The number of questions I’ve gotten on Instagram about formula feeding have been too many to count. It appears that when you talk openly and honestly about your decision to stop breastfeeding and switching to formula, people send their questions in large quantities. I’m so thankful to be able to help moms who are struggling with the decision, wanting to know it’s OK to formula feed, and help squash any of the mom guilt associated with formula feeding these days.
As most of you know, I had a tumultuous feeding journey with Ainsley and wrote this post about the topic. The second time around, I was really reluctant to breast feed at all and wrote another post on the topic when I was feeling very conflicted about making the switch.
The Decision to Wean //
Soon after writing that post, I decided to bite the bullet and wean. I wanted to wean, I knew it was the best decision for me emotionally and for our entire family, and yet I continued to waffle between pumping and formula feeding – deciding to wean one minute and then changing my mind the next. Ultimately, what drove my decision to wean was the following:
- Breastfeeding made me feel crazy. I don’t say that lightly, it really did do a number on me emotionally, and I remembered how once I weaned with Ainsley it was as if the sun started shining again and I felt like myself. I wanted to feel that way this time around.
- I am a modest person, and I didn’t see myself getting comfortable with public feedings. Maybe over time I would have gotten more comfortable with feeding in public, but to me, it felt daunting always wondering when/where I would be when Collins needed to eat. Would I be able to find privacy? Should I just stay at home around all feeding times? What would I wear that could accommodate feeding in public?
- I didn’t want to. This sounds incredibly selfish and I struggled with that the most. Shouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice everything for my baby? Yes. And no. I remembered all the effort that went into getting pregnant with Collins. The acupuncture appointments, doctor’s visits, preceding miscarriage, 30 weeks of shots in my booty, pills and supplements. I came to peace with the fact that I had sacrificed my body for over a year and that it was OK to draw the line somewhere, to regain some piece of myself in my own body.
- I had a living, breathing example of how you can feed a child formula and they can thrive. Having the perspective of having done this before really helped give me the freedom and confidence to wean.
So that’s that! I don’t feel the need to justify my decision to anyone, but for the sake of this post I wanted to explain. Because a lot of the posts you read on the topic are from women who can’t breastfeed – who struggle with supply issues or who have children who aren’t gaining weight or won’t latch – and go through every effort to make it work but physically it just isn’t working. And that’s not my story. Maybe it’s not yours. And I want you to know that it’s okay to stop breastfeeding even when everything is going really well.
Some of you asked me to address the stigma of formula feeding and how I deal with that. The short answer? I don’t! In today’s “breast is best” culture there is significant stigma around formula feeding and I can’t see why people feel the need to justify their choice not to breastfeed, but for me I just didn’t let that worry seep into my mind. The day I made the decision to wean I felt SO much freedom and peace knowing I made the right decision for myself and my entire family, and that was enough to override the thoughts and/or judgements of anyone else.
Making a Formula Choice //
One of the questions that’s been asked most often is what formula we are using. I wish I could say that, in true crunchy fashion, we are using the best, most expensive, most organic option around. But we aren’t. I aimed to make a decision based both on quality, price, and convenience. We are using Similac Pro Sensitive for Collins and she has done really well with it! I went with the sensitive formula as a precaution since she had a sensitive tummy during the first few weeks she was breastfeeding and I didn’t want to rock the boat, though I’m sure she would do just fine on the regular formula.
I’ve heard awesome things about the Holle brand of formula out of Europe (like many things, they are ahead of the health and wellness curve here) but price, ease of getting it at my local Target, etc. really kept me from going that route.
We use these bottles. And this article is helpful as a guide for how much to feed your formula fed baby. I’m not sure if this is true, but if Collins is consistently draining her bottles at every feeding for a couple days, then that’s when I increase how much she is taking at each feed. I do try and track how much she eats in any given day make sure she isn’t eating too much or too little but generally I let hunger be the guide.
Comfort Nursing, Tummy Troubles and More //
Everyone has different opinions about baby feeding schedules, and while we do follow a pretty nice little schedule, during the early weeks and months Collins did like to nurse for comfort. I was worried how we would get through the fussy hours of the evening if comfort nursing wasn’t an option. Introducing a pacifier was a really easy way around that. I would cuddle Collins close and hold a paci in when she wanted to be comforted and it worked like a charm – and I didn’t have to be a human pacifier which was an even greater benefit.
I did some reading on the topic of cluster feeding, and some experts have indicated that cluster feeding can actually make stomach issues worse in fussy newborns and babies because it overstimulates their digestive system, causing more gas, which causes more fussiness, which causes more comfort nursing. Basically a cycle that never ends!
I had an oversupply issue and overactive letdown, which really compounded the tummy issues Collins was having. Almost as soon as we switched over to bottles, Collins was happier and less fussy, and I was a lot less stressed out. I spent a lot of unnecessary time thinking about my diet, if that was causing tummy issues, what I was eating or not eating, etc. I don’t think any of that was to blame for Collins’s tummy troubles early on, but having the control of formula rather than the variable of breast milk was a relief.
Scheduled Eating //
Some of you asked about schedules vs. feeding on demand. Whether we formula fed or breast fed, we didn’t really do much “on demand” feeding and followed a 3-hour schedule from the start with both girls. Now that Collins is a bit older we’re stretching to 3 1/2 to 4 hours between feeds. We have found that our girls, and our whole family, really thrives on a predictable schedule. Do I get upset or out of shape if things don’t go perfect? I try not to! And trust me we have our days, but following “eat, play, sleep” a la Babywise really helps me to know that she is getting full feeds when she is awake an alert and if she is fussy outside of her feeds then I can problem solve other causes. This is one area where I don’t see much difference between breast or bottle, especially if you are following and eat-play-sleep routine and encouraging full feeds.
Bottle Warmers, Specialty Items, Etc. //
In our house, we avoid all specialty things that would get our girls accustomed to something we can’t recreate on the go, which means no bottle warmers or water warmed to the perfect temperature or baby wipe warmers, etc. I can’t imagine taking a road trip and having a baby that required her milk be warm. How does that even work?! I’m sure there are plenty of moms who make it work, but we just got both girls used to room temp or slightly cold water for their bottles from the start and they’ve taken it that way ever since!
YOU know what is best for you and your family, momma. Deep down in your mom gut, you know. If that’s breastfeeding until your child is two, then go, momma, go! And if you decide not to breastfeed at all, that’s more than OK, too. As moms I genuinely believe that we are all just trying to make the best decisions for our families, and because we are all unique individuals what is right is also going to vary greatly. I hope that we can continue to build one another up rather than tear each other down.