In the past week, a multitude of my Facebook friends’ posts have been directed at the Weston A. Price Foundation and their recent statement that homemade formulas are better than breast milk if the mother is not following the recommended dietary requirements for herself. This morning, I finally finished reading and decided that I’ll be kicking of the next few posts I have planned with my opinion on this particular subject.
I grew up being told I was breast-fed. I planned to breast feed. And then, my mother died and I got my hands on her journals. In her writings she talked about how sad she was that she just wasn’t able to produce enough milk for me. She had lupus and her body just couldn’t deal with the demand of a hungry baby. So, after a few months of praying her body could provide for me, she made her own formula. She didn’t reference where she got her recipe, but she did mention several times that she was so ashamed that her body couldn’t provide for her baby. At the time, I didn’t have any children myself, but my heart broke that any woman could feel so helpless even though she was doing her absolute best despite the circumstances.
Fast forward a few years and there I am sitting on my couch sobbing because after 20 minutes of pumping, not even 2 ounces of milk was produced. Next to me is a screaming baby who, no matter what advice I have gotten and methods I’ve tried is flat out hungry. Now really isn’t the time to go into all the details of that time in my life, but in the end, we chose to purchase box after box of formula.
I will admit that I briefly considered making my own formula. I had 2 friends who made their own and their kids seemed healthy. But no matter how proud my mother was of my childhood love of Cod Liver oil, I just couldn’t do it. My husband and I chose to purchase organic formula for our little boy. It was the best we could do given our circumstances. I hated every bottle I washed and was in a far greater hurry to switch him to sippy cups than I probably should have been.
I hated the smell of commercial formula, but there was no way I was going to be able to find goat’s milk in the needed quantities (although I did search) and I certainly wasn’t going to add in carrot juice as my friend suggested. I drank a lot of carrot juice as a child and the keratinized skin on my feet still bear the orange hue in testament.
I’m telling you this story so you understand that I really feel WAPF has dropped the ball here. One of my greatest regrets of those early months of parenting is that I wasn’t brave enough to keep asking for help and be honest with how bad my situation was. I didn’t know a single person who had stuck it out through a poor milk supply (thanks a LOT PCOS 🙁 ) and because I already had several friends who had traded breast for bottle by the time their baby was 2 months old, I felt the sting of judgement whenever I expressed a desire to succeed.
Sylvi was born less than 2 years after Liam and I was determined. By then, I had joined the ranks of the Natural Parent Network contributors and drew from that support. I found a local friend who was willing to listen to me cry and help me figure out ways to make breast feeding work for us. At one point, I had either weekly phone calls or visits with a local CLC that helped keep me focused on the fact that we were conquering one feeding at a time and succeeding on a micro level. When we started Baby-Led Weaning with her, she was at a point where her weight dropped off the charts completely and added coconut milk and avocado to her day as much as I could.
Sylvi was breast fed from April 15th, 2011 to May 31st 2012. She stopped nursing the day she started walking. And I cried. I cried for multiple reasons: she was growing up. She was healthy and happy! She may have given me cause to wear my favorite pink bra again but was still willing to curl up in my arms for our snuggle time throughout the day even though she was done nursing. I cried because we made it. 13.5 months was an enormous victory for me considering the pressure I was under to stop and begin bottle feeding at 4 months due to her
failure to thrive petite size. And I cried because I knew I would miss it.
I think that my issue with WAPF isn’t so much that they encourage making your own formula, it’s that they make mothers who may already be struggling with breast feeding feel that no matter what they do, they aren’t good enough. Their dietary ideals are all well and good, but no one is perfect. NO ONE. My bloggy bff, at the Farmer’s Daughter is my breast feeding hero, hands down. But if WAPF had their say, she should stop because from time to time, she wants a treat. Gasp!
Sadly, we live in a world where everyone is out to prove their way is better; to “out mom” every one else. Instead of fueling the fires, WAPF could have chosen to encourage a healthy diet in the breast feeding mothers. They could have promoted their homemade formulas as an option, not an ultimatum. We as mothers need to be compassionate and gracious toward others in the trenches. If you want to continue breastfeeding, there are resources and support. Don’t give up just because you aren’t perfect.