On Saturday night I went to Fred Meyer and bought formula for my baby. It felt wrong, so very wrong, because I have been working so hard to preserve my milk supply despite having a child with a poor latch and tongue tie.
But my doctor asked me to try giving him formula for at least 24 hours to see if that would help his jaundice levels, which are still too high for his age. Instead of breastfeeding jaundice, which was likely the culprit at first because of his poor feedings, the doctor guessed breast milk jaundice was causing his levels to remain elevated above normal. We started out with powder formula from Costco, the same type we used after Future President stopped breastfeeding. But Junior kept spitting up after feedings, so I decided to try soy formula.
After paying for the formula I walked out and was startled when a security alarm went off. I went back through the entrance and sure enough, I was setting off the alarm. A store clerk came to investigate and checked my receipt before leaving. The formula was security tagged.
I have never given much thought to how I would feed my baby if I had no money and poor milk supply. In fact, I admit to being one of those people to say, “Why don’t all moms, regardless of income, want to breastfeed?” Oh, the ignorance.
Breastfeeding isn’t easy. Ok, some moms have a baby that latches well and can breastfeed and cook or even play the piano at the same time. It’s easy for them. But for a lot of other moms, even if their baby has a good latch, they struggle to produce enough milk or with clogged ducts or mastitis or a host of other issues.
Breastfeeding is a full time job and exhausting. Imagine if you had to go back to work after just a few weeks of giving birth and had not yet established a good milk supply. Or your employer didn’t provide a place for you to pump. Or your baby didn’t latch well and yes, even though breastmilk is free, breastfeeding just wasn’t working out.
There are support groups and message boards that encourage moms who choose to exclusively pump rather than using formula when their child can’t breastfeed. But these boards suppose that all women who want to do this can afford pumps. And all acknowledge that it’s extremely difficult to maintain a supply that will meet the baby’s needs. As a mom who is lucky enough to afford a good pump as well as an extended maternity leave, I can attest that exclusively pumping is exhausting both physically and mentally.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the next time you see a mom feeding their child with a bottle, don’t judge. And consider donating formula to your food bank or actively inquiring if new moms who may need assistance could use formula. I was shocked that formula is security tagged and felt so sad that a parent may choose to steal in order to feed their baby.