The F-word is not a dirty word.
Formula. There, I said it.
Formula companies are genius marketers. They are unethical, sleazy, creepy stalkers, but they make a high quality product that we are lucky to have easy, affordable access to.
Let’s start with the fact that formula is a perfectly acceptable substitute for the optimal infant food, breastmilk.
Just like injectable insulin is a suitable substitute for natural insulin. Just like Pitocin is a suitable substitute for oxytocin (the hormone that makes women in labor have contractions).
If you need a synthetic hormone, drug, or food, then by all means, take it!
If you disagree and you consider formula to be equivalent rat poison…well, then, I am not so sure that “Balanced Breastfeeding” is the right community for you. It won’t hurt my feelings if you unsubscribe now, really (well, at least read my whole post first, then hate me and unsubscribe).
Basically, I see formula four ways:
- Formula is a choice.
- Formula is a medication or a dietary supplement (like a vitamin).
- Formula is a gateway drug.
- Formula is not failure.
1. Formula is a choice.
Thanks to the feminist movement, modern medicine, and big business, every woman has the choice to breastfeed or bottle feed. How liberating. I am not being sarcastic here. It is liberating to know that you can still be a mother even if you don’t want to breastfeed. If it weren’t for formula, your choices would be to a. have a baby and breastfeed; b. have a baby and let it starve to death; c. have a baby and find/pay somebody else to breastfeed him.
But, it you choose formula, then own that choice. You shouldn’t be reading this blog, first of all. I am not speaking to the audience that chooses formula feeding. I am not passing judgement on non-breastfeeders; they just aren’t “my peeps.” As with any choice you make, it is your choice and you should own that choice. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for a choice that you made.
2. Formula is a medication or dietary supplement (like a vitamin).
My hybrid feeding mamas are the ones who try like hell to breastfeed and just don’t make enough, damnit. It is a real thing and anyone who tries to comment on this post and say “everyone can breastfeed” or “if you aren’t making enough milk you aren’t trying hard enough” can meet me in the back alley after school so we can fight. (Carolyn, Beth, Michelle, Brittany, Gretchen, Colleen, Megan and about a hundred more women have got my back.) And, you can feel free to unsubscribe from my list, too. Again, no hard feelings.
A lot of these mamas’ hearts break in two when they need to start adding formula to baby’s diet. They feel like it is a sign of failure. Like one drop of formula counteracts the other 20 ounces of breastmilk.
But what if we regard formula as a medication like Pitocin or insulin? What if we consider the fact that if a mom’s breastmilk isn’t quite enough, then we just need to give baby a little booster, a nutritional supplement, a vitamin, or a medicine?
Maybe if we start regarding formula as a vitamin rather than a food, it won’t feel quite so much like rat poison. (Disclaimer: Do not feed your baby rat poison.)
3. Formula is a gateway drug.
Now, if we are going to call formula a medicine or vitamin, I am also going to make the argument that formula is a gateway drug. No, I don’t mean that if your baby drinks formula he’ll be sure to be snorting cocaine by seven-and-a-half months. I am saying that a mom who feeds formula in addition to breastfeeding can easily lose more of her milk supply as she feeds more and more formula.
It is a lie that you can breastfeed and formula feed without it having an effect on breastfeeding. You can breastfeed and formula feed and pump and it won’t have an effect, but that just sounds like a whole freaking lot of work!
So, if you are breastfeeding and offering formula supplements, you have to watch your supply and your baby’s formula intake more closely.
Breastmilk is a limited resource; formula is not.
So, anytime you are instructed to “just give the baby a little formula,” you must also pump. If you are messing with formula at all, you should be doing so with an IBCLC in your corner. It can be complicated and risky to your nursing relationship.
4. Formula is not failure.
I feel the need to restate this fact about 500 times.
Formula is not failure!!
Formula can help get a breastfeeding relationship over a hump. It can help a baby regain her birth weight and keep her out of the danger zone.
Breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, formula is needed in the first leg of the race so that you can cross the finish line.
I get that you want to “exclusively breastfeed,” but if you had a choice between no breastfeeding or breastfeeding with a few doses of formula, which would you choose?
And, truly, isn’t success a baby that is alive and healthy?
And isn’t success being able to have a breastfeeding relationship?
Then, let’s put this formula failure nonsense to bed.
P.S. I still think formula companies are sleazy dirt bags… just for the record.