Almost seven years ago, I had just given birth to my first baby, and I was a hot mess.
I am a planner, a problem-solver. I had spent nine months devouring parenting books and websites, buying cloth diapers, and studying natural childbirth. I was going to crush this parenting thing. And of course, I was going to breastfeed my baby instead of feeding her formula. Why wouldn’t I? Breastfeeding was free, all-natural, and best for my baby.
And then my child was born.
I was completely exhausted from hours and hours of labor and childbirth (which, by the way, ended up involving Pitocin and an epidural), followed by a hospital room full of visitors and the overwhelming realization of being responsible for the life of another human being weighing heavily on my shoulders. And, oh yeah, I was supposed to be able to effortlessly feed my baby with my body. I had taken the breastfeeding class, after all.
It was not effortless. It was not easy. It hurt so badly. My nipples were cracked, bruised, and bleeding. I literally curled my toes in pain when she latched. Here I was—her mother—cringing when it was time for her to eat. My job was to keep her alive, which meant feeding her! And I couldn’t even do that right.
My mom and husband encouraged me to give her bottles of formula. Healthcare professionals assured me it would be fine. And when I finally caved and did, I had this wave of relief and satisfaction that I had actually fed my child! It was so easy, and she was so happy.
But at the same time, I felt so incredibly guilty. It is pretty much the default assumption now that a new mom is going to breastfeed. We live in a culture that celebrates and almost worships breastfeeding. And I know lots of moms who nail it right from the get-go and plenty of others who power through those initial struggles and come out having a successful nursing relationship with their babies.
But I just really wanted to feed my baby.
I didn’t want to nurse anymore. And pumping made me miserable. I wanted to bottle-feed formula. And I deeply wanted to believe that it was OK.
I scoured the Internet for validation, but so much of what I read vilified formula feeding and championed breastfeeding. According to my reading, my kid would be less healthy, less intelligent, and less bonded to me if I didn’t breastfeed! But, at the same time, if I was dejected and had nothing left of myself to give, my daughter was not only missing out on nutrition—she was missing out on her mom.
Finally, little by little, the guilt lessened and was replaced by… well, the joy of motherhood. After I finally stopped pumping and switched completely to formula-feeding, I began to find myself as a mother. The shroud of postpartum anxiety that had covered me since the baby was born lifted. With the constant feeding struggle out of the picture, I could embrace and conquer all the other challenges of motherhood. And not only that, but I didn’t have to worry about how my diet affected her milk, I knew how much she was eating in every sitting, and other people could easily feed her.
And you know what? She thrived.
She is a beautiful almost-seven-year-old. She loves to sing, takes ballet class, and is one of the top readers in her class. She has an adventurous spirit and a heart of gold. She is hardly ever sick. She adores me, and I adore her.
And besides, science has shown us that babies who are formula-fed fare just about as well as babies who are breastfed.
Past Me, I wish I could have shown you this post so that you could have known that everything would work out. And that you’d go on to have three more babies who were mostly formula-fed, and they’re all doing great, as well.
If you are a mom who is questioning whether it’s OK to go ahead and feed your baby formula, and you just want someone to tell you it’s fine — I’m here to tell you, it is absolutely fine. Even if you are not giving your milk to your baby, giving up breastfeeding might help you give more of yourself.
The Top Mom-Approved Baby Formula Hacks to Make Your Life Easier
7 Tips for Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
11 Calming Tactics for Mom when Feeling Overwhelmed
10 thoughts on “It’s Fine to Feed Your Baby Formula”
I ask myself every day why I have a hard time giving my baby formula when I was formula fed. It just doesn’t make sense. My baby has been given formula in some form or fashion since day one because she was a preemie. And, my breastmilk wasn’t enough for her she needed more calories.
once she came home from the NICU, feeding times were an absolute nightmare. I was trying to breastfeed, pump, and bottle feed to make sure she was getting food. I ended up exclusively pumping, and that has been stressful until recently when I started to wean the pump. I am so relieved and so sad to stop pumping, but the less I pump the more time I get to spend with her and that’s what truly makes me happy. Thanks for this!
You make such a good point that so many of us were fed formula ourselves! I’m so glad you are enjoying your little one. I think it’s a lovely gift that we live in a time when we have the choice to formula-feed! It can really be freeing for some moms.
Breastfeeding is not for everyone and I don’t think people should be judged if they decide not to do it. I am a nurse and I think healthcare professionals sometimes push it too much on people when it might not be right for them. Formula is a very healthy alternative and the research that has gone into making it is solid. People that feed their babies formula are also doing what they need to do to help their babies grow up strong 🙂
Thanks for your insights, Sarah! It’s great to get validation from a healthcare professional 🙂
God bless you for this post!!! Moms who formula feed should not be made to feel less then.
Thank you for your comment, Sarah! I agree. #fedisbest
I was in your shoes with my kids. I had planned on breastfeeding all three of my children for as long as I could, but it didn’t work out that way, for reasons beyond my control. When I couldn’t continue to breastfeed, I knew that giving my babies formula didn’t make me any less of a Mom because I was giving them what was best for them and that’s all that mattered – no one else’s opinion mattered.
From one Buckeye to another, much love Mama! ❤️
Thank you so much for sharing your formula feeding story, Amber! You are so right – it doesn’t make you any less of a mom, and feeding choice is such a small part in the overall picture of motherhood. O-H! 🙂
I am going through this now! Thank you so much for posting this. So many online groups and forums are dedicated to breastfeeding— I tried until my pediatrician told me my newborn was not gaining weight appropriately and then when I tried pumping (every 2 hours around the clock) I was barely getting an ounce the entire 24 hours. I’ve been feeling so much guilt at how anxious pumping was making me, but my doctor reminded me that “Fed is Best” and that’s been my new mantra!!
Valerie, I’m so happy to hear you’ve been able to realize “fed is best.” It’s so true! My 4 kids are doing awesome despite the lack of breast milk 🙂 Enjoy your baby!