mothers and making real memories that give them a secure and safe feeling that all is well in their little world. Trust me, none of my kids are concerned with the extra 20-40lbs around my waist. :)

I want to encourage all you mothers out there to really think about what you want your journey to look like and be confident in your decisions one way or another, so when other moms disagree with you (which will happen), you aren't offended or upset, but instead understand that each opinion is just that, an opinion. The most important thing is that you feel confident with your decision. The worst thing when it comes to parenting is to feel like you didn't have all the information, or to feel insecure about your decisions. I also, believe that society pushes social constructs on women that we don't necessarily like, so if you're tempted to lean into motherhood, raise and nurse your babies yourself and leave your corporate girl bossing career behind, just know that it will be worth every metaphorical penny you have to sacrifice. There will always be more opportunities later in life to make more money, but you will never get your fertility and opportunity to mother your babies back once it's past.

Your employer will never truly love or appreciate your sacrifices and contributions like your kids will. Your employer might even lay you off during tough times, when in contrast your kids will always need and crave their mother. 

XXX Jessie

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