Formula feeding is a topic near and dear to my heart, one that I’m passionate about speaking up about after my own experience as a new mom. My daughter was born a month early and my milk never really came in. She quickly developed jaundice and her blood sugars were out of whack. The lactation consultant at the hospital was a huge disappointment and failed to give me information on pumping or the hospital’s breastfeeding support group.
We got home and things went from bad to worse. Over the next few weeks, weighed feedings showed the most my daughter got at the breast was less than half an ounce and pumping yielded a whopping 1 oz a day. We were able to do a combination of breastfeeding and supplementing with formula for 13 weeks before ultimately switching to just formula.
From my own experience and from the stories shared with me by many other moms, it’s clear to me that formula feeding moms need resources, and they need support. So, here is a resource guide for just that. I hope it can help point you in the right direction in regards to information about preparing and feeding formula, as well as where to go for the emotional support you might need if you feel sadness or grief over not being able to breastfeed
The Practical Stuff:
Which formula should we use? Talk to your pediatrician/family doctor about what they recommend and find out if they have samples you can try before you commit to a specific formula. Some babies respond better to the “sensitive” formulas while others don’t show a preference so you may need to try a few. A friend shared this guide to infant formulas recently and it has great unbiased info.
How can we save money on formula? If you are using Similac, Enfamil, or Gerber, sign up for formula checks on their websites. Personally, we switched to a generic after a few months and had no issues. Going generic saved us about $20 a month.
What’s the proper method for mixing formula? Check out this formula feeding guide from the Mayo Clinic. Make sure you read the instructions on the canister of formula. Some require you put the water in the bottle first, others are formulated for putting in the powder first. Double and triple check that you are using the right powder to water ratio!
How much should we feed and how often? Definitely consult your pediatrician on this as every kid is different, but I found this guide from the AAP that can also be useful!
What supplies should we buy? This is really family dependent but I will make some suggestions. Many products are on the market now that weren’t when I had my daughter so I haven’t tried them all.
- Bottles and nipples: I don’t recommend registering for these as babies can be picky. Ask friends to borrow a variety of styles/brands to find what works best for your baby. Start with slow flow and then get faster flowing nipples as your baby grows.
- Cleaning supplies: brush, drying rack, dishwasher basket. Normal dish soap is fine.
- Formula dispensers: These are great for on the go. Munchkin makes them with 3 compartments for multiple bottles. I used the Tommee Tippee ones that you store inside the bottle. The Mixie Baby Bottle is a new on the go bottle with formula storage that I hear great things about.
- Formula prep: consider the Dr. Browns formula pitcher or Baby Breeze Formula Pro. Get a bottle warmer if your baby is particular about temperature.
The Emotional Stuff:
Is my baby going to be at a disadvantage if I use formula? NO! Of course there are benefits to breastfeeding, but the benefits have been way overblown in many instances. More likely than not you, your spouse, your best friend, and many successful members of society were formula fed. Read this study for some encouragement. Breast milk is awesome. Formula is awesome. Repeat after me: fed is best!
Am I going to be able to bond with my baby? YES! You do not need breasts to bond with your baby. Snuggle your baby, look into his eyes when you bottle feed him, sing her songs and kiss her little head. Breast milk and formula are not the glue that ties you together as a family.
Where can I find support for formula feeding moms online? Suzanne Barston is one of my heroes and her blog The Fearless Formula Feeder is where I initially found the support and validation I was looking for. Each Friday she shares a story told by a fearless formula feeding mom in her own words (I shared mine back in 2013). Barston’s book “Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t,” is full of personal stories, peer-reviewed research, and ideas for how we can stop measuring our worth by how we feed our babies. The FFF Facebook page is a great place to meet other formula feeding moms and find encouragement. There’s also a private group on Facebook run by the FFF where you can discuss things more privately.
How do I deal with all the breastfeeding talk on social media? Be aware of your triggers. Take a break from Facebook during International Breastfeeding Week if you find the posts and memes bring up sad or disappointed feelings. Give yourself some space while others celebrate and normalize breastfeeding. Feel free to “hide” these posts until you aren’t feeling so raw. Go right ahead and unfriend someone if they post hurtful or shaming messages about formula feeding. Unfriending the person that openly called formula “poison” was both empowering and healing for me.
Do you have any helpful advice for formula feeding moms? Any products you want to rave about or maybe share a place where you found support?