Whatever way a mom decides to feed her child, there will be pros and cons.
It is unfortunate that in the world we live in, there is a stigma attached to everything. People have something opinionated to say about absolutely everything and it's sad that feeding a child is a topic stuck in this stigma. Feeding your child should not be a stressful situation. It should be a necessary activity for every mother - not something that causes anxiety when deciding what to do.
However, for many moms, it is.
Formula-feeding has become just as stigmatized of an activity as breastfeeding has. While some people believe breastfeeding should be normalized and others think it should be hidden, many people look down upon moms who formula-feed. So, how on Earth can a mother win when it comes to feeding their child?
They can win by looking at this exactly as it is: the feeding of their child. Just like breastfeeding, formula is a healthy, safe way to maintain a child's nutrition. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be on the shelves - plain and simple. Of course, there are positives and negatives to formula-feeding, but like there is to every form of feeding. Having a realistic grasp on the pros and cons of every form of feeding can be helpful when a new mom dives headfirst into the opinionated pool that motherhood has become.
A main reason moms fear jumping on the formula-feeding bus is because of the cost. While breastmilk is free (in a way), formula is far from free. Though there are many supportive outlets that help moms financially afford nutrition for their children, many moms do not get approved for these outlets. Therefore, they must spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars a month on formula.
"It’s expensive," admits mom of one, Katie Guokas. "My son had to have Enfamil Neuro Pro and it was $30 for a 20 oz can." Many moms are in the same boat as Chelsea and sincerely struggle to feed their child every day. Whether a mother decides to supplement or is unable to produce breastmilk, it is incredibly unfortunate they have to financially struggle to feed their child.
"The absolute best thing about switching to formula was that I no longer had the stress of watching what I ate to determine what was making his belly upset," Katie Day, mom of two, explains. "As a new Mom there are so many constant stresses and the feeling like I was eating things that hurt him and not knowing what they were was just one stress I had to get rid of. I was so relieved when I could just eat what I wanted again."
When a mother is nursing or pumping, she has to watch her diet. This can add additional stress to a new mom's daily regimen when they already have a lot on their plate. If their little one is having issues with their stomach or digestion, Mom will often have to adjust her own food intake. When you use formula, this is no longer a stressor.
When someone asks a new mom about how they wish to feed their child, it is often followed by the question of "why" or the person silently wonders it. It's unfortunate this is the case, but for moms who have strong beliefs regarding their parenting style, the question definitely lurks in their mind.
This leaves the mom answering the question to feel as if they must explain the reason behind their choice - which shouldn't be the case.
"You almost feel like you have to give an explanation as to why you chose to formula-feed whenever anyone asks," says mom of two, Katie Steffenhagen. "Even if it’s for medical reasons."
"It’s easy to send anywhere," says mom of five, Amy Stanton, in regards to being a formula-feeding mom. "Daycare, grandmas, friends - without having to pump, bag, refrigerate. It’s nice the variety of formulas, when one didn’t work we just tried another to keep baby happy and puke free!"
When a working mom nears the end of her maternity leave or a new mom decides to head back to work, she may stress when it comes to how her little one will get fed while she is away. When you formula-feed, it is less of a hassle when it comes to packing that diaper bag. Of course, you still have the can of formula and bottles to pack. However, it's easier than if you had to pack frozen breastmilk or head over to the daycare to nurse on your break.
Breastfeeding is a bonding experience. How are you going to bond with your baby? Don't you want to feel that bond?
These are just a few statements some formula-feeding moms are hit with when some people hear that they have decided not to nurse. Even though nursing is a bonding experience, there are many, many other ways to feel that bond with your little one - believe it or not.
"I felt like it allowed me as a mom to be in a better place mentally because I was able to step away if needed," says Lacey Deiter, mom of one.
"With formula, I could see he was getting enough," Chelsea Swan says. "I’m still disappointed that I couldn’t breastfeed, but I’m happy that my son is healthy and fed regardless."
