Over the course of the last year, I have spoken to a lot of women, and it has always been interesting and enlightening to hear so many different perspectives, and insights.
And those who follow my blogs and posts know that I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, and always encourage it. But I also like to listen to stories of moms who don’t, either as a choice or because they didn’t know any better.
I must admit that there have been times I too have wondered why anyone would opt for formula, but listening to moms and their lives has changed my views. What matters is that the baby is fed. The most important thing is that baby is fed, and well-loved, and happy.
Maria Grepsiou-Bergman, a Greek mommy settled in Qatar, had her first born about 13 months ago, and from the get go, it was formula. “I gave birth through C-section at Al Ahli, and they gave him formula in the hospital. I gave him to the nurses; I didn’t have him with me in the room. I would have him for a few hours, so changing, bathing and sometimes feeding was done by them.”
Just like pretty much every new mom on earth, she believed that breastfeeding would just work. “On the second or third day, I took the baby from the nurses and tried to breastfeed. And the nurses told me that I probably don’t have milk. So I thought, okay I will wait until the milk comes. But as everybody knows, it doesn’t work like that.”
She admits that it took her time to feel the emotional connect with the baby as well, and the postpartum depression she suffered didn’t make things any easier.
“I really had no clue what I was doing. We haven’t had any babies in my family, and not many of my friends have kids. I didn’t even know babies don’t sleep through the night, believe it or not. I was not a breastfed baby either, so there was no information or pressure on breastfeeding.”
“I don’t think it would have been possible for me to breastfeed without any information and knowledge on what to expect, how to go about it etc, nor did I get any support from the hospital on what I should have done. It was both ignorance – a lack of knowledge as well as a lack of support that led to my choices.”
What a lot of people don’t realize is that formula feeding is not easy. The constant washing, sterilizing, measuring and mixing is the easy part. Formula feeding is as much of a trial and error process and learning curve as breastfeeding. “With the bottle I was lucky, but with the formulas I wasn’t. We had to change 4 brands to find which one is good for him. He also had reflux and at some point they gave us anti reflux formula, which made him, constipated and didn’t relieve the reflux symptoms at all.”
Maria does admit that she has had the occasional mom-shaming comments. “The people around me never made any comments. Honestly never. But I had a few strangers who made comments. How I handle it? I am not famous for being patient. I have a big mouth and I use it whenever people need to be put in their place.”
Knowing that she did her best means that she has no regrets. “I don’t feel any guilt – I did the best for my child to the best of my knowledge and ability. I strongly believe that there is more to being a good mom than just breastfeeding.”
“Would I have done things differently? Probably not,” she said. “I practically went from partying like mad to having a baby. It was very tiring for me and if my husband was able to feed him, then it was a bit of a relief.”
The baby matters. Of course! More than anything else, but moms matter too. Their well-being and health is extremely important. “I don’t want my baby to have a mom who is exhausted and depressed. For some women it’s easy, others need to try a lot more.”
Her advice to new moms is to get informed as soon as possible. “Read online, ask people, hire a midwife. Be prepared, learn how things work. Because if you are like me and you think that one day milk will start flowing from your boobs, then obviously you will get disappointed when you don’t see any milk and you will think that you don’t have milk so eventually you quit.”
But she did add a very important point. “Breastmilk is important, but a happy home for me is more important. Try your best and if it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself about it”