From 2005 to 2006, the first year of my daughter’s life, I was warned repeatedly that being a formula-fed child would diminish my gal’s entire future, making her fat, slothlike, dim, equipped with an immune system that practically summoned infection, and unattached emotionally to her parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization were both on a crusade to boost breastfeeding rates, and it was impossible to ignore the implied threat: formula babies are screwed.

The headlines of that era — “Breast-feed or Else!” “Formula Doubles Infant Deaths!” — felt a little like Donald Rumsfeld’s post-9/11 color codes, a kind of terrorism in themselves, with dire outcomes predicated on sources I couldn’t examine firsthand.

Though our pediatrician wasn’t worried a bit about my daughter, it seemed like everyone else was: parent magazines crowed about the need to breastfeed (despite running ads for formula); online parent forums held open season on the selfishness of people who wouldn’t breastfeed; and I knew formula moms who had been blatantly harassed by some of La Leche League’s less well-trained members.

I tried to shake off the formula-shaming, even as it added layers of worry to my already tired parent-of-newborn mind. It’s not like there was anything else I could do about it: I had no breasts, and neither did my husband.

Gay dads like me, straight dads parenting alone, women with a physical inability to nurse, grandparents acting as caregivers, foster parents, parents of infants who cannot suckle, and more — there are thousands of people every year tasked with the care of newborns for whom formula is a must. Whatever the cause, it’s no picnic to defy the accepted wisdom of your time, especially when you are surrounded by a population being trained to rattle off all the “facts” about how much your child will suffer as a result.

The only consolation I could take at the time was that as my daughter outgrew formula, there was no hint yet of the most commonly-cited expected outcomes; in fact, she was fit and active, the first to walk of all the kids in the moms’ group I’d joined, and she pretty much managed to skip all the ear infections and stomach bugs felling her playmates. The only kid in the group who could keep up with her at the time was a boy named Kaelen — and he was a formula baby, too.

Flash forward to the present and the breastfeeding-versus-formula smackdowns are more tempered. Today, the parlance is less harsh and tends to allow that formula doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, though it is still less desirable. As one pediatrician puts it, “There is a world of difference between ‘best’ and ‘the only choice of right-thinking people.'” But the same old claims still get trotted out, despite the increasing number of studies that suggest that the “facts” don’t show a marked difference in most areas, and the differences that do appear may be based on other factors entirely. Give it a few years and yet newer studies may rewrite the wisdom again.

Since questionable science seems to be the lingua franca of those debating this topic, I will give you the results of my own very small study, with a sample of two. I’ll start with breast milk-deprived Kaelen, now 9. His mom reports her healthy son is social and creative, adept at soccer and swimming, fluent in two languages, and academically on target for his grade. As for my daughter, she plays soccer, does martial arts, and can bicycle for miles; she reads 500-page books and makes journal entries about marine biology, her favorite subject; and, frankly, I envy her immune system.

So for caregivers like me, who cannot breastfeed (or who choose not to), I am happy to report that my girl is bright, active, and bonded with her parents, not because formula was magic but because it kept her well-nourished through that year when there was no one to breastfeed her. Whether our path was “best” or “second best” is a moot point; the one truly provable long-lasting outcome of formula for my daughter is this: her life.

This post was originally featured on the Huffington Post. Photo via

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As a nursing mother, I was uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. There. I said it. If you know my breastfeeding story, this might surprise you. But, it’s true.

It’s been 6 years since I last nursed a child. That’s longer than my 5 year, 9 month non-stop breastfeeding stint. During my nursing years I breastfed through a miscarriage and two subsequent pregnancies. I tandem nursed two of my children. My oldest was four when he weaned.

Yes, I’m a breastfeeding champion and I fully support the right of mothers to nurse, and babies to be nursed, whenever and wherever. If you think that breastfeeding mothers need to cover up while in public, then I do not support your opinion. If you don’t want to see a woman’s breast as she feeds her child the way nature intended, then put a blanket over your head!

