Baby formula occupies such a weird mental space for so many moms. "Breast is best" has been touted so widely that it's made some feel like formula just isn't acceptable. But at the same time, you probably know at least a few babies that wouldn't be happy and healthy today unless their moms had access to formula. I know firsthand that breastfeeding doesn't always work out the way you imagine, and it can be hugely disappointing. But determining how to tell if you need to switch to formula can be tough, especially when there is a stigma attached to it. But if you realize that formula may be better for you and your baby, then there is nothing you should feel ashamed about.
One reason I've heard many moms opt for formula is breastmilk supply issues. Doctors warn moms not to judge their supply based on how full their breasts feel or how much they pump. Instead, you should look to your baby's diapers for answers. If your baby isn't peeing or pooping much throughout the day, they may not be getting enough to eat according to What to Expect. If that's the case, formula can help keep them fed and hydrated.
Supply issues aren't the only thing that can block your breastfeeding goals. Nursing didn't go well for me because my baby could never quite figure out how to latch. The American Pregnancy Association noted that a strong latch the most important component of breastfeeding. Without one, you'll be in pain and your baby won't be able to effectively transfer milk. There are plenty of resources out there to show you how to improve your latch, but sometimes no matter how closely you follow all the guidelines and advice you're given it still just doesn't work. I've read too many stories about moms who accidentally almost starved their babies because breastfeeding wasn't successful for one reason or another, and formula has been there to help avoid tragedies.
Another reason you may need to switch to formula is that your baby isn't responding well to your milk. The things you eat and drink can show up in your breastmilk and cause your baby to have an allergic reaction. The most common culprit is dairy, and there are a huge range of unpleasant side effects from rashes to colic to bloody diapers according to Kelly Mom. When that happens, you have two options: restrict your diet or switch to formula. When I cut dairy out of my diet to see if it cured my daughter's stubborn rash (which it did), I suddenly realized how many products have some form of dairy in them. You have to avoid so many foods, and it can be challenging and time consuming. Formula can make it easier to cope with.
Whatever your reasons are for switching to formula, remember that fed is best. Your baby doesn't care what's in their bottle, as long as they get to drink until their belly's full.