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Formula Buying, Today’s Mom’s Walk of Shame?

By jeannesager |

wendy-williamsI was dubious when I read that Wendy Williams “wanted to lose weight,” so she opted to stop breastfeeding at two weeks. Then I watched the talk show host tear up and talk about failing her child.

She got me.

Because, like Williams, two weeks in, I was miserable and feeling like a failure. My reasons were drastically different – she was dealing with the aftermath of bed rest and just didn’t want to do this anymore.

I wanted to – desperately – but felt like the world was conspiring against me (such is the life of a woman with post partum depression). My wrists ached from pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel (which four years later has not completely abated), making it difficult to hold my newborn daughter. Add in my aching breasts, a lack of sleep compounded by a demand by maternity ward nurses that I wake my child every two hours – round the clock – to breastfeed.

The list goes on and on. Problems tackled by other moms and won, sure, but as I soon found out, every woman and child is different. And a woman hiding in her bedroom crying along with her child does not make for a particularly good mother.

Cue Williams, found by her mother on her bedroom floor in tears:

And there it is – her mother took charge, called in Williams’ father and went off for the dreaded formula shopping trip. It’s one that many of us women who are clinging so hard to our dream of breastfeeding and being the perfect mother refuse to do. Because the formula trip equals total suckage. It means you don’t deserve to be a mother. It means you failed. Haven’t you been reading?

Formula buying is the mother’s equivalent to the walk of shame from your college years. I recall running into a mom in the grocery store a few years ago – studying the different cans in the baby aisle. She reminded me not once but five times that she was still breastfeeding – but she’d be leaving the baby with her parents for the night and wanted them to have a back-up to all she’d pumped. Just in case I hadn’t heard her the first five times, I was also treated to a production on how she just couldn’t pick because “I’ve never done this before.”

Voila – back to the breastfeeding wars! Breast is best! No, formula is better! We’re sooo much nicer to our kids. No, we love our kids more.

Enough already. Women like Williams  – who pride themselves on being pretty kick ass – are reduced to tears because they tried something and it didn’t work . . . and that means they failed. But failed at what, exactly?

Did we leave our babies on a doorstep to be raised by another family? Beat them? Let them play on the railroad tracks? Fed them strychnine? Hired actors to tell them the dog is dead?

Want to go after women for not realizing that breastfeeding is good for their kids? Time to dial down the “evil formula” message and refocus it.

Talk to the women who won’t even try, the women who refuse to believe the benefits of colostrum are there, the folks who would actually take YOUR right to breastfeed away.

Put the failures on the parents who really don’t give a damn. And maybe the formula trip won’t leave kick ass moms in a quivering mess on the floor.

Image: Wendy Williams Show

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About jeannesager



Jeanne Sager is a freelance writer and photographer living in upstate New York with her husband and daughter, Jillian. She maintains a blog of her award-winning columns at

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0 thoughts on “Formula Buying, Today’s Mom’s Walk of Shame?

  1. kristen says:

    AMEN! I agreee. Breastfeeding with two under two is tough and leaves you no time to rest, especially when your baby is constantly hungry. I stopped breast feeding at 1 month and yes i felt like a failure, especially after my baby developed a raspy cough everytime she took a breath and sounded like a 50 yr old smoker. Numerous trips to an allergist, ENT dr, and the pediatrician. But I know i did what was right and she is fine now. Women shouldn’t feel bad for their choices in parenting. We had the kids and should be able to raise them how we see fit.

  2. TolaniLucia says:

    Yeah. Breast is not best when the mother is depressed by it, overwhelmed. Or is taking on other responsibilities that get in the way of her being able to both provide for her self and family while breast-feeding. We will need to change a lot about the way our society works before we can expect every woman to be able to tackle breast-feeding. Breast perhaps biologically is best. If you want to and can great. But a lot of factors go into it. As our children grow it will be true that some kids will have better homes to grow up in than others, better health care than others, safer cars to ride in , better foods, superior schools, more invested parents over all happier childhood’s and so on. The breast-feeding mom may have been successful in one arena but may fail in another. Breast maybe best sometimes but it is not the deciding factor in how a child will end up. Love, support and attentiveness is what is .I refuse to listen to hoolo boolo Dr’s who make claims that there is a difference in breast-fed adult and formula fed ones. . Why must parents perpetuate the same competitiveness we hopefully all want our children to avoid getting sucked into? For folks who aid mothers in feeling inferior about their decision to not breast-fed. Mind your own beeswax. Focus on your own kids. Breast-feeding is not what makes a “good mother”. Perhaps it may be part of your own personal definition but it is not the be all end all. We need to start building up our fellow sisters. When mom’s have support for their decisions and support from their community they thrive and so do the babes. Buying formula for your child should not have to feel like a walk of shame. How sad and shameful the society that puts mom’s through these insane psychological gauntlets just for responsibly feeding their babies.

