Deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed your child is an extremely personal choice for every mom. There are numerous reasons why a woman might choose to formula feed, including not being physically capable of breastfeeding (which really isn't a choice at all) so we should never question her decision or make her feel less than because of it. Because breastfeeding is constantly being promoted (and for very good reason) there are so many things no one tells you about formula feeding. Things that, honestly, every mother, regardless of whether or not she ends up using formula or breastfeeding for an extended period of time, should know.
I breast fed my first son (for a short period of time), and formula fed my second son, so I know what it is like to experience both breastfeeding and formula feeding. When my second was born, I wasn't able to breastfeed him for various reasons. I felt so guilty, like he had been short changed some how. I mean, I knew that formula was a perfectly suitable alternative to breastfeeding, but the list of BS things I told myself about formula feeding was a long one and, well, that list left me feeing anything other than confident and happy in my decision. I, like so many, wanted to be the "perfect mom," and though formula feeding doesn't make anyone a bad mom, I still felt a fair amount of "mom guilt" every time I'd give my newborn a bottle.
Now my babies aren't really babies anymore and, looking back, I shake my head at my former self for ever wasting any time feeling guilty about formula feeding my boys. I should have never allowed myself to be burdened with the societal guilt of not giving my children what others say is "best." No one should have to apologize for formula feeding; Not me, not you, not anyone, because it is a great option for families and it's a personal choice for everyone. So, for the sake of the things I wish I had known when I fed my boys formula (because, yes, it would have saved me a lot of guilt), here are nine things that no one will tell you about formula feeding.
It's Packed Full Of Vitamins And Nutrients
I'm still at a loss as to why formula is compared to poison. Last time I checked, ingredients like calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin E were all acceptable parts of a person's diet. Iron is also an important part of a baby's diet, and formula is packed full of it. So, although formula doesn't contain the antibodies that breast milk does, it's still a nutritious option that contains over 25 vitamins and minerals that are vital to your baby's health.
Feeding Your Baby Formula Doesn't Mean That You Failed...
Formula feeding a child is a personal decision. Sometimes women aren't physically able to feed their babies breast milk; Sometimes women just don't see it as a viable option for their family; Sometimes women just don't want to. Either way, formula feeding your baby shouldn't be an act judged by those who don't understand a family's unique situation. We're all just trying to make good decisions based on what's best for our families, but still, not choosing what society considers "normal" or "right" or "best," can inevitably feel like a punch to the gut.
...But It Might Make You Feel Like You Did
Since my second son spent the first day of his life in the NICU, I wasn't able to breastfeed him immediately. Instead, I decided to pump in an attempt to get things flowing, so-to-speak. However, when I looked down after I finished pumping and discovered two ounces of blood, rather than milk, I was slightly horrified. I'm not talking just blood tinged, I'm talking about straight blood. As far as I knew, I didn't birth a vampire, so I sought counsel from the doctors and nurses at the hospital, who were equally befuddled. I have a strong history of breast cancer in my family (my mother passed away from it at 34), so we didn't waste any time finding the root cause of pumping so much blood. It took a couple of weeks, and everything ended up being fine, but that pretty much squashed any hope I had of breastfeeding my son. I felt so guilty, because I breastfed my first son for a couple of months, and my second only got maybe one bottle of it. I felt like he was getting the short end of the stick, even though I could rationally remind myself that I was just doing what I thought was best for me and my family.
Formula Fed Babies Have Different Bowel Movements
Formula fed babies usually have different bowel movements than breastfed ones. They don't typically have as many, and the consistency is different, too. Their bowel movements are a bit darker and firmer than a baby who is breastfed. As a baby adjusts to eating formula, they can occasionally get constipated, which is no fun at all, but it's easily remedied.
It Might Take Some Time To Find The Right Formula For Your Baby
Trying to find the right formula for your baby can be a major headache. Some babies can eat any brand or mixture, while others might have sensitivities and they won't tolerate specific types as well as others. My first son was able to tolerate basically everything we tried, but my second was a different story. It felt like we tried everything before we finally settled on something that was suitable, which ended up being a mild formula for sensitive stomachs. The good news is that there are plenty of options, and though it can be time consuming and stressful, there is a good option out there for your baby.
It's Definitely Not Cheap
Yikes, this stuff is not cheap. At first, buying a $30 container of formula doesn't seem like that big of a deal because babies don't eat as much of it while they're very young. But as they grow, so does their appetite. You might start off only buying one container a month, but it doesn't take long until that purchase happens one a week, maybe more depending on your baby. It's a small price to pay for the health and nutrition of your baby, but it definitely adds up, and I may or may not have cried at one point when buying it.
You Might End Up Being Judged
I'll never forget the judgment I felt when I told the lactation consultant at my doctor's office that I had stopped breastfeeding my first son. She questioned me for what seemed like 30 minutes before I finally put my foot down. I understand that she was just doing her job, but I didn't appreciate her making me feel like I had given up, or like I was somehow neglecting my son's needs. I wasn't at all, and the switch from breastfeeding to formula feeding proved to be borderline life-changing after I sought treatment for postpartum depression. I knew it was the right choice for us, but that didn't make me feel any better about having to constantly justify my decision to prove to people that I wasn't a selfish jerk for choosing formula.
In Some Cases, Formula Feeding Is Actually Better For Your Baby
Yes, sometimes formula is better for babies. If a baby is having trouble gaining weight, or tolerating something in his or her mother's milk, formula is an excellent alternative. Feeding a baby formula can help them to put on the weight that they need, and can even help parents know and/or regulate how much their baby is consuming per feeding. t's also better for moms in some cases, especially mine. Having the option of letting someone else feed the baby when I wasn't able to was such a relief.
If Your Baby's Tummy Is Full, You're A Great Mom
The best babies are fed babies. It doesn't matter whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, if you're making sure that your baby's needs are met, you're a great mom. Breastfeeding wasn't a great experience for me, but I still support the women who choose that route, and I feel like most of my friends who have breastfed their babies supported my decision to formula feed mine, too. We're all on the same team here, so we need to support one another no matter how different we may be.