Both of my children received formula within three days of birth. For my second child, it was because her blood sugar had dipped to dangerously low levels and she needed something to perk her up quickly. In the case of my son, homeboy had been nursing literally every 20 minutes for a duration of 20 minutes per session for two days straight. We were both a hot mess. In a tearful and delirious fit of exhaustion, I gave him several milliliters of formula after his eleventy-millionth feeding that day just to top him off… and never looked back.
At the time, the decision to supplement his insatiable appetite with even those few drops of formula was wrapped up in a lot of guilt and fear. I feared sabotaging my breastfeeding plans. I wanted to nurse for at least a year, but by giving him this bottle, I was afraid he would succumb to the oft-mentioned, deeply dreaded “nipple confusion”and reject the breast completely. I also felt guilty for “giving up” and for giving formula at all, because everyone (including myself) had been extolling the many benefits of breastmilk.
While there are those whose babies do develop nipple confusion, or mothers who are unable to establish their milk supply if they supplement with formula, I found that I was able to use formula as an occasional tool. Supplementing helped me as I got a handle on nursing in the first few weeks. Then, when my son was about 10 months old, I used it again when I decided I could no longer stand pumping at work. I provided formula during the workday rather than bottles of pumped breastmilk, and continued to nurse when he and I were together for the next seven months. Again, this turned out to be a decision that saved me a ton of stress and struggle, which — I think pretty much any mom can attest — is endlessly more beneficial to my kid than whether he gets formula or breastmilk.
Absolutely no one can make me feel guilty about any of the decisions I made about giving my children formula, from medical necessity to my personal preference. It’s my sincere hope that one magical day, no one will A) feel guilty about choosing formula, either exclusively or in conjunction with breast milk, and B) no one will try to make anyone else feel guilty about choosing formula. Until then, I encourage a Zero Apologies Policy on the subject. Here’s why.