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When my oldest son was 4 months old, I was
sitting in a bookstore café giving him a bottle while I thumbed through a
magazine. A grandmotherly looking white-haired woman walked over to the table
as she was leaving the café and smiled at the baby before looking at me. I
expected some compliment about my cute baby. What she said instead was, "That's
breast milk, right?"
It was so unexpected, I didn't know what to say. All I
could do was shake my head. This woman, this stranger, literally tsked at me
and muttered, "Formula, bad." Then she walked away. I was too stunned to
respond, though I don't know what my response could have been except, "It's
none of your business, so why do you care?"
Six years later, that memory stays with me—and
how I was hesitant after that to feed my babies in public, lest someone else
have a comment. It's ironic, since breastfeeding moms get flak when feeding
their babies in public, too. And I keep coming back to the response I wish I'd
given that woman: It's no one's business how I choose to feed my baby.
I'm not the only formula-feeding mom who has
felt judged, whether by a stranger, a family member or a well-meaning,
breastfeeding friend. Here, in their own words are the things that formula-feeding moms wish they could say to breastfeeding moms and other people in
their lives. You might be surprised at their comments. And if you're a formula-feeding mom, you might want to share them.
To the partner or family member who wants
the best for mom and baby:
Trust me to do what's best for your grandchild.
"Thanks for supporting my decision. It was the
best one for me and the baby and I appreciate that you never once questioned it
or negated my feelings. I love you." - Jenna
"Five years ago, we would've laughed at this
stupid fight over how to feed our baby. But you know what? It's my body and my
choice. We shouldn't be fighting at all." - K.B.
"Forget the propaganda, Mom. Trust me to do
what's best for your grandchild. She's fine and so am I." - Amali
"I'm glad I have your support, but I don't
need your permission or validation." - Victoria
"What I need from you is love and respect. I
don't need advice and I don't need to read another article about breastfeeding.
Thank you for your concern. Now, let's talk about you!" - Dana
To the well-meaning friend who thinks she knows what's best:
I won't judge your choices, if you don't judge mine.
"Could we please talk about something else? I
exhausted this subject before the baby was even born. I don't want your
opinion. I don't need advice. I made the best choice for me, and no matter how
many books you loan me or website links you send me, I'm not going to think
breastfeeding is right for me." - Gena Marie
"This is just a stage in my baby's life. I
hope we'll be friends forever, but if you don't stop judging me for how I'm
feeding my child during this stage in his life, we'll never get to the next
stage of our friendship. Just stop." - Natalie
"I won't judge your choices, if you don't judge
mine. And yes, your unwanted 'friendly advice' is coming off as judgmental." - Lyla
"I see you struggling with breastfeeding.
You're resentful that I get to sleep through the night while my husband takes
the middle-of-the-night feeding because you refuse to even pump. 'Breast is
best' was hammered into your head just like it was hammered into mine. But I
couldn't breastfeed, and in some ways I'm grateful for that because I see what
you're going through and I just want to hug you and give you a case of formula.
But I don't think you'd thank me, so I don't say anything. But I hurt for you.
Hang in there." - Eileen
"Thanks for not saying anything to my face
about my choice to formula feed. Now if you could just stop posting judgmental
things about formula feeding on social media, that would be great." - Sarah
"I wish breastfeeding had been easy for me. I
was miserable, physically and emotionally, and you saw that. Switching to
formula saved my sanity and my baby is thriving. I know you're not really
judging me when you go on and on about your breastfeeding success, but if you'd
just think about what it feels like from my perspective—and change the
subject—I'd appreciate it." - M.J.
To the evangelical breastfeeding stranger or friend-of-a-friend:
It's 2016. Why are we still talking about a woman's right to make her own choices?
"I could care less how many children you've
breastfed or the sacrifices you made to do it. Good for you. Now have a cookie
and leave me alone." - Kierah
"Breastfeeding was my first choice but it
didn't work out. End of story. It's 2016. Why are we still talking about a
woman's right to make her own choices?" - J.T.
"Breastfeeding is not 'success' and formula
feeding is not 'failure.' They are two equally valid choices. Deal with it." - Brenna
"OK, breastfeeding is best for your baby. You
know what else is best for your baby? A two-parent household, which I have and
you don't since you're in the middle of a divorce. But I don't say anything
because I know you're making the best choices you can for your child and it's
none of my business. Right?" - Alaina
"Yes, you nursed your baby for 18 months. And
now she's 3 years old and the only thing she wants to eat are fast-food chicken
nuggets and French fries. Maybe you should climb down off your pedestal." - Rhysa
And one more, from me, to that stranger in the
"It's formula. And it's OK. He's 6 years old
now and he's only ever been to the doctor for his annual wellness visits. Even
the pediatrician is impressed with that. Oh, and he's in the 90th
percentiles for both height and weight. That's what you'd wish for me, right? A
healthy child? Thank you. He is."