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Formula feeding mamas don’t feel supported—and that needs to change

"Fed is best" applies to advice from doctors and midwives, too.

Formula feeding mamas don’t feel supported—and that needs to change

It's an amazing substance that provides our babies with the nutrients they need, and mamas hate to waste a drop. We could be talking about breastmilk, or we could be talking about formula, but it doesn't really matter because they both feed babies and are both amazing in different ways.

What does matter is that In 2018, mothers are no longer being grouped based on whether they feed their babies with a bottle or breast. The social media conversations around infant feeding— once known for being divisive discussions—are changing, and more and more moms are feeling included and supported in their infant feeding choices, even by moms whose choices aren't the same as their own.

Now, though, it's time for those who support mothers—physicians, midwives and those leading mom and baby support groups—to offer "solid, sensitive, personalized advice" to all mothers. This, says Suzanne Barston, the author of Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn't, is the key to creating a shame-free infant feeding experience.

"My hope is that that will be the next frontier. I think we've conquered the social media thing," says Barston, who has witnessed the evolution of online discussion of infant feeding go from "beast is breast" to "fed is best" since launching her blog, The Fearless Formula Feeder nearly a decade ago.

Times have changed

"I think it's a very different experience being a parent who uses formula now than it was when I started doing this work back in 2008," Barston tells Motherly. "I've actually seen quite a positive turn I would say in the last two years."

According to Barston, moms who physically can't breastfeed or who don't produce enough milk are more supported now than ever before, thanks in large part to the efforts of organizations like The Fed is Best Foundation and its co-founders, Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi and B. Jody Segrave-Daly, who advocate against formula stigma in an effort to protect babies from dehydration and starvation.

There's been a big shift in how people speak to and about moms who choose to supplement with formula, but according to Barston, what hasn't changed is the perception that moms should at least try to breastfeed before switching to or supplementing with formula. "There is support for people who cannot breastfeed, who have physical limitations, but I still don't think people look at choosing to formula feed from the get-go as a legitimate choice," she says.

Mom is qualified to choose

While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, it also officially recognizes that a baby's mother "is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant."

Unfortunately, some moms still don't feel like they're being supported if they choose to use formula, says Barston, who believes health care provides are still approaching infant feeding education as if breastfeeding needs to be sold to mothers, but she believes it's not a lack of education, but a lack of societal supports that contribute to low breastfeeding rates.

"Whether you're feeling physically uncomfortable from your birth or you have to make dinner for your two other kids or you have to go back to work in three weeks, those are all very real issues that women have to deal with and no amount of awareness or education about breastfeeding changes," she explains.

And even if we woke up tomorrow to find paid parental leave and lactation break rooms were the standard and not the exception, some moms would still still choose to use formula from birth, and that choice should be respected, according to Barston and the ACOG's official position.

In 2018 the online conversation about infant feeding isn't about breasts and bottles as much as it's about moms supporting other moms. Barston hopes 2019 will be the year health care providers and those leading support groups for new mothers join that conversation and replace 'breast is best' messaging with something more inclusive. Bottle, breast or both, mama's choice is best.

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Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

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Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

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Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

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Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

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boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

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Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

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Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

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Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

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