I Have To Feed My Baby Formula ♥ And That’s OK


W E L L  M E A N I N G  P E O P L E

People mean well when they tell you “formula is rocket fuel”. It’s really easy to misinterpret this, I know that I did. When I got pregnant I knew nothing about breastfeeding or formula. I know that my mom breastfed me until she went back to work (about 6 months) and then she fed me formula. I figured this was the norm, just like I figured that giving birth in a hospital was the norm… so why stray? Well, I obviously learned a lot during the pregnancy and ended up going with a natural birth at home and of course that led to a strong want to exclusively breastfeed. Attachment parenting feels right to me and it’s really important to go with your instincts when it comes to your baby. During discussions with other natural birth Moms and Dads, it’s been thrown around over and over again that formula is the devil and just wrong to give to your baby. I nodded and agreed assuming that I would never need formula, I’m gonna be a breastfeeding mom. This scenario reoccured several times during my pregnancy and little did I know that every time I said it, I was slowly reinforcing the insecurities that would inevitably occur when my milk never came in.

It’s all well-meaning but I’ve learned that it’s not explained properly at all. Moms and doctors are constantly saying that formula is bad and breastfeeding is good, when what they should be saying is that breastfeeding should be your first choice, supplementing with donated milk should be your second and formula should simply be a last resort. This would really clear up a whole mess of anxiety and depression that occurred when I failed to produce my own milk for my baby. I was SO angry at my body for betraying me. I swore that every time my baby cried it was because I was letting her down (so not true). The first time we gave her formula was completely bittersweet. I was SO happy she was eating (and so was she) but so angry that it wasn’t at my breast from my supply.

M A K I N G  A  C O M E B A C K

Breastfeeding is making a comeback, did you know that!? How cool is that? Basically, for the last 50 years formula has taken over as the first choice of new parents. Formula companies have even made claims that formula is just as good if not better than breast milk (wtf). Well, we all know that this is not even kind of true. Because formula has taken over for so long and women are learning better- a lot of women preach the evils of formula. This message is meant for women who don’t know that breast feeding is a much better choice. But what about the women who do know better and can’t breastfeed for whatever reason? I mean, REALLY can’t breast feed.

Some moms have their babies, attempt breastfeeding on day one and if baby doesn’t latch, they immediately give up. This is easy because usually you’re in a hospital and you’ve got a nurse saying “we can call in the lactation specialist if you want, but I’ve got formula right here….”. Well, what are mothers who don’t know any better gonna do? First, moms make the mistake that if baby doesn’t latch and drink then the baby will starve. The truth is that baby has some reserves. Baby wont die if you dont feed him/her immediately. You have enough time to call in a lactation specialist and really work on that latch. They can usually pinpoint the reason immediately and offer solutions. Sometimes the babies introduction into the world is part of the reason why breastfeeding is hard. C-sections, however necessary can throw off this biological want to breast feed for babies, but not always. Sometimes C-sections and epidurals don’t throw anything off but the chance is much higher. Either way, it’s important you do whatever you can to encourage baby to breast feed if you’ve got the supply.

Now, sometimes you don’t get the supply. I have a hormonal imbalance called PCOS that means I probably should’ve never gotten pregnant, avoided a miscarriage and had her with no complications. It also means that my milk would not come in naturally and easily. I didn’t know I had this imbalance until after I had her. Here is my breast feeding story. I believe that after day 3-4, if that milk doesn’t come in- that’s just the beginning of the fight! First, I started pumping like a crazy woman. I rented a medela symphony hospital grade pump and used that thing every 2 hours like clockwork. At the urging of my lactation specialist I took Motherlove which includes goats rue, fenugreek, blessed thistle, nettle and fennel; these are all herbs used for milk promotion. I also took alfalfa and moringa. Pumping plus the herbal supplements was my first attempt at getting that milk supply in. Unfortunately, it did nothing. If these things don’t work there are prescriptions you can try too: Reglan and the compound, Domperidone.

The point is that there are a lot of things to try and they’re all worth the effort. But while you’re doing all of these things, formula is an ok supplement. It’s more than ok: we’re lucky we live in a country where the water is clean enough that we can make formula for our babies. If you’re lucky enough to have a network of caring moms (like I do here in Nashville), your second choice can be doner milk! Another mama’s milk is a great choice. From the beginning of baby making the village mothers fed all of the babies, not just their own. It’s not weird or gross. I would say just make a good judgement call: ask if she’s taking any drugs, legal or illegal.

I T ‘ S  A L L  R E L A T I V E

The hardest part, I thought, of giving baby formula was that I wanted her to have the best. I learned while I was pregnant that babies who are formula fed have more health issues and a lower IQ. I don’t want my baby to struggle in school because I couldn’t produce milk. I talked to my Dr. about this and she brought up a great point. Those tests really are relative! Moms who don’t consider breast feeding are usually uneducated women who don’t know any better! Well, babies raised by uneducated moms usually have lower IQ’s for whatever reasons. These babies often have health issues because their mothers just aren’t as aware of all of the preventative care to take. They’re not bad moms, they just know very limited amounts of information and don’t really question what they’re told. So it would make sense that when these statistics were taken the results would be what they are. Is it the formula or the women who generally use formula? Just something to think about…

