Chrissy Teigen Wants to 'Normalize' Formula—Here's What That Means
In a twitter thread, she opened up about the stress and guilt she felt when she struggled to breastfeed—and she doesn't want other new moms to go through that.
Chrissy Teigen is candid about every aspect of her parenting journey, and on Sunday she weighed in on the breast milk vs. formula debate.
"Ok I'm gonna say something and you all are definitely gonna make it a thing but here goes: normalize formula," Teigen wrote on Twitter. "Normalize breastfeeding is such a huge, wonderful thing. But I absolutely felt way more shame having to use formula because of lack of milk from depression and whatnot."
She continued with a series of tweets: "People have surrogates, people have trouble breastfeeding, and all you hear as a new, anxious mom is how 'breast is best'... 'Normalize breastfeeding' is great. 'Normalize formula' is great, too!"
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life, with continued breastfeeding until 12 months or longer to supplement solid foods. The health benefits of breastfeeding, such as immune system boosts for infants and a lower risk of breast cancer for moms, are backed up by research.
But as Teigen says, nursing is not an option or preference for many parents, and they shouldn't be shamed for choosing to feed their babies with formula.
A mom might not be able to breastfeed for several reasons, including a lack of milk. "I would advise a mom to feed formula if she doesn't have enough milk," international board certified lactation consultant Leigh Anne O'Connor tells Health. "Some people have had breast reduction surgery and may not make enough milk, or they may have hypoplasia of the breast, where there is not enough mammary tissue to feed the baby 100%."
Other reasons for not breastfeeding include taking medication not considered safe for the baby, or having mental health issues that interfere with feeding (something Teigen herself can relate to). In her Twitter thread, she revealed that constant pumping "because I didn't trust milk was going into their mouths if I breastfed" caused her to feel anxious and guilty. "It drove me mad to the point I could only get an ounce. An ounce!" she wrote.
"The stress of it, combined with the guilt that you cannot do nature's most natural thing for your own baby is too much," Teigen added. "I dunno why this is my crusade now. I just remember the sadness I felt and want you to know you are doing it right if your baby is fed, mama."
O'Connor agrees that what's most important is that "baby is fed and loved." If she's consulting for a new mom and breastfeeding isn't working out—for whatever reason—she would show her how to bottle feed in a way that offers that same physical bond as breastfeeding does. "I let parents know the alternatives to breastfeeding, including donor milk and the various forms of formula," O'Connor says. "There are many on the market and I support them in finding the best match for them and their baby."
Comments on Teigen's Twitter thread show how harmful shaming parents for formula feeding can be. "Wish I'd read this a year ago. I drove myself into a deep depression bc I couldn't breastfeed my baby," one person wrote, while another revealed, "I'm a cancer survivor who can have kids but can not nurse due to my meds. It would be dangerous for me to nurse."
If you do have your heart set on breastfeeding, an experienced lactation consultant can make all the difference. Registered nurse Deedee Franke, who is also a board-certified lactation consultant, tells Health that many new moms need the assistance of someone with a good knowledge of breastfeeding yet also knows how to troubleshoot problems as they arise.
Franke knows from experience how vulnerable new moms can be in the early stages of motherhood, and she says she would never judge a mom who chose to use formula. "Everyone needs to respect the new mom's decision, and not shame her," she says.
O'Connor believes that shaming comes from a place of insecurity. "Nobody should judge another person for their parenting choices and circumstances."
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