I believe formula feeding your baby should be a choice and with all choices come the information for you to weigh your decision based on facts and circumstance and really, how you want to build your life.
Breastfeeding can be a beautiful bonding time with your baby. Or it can be a nightmare for so many reasons. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know what version of breastfeeding you’ll get until your baby is born and you try to latch him to your breast.
The benefits of formula feeding can be vast and there’s a reason it’s a very close second best option to breastfeeding and for some, the best choice they can make for themselves and for their family.
Here’s some mom truth: You will be shamed if you breastfeed in public. You will also be shamed if you whip out your formula and feed in public. I know this because I’ve had both happen and found it shocking that no matter what people are a) nosy fuckers and b) you can’t win.
There are some amazing things about formula feeding and a history that goes as far back as biblical times.
A Brief History Formula Feeding
Before we get into formula feeding let’s talk about the former alternative: a wet nurse. Records indicate that wet nurses have been providing babies with a viable alternative to mother’s milk since 2000 B.C.
According to this article titled, “A History of Infant Feeding,” a well known cure for a lack of lactation supply was “To get a supply of milk in a woman's breast for suckling a child: Warm the bones of a sword fish in oil and rub her back with it. Or: Let the woman sit cross-legged and eat fragrant bread of soused durra, while rubbing the parts with the poppy plant. (Wickes, 1953a, p. 154)”
.... I’m pretty sure I heard a lactation consultant say something just like this when my baby was starving and I was producing only .5 ounces of milk in an hour.
But all kidding aside our human race has survived this poor advice as well as improved dramatically the available options for new moms who cannot (or choose not) to feed their baby their own breastmilk.
If you’re a nerd for this shit and want to continue reading that academic article I highly encourage it because there is some fascinating history.
For example, I just learned about how some women would choose to get pregnant, then “get rid of the baby” and become a wet nurse as a profession. Ya’ll. Times were tough for some mothers and aristocratic society took advantage of this then as they do now.
Also because there was no way to disinfect feeding tubes or artificial nipples (the original bottles) that were used during the 16th - 18th centuries, infection from bacteria build up would lead to over ⅓ of all infant deaths over the course of three centuries.
My how things have changed.
Modern Formula as We Know It And How It Came To Be
Let’s fast forward all the way to formula as we know it.
Or at least it’s great grandparent version that was first popularized at the end of the 19th Century. This is when the first artificial formula was created and turned into a powdered formula to preserve its shelf life. For a time it was considered the “perfect infant food.”
Yes. Even more perfect than the “liquid gold” known as Breastmilk.
But ya’ll these were some weird fucked up times.
Maternal death was the leading cause of mortality for women, and it wouldn't get better until significant advancements in technology allowing for things like a C-section would allow women to survive labor and delivery.
It wouldn’t be until the 1950’s when formula would become commercially popular and fully embraced by middle-class busy moms as an alternative to breastfeeding.
There is an extensive debate on whether or not the commercialism of formula contributed to a decline in breastfeeding and in some cases an increase in cases of atopy or childhood obesity leading which some theorize as the reason the Academy of Pediatrics would eventually statements condemning formula and reminding the public that breastfeeding is the preferred way.
I’m not arguing any of this.
Times have changed.
And for these moms, the benefits of this modern day miracle can far outweigh this pressure to breastfeed. You have a choice when it comes to feeding your baby.
Formula Feeding Can Be Freedom
For nine long months, your body was not your own. For moms who choose to breastfeed that continues long after delivering your baby. For the formula feeding mom, they get a chance to get their body back in more ways than one.
Yes, fine, there is a percentage of women that get their “body back” when they lose weight from breastfeeding. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about time, energy, sleep.
The first night my husband took a feeding for me was the first night I didn’t wake up in a haze of confusion and exhaustion. I slept for six straight hours and my baby was happy and healthy and so was I.
Formula Feeding Your Baby is Convenient AF
You do not need to carry a pump back and forth to work, lug around an icepack and argue with human resources about where to store your pumped breast milk.
You don’t need to buy a deep freezer to store all that pumped milk.
When you make the choice to exclusively formula feed you open a whole slew of scenarios where you no longer have to find a place to feed your baby or pump.
Moms Recovering from Painful Delivery Can Take Pain Meds Without Worry
Yes, you can feed your baby formula and also take those giant horse pill-sized pain meds to help you recover and get rest.
Also if you’re on antidepressants, or antipsychotics, or any other medication that could prove to be tricky. You can safely continue to take them and also feed your baby formula without the worry of transferring the effects to your precious babe.
Formula isn’t Breastmilk, but it’s A Very Strong Second Runner Up
Breastmilk fed babies need to supplement with vitamin D. Guess what’s already in formula?
Breastmilk fed babies also will react differently to what mom eats. I have a friend who binged on some hot wings and her baby had screaming fits every time she pooped for a week because of the spicy sauce in her milk.
My babies pooped exactly the same shit day in and day out no matter how spicy my salsa was or how many oranges I ate.
Formula is fortified with Iron, DHA, Vitamin D, and a myriad of other important brain building and life-supporting nutrients and vitamins.
Your Baby Will Not Be Smarter for Drinking Breast Milk
In this study conducted in the Journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at 8,000 toddlers between the ages of 3 - 5 and aimed to determine if what they were fed as babies (breast of formula) impacted their cognitive functioning, ability to problem solve, and reasoning skills. Things that can in other words, measure the likelihood of success later in life.
The study revealed that there was just over a 1% variation in this ability suggesting that a child’s intelligence is less likely because of what they ate as a baby, and more likely to do with a parent’s education, available resources, and financial and socioeconomic stability.