When you physically struggle to produce breastmilk or face stressors when it comes to your little one's health, you are hit with nonstop anxiety. When working with formula, you are able to measure and physically see how much nutrition is being consumed. This often brings a huge sense of relief to a mom - especially when health concerns are in the picture.
With some babies being born with unexpected tummy troubles and reflux, the guessing game when it comes to choosing a formula can be a frustrating and pricy one. While pediatricians often will give new moms sample cans of formula if there are health issues with their little one, sooner or later Mom will have to whip out her wallet.
While doctors may recommend one type, friends and family may suggest another. Perhaps you want to try an organic type of formula, but it is rare or ridiculously expensive. Maybe your little one continues to grow uncomfortable with every type of formula you try, what then?
It can take a lot of patience and paychecks to find the kind of formula that works.
Once you have searched for that perfect formula, when you find one that eases your little one's belly - it also eases your mind. A reason some moms decide to supplement is that their baby has health issues that impact nutritional intake and digestion. Being there are so many different kinds of formulas out there, once you find one that soothes that teeny-tiny baby-belly, you feel a great sense of relief.
"Both of my boys had allergies and I was able to put them on a formula that worked perfectly for their tummies," Meagan Elizabeth, mom of two, explains. "They gained, they were happy, and they slept through the night at three months old six hours."
Even though the way a mom parents her child is her decision and her decision alone, the opinions of others still leave an impact. That impact is sometimes positive, but sometimes it is negative. While some can shake off the comments and thoughts of others, some people grow anxious and flustered from them. With all that comes with motherhood, trying to understand the thought processes of other moms is a stressor that shouldn't be added to the list.
"I never personally felt ashamed for choosing to formula feed nor did anyone in the public ever voice an issue with it," explains mom of one, Lacey Deiter. "I only ever felt that from friends who had babies at the same time who breastfed. They never quite understood my choice."
"For me it took stress off of not producing enough breastmilk," explains mama, Katie Guokas. When a new mom is already dealing with a lot with her new adventure into motherhood, what and how she feeds her child shouldn't be part of that stress.
However, unfortunately, it often is.
Formula-feeding can often take some of that unnecessary stress off a mom's shoulders. When she is frustrated because she isn't producing enough milk, it is at least good to know her little one is getting the nutrition he needs. Formula allows a parent to visually see that and that can be a huge relief of stress.
According to the APA, "it [breastfeeding] can protect against infections and reduce the rates of later health problems." This is because there are many unique proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates found in breast milk that cannot be found anywhere else.
When a new mom hears this and has trouble producing milk or supplements for personal reasons, they may immediately think their child will be unhealthy. This should not be a thought that passes through a new mom's mind, but it sometimes is. Even though their little one may be missing out on some of those immunity-building nutrients, it doesn't mean they aren't being fed appropriately.
"I always knew what they were getting, there were no questions," says Meagan Elizabeth. "It put my mind at ease - and my husband's."
Being able to physically see how much your little one is consuming can be the necessary stress-relief a mama needs. Anxiety happens - plain and simple. Unfortunately, it happens often when a new mom is paranoid about her little one's health. When she is able to watch her little one drink formula and finish the bottle, she knows they are full. That in itself is comforting.
When you breastfeed, you cannot always tell how much your little one is consuming. You could nurse for ten or fifteen minutes and your baby could eat barely an ounce and you wouldn't know. This can cause major stress amongst mamas and sometimes is a reason for supplementing. Also, sometimes moms have absolutely no idea they aren't producing enough. They may move forward breastfeeding without this knowledge and when the reality hits - so does the anxiety.
"I was unaware that I wasn’t producing enough," explains mom, Chelsea Swan. "My son lost one pound in his first three days of life. I was devastated that I wasn’t giving him what he needed."
