22 Nov 2011

"Good Thing He Takes Formula!"

My baby, Jacob, has been completely breastfed since his birth seven months ago. He is beginning to eat a few solid foods now, but he has never tasted formula. To make this happen, my partner Ian and I spent (and continue to spend) countless hours tracking down donors, driving all over town picking up milk, and meeting breast milk shipments at the Greyhound bus depot. We do this because we want the best for our little guy. So far, Jacob has had my milk as well as the breast milk of sixteen extremely generous women.

We often meet people who don't value breast milk anything the way that we do. Yesterday, for example, we ran into somebody I'd met a few months before at a local play group. In the course of normal chit-chat, she happened to ask me something or other about bottle feeding Jacob at night. I gave her a quizzical look and said that our baby was entirely breastfed. Then I realized that perhaps I'd never told her that I was transgendered. I know that my personal history is fascinating and highly memorable to most people, but it is also my normal life that I live every day. I don't always bother to mention it, and sometimes I just can't recall if I've come out to someone in particular or not. I quickly explained myself to this woman using my usual spiel. "I was born female, transitioned by taking hormones... I make some milk myself... we use a supplemental nursing system, know what that is?"

She caught herself up remarkably quickly, hardly missing a beat. She said we should get together some time soon, and I agreed. But then she said the unthinkable. "Yeah, my guy gets mostly the breast. Luckily he takes formula though, so his Dad can feed him too. I mean, I could pump my milk but I don't want to feel like a COW! My first would never take formula. Ugh, that was difficult. Sure glad this one does."

Black and white cow looking into the camera
Cow's milk is designed for baby cows; human milk is for baby humans.

I responded, "Well, I guess it tastes different, doesn't it?"

"Oh yes, formula tastes pretty gross while breast milk is so sweet."

I tried not to let my jaw clank too loudly when it dropped all the way down onto my chest. If only this woman had any idea the way that we search, scrounge, and beg for breast milk for our baby. She could just pump some out if she wanted her boy to have breast milk when she's gone, but formula is easier, so she doesn't.


  1. It just seems so unfair when breastfeeding comes so easily to some that others take it for granted and don't realise the liquid gold they are producing (or stop producing for very superficial reasons).
    I'm a regular woman with 2 kids. I had a tough time starting to breastfeed, but then it became easy. I had so much milk pumped with my first (due to the issues we had latching her I had to pump) and I ended up having to dump some. I hated pumping (so much effort), so it hurt even more to throw it out.
    When I had my second I met a woman who, due to breast reduction surgery, could not produce enough milk to feed her baby and was looking for donors. I gave her all the milk I had in the freezer and started pumping for her.
    I hated pumping, remember? But this woman was so amazing in her resolve to give her baby the best start to life possible. Like you, she drove all over town to source donor milk when she could have just popped to the next shop to buy formula. She went to such lengths to do the best for her baby that my pumping seemed like the least I could do to help.

    I sincerely take my hat off to you - and all other parents who do their best for their children, even when it is inconvenient.

    Your story makes me smile. Thank you for sharing

    1. Lovely! What a wonderful thing you have done by donating your milk - you have made a real difference to the health of this child. Thank you for writing about it.

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  3. Came here to read more about the person who is being unfairly discriminated against by the LLL. Then I read this. If you want compassion and acceptance, maybe you should start with you.

    And, yes, I am a BF mother.

    1. I'm glad that you said this. I was really put off by a lot of this blog's anti-formula vitriol. The judgement towards this mother, who's doing what is best for her body and family, and the mother who is exclusively pumping rather than trying to get her baby to latch(http://www.milkjunkies.net/2012/01/nursing-in-public.html) is disgusting. The post about how bottle feeders don't deserve support was absolutely ridiculous as well (http://www.milkjunkies.net/2012/02/bottlefeeding-guide.html).

      I hope that, since trying to become an LLL leader, Trevor has developed far more empathy. I fully agree with A Leaky Boob, if you support breastfeeding over people, then you only care about being seen as right and will almost certainly do damage (http://theleakyboob.com/2014/01/tough-love-breastfeeding-support-aka-bullying-and-the-case-of-the-stolen-photo/).

    2. Hi there,
      Thanks for your comments. I am not, and have never been 'anti-formula'. I was simply surprised by the contrast between how I was trying so very hard to feed my child only breast milk, and how someone else would choose formula even though breastfeeding and pumping seemed to be easy for her (at least that is what I believe she implied). I am not angry or hateful toward her, or disgusted, just surprised by her choice. That is all. To give an example: I am Canadian, and even at the very warmest times of year it is painfully cold to go swimming in the ocean here. When I was a kid I visited family in Australia, and saw that my cousins had school swimming lessons in the ocean. They complained about that! That was a total shock to me as most Canadian kids I know would LOVE to have a warm ocean to swim in during school hours. I find it hard to understand, but I don't hate my relatives.

      I was also surprised that the woman I met said that she thought formula tasted gross (her own words), but she still wouldn't pump for her baby. I find that confusing and surprising, but again, I do not hate her. I do not feel 'vitriol' toward her.

      I fully understand that breast/chestfeeding is not a good choice for some parents. There are many physical, emotional, and psychological reasons why people cannot nurse babies - formula is a miracle for these babies. I do not think that everyone should breastfeed or that everyone should try to breastfeed. However, when someone chooses not to breastfeed because breastfeeding 'seems too hard', I feel that we as a society are failing to support breastfeeding parents. We need to find ways to make breastfeeding easier - right now it remains an isolating, socially awkward task that many people know nothing about and therefore cannot help with.

      I think you have read a lot into my writing that is not there.

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