Vanessa + Melissa are Vanessa Rempel and Melissa Shadd. The duo dish on all things motherhood — and aren’t shy about letting their opinions be heard. We recently chatted with Vanessa about mom guilt, their support of the ‘Fed is Best’ movement, and some pearls of wisdom for new moms.
SDTC: Can you tell us about your own story – did you choose to bottle or breastfeed?
Between us we have six kids, and we’ve both exclusively breastfed, and formula bottle fed our kids. With my first daughter, I exclusively breastfed her for a year. It was easy, and beautiful. I really cherish that time, but with my son it was a very different story. I also exclusively breastfed him for 11 months, but I should have stopped sooner. We battled with thrush for 8 months, it was horrible. By 10 months I was told he was off the charts small, failure to thrive. I pumped like crazy to supplement him, but still off the percentile chart. I was convinced that I had to breastfeed to give him the best start in life. By baby three I knew I just had to do what was right for me, my baby, and my family, whatever the judgement. Melissa also had struggles breastfeeding her first child, and started bottle formula feeding early on. With her second baby breastfeeding was a breeze, and she breastfed and bottle fed. But again with baby three, she struggled with producing enough milk and quickly switched to formula.
What was behind your decision?
What is best for our children, and our families is what’s behind every decision we ever make.
What does ‘fed is best’ mean to you?
To us ‘fed is best’ means feeding your baby in whatever way is the healthiest, physically, emotionally and mentally for you, your children and your families. We’re not trying to debate the quality of breastmilk vs. formula. What we stand for is supporting moms in whatever choice they make with regards to feeding their babies. Every situation is unique, and there’s just too much pressure and judgement on moms and how we feed our babies.
What would you say to critics who feel the ‘fed is best’ is misleading and simply points suffering moms toward formula rather than supporting them in breastfeeding?
We absolutely think moms should seek support with breastfeeding, if they’re struggling and want to continue only breastfeeding, but if they choose to stop breastfeeding, because they can’t handle the pressure anymore, or they simply don’t want to, then they shouldn’t be judged for that, they should be supported. If mom isn’t mentally healthy, because she’s suffering with breastfeeding, and the pressures around it, that’s not good for baby. As moms, we don’t need ‘critics’ on any topic. No one will ever make a mom feel guiltier than she already makes herself feel.
Why is mom guilt seemingly unavoidable?
There are many sides to mom guilt. The judgement from the outside world is massive on moms, along with the judgement from within, and the absolute fear so many moms have of failing their kids. At the end of the day we all just want healthy, happy kids, and that outcome won’t be affected by whether we breastfed, or formula fed our babies.
Any words of wisdom for new moms who are struggling?
Don’t let the noise from all around you make you feel like a bad mom. Stand your ground on what you believe in, but don’t judge others who may do things differently than you, rather see their choices as something you might learn from. In your heart you will know what’s best for your kids, and that’s all that matters. Don’t let in-laws, or parents make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. Love them, but sometimes their sources are out-of-date. Don’t lose touch with your friends, we know baby is your world now, but trust us: You need your girlfriends, you will need that support. Find your mama tribe and cherish those friendships. Be kind to yourself. Even though you’re exhausted, cherish the baby phase – it goes so fast. When you’re struggling, ask for help and repeat this line “This too shall pass”, cause it will. Lastly, don’t google shit when your kids are sick, just take them to a doctor. And be friends with us on social media – you’ll be set!