5 minute read
As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about already, we are now living through a formula shortage. While we’re not unfamiliar with shortages, we’re now talking about an essential item. Perhaps even the most essential item. According to the USDA, there are currently no nationwide food shortages in the U.S. (as of 5/23/2022) which makes formula the only essential nutrition in crisis. The frustration and fear that parents are feeling is palpable. If you’re a parent who’s finding it difficult to find any positives or manage your stress, know that you are not alone.
As a psychologist and a mom, I’m certain when I say that no amount of deep breathing or positive thinking is going to help this crisis right now.
In fact, I’m stressed about the shortage right along with you. I’m frustrated right along with you. I’m worried right along with you. This is tough and there’s no positive spin on it.
So here are five things I want you to remember as you get through this:
(1) You have not failed. When you decided to formula-feed, you made the best choice for yourself, your baby, and your family. You don’t have to justify or explain your decision to anyone. This shortage is not your fault and there is no way you could have seen this coming or prevented it.
(2) Breastfeeding requires a ton of valuable time, physical and emotional effort, energy, space, and circumstance. Deep systemic flaws make breastfeeding a privilege, not a right. For many people it is impossible to breastfeed, and many others choose not to because it’s the right decision for them. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you should “just try breastfeeding.” That is not the solution to the formula shortage because breastfeeding is not free.
(3) All the feelings you are feeling are valid, but it won’t help to linger in the negative ones. Some things do just suck and they’re hard and it’s okay to feel how you feel. Acknowledge the negative but don’t get stuck there. Feel all the feelings and let them pass without judgment, blame, self-criticism, or negative self-talk.
(4) There is no such thing as a perfect parent. No one is perfect, no matter how they make their lives look. You do not have to be a perfect person to be an incredible parent and striving for perfectionism gets you nowhere. You are already doing enough, and you are the best parent there is for your baby.
(5) Don’t forget about you. You still have your own needs and your own wellbeing to care for, and you can’t keep pouring from an empty cup. Ask for support, delegate tasks, and do what you need to feel like you. After all, baby needs a role model who can teach them that individual needs are important, too.
Parents who are working tirelessly: I see you.
Do you see you?
Please don’t forget to acknowledge your own efforts. Show yourself the compassion you deserve and speak to yourself the same way you would speak to the people you love and care for the most. You should be at the top of that list – treat yourself right.
Note: Please use only evidence-based sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics when determining what steps to take if you are affected by the formula shortage.
Dr. Ellen Kolomeyer is a clinical psychologist with expertise in pregnancy, postpartum, and parenting infants, toddlers, and young children. Dr. Kolomeyer is based in Plantation, FL and provides consultations to clients throughout Florida.