Formula is awesome. Yes I said it. Formula is an awesome invention. If you doubt me here are three stories to illustrate my point:
1) Catherine of Sienna was born in the 1300’s along with her twin sister Giovanna - they were the 20th and 21st children of 22 total. Her mother breastfed Catherine, but Giovanna was given to a wet nurse presumably because of milk supply issues.... unfortunately Giovanna didn’t make it to her 1st birthday. What must her mother have thought at the burial… "if only I could’ve managed to breastfeed both; what if I had nursed Giovanna instead; was there a better wet nurse out there?" Or perhaps the cause of death was unrelated. Nevertheless, wouldn’t this mother have been thrilled to have access to infant formula… what a deep heartache she endured because of the times she lived in. Of the 22 children she birthed, 11 survived.
2) In 1971, my parents adopted my sister Eva from an orphanage in a small village outside of Lucknow, India. What did she have for her delicate first 3 months of life? Not breastmilk, not formula, not even cow’s milk, but rice milk. Would she be different if she could’ve had the fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins provided by formula? Of course we’ll never know, but we do know how critical those ingredients are to early brain development.
3) And lastly, a dear friend of mine had the unspeakable tragedy of having a child who did not survive for more than a few minutes after delivery. She became pregnant again sometime after that, but went into labor in the 2nd trimester. As she struggled to breastfeed this tiny baby each day in the NICU, there was one day when she broke down in grief. The hospital staff assured her that the breastfeeding would come with time, and that formula is a good alternative. What they didn’t realize is that breastfeeding issues had nothing to do with my friend’s tears. This was the birthday, and deathday, of her previous child. Losing a child vs having breastfeeding problems is… well, it would be laughable if laughing were an option.
In light of stories like this, breastfeeding is very much a “nice-to-have,” not a “must-have.” The challenge as a new mom is separating those categories. It often seems like anything good for your child is a must-have. So you hang on and try to make it work. But ultimately, you must remember to rejoice that the child is alive, that you have an extremely good alternative food source, and that you are able to raise that child with every ounce of love you have, whether it’s through your sore nipples or a bpa-free bottle.