The breastmilk versus formula debate has left many women wounded in an unnecessary war. It's true that The World Health Organization(WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of life and trying to breastfeed them for at least two years. Many other organizations support breastfeeding as the best choice for baby as well.
However, we can't always live life based on the best possible scenario. Things happen, plans change, and we have to do what works for our lives and our families.
The problem is society tends to label moms as either breastfeeders or formula feeders, and then hurls insults at whatever decision they make. It's not fair, and it may be keeping women from using every resource at their disposal to feed their children the way they want.
While exclusively breastfeeding a child is ideal, using formula to supplement when necessary is an option, one that can keep mom breastfeeding longer. Just like birth plans, breastfeeding plans often go awry, but if mom is open to splitting time between breastfeeding and formula feeding, she can often navigate through the different stages of an infant's first year with relative ease.
Why would mom want to incorporate formula into her breastfeeding routine? Possibly because the alternative is going to be giving up all together. It's better for a child to receive at least some breast milk rather than none at all, and if formula can help that happen, mom should consider using it.
There's been a rise in food allergies in young children, and many moms notice their child's reaction early. That's because baby's respond to foods that mom eats when they nurse, so a child who is extremely allergic to dairy may have a horrible reaction because mom had a glass of milk.
Working through food allergies is a timely process, and it's sometimes not possible for mom to eliminate every offending food that ails her child. That's when having formula on hand can help. Sure, there are some formulas that contain food allergens, but many intentionally do not, and there are many more organic, clean formulas on the market than ever before.
If mom eats a food that she knows her child will react to, she can offer formula for the next feeding and then pick up with breastfeeding later in the day.
Breastfeeding means mom is on call 24/7. There are no breaks, and often there is very little rest. Since infants need to eat often and breast milk moves through the body faster making a child hungry again sooner, mom will be up sporadically all night making sure her little one is full.
There are moms who stock back some frozen breast milk and let their partner take some night shifts so they can rest, but if there's no frozen milk supply, it's okay for mom to just tell her partner to use formula. Rest is important for new moms, and if letting someone else take the night shift with formula helps mom survive the next day, then this is a real option.
Some moms also use formula when attempting to night wean their children. If they don't want to crawl out of bed to pump or risk mastitis, they may decide to forgo nursing at night and letting formula take over during the pm hours.
Breastfeeding is an amazing experience. The hormones released help us bond with our child, and the physical contact calms both mom and baby. Even though it's a unique experience that is comforting, it can also be exhausting. Many moms find themselves feeling touched out and needing personal space, if only for a short time.
When mom needs a break, formula can help. Someone else taking a feeding so mom can shower or just sit alone without being touched assists in letting mom feel like more than just a milk machine on call 24/7.
It's okay for moms to admit when they need a break. There's no shame in practicing self-care, and there is no trophy for being a martyr. If constantly nursing is causing mom to feel anxious or moody, she should let someone else offer formula once in awhile.
Mom's breasts may start feeling full towards the end of pregnancy, and many women will even find themselves dealing with fluid leaking out of their breasts during the last trimester. That's colostrum, the liquid gold powerhouse first food for the baby that will help build their immunity. The milk will not arrive until a couple of days after the baby arrives.
For many moms, the milk coming in is like a deluge, but for others they barely notice. It's normal for women to produce different amounts of milk because breast milk comes in on a supply/demand system. How much a baby nurses controls most of it. However, some moms find that no matter what they do, their milk supply does not increase or they feel they are never getting a full let down.
Working with a lactation specialist is one way to help with this issue, but if mom fears her child is hungry and her milk supply is still MIA, formula is an option. While it is best for a baby to establish a good latch before a bottle is introduced, if it is absolutely necessary, giving formula so the baby is not so hungry that they can't latch is an option.
Mom's get sick, and it is a completely different experience than getting sick pre-baby. Moms don't receive time off, but they do still occasionally need medication to treat an illness. The problem is not all medication is safe for a nursing baby. Doctors usually try to give mom a safe option, but depending on the infection she is fighting and her medication allergies, it may not be possible.
