Let's get one thing straight: formula-feeding moms are allowed to complain. There's this view among some aggressively pro-breastfeeding moms that "you signed up for this." When a mother chooses formula for her baby, she's doing what she sees as best for her child, self, and family. Sometimes those reasons are intensely personal, and sometimes it's not a choice at all. Either way, formula comes with its own set of headaches and moms shouldn't be ashamed to voice them. So in the interest of solidarity, here are the weird things all formula-feeding moms worry about.
In the motherhood experience of my dreams, I exclusively breastfed until my child self-weaned. However, that dream was not meant to be. Breastfeeding was difficult for me, and I struggled on and off with undersupply. As a result, I supplemented with formula from the very beginning. By the time my daughter was 6 months old, I had her down to only two ounces of formula a day, but she was underweight. Then, after a terrible bout with the stomach flu, I stopped nursing altogether. My baby was exclusively formula fed by the time she was 8 months old.
I've pretty much done it all: breastfeeding, nipple shield, lactation consultant, lactation cookies, supplemental nursing system, pumping, and, eventually, bottles of formula. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know the struggle. So formula-feeding moms, stop me if this sounds familiar:
The Expiration Date
Once opened (or mixed), formula is good for about one hour out in the open. After that, it needs to be refrigerated. Refrigerated formula should be consumed within 48 hours. In other words, it's a pretty small window. Although you'll probably go through it before it becomes an issue, the powdered formula itself also comes with an expiration date. If you buy in bulk, it can be something to worry about, especially when you consider news stories of product past its pull date on grocery store shelves.
Breastfeeding moms have their own set of troubles (latch, position, mastitis, undersupply, and oversupply, to name a few), but I'm pretty sure they don't have to worry about beetles in their breast milk. Although recalls are fairly rare, we have to watch out for them. In the past, infant formulas have been pulled for everything from containing microorganisms and metal particles to deficiencies in vitamins.
What's in formula, exactly? Well, it kind of depends. Most formulas are cow's milk-based, but there are soy-based and hypoallergenic versions. Thanks to Food and Drug Administration regulations, all brands of formulas are nutritionally equivalent (so, for example, you know baby's getting enough iron). However, you'll still see formula-feeding moms carefully studying the labels, possibly checking for beneficial DHA fatty acid or stressing over the type of sugar used.
Packing The Accoutrements
During my daughter's bottle days, my diaper bag looked like I robbed a laboratory (possibly from Walter White's RV). I used those little vials for breast milk storage to keep measured out powder, and then had bottles filled with water. My husband always packed extra, which is easy to do when you're not the one schlepping around the bag.
Granted, it's always better to have too much than too little. Heaven help you if you go somewhere and fail to pack enough formula. It's not like you can just whip your boob out (although if you're rocking the breastfeeding/formula combo, you can top off at the breast).
Money, Money, Money
If you're a mom on a budget, you figure out pretty quickly that buying pre-made liquid formula is unsustainable. Not that the powdered stuff is cheap. I always found that the price was pretty comparable no matter where I went (around $25 for my brand), so I would scour the weekly Target ad for the buy two, get a $5 gift card deal. Because, obviously, I'll be going back to Target.
Breast milk is a pretty magical substance. Among its amazing properties is that is contains antibodies, or immunoglobulins, that protect the newborn. It shields the baby from infection, tummy troubles, respiratory allergies, and colds. The last two may be why bottle fed babies are more prone to ear infections.
As a mom who tried breastfeeding, I felt really guilty that I wasn't able to give my baby continued protection. However, I learned that special bottles that prevent nipple collapse and air bubble formation can reduce risk of ear infection. Although that was yet another thing for me to worry about: getting the right type of bottle.
When you breastfeed, your body releases oxytocin, the so-called "love hormone." Nursing is an intimate act, and it's been shown to strengthen maternal affection. Naturally, bottle feeding mamas can feel like they're at a disadvantage. But they're not. There are lots of ways to bond with your baby on the bottle (take it slow, maintain contact, go skin-to-skin, don't prop). Plus, there's a bonus that your partner gets some snuggly feeding time, too.
When you bottle feed, you have to be in tune to your baby's feeding cues. Whereas a nursing mom can respond immediately, formula feeding moms need a few minutes to put a bottle together. Measure, mix, shake, and if your baby is picky like mine, warm. I learned that much like a watched pot, a watched bottle warmer doesn't do its job any quicker, much to the chagrin of my hungry infant.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, as moms, we have a lot of thoughts about our baby's poop. Formula poop is markedly different from breast milk poop. It's darker, thicker, and stronger smelling. Since everyone likes a food comparison, especially in reference to poo, I'll say it's like creamy peanut butter. If you're switching from breastfeeding, that first formula BM can be, well, alarming.
The Wrath Of The Sanctimommy
Have you ever seen a mom surreptitiously mix her baby's formula? Why the secret squirrel behavior? Well, she likely doesn't want to be accosted by someone screaming about "breast is best." For some reason, how we feed our babies is open to public discussion.
Online forums are possibly worse. Should a mom comment on an article (say, this one), she opens herself up for criticism. This is ridiculous. If there was one thing I wish I could cross off this list for formula-feeding moms, it would be this one.