"Anyone can feed your baby at any time," says mom of two, Katie Steffenhagen. This formula-feeding truth can often be one of the winning factors when a mom writes out the pros and cons of breastfeeding. "It made going out or to work a little easier when you don’t have to worry about pumping."
Being able to escape without additional stressors weighing you down can be extremely helpful. Though some parents don't like leaving their baby for long periods, it is healthy to step away from motherhood and focus on yourself. Not having to stress about pumping or feeding your little one during your outing can soothe a new mom's frazzled nerves.
Nursing is a work-out for the body. The human body is producing nutrients for another human during this time and every muscle and organ is impacted in this process. On top of this, those feisty hormones are working triple time trying to support both the mama and the little one.
Because a woman's body is working hard to do a million things at once, the body often feels as if it truly is getting a work-out without physically working out. When a mom decides to strictly supplement, her body slowly shifts gears and stops producing. When this happens, it is not "working out" the way it would be if she were breastfeeding.
"[Formula-feeding] allowed Dad to do more feedings and have that bonding time and allowed me to get a little more sleep at night," says Katie Guokas. When a new mama gets to share the nighttime feedings and get more sleep - she becomes a slightly happier human being.
And we all know being a genuinely happy human is important in motherhood.
For those who nurse, Dad rarely is able to get the bonding experience of feeding the baby. Sometimes that can leave the dad feeling left out. When a family formula-feeds, the dad is able to take part in the activity and spend quality time with his little one.
Oh, the lovely "poo" discussion never ends when you become a mom. Number Two is part of almost every discussion new parents have - and it becomes very normal. Not only does this become a normalized conversation, it can become a stinkier topic if mom formula-feeds.
According to Parents, "in general, breastfed baby poop doesn't stink at all, while that from formula-fed infants is just lightly odorous." Breastmilk causes a baby's Number Two to smell slightly sweet, while a formula-fed baby may have a Number Two that clears the room.
No matter what, poo is and poo and it's an unnecessary evil for new parents.
"Both my kids slept long stretches through the night on formula," explains Katie Steffenhagen of her experience with formula-feeding. Formula often fills up those little bellies quicker than breastmilk. Breastmilk is often very thin and that in itself can cause issues when trying to figure out how much your little one is consuming when nursing. With formula, you physically see what your baby is drinking and know they are full. When they are full, they may sleep for longer periods of time - especially thought the night.
And when a mom can get an extra hour or two of sleep - it feels like she has slept for a decade.
Between social media and television and friends and family, the pressure to breastfeed is real. As you scroll through your social media feeds, you often find articles or pictures of moms breastfeeding, explaining how it is such a bonding experience and how important it is. Even when new moms understand the benefits of nursing, they may not feel comfortable with it or have anxiety when it comes to knowing how much their little one is consuming.
The pressure continues into the medical field. Many medical professionals automatically assume a new mother will breastfeed or pump when this isn't always the case. The mom may not physically be able to produce milk or the baby may have trouble latching. However, these thoughts may not initially pass through a professional's mind when talking to a new mom.
"I wouldn't trade my choice to formula-feed for anything," admits Lacey Deiter. "A mother's choice is multi-faceted, but ultimately made from a place that allows all parties to be happy and healthy." Feeling happy and healthy is what truly matters in the end - for both the mama and the baby.
Sometimes the focus is set so much on the baby that the mom's comfort and needs are pushed to the side. Mom should be as happy and healthy as her little one. Her mental and emotional mindset benefits her baby in absolutely every way. When she is feeling pressured by society to breastfeed, that pressure causes unnecessary stress. Feeding your little one should not be a stressor - plain and simple. As Lacey said, "a mother's choice is multi-faceted." Moms have many reasons behind their decisions - never assume you know everything.
Because you never, ever will.
References: Statements from “real-life” moms who gave consent to use direct quotes (via Momhood Mayhem on FB and the.write.mama on IG, APA, Parents Magazine