A large body of research has shown that breastfeeding provides infants with the optimal nutrition needed for healthy development. But not every parent wants or is able to breastfeed their newborn, and one mom is reminding people to think twice before judging other parents for making this decision.
New mom Meghan Koziel was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 and, as part of her treatment, underwent a double mastectomy. Because of the surgery, Koziel lost her ability to breastfeed, so when she gave birth to her daughter in September, she decided to post a sign in her delivery room as a heads-up to hospital staff.
The sign, which Koziel posted to Instagram in September, reads, “NO BREASTFEEDING ZONE. Though breastfeeding is a very special task, please be aware before you ask. Our miracle baby will be formula fed, and it will not affect her future ahead. This mommy is a survivor.”
“Attention please, attention please. We do indeed have a mommy-to-be who had breast cancer and a mastectomy which means, without boobs in the houseeeee!” Koziel explained in the caption of her Instagram post, which has since gone viral. “Got the banner raised just in case people are confused at why we are NOT going to be breastfeeding our little bundle of joy.”
Koziel, who works in a hospital herself, understands firsthand that doctors and other medical professionals may not always read over the full medical charts of their patients. So when a friend gave her the idea for the sign, the new mom knew instantly that it would help her avoid having to explain why she is not breastfeeding and would save her from reliving her breast cancer trauma for everyone who walked into her hospital room.
In another Instagram photo, in which Koziel cradles her newborn daughter against her chest, she explained, “Cancer has changed my life forever… but looking down at this sweet little girl makes all my fears of recurrence and having to go through active treatment again fade away!”
Koziel’s sign, it turns out, was a hit with the hospital staff, who treated the situation as an important learning experience — both in regard to understanding the complexities of breastfeeding and being more conscientious of a person’s medical history.
But after her Instagram post went viral, the new mom was still given unsolicited advice from social media users who felt donor breast milk, which can run $3 to $5 for an ounce, would be a better option for her newborn than formula feeding.
“I was then referred to local Facebook milk donation groups but was turned off because the milk has no way of being tested,” Koziel explained to Parents.com, adding that her insurance doesn’t cover the cost of donor milk for mastectomy patients. “Yes, breast milk is fabulous and filled with utmost nutrition… however, it can also carry disease! I am not willing to risk my daughter’s life simply to use breast milk when formula has been used for years and there is no known difference from a breastfed to formula-fed baby.”
Research has shown that, although breastfeeding has added nutritional benefits, formula feeding is still healthy for newborns. Formula milk is fortified with vital nutrients, such as vitamin D and iron, and is available in both dairy-free and soy options to help little ones avoid allergic reactions.
Koziel hopes people understand that breastfeeding versus formula feeding is a deeply personal choice, one that new parents do not take lightly. A number of factors, including complex medical conditions, go into making that decision. Ultimately, that choice should be respected because, in the end, fed is best.
“To all the mommies like me facing complicated health histories or facing social media trolls for how you’re raising your child, I would say … keep on being you!” Koziel told Parents. “We all must make decisions that are best for our families, and it is truly no one else’s business if it doesn’t affect them! Raise your child surrounded by love and with happiness and that baby will be amazing.”