posted in Mom Stories
My daughter didn’t get even a drop of breast milk.
Instead, I arrived at the hospital with bottles of formula stuffed into my overnight bag, and resolutely turned away the nurses who urged me breastfeed. There it is: My dirty little secret.
I have my reasons for choosing to formula feed, and my husband and I think they’re very good ones. It’s surprised me, though, how often I’ve had to justify the decision – my decision about my baby – over the years. To every person who’s warned me that bottle-fed babies end up obese, allergic, detached, intellectually stunted. To every person who has said with disappointment, “So you didn’t even try?”
Guilt and judgement isn’t exclusive to formula-feeding moms like me, though. How many breastfeeding mothers have been asked to cover up? Or to go hide in a bathroom stall? Or, worse yet, told to leave all together? How many mamas nursing their toddlers or preschoolers have gotten dirty looks or heard comments like “disgusting,” “lazy” and “selfish?”
And let’s not forget all of those moms who pump, who tube-feed, who supplement – all of those moms who are forgotten too often.
There is such a strange culture built up around how we nourish our babies; so many walls, so many barriers to navigate. Photographer Caitlin Domanico hopes her new project will help to break some of them down.
The Pennsylvania-based mom launched “United We Feed” earlier this year, inviting friends and clients to take part in photo shoots that showcase and celebrate the way they nourish their babies, however that may be.
“I wanted to figure out a way to celebrate and unify ALL mothers,” Caitlin tells BabyCenter. “My experience with friends and clients has taught me that many women carry a lot of insecurities and sometimes guilt over the way they birth, feed, and parent their children. We are all working hard to love and nourish our children, but many of us worry that we are not doing it THE BEST way. My goal is to prove to the world that the bond is strong between a loving mother and her baby, and that bond is not dependent upon the way they are fed.”
To date she’s photographed 20 moms, and has a growing list of others who want to participate. “I could go on for days about the beautiful, tender, and sometimes heart-breaking stories these women have shared with me about their journey,” she says.
I asked Caitlin why she thinks feeding has a tendency to be such a contentious issue among us moms.
“New mothers can get so overwhelmed with the information available to them – books, magazines, TV, websites, message boards, in-laws, friends, and family members all are powerful influences. Though the influences are well-meaning, the opinions vary greatly,” she says “It can be difficult for new mothers to ignore the extraneous noise and listen to their gut. Couple the ‘noise’ with hormones and lack of sleep, and you have the perfect storm – an overwhelmed, stressed-out mother. This can lead to defensive behavior to help justify our parenting choices.”
Caitlin, whose own motherhood journey has involved pumping, breastfeeding, formula-feeding and supplementing, plans to continue to expand United We Feed, and hopes to one day publish a book of the images and stories she collects.
“Too many mothers are made to feel inferior and unnatural because they use bottles,” she says. “Too many mothers are made to feel inappropriate or inadequate because they breastfeed. Too many mothers feel isolated because they were not given a choice because their baby needs to use a tube to thrive.”
A quick look through parenting blogs and boards shows that the “breast vs bottle” debate is far from dead, but hopefully projects like this one will help ease us all toward a ceasefire.
How do you feed your baby?