In another study published in Behavior Genetics, looked at over 6,500 sets of twins from highly educated mothers as compared to mothers who were less educated and attempted to discover if the babies were fed breastmilk, does it make them smarter? After accounting for differences in the mother’s IQ there was no evidence that suggested the formula or the breastmilk improved cognitive function and a child’s ability to learn. Universally though, the mother’s who came from a higher education background tended to have children who scored 7.6% higher than the children whose mothers were less educated.
I’m not surprised to hear this. Being able to breastfeed is often a privilege of the educated wealthy who can afford to spend hours and days nursing their baby. For the young mothers, the single mothers, the less educated mothers this luxury of time is often replaced by needing to work longer hours for less pay.
I’m not saying breast is best is a rich women’s totem. But I’m also not saying it isn’t.
No More Guessing if Baby Is Getting Enough
I loved knowing that my baby was eating exactly two ounces each feeding a day. And I also loved being able to track when a growth spurt was coming based on the increased need for more food.
I also loved that I wasn’t forced to sit on the couch with my nursing baby for hours, hoping that they were getting enough and fighting my body when it may or may not produce anything.
I always knew exactly how many calories my baby was getting.
Babies With Allergies Have Milk Choices Choices
One of the more difficult issues with breastfeeding can be if your baby has developed a food sensitivity or allergy forcing a mom to do elimination diets to test what could be causing the pain and the babies discomfort.
This can be exhausting. And, again, for months you can be without relief and forced to stick to a regimented diet that limits what and when you eat.
There are as many options for formula mixes as there are allergies your baby may have. You can feel confident that your baby is getting the nutrition they need without exacerbating other conditions or issues. (and relax!)
Other People Can Bond With Your Baby
Formula allows for others to share in the feeding duties, giving all of the caregivers equal responsibility (and opportunities for snuggles). Also, when someone else is feeding the baby that means mom is probably getting a break (and maybe even some extra sleep to recover from pregnancy and delivery)!
Formula Feeding Doesn’t Hurt
When I was in the throws of trying to breastfeed I developed horrible blisters on my nipples from the chaffing of the suction. Ouch.
Also, there’s mastitis, and a dozen other nipple and breast breaking conditions that even the strongest mother with the highest pain threshold will be brought down to her knees for.
Formula feeding doesn’t hurt beyond the slight exercise you get from shaking a bottle, and if you use a baby Keurig, then you don’t even need to do that!
Your Baby May Sleep Longer
The research is admittedly much more anecdotal on this one because what causes a baby to sleep longer (especially a newborn) is possibly due to a bajillion different factors. For example, my son slept through the night for the first time when we put him in his own room at six weeks old.
We deduced that the smells of us and the noises we make, all made it harder for him to sleep. But we can’t know for sure (and we never will know) but he’s always been a good sleeper.
My brother likes to think this long sleep was because I fed him formula. It’s very possible, as my baby’s were able to be fuller longer and processing formula can take a lot more time because of the composition of the formula within the baby’s system. Which just lines him up for success to sleep longer.
Either way, I got lucky with a sleepy babe and I’ll take it.
Whether Formula contributed I’ll never know for sure. But it’s worth it to give it a try!
Mom’s Life Is a Bit Easier
Formula can entirely eliminate the hassle of packing pumps and bottles and coolers and ice packs. Granted we did have to pack extra formula and bottles if we were doing any extended trips or visits, that was likely in many ways so much easier than if I had to pump at work, or was exclusively pumping
Working Moms Can Truly Benefit from Formula Feeding
I went back to work when Sam was three months old and even though my company would have been supportive and amazing, I was glad to not have to have the conversations with my mostly male, mostly single colleagues about what that bottle was in the fridge, and what I was doing every ¾ hours in that room they’d designated for me to pump that was not the bathroom.
Also it made the entire day easier. My boy's teachers can feed him, my hubby can feed him, and we never run out of milk unless someone has gone through a massive growth spurt and I mistimed my amazon prime delivery of more formula.
You Can Have Coffee When You’re Formula Feeding (And Pretty Much Whatever Else You Want)
And you can have wine. And you can have spicy food. Or mercury-laced sushi if you want. It may seem a bit selfish but being able to do and eat some of the things you did and ate before becoming pregnant can help you recover a bit of your sense of self and help you ease into your new identity as a new mom.
Plus coffee can obviously with all the sleeplessness.
Embrace a DGAF Mom Goddess Attitude
Aka you can feel confident in your choice to formula feed because it’s what’s best for you and for your baby. And when you can make a choice like this, to not have to feel mentally abused or emotionally traumatized that if you don't breastfeed then you’re somehow a bad mom.
Breastfeeding is a choice. And formula feeding is an excellent alternative and choice you can feel proud of.
Being Able to Spend More Time With Your Other Children
I was a little worried that I wouldn’t love my second as much as my first (obviously that’s not what happens). But I was also so worried about how feeding my baby was going to go. The truth was my oldest could HELP me feed my baby. And we often did it together.
As he got older and could hold his own bottle we could feed him and eat together as a family. This was a sweetly bonding time for all of us.
Happy Mom, Happy Life
If you’re unhappy and overwhelmed and stressed out about breastfeeding, it will affect your whole family dynamic. It will affect your relationship with your husband. It will affect your relationships with your colleagues. It’s impossible to expect that you can go on about your life trying to deal with breastfeeding and be fine.
If breastfeeding makes you happy, keep doing it.
If not. Stop. Formula feed your baby. Get happy again.