S U P P L E M E N T I N G  A T  T H E  B R E A S T

Another amazing alternative to breastfeeding or while you’re working to get your milk in is this great little device called the LactAid trainer system. You fill up a small bag with doner milk or formula or your pumped milk, hang the bag from your neck and tape a tiny little tube with the end at your nipple and when baby latches and sucks, she gets fed at your breast! I love this because I love the experience of bonding with her. I love watching her at my breast and I love being skin to skin with her. She prefers this method but will take a bottle under fire.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is be careful what you say about breastfeeding. While preaching the evils of formula is only well-meaning (of course)- it can easily throw off a mom who genuinely cannot breastfeed and make her feel like the biggest disappointment walking the earth. Instead, consider saying that breastfeeding is the ideal choice! Be supportive of moms who cannot produce and if you can, donate milk! So far, I’ve had 3 wonderful women offer their milk and although I’ve never been able to supply enough for her she’s consumed about 75% breast milk and 25% formula since birth! That’s amazing to me and I am eternally grateful to these women. I’m still working to get more and more milk in- but I realize now that what’s important is that I do my best. That I explore all options and that it’s important to ALWAYS question what you’re told. Formula companies make a killing off of people who just don’t know any better… ALWAYS question especially when there’s millions of dollars involved lol.

Thank you for reading this. I hope your breastfeeding journey is amazing no matter what and remember what’s important is that you show baby your love however you can.

– M


My Breastfeeding Story

M Y  B O O B S  N E V E R  G O T  T H E  M E M O

This is going to be a very emotional account for me. The truth is that I’ve been putting it off because I haven’t fully wanted to face the reality of the situation. I definitely got spoiled with my ‘plan’ when I pulled off the home birth of my dreams. I just sort of expected everything else to go as planned! I had learned that formula was the devil and that mothers milk was the only thing good enough for my baby and her sweet little appetite. She latched PERFECTLY on day one. She immediately recognized me and her urge to suck was immediate. She started heading for my breasts the moment she was laid on my chest. What a relief! After I finally got up off of the floor (7 hours after I fainted), I couldn’t wait to snuggle up with her in bed and start giving her my milk. Day 1 she sucked, day 2 she sucked, day 3 she sucked but I instinctively knew something was off. It wasn’t the latch- that felt right. But she was sucking awfully hard and my nipples were in pain almost always. How is that possible if the latch is so good?

While I was given lots of advice, I knew I needed to consult and professional and rule out any questions. The pediatritian weighed her on day 4 and she’s lost almost a whole pound of her birth weight! YIKES! Everyone was so nonchalant about the whole thing, but I just knew she was getting fed properly. I hired Micky Jones of 9 Months and Beyond Nashville and she came over the next morning for some serious analysis. We unfortunately figured out that baby was getting about 4 ml per feeding and she was very, very hungry. I needed to produce closer to 30 to satisfy babies needs. My milk still hasn’t “come in”. After some analysis we found out that the baby was sucking so hard because she was trying to get milk out that wasn’t coming. I had to supplement immediately. We made her up a bottle and she took it happily. I cried 20 times over the next couple of days- I just had to get my milk in! My husband immediately went to get herbal supplements for milk production, I pumped after every feeding for 10 minutes without fail and I tried to imagine my milk coming in and baby getting her fill.

It’s been 2 weeks since we started pushing and while my breasts have gotten bigger, milk production still isn’t where it needs to be. I’ve had a really hard time with this and cried horribly at my inadequacies. How can this perfect creature be drinking formula? Why shouldn’t she have the very best? We think we’ve figured out why the milk hasn’t come in. I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was very young but never wanted children so never took it seriously. PCOS means I produce more of a male hormone than most women so I have irregular periods, rarely ovulate, should have a high occurrence of miscarriage, grow extra hair on my body, could have a hard time getting my milk in and more! Ahhhhhhhh– why has my body betrayed me??!

Since that initial visit, I’ve made 2 decisions: first, to feed her with the help of something called a “LactAid“. It’s an incredible little device where even though I’m supplementing, it’s at my breast where she can pace herself and we’re still getting the bonding time we deserve. It’s been a great little device! Takes some prepping and practice but it’s worth it. Secondly, I’ve gotten some doners! Two wonderful mothers have pumped milk and donated it to my baby to minimize the use of formula. While it’s not my milk, it’s still better than formula. I am eternally grateful to these women and all of the women who have supported me on this emotional journey.

I feel like while it’s been a challenge I’m going to continue to do everything I can to make breastfeeding happen for us! Some days I am so angry at my body and other days I feel so badly for my baby. I’m still struggling with what not being able to breastfeed is doing and then there are times when I remember that I can only ask so much of myself. I feel like my body has betrayed me which is quite a strange thing to think after giving birth naturally. I continue to remind myself that my body is incredible and not to be too hard on myself. My baby is happy to eat, I believe. She’s happy to be warm and near me and that’s it. I know there will never be a point where she’ll resent me for not exclusively breast feeding.

So, this has been my journey and it continues. I’m going to keep pushing, keep pumping and keep doing what I can to bring my milk in. I hope my story inspires you to be thankful for your supply or to attempt alternative ways of breastfeeding. I believe it’s far too important to give up and as long as I’m living I’m going to try to give her the best. Courage, moms! One day a time…

– M

*Update 5/7/2013: I have continued to pump, taken Domperidone and continued to tried to do visualization techniques. The Domperidone upped my milk production from 1 oz. a day to 2 oz. a day and the accompanying side effects included constant diarrea and cramps. I have officially thrown in the towel. My plan is to continue to get her as much breast milk as possible from donors. So far, the plan is going great! She’s only had about three days of using formula and I continue to get calls, texts & messages on facebook with women who have milk to donate! We have been so incredibly blessed with the amount of people willing to help us out. I feel a lot better about things and feel very accomplished in all of my attempts.