I heard my son’s pediatrician echo those words, but honestly my ears were in disbelief. He was born early and spent almost 2 weeks in the NICU. Of course he was on the smaller side. Does that really mean he was in danger of being labeled “failure to thrive?”
Every three hours around the clock I pumped several ounces of breastmilk. In between pumping I would nurse on one side and collect milk in my Haakaa (hands free breast pump/milk catcher). I saved the milk that I could and would also give my son a bottle an hour after nursing.
Hunter is my second son. I was only able to nurse/pump for my first son, Brian, for 3 weeks until I made the decision to switch him completely to formula. I was determined to make it to at least 3 months with Hunter.
Listening to my body, my son, and the doctors
Hunter and I had a decent nursing/pumping relationship. With additional breastmilk bottles and an occasional formula bottle, I was able to nurse him for five months. He was still on the smaller side, but he was growing appropriately. However, he always seemed like he was still hungry. I felt like he lived on my breasts. He also had a lot of acid reflux; which meant that a portion of my milk never made it to his stomach for digestion.
Slowly, I weaned him onto formula at five months old until he was one year old. He started gaining more and more weight. He was happier. He was fuller. While, I thought because he was slowly gaining weight during nursing, that he was fine; I was wrong. Formula saved him, just as it had once saved his brother.
My breastmilk just wasn’t fatty enough. No matter how much or what I ate, my milk never had the suitable amount of fat. My son wasn’t starving, but he wasn’t satiated.
Imagine if I had ignored the pediatrician. Imagine if I had only listened to “breast is best.” Imagine if he was my first baby and I didn’t already use formula with my first. Imagine if I had felt guilty like I did with his brother. Imagine if I didn’t introduce formula.
Unfortunately, some other mothers and babies aren’t so lucky.
Fed is best
Some mothers and babies don’t have a pediatrician that has the baby’s best interest at heart.
Some mothers feel so much guilt about trying to breast feed, because at every OBGYN visit, every Facebook mom group, and every other commercial/AD says “Breast is best.”
While breastmilk is miraculous, formula was created for a reason. That reason was high infant mortality rates. Infants were dying because they were literally starving to death. Unfortunately, when “breast is best” is on repeat in your head, it’s not hard to think that giving your infant formula is like giving them poison. It’s psychological warfare to mothers.
Mothers in the last 20 years or so have had to deal with so much more than mothers before us. We’ve had to deal with emerging technology and distractions. We have had to deal with social media making us feel inadequate in comparison. We’ve had to deal with mom shaming on so many different levels for so many different things. One of the biggest mommy wars of this generation of mothers is Breast vs. Formula.
Stop tearing each other apart
We are mothers. We need to lift each other up, not put each other down. Our babies and children deserve a community of mothers to stand up for each other and each other’s children regardless of how they were fed. “Fed is best” because it means that the baby is taken care of physically and the mother is taken care of mentally.
“Failure to thrive” was a warning phrase. It warned and reminded me that my baby needed proper nutrition in order to grow and thrive. It also reminded me that it was OK if that nutrition didn’t come directly from my body. Babies need to be fed. They cannot do that for themselves.
Your guilt of not succeeding at breastfeeding, is nothing compared to the guilt of your baby not thriving or surviving.
Fed is best. Always.