I sound all confident and liberated, don’t I? I am confident. And I am definitely liberated, but still I was uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. When nursing my children away from home, I would do my best to find a quiet place, alone or with only supportive people around me, to nurse my child. (But never would I nurse in a restroom!)

Why would someone who believes wholeheartedly in a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere she wants be uncomfortable breastfeeding in public?

1. Simply because (in America) breasts are viewed as sexual objects.

Although they serve no sexual function (in other words, intercourse can happen with or without them) breasts are still deemed as naughty bits in mainstream American culture. The idea of a man having sexual thoughts prompted by the sight of my breasts performing their sole function makes me nauseated. The idea of making a man uncomfortable by nursing openly in front of him makes me sad for him.

That seems unfair, though. Why should I keep covered just because Billy Bob Dumbo can’t handle an unexpected boob sighting?

Because, that’s the world we live in. I’m not willing to subject myself to being ogled by a less evolved human being when I’m performing one of nature’s most beautiful and nurturing acts.

Instead of allowing myself to be a spectacle to strangers, I will teach my three sons about the proper function of breasts and how to someday support the mothers of their children when they breastfeed. (‘Cause, listen up girls! Breastfeeding my grandchildren is a requirement!)

I’m gonna be an AWESOME mother-in-law! Muahahahaha!

2. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be stressful.

Okay, especially at first, breastfeeding can be quite stressful. That’s because most of us were never shown how to breastfeed! We don’t have our mothers, aunts, sisters and friends to mimic when it comes to learning how to latch and feel confident in our ability to feed our babies with only our bodies. That’s because, generation after puritanical generation has covered up or hidden themselves away while nursing. It’s important that we nurse openly around our daughters so that future generations have an example to follow!

Once the initial learning curve is conquered, though, breastfeeding should actually be a relaxing experience. I remember so distinctly what would happen in the early months of breastfeeding if I was frustrated when I sat down to nurse. Within a minute I’d feel a flood of peace and bliss come over me. Whatever negative emotions I was feeling would vanish and all was right with the world. I even apologized to my husband a few times when just minutes earlier I was convinced that I was right and he was wrong. (Oxytocin is some powerful stuff, folks!)

If all the world’s leaders were breastfeeding mothers, there’d be no war.

The thought of being confronted about breastfeeding in public stresses me. Yes. Just the thought. I would be livid if someone approached me to tell me that I couldn’t breastfeed in that particular place. My heart would race and I would not want to back down. According to the law in my state, I have a right to breastfed my child where ever I and my child are legally allowed to be. I would certainly point that out, palms sweating and blood pressure rising. I would not be the calm one who whispers, “Actually, it’s perfectly legal for me to nurse here and perfectly illegal for you to tell me that I can’t.”

Instead of risking emotional and anxiety-ridden behavior, I made the choice to nurse discreetly or nurse in a more private place. I don’t need to subject myself to that kind of stress when my primary job is to nurture a child.

3. I care what other people think about me and my family.

I have no shame in admitting that I do care what others think. I’m not trying to change that about myself and I’m raising my boys to consider how others view them, as well. The impression we leave on others about who we are can impact our lives in many ways. Unfortunately, there is a stigma about mothers who openly breastfeed in public. They are considered to be exhibitionists, attention-seekers or even dirty hippies. Most of the women I know who practice their right to breastfeed in public are absolutely none of those things. It is wrong for them to be judged as such, but that doesn’t keep the judgmental wrong-doers from their judgmental ways. I’m not willing to subject myself or my family to that judgement.

4. If you’re uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable

Some people are truly uncomfortable seeing a mother nurse her baby. This usually stems from beliefs that were set for them long ago in childhood. I tend to live a pretty unconventional life. Often times people don’t know how to take me. They can’t wrap their heads around what it is that I’m aiming for by living a lifestyle that looks quite alternative. They can’t understand how my family seems so normal, so conventional until they dig a little deeper. (Frankly, I think most families seem pretty normal until you dig a bit. If I learned nothing else during my time spent working with families, I learned that we’ve all got our things. I promise.)