There are times when mom will have enough pumped breast milk stored so her baby can drink her stored milk while she pumps and dumps. Others times, this isn't the case. Mom shouldn't feel bad about offering formula while she is on medication trying to recover. It's important for her to feel better, and she can pick up on nursing after the medication is fully out of her system.
For the first year of a child's life, the pediatrician will monitor the baby's height, weight, and head circumference to make sure the child is growing properly. While many people are understandably suspicious of how much emphasis is put on the growth chart, they can be accurate at diagnosing failure to thrive.
Kids should steadily gain weight, and a child who is diagnosed with failure to thrive is either not gaining weight or has lost a substantial amount that is worthy of concern. When this happens in small children who are not able to have solids yet, doctors try to find out how much breast milk they are consuming and may recommend mom supplement with formula to help the baby along.
Finding out a child is failing to thrive is heartbreaking, but mom should not hesitate to supplement with formula. That doesn't mean she has to give up breastfeeding. It's just a way to help the baby along until mom can get her milk production up, and it will take some worry off her mind since formula should help her baby put on some weight.
Hungry babies are not happy babies, as any mom or dad of an infant can explain. If a child is not receiving enough breast milk or isn't latching properly, they are going to be hangry—hungry and angry—all the time.
Oddly, a hungry baby may have problems doing exactly what they need to do, eat. When babies become extremely upset, it's even harder for them to focus on calming down enough to latch, and some babies will just bang their faces up against mom's chest in despair.
This situation is devastating to go through, so if mom decides starting off with a bit of formula to calm her little one down will help, she should do it. When a child realizes they are receiving food and they are able to process that enough to mellow out, they can often latch much easier.
Plus, if mom suspects low milk supply is the culprit that is keeping her child upset all the time, she can buy herself some sanity with a container of formula until she figures out to remedy the low supply problem.
Some moms stay home after their children are born, and other moms go back to work either out of necessity or choice. It's possible to breastfeed, even if mom returns to full-time employment, and employers should provide mom with a place to pump and time to do it when she returns.
Oftentimes the problem doesn't fall with the employer when mom's milk supply decreases. When mom returns to full-time work and is required to pump instead of put her baby to the breast every time, her supply may decrease. Breast pumps are great, and there are some truly amazing ones on the market, but nothing brings mom's milk down better than a nursing baby.
Being away from a child's cries or from their suckling can make it hard for mom to keep up with her baby's demands, especially when an infant goes through growth spurts. It's important for mom to know she doesn't have to give up nursing just because she returns to work and sees her supply decrease. She can supplement with formula and keep the breastfeeding relationship going strong.
Moms travel for work and pleasure, and while actress Julie Bowen from Modern Family pumped and sent her breast milk to her children using dry ice to keep it fresh when she was away, not everyone has that option. Even Ms. Bowen agrees that's absolutely not something we all have to aspire to.
If mom is lucky enough to have enough milk pumped and stored, her child will be able to receive breast milk for every meal while she is gone. However, if not, mom can leave some formula for when the breast milk runs out. She can pump on the trip and pick up where she left off upon arriving home.
This option gives mom the chance to travel while still having a young infant. At times, a couple of days away can help mom recharge and come back refreshed. Breastfeeding doesn't have to keep this from happening.
Weaning a child is tricky. While mom can hopefully wait to wean until her child is at least a year and can drink milk, some moms either have to or choose to wean the first year when formula is still a necessity. The good news is using formula can help mom wean in a way that can prevent mastitis.
If mom simply stops nursing while she is still producing tons of milk, the consequence is going to be blocked ducts that can lead to a painful infection called mastitis. However, if mom plans and starts replacing one or two feeds with formula, her body will take the cues and stop producing during the times she's stopped nursing. This offers a safe, less painful way to make the transition, and also gives the child time to adjust to the new normal of formula.
Moms with twins can breastfeed. It is more of a challenge, and it is one of the most demanding jobs on the planet, but it can be done. It's also not impossible for moms to breastfeed multiples without supplementing, but it can be a real help to choose formula on occasion if mom feels the need.
Though breastfeeding in public should be not only accepted, but applauded, breastfeeding twins in public is extremely difficult. Basically, if twins tandem feed it requires being topless. Most women aren't that comfortable with so much exposure, and it's also a juggling act when holding two babