By Mathieu Brûlé and Patricia Kmiec
We adopted our daughter (private and open) last summer. Since then, we’ve seen increasing attention in the adoption community given to the issue of options in infant feeding. Given this discussion, we wanted to share some reflections on our experience with our decision to formula feed our daughter from birth.
Maintaining equality in our household has been a key value in our relationship, and now, in our family, from the beginning. When our daughter joined our family last summer, we knew that these principles would shape the way we parented, including the way we cared for our child. It was always understood that we would share our parenting responsibilities equally, and we agreed that this would include infant-feeding.
Our decision to formula feed allowed us to not only divide the responsibility of feeding our daughter, but also share in the bonding that occurs when feeding an infant. The decision to formula feed meant that both of us could experience the attachment that develops when a parent attends to their child’s fundamental needs. Neither of us wanted to deny the other the opportunity to care for and comfort our daughter when she was most vulnerable, and our decision to formula feed made that possible. As a result, we both shared the experience of attachment that occurs during feeding, and our daughter could connect closely with both of us as she came to view us both as people who could be depended on to care for and comfort her when she needs it most.
Our choice to formula feed also allowed us to practice self-care adequately during our first year of parenthood. As adoptive parents, with only three weeks notice to prepare for the arrival of our newborn, the need for intentional time and space for self-care was especially important.
With sleepless nights and other general stresses of new parenthood, the ability for each of us to step out when needed was a necessity. Whether taking an afternoon to decompress individually, or spending time together to focus on our relationships, or even to sit down and plan the busyness of the next week, our feeding choice made these moments of self-care possible.
Throughout the first year, we always knew that we could count on babysitters, grandparents, and other caregivers to feed, comfort, and put our daughter to bed in a way that she was familiar with. This allowed us to intentionally plan for self-care, which is incredibly important to all new parents.
When members of our extended families cared for our baby, they also had the opportunity to establish their own unique connections with our daughter. Many family members have since expressed sincere gratitude for the opportunity to bond with her in these tender moments of infant feeding. We feel equally grateful for these opportunities, as involvement and connection of extended family is so important in adoption.
In the context of our open adoption, formula feeding made it possible for our daughter’s first family to feed her. Feedings and bedtime routines were part of our early visits. Our decision to formula feed provided our daughter’s first mom and other members of her first family with the opportunity to take part in this aspect of caring and providing for our daughter that breastfeeding would not have allowed for. Inviting them to also participate in these important moments was our way, particularly in the early visits, of assuring them of our commitment to the openness that we had promised before our daughter was born.
We hope to encourage new and awaiting parents to consider more than the physical benefits of induced breastfeeding of adopted newborns. In our experience, a well-rounded understanding of an infant’s needs include not only physical health, but emotional, social, and intellectual well-being as well.