I’ve learned not to let my freak flag fly (except on my blog, of course!) because it scares people. It makes them uncomfortable. I don’t force any of my convictions or values on anyone. I am, however, always available for those who are interested in learning more. I’ve found in the past that the moms who needed help with breastfeeding would ask questions of those women who they think are most like them. It is important not to scare them off by being too brash about breastfeeding. Sometimes the willingness to, ahem, bare all, can make a mother seem rock-star awesome and make other moms feel intimidated. They don’t want to get advice from someone who might tell them that they have to nurse in public in order to nurse well. Of course, most mothers who are comfortable nursing in public would never think that, much less hand it out as advice! But, since nursing in public can make a mother unapproachable to someone who is uncomfortable with it, a chance to help another mom could be lost.

I know we need mothers who are willing to nursing openly in public. We need people to get used to seeing this beautiful part of life without batting an eye. We need to teach our children that nursing is natural and that breasts aren’t anymore sexual than an elbow or an ankle. So, for those of you who are comfortable breastfeeding in public, I say THANK YOU!

We need you.

We are proud of you.

You are setting an amazing example so keep up the good work! I’m sorry I lacked the confidence to join you, but you have my full support. As for those who do not support you, I think I’ll start a blanket fund.

Everyone who admonishes a mother for nursing in public deserves to eat a meal, in public, on a hot summer day, with their head covered by a blanket.

Originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Photo via

Dear Boobs,

I just wanted to write and say thank you … and sorry.

I’m sorry for all you’ve been through over the past five years what with all the pregnancies and nursing for months on end. I’m sorry you’ve been forced to bounce around 5 sizes up and down like a yo-yo. I’m sorry for all of the tenderness, the cracked nipples (why couldn’t that kid get his latch right?!), the mastitis, the clogged ducts, the thrush, the chemical burn (that was totally my bad! I had no idea putting straight grapefruit seed extract on nipples would cause 2nd degree burns). I’m sorry for the time my baby intentionally bit you and drew blood. I’m sorry for the time he twisted your nipple so hard it turned purple for days. I’m sorry for flashing you to the general public on a regular basis. I know you’re shy by nature, but I just couldn’t get that stupid Hooter Hider to work. And most of all, I’m sorry that you went from being two boyant, glorious orbs to the deflated, sad rock-stuffed saggy boobs you are today.

You’ve been such troopers. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy. I see you staring at the ground, demoralized and it breaks my heart (not to mention my back).

So please. Forgive me. I’ll buy you fancy bras and I promise I won’t ever let another infant use you as a chew toy.

Love,
Deva

P.S. I do have one last favor to ask you. I know you’ve been through a lot, but could I talk you into a boob job?

Originally posted at Deva’s blog. Photo courtesy of theyankinoz.com.

Before you had a baby, you might have heard a new mom talk about her big leaky boobs, or witness a baby quietly nursing under a blanket, but you didn’t really know what was truly involved with breastfeeding, right?

Then, BAM! You are in the hospital, holding your tiny baby for the first time, and immediately asked if you are ready to try nursing. You are then pressured to room-in with your baby, again to encourage breastfeeding.

You come home from the hospital, exhausted, depleted, and eager to keep the baby alive, and people start asking how the nursing is going. How long you’ll be nursing. And for the love of God– ‘when your milk came in.’

Welcome to the world of competitive breastfeeding: one you didn’t know existed until you entered the realm of Motherhood.

You’ll need an electric pump, a breastfeeding pillow, nursing tops, lanolin for chapped nipples, and leak guards to stuff in your nursing bra. Don’t even think about stocking your pantry with formula: it’s for the Devil.

My heart thumps as I type all of this. The pressure. The anxiety. The contraptions. Who knew?

