MILWAUKEE — Amid the nationwide formula shortage, many mothers are being asked, “Why not breastfeed?”
For many, it is not that simple. Two-thirds of all nursing mothers in our country have trouble breast feeding.
Many are facing their own private challenges, and felt pressure and guilt about not breastfeeding long before the shortage.
Shenel Anderson, 31, was diagnosed with cervical cancer two days after finding out she was pregnant.
Her son, Jackson, is in the newborn intensive care unit after being born three months early on April 20. He is doing well and will be able to go home soon, just as Shenel starts radiation and chemotherapy. Even through all of that, she feels guilty about not breast feeding.
“Because of my treatment, I’m unable to breast feed my child or pump or do anything,” said Shenel. “It makes you feel like you are at fault, because you are not able to provide that nutrition. I cannot help but feel like I do not fit in with the good moms.”
Shenel is following the breast formula shortage closely since Jackson requires special formula as a premature baby. Like so many other moms, she is also seeing and hearing a lot of negative comments about why more moms don’t just breastfeed right now under the circumstances.
“You just want to remind people to be more empathetic and understanding,” said Shenel. “Women go through so many trials and stages. You should be okay with what moms are choosing to do for their own children, and formula for some women is the best choice.”
Family physician and mother of three, Dr. Tiffany Mullen, says there are many reasons why breastfeeding is not an easy reality for some families. Some of those reasons include certain health conditions of mom or baby, difficulty for the baby to latch, medications a mother is on, an inability to produce enough milk, as well as poor parental leave, lack of support, and a tough work schedule.
“The number one killer of breastfeeding is stress,” said Dr. Mullen. “After birth, mothers are under a tremendous amount of stress. Their bodies have been through so much. Not to mention the pandemic and other challenges right now. Bottom line, we need to share and hear each other's stories. We cannot just make a snap judgment about a woman who is formula feeding and presume she made that decision easily. We forget that sometimes those decisions are made for mothers. Yet the one thing all mothers share is that we all want to protect, care for, and feed our babies. That is innate in all of us.”