Being a new mom is one of the hardest and most rewarding things that I have ever done. I’m sure most of you have heard that at one point or another. I know I had heard it so many times before I actually became a mother that it made me less nervous to welcome my little one into the world last December. But I never really understood until I started making decisions for this little guy that impacted his whole life.
I remember after my son was born, I had planned on breast feeding him. I had always heard “breast is best!” and “being able to breastfeed is a special bonding experience between you and your baby that compares to no other experience.” But when we found out that Sawyer had acid reflux about two days after we brought him home, breastfeeding became almost impossible for us to achieve.
My son had acid reflux that was so bad the first couple of days of his life, the breastmilk was too thin for him to keep it down. We even tried mixing it with formula to try and get it thick enough for him to be able to hold it down, but it still wasn’t working. He was losing weight pretty rapidly and that was scary. We ended up, with the help of our pediatrician, finding a formula that was thick enough for him to keep it in his stomach because it was mixed with rice cereal. So we tried that and it worked like a charm. He was gaining weight, and sleeping pretty well, everything was working… or so we thought.
When he was about two weeks old, he started getting symptoms of colic. He was very gassy all the time, and his tummy hurt him most days and it was hard to tell if it was his acid reflux that was making it hurt or the gas. He was just screaming for hours at a time. Sometimes it didn’t matter what we did, he would just scream. And when I say scream, I mean high-pitched, red-faced, losing his breath, screaming. It was awful. I felt so bad for the little guy. I think what made me feel the worst was the fact that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. I felt so helpless. I remember one day specifically, he started screaming around 1:00pm and I was holding him, rocking him, bouncing him, and nothing was working. He was just so miserable. I called a friend of mine who lived close to come over to see if she could help me. When she got there, I was standing in my living room, holding my son, he was crying and I was crying and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like a failure as a mother. I didn’t know that this was not the norm for new babies. I didn’t know how other new moms could do this.
After this day, I knew that something had to change with him. We took him to a gastrointestinal doctor that next week and he immediately knew what was going on with him. I remember my husband laying my son down on his stomach on the table in the room at the doctor’s office and he just squirmed all over that table. And I remember the doctor asking us if he was always like this, always unsettled. He quickly began to explain to us what was going on with his stomach and how it was still underdeveloped because he was such a young age. Before we left that day, the doctor changed Sawyer’s formula to a different brand and a different kind. Basically the new brand was extremely broken down and it didn’t contain a lot of the extra additives and proteins that most other formulas contained. You guys, after one bottle, my son was a completely different baby. It was like I had a brand new baby. I remember calling my mom and telling her about it and being so excited. I remember saying to her that I was hoping that it wasn’t just a coincidence, that I was hoping that this was really what was working for him. And it’s been the same ever since.
I was lucky enough to have family and friends that reminded me all the time that being formula fed was okay. It was okay that my son couldn’t breastfeed. It was okay that he had to take formula. Because at the end of the day, breast isn’t always best. Fed is best. And those simple words mattered so much to me as a new mom. It reminded me that I wasn’t a failure. It reminded me that maybe I was stronger than I realized because we figured it out and we did what was best for our son.
I wanted to tell you guys that story because I feel like “mom-shaming” is a subject that needs to be talked about more. I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I became a mother and had friends that were new moms at the same time, or moms that had small children, and heard about it more. I find myself hearing more and more about it and it just blows my mind. I think what is the most hard about it to me is that mom-shaming doesn’t always come from strangers. It can come from people that you know. I have a friend that was exclusively breast feeding and her baby was not gaining weight. She and her husband were trying to make the best decision for him as to whether they should supplement formula or not. I remember her telling me that her close friends were encouraging her to continue to breast feed and telling her not to supplement that it was always hard and she just needed to keep going. I thought that was so bizarre. I told her that she needed to do what was best for her baby because he wasn’t gaining weight. He was a couple of months old and hadn’t gained any weight. I just couldn’t believe that really close friends of hers would tell her those things and tell her not to supplement formula. I just felt like they either weren’t listening to what she was telling them or that they were so caught up in “breast is best” that her baby’s needs didn’t matter to them.
I read stories on social media all the time about strangers walking up to women and saying things to them about choosing formula. Or even something completely different like when a mom has a baby or a toddler that is screaming or throwing a tantrum and complete strangers are making comments to them or standing back and judging them on what is happening. I just can’t imagine what that would feel like being a mom and being on the receiving side of that. It’s embarrassing enough to have your child screaming in front of all these people without having others stand back and stare.
The bottom line to all of this is I just think that we as parents, and just people in general, need to start being nicer to each other. Start trying to help each other. Instead of standing back and completely judging someone, offer to help. You never know what’s going on in that mom’s world or what struggles she’s going through. And you never know what offering a little help to her might do. You might just change her life.