  3. Magnoliama says:

    I agree that we have to build up our sisters, but it seems that lack of support is the real issue here. Women shouldn’t have to deal with post-partum issues alone. It’s totally unnatural to expect a woman to do everything alone. We should support one another and hold one another up so we’re able to do what’s best for our babies and ourselves. My midwife came to my home multiple times after I had my daughter. She helped my husband and I ease gently into parenthood. She taught me to nurse laying down, which was incredibly helpful given my exhaustion. I was able to call her any time with questions and concerns. The support I received from her and my mother made it possible for me to breastfeed successfully. I don’t think I would have stuck with it without their support. I wish more women had the loving support I did.

  4. Judy says:

    Thank you so much for putting my emotions into words! Buying formula the first time really was like the walk of shame! Like the terrible, everyone is watching you leave Coyote Ugly’s place and tomorrow there will be an article on the front page of the school newspaper, walk of shame. I spent two hours in that little section of the grocery store, begging my tears to stay away. Even I , who is marketing manager, should have known that all the nursing information we’re fed should be the equivalent of the fast food commercials that put food on an actual plate, when you know it’s served in a box. It’s good, but it isn’t THAT good, kind of territory. I’m glad everyone is opening up about this, the whole approach needs to be reworked. Mom’s have it hard enough!

  5. Eric says:

    Does stopping breastfeeding help you lose weight? Lactation is such a calorie demanding thing, I would think continuing would make it easier to lose weight.

  6. GP says:

    I agree w Magnoliama…and wonder how much did Carnation Good Start pay her to name drop their product.

    And, do it or don’t do it, but it IS that good. The point is not to delude yourself about the benefits of breastfeeding and breastmilk…that is really so much denial and rationalization. The point is, its nobody’s business, really.

  7. Laure68 says:

    Eric – I think it depends on each person. I nursed my son for 12 months, and couldn’t lose my last 10 pounds until after he was weaned. My OB said some women hang onto the fat while breastfeeding to help with milk production. Also, you get so hungry that you need to eat a lot more also.

    That being said, I also know some women who nursed who lost weight very fast. I don’t think there is a hard rule.

    btw, I agree with this article. I had such a hard time at the beginning with breastfeeding. I had a ton of support from family members, and if it wasn’t for that I would not have been able to continue. I never understood why it was anyone’s business how parents decide to feed their kids.

  8. Manjari says:

    “Breast maybe best sometimes but it is not the deciding factor in how a child will end up. Love, support and attentiveness is what is.”

    I agree with what TolaniLucia said above!

    I do think the weight loss thing is different for everyone. I lost all of my baby weight in 4 weeks, and I really think it was from nursing the twins 24/7. I was eating a lot and still kept the weight down. It was right around the time they started eating solid food (and were getting fewer calories from me) that my weight started creeping up again. When I weaned them I initially gained a lot of weight back, because I didn’t reduce my eating right away.

  9. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Everyone else has said the supportive stuff better than I can. So here’s the practical: please, even if you are hellbent on bf’ing… read up on formulas so you are educated (rather than being advertised at) and have some on hand as backup in the event you need it.

  10. Shylo says:

    Re: losing weight. Maybe Williams, who is very heavily breasted, thought if she ceased breastfeeding, she could run or do aerobics again. I went from a 38D to a 42F after my son was born, so I kind of hear her on that angle. I still haven’t found a bra that will really let me and my huge breastfeeding cans run like I want.

    And re: PPD support. I live in Chicago. CHICAGO. And there is NOT ONE PPD support group within an hour of me. Not one. We need to support our new mothers and we who have children need to really break it down for moms-to-be.

  11. Magnoliama says:

    Mistress_Scorpio, I respectfully disagree about having formula if you’re hellbent on breastfeeding. Initiating breastfeeding is difficult for most women. The majority of women have moments of exhaustion at 2am when they feel they can’t do it and want to throw in the towel. Having formula in the house, makes giving up that much easier. Formula companies know this well, which is why they send women home from hospitals with the black bags. If you want to breastfeed, find women who’ve done it successfully, attend a LLL group before you have your baby so you can meet other women and learn about what to expect, attend breastfeeding classes if they’re offered where you’re birthing. I’m struck by how lucky I am to have had such excellent post-partum support. I live in a city 1/10 the size of Chicago and had PPD groups as well as a number of new mom support groups. Like I said, I really wish all women had these things available.

  12. Blacksheep says:

    I think having formula in the house makes it easier to breastfeed. You know you have a back-up, so it eases the pressure. My baby gets 95% breastmilk, but I am happy to give her a bottle of formula now and then. It gives me a break and fills her up. My baby has been sleeping through the night since she was 2 months old, so I think it is working for me!

  13. Meg says:

    The point I take issue with is that breastfeeding is somehow beyond our control. We “couldn’t” breastfeed – for whatever reason. The reality is that 98% of all women *can* breastfeed, if they so choose, and learn how to do it. It is far more than just desire and “putting baby to breast”. Personally, I went through multiple challenges: flat nipples, tongue tie, thrush, mastitis, PPD, you name it, I probably experienced it, but breastfeeding was important to me so I chose to find support and seek medical interventions (where necessary) to make it happen. If it’s not important to you own it and move on. Let’s put to rest the misconception that it’s beyond our control. The reality is that most women have no clue how to breastfeed and most problems are a self fulfilling prophecy based on lack of information.

  14. GP says:

    Thanks, Meg, for the words of wisdom. One of the smarter comments on this I’ve heard, ever. Personally, I wouldn’t “keep formula in the house” that’s just weird. For thousands of years, the majority of women were able to breastfeed and so our species proliferated. It is only NOW when there are other options that there are sooooo many “problems”.

  15. Black Sheep says:

    Why does it have to be “either/or” with the breastfeeding activists? Maybe more women would breastfeed if they weren’t pressured to do so “exclusively” and made to feel if they give a baby a drop of formula they should feel guilty! As I noted in my previous post, my 5 month old gets a bottle of formula now and then. My twins were 10 weeks premature so I pumped for them-they got all their breastmilk from bottles. They got supplemental formula also. Most people would agree that some breastmilk is better than none. I think combination feeding is the perfect solution for many. I bet there are some moms who give up nursing because of the “all or nothing” mentality!

  16. jeannesager says:

    Meg – ever think that seeking medical interventions is another hurdle not every woman can mount? Including women without insurance, women who live in an area where medical interventions are not available, etc.? It doesn’t mean it wasn’t important to them, it means they simply could not access it.

    I agree there’s a lack of information, but that’s yet again . . . duh duh duh. . . something not in our control.

    I don’t doubt that some women get past it and breastfeed successfully. But I’d agree with Black Sheep – there is such pressure put on exclusive breastfeeding that women are made to feel like failures even for supplementing.

  17. Tara says:

    I say, do what you feel is right and don’t worry about what the world/other mothers may say. If your baby is healthy and fine with formula then do it. You can’t risk your own sanity on others views.

  18. Eric says:

    Thanks, Laure68, I don’t really know too much about babies, pregnancy, breastfeeding which is why I like to read this blog. That said, I have a college education in taking care of ladies in every stage of pregnancy and lactation, albeit ladies of the bovine persuasion.

  19. Marj says:

    Funny – I don’t feel ashamed at all when I buy formula. I breastfeed my babies what little I have (and yeah, I could probably produce more if I put the work into it) and then I feed them a lot of formula. They are healthy, happy and gaining well. My mother and my husband, and once even my little brother can help me feed them. Don’t be ashamed of taking care of your kids.

  20. [...] Formula Buying, Today’s Mom’s Walk of Shame? [...]

  21. [...] Formula Buying, Today’s Mom’s Walk of Shame? [...]

  22. lisa says:

    Nice! Did your formula sponsor write this for you?

  23. Larissa says:

    It seems pretty clear that it wasn’t the Carnation Good Start that Ms. Williams appreciated but rather her mothers support. However she got it, and whatever it meant for her feeding choices, having that is what is going to help her be a happier woman and a better mother.

    Oh and Mistress, I agree with you. I breastfed both my kids and didn’t ever need to give them formula but if I had needed to, I would have been standing in the aisle looking clueless at the choices. To this day, I don’t really know what the difference is between brands, contents, soy- and milk-based formulas, etc. And I’m a certified childbirth educator and a birth doula. “Talk to your pediatrician” is the only advice I can give if the subject of formula comes up. However, if she needs bf support, I can do a lot before I have to refer up the chain.

  24. Lizvill says:

    I’m biased because I nursed all my kids. Honestly? It’s not the end of the world if you don’t. But- BUT- it’s still worth it. Yeah, it really is. See, once I got the hang of it, and once I let go of the idea that the baby had to sleep in a crib, life got easy. And I went through hell with my first to get there. Sleepless nights, cracked and inverted nipples, colic, matisis, overactive let down, inlaws who wouldn’t stop leaving formula cans at my doorstep- really- and one day I said to hell with this. I went in the opposite direction you went. I let the baby sleep with me. I fed the baby when he wanted. And that was the day I slept all day in bed with him- and it was exactly what we both needed. We were tired!!

    Now, in the long run your baby will be fine. You’ll be fine. You’ll remember baby days with a little nostalgia. It’s all good, really. I’m just saying sometimes all this crap we don’t need- be it judgemental people, be it cribs, be it lack of sleep- get on the way and we just have to get rid of it. I know what worked for me. And I would love to see my daughter and future daughter in laws go the same route. It’s so worth it.

  25. breastfed_bestfed says:

    I wish you wold all understand the compleate benefits of only breastfeeding your baby. Not only the nutritional value of it but the emotional side of it as well. I did not breastfeed my first child (due to lack of education) My child ended up in the emergency room at 3 months due to dehydration because of the formula. My child was constipated most of her first months of life due to FORMULA. It was a mess! When I had my second child 7 years later, I had decided to try breastfeeding. I wish I knew 11 years ago with my first what I know now with my second. My second child is hardly ever ill. Theis kid is very active, social and energetic. I do feel closer to my second child because I know that the bonding is much greater than my first. I am very PROUD to say that I breastfed my child for 3 YEARS! I would NEVER change that for anything!!! Breastmilk is the only gift a mother cold ever give her child. NO MATTER WHAT!!!!

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