I will admit it: I didn’t love every minute of breastfeeding. I did it for a while with both of my children, and usually enjoyed it, until I couldn’t take the feeling of being penned in any longer and at the mercy of the constantly ticking nursing clock. The one you hear when you venture out for 45 minutes to get your first post-baby haircut. The one that haunts you when you have to hurry home from dinner to pump or feed the baby. I especially felt the pressure to make sure the baby was “well fed” before going to sleep at night (Implication being: if you are good at breastfeeding and the baby eats well, he will sleep longer). So the ever-precious commodity of sleep was tied to my body too. Awesome.

What bugs me– or maybe saddens me is the better word– is the competitive undertone when some moms casually ask “how long you nursed” and “if you exclusively breastfeed.” They are often the same mothers who manage to slip in how many months they did it, especially if it is over a year, as in “Oh me? 14 months.”

Yes, surely breast milk is healthier than something you find in a can. It would be impossible to truly replicate with chemicals something produced by nature. But isn’t it only the healthier option insofar as the mom (and baby) is doing well? Meaning, if a mother is completely worn down because of issues feeding the baby, the lines become blurred as to whether nursing is truly the better option for her and her baby.

I did feel guilt when I switched over to formula. I also felt an enormous sense of relief and empowerment. I could be a mom, and I could also be a woman. I could wander the mall with a latte and enjoy some alone time without the imaginary clock ticking away. I could relax and read a book at night without wondering if the baby had ‘gotten enough milk’ to sleep that night. I could enjoy a rare date with my husband without dreading the pump when I got home, tired and ready for bed.

And here’s the big one: I swear both of my babies were happier when I switched to formula. Maybe it was because I was happier. Maybe it was because they were getting more to eat than they did with me. Either way, I loved snuggling with my sweet little ones to give them a bottle before bed. For me, holding my baby with a warm bottle was bonding without the pressure I had previously felt.

People judge us constantly on the decisions we make as mothers. People will judge me for writing this. How you feed your baby is one of the first big decisions you face as a mom, and my hope for any new moms out there is to feel comfortable with whichever choice feels right for you and your baby– whether that means nursing, or… doesn’t.

Originally posted at Julia’s blog,  Frantic Mama.

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When I see a mom breastfeeding her child, I think it’s such a beautiful thing. I’m open to different opinions, but I really don’t understand people who think mothers shouldn’t breastfeed in public and should go into a public restroom. First off, apparently these same people have never been in a public restroom because they can be disgusting. When I use a public restroom, I rarely see one that has a separate sitting room.

I find it hard to believe that people would expect a mother to go into a bathroom with her child and sit on a toilet while breastfeeding. Yes, a breastfeeding mother can go sit in her car, but a woman shouldn’t have to hide away in her car because she needs to feed her hungry child. If I see someone in a restaurant, eating with their mouth open and with a complete lack of table manners, would it be okay if I asked them to eat in the restroom or a car? A woman is feeding her child and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Then there are the “I’m fine with breastfeeding as long as the mom covers up” people. I remember the times when my daughter was younger and I would have a blanket over her to shade her from the sun. Usually she would fling it off and when I would put it back on she would repeat. Not all babies like a blanket thrown over their face while breastfeeding so that’s not always a solution either.

I wasn’t able to breastfeed my daughter because she never latched on and was in the NICU, so I pumped. I bought a nursing cover and used it as a cover while pumping since I felt like a dairy cow. Mooo! But covers aren’t always right for mom and baby either. I think it’s so important that both are comfortable when breastfeeding no matter how much or how little you cover up.

I’ve never seen a mom let it all hang out when breastfeeding. More times than not, breastfeeding mothers try to be as discreet as possible. Whether you breastfeed, pump, or formula feed, we want the best for our kids and moms need all the support we can get when it comes to the decisions we make.

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding in public? Did you cover up? Let it all hang? Hide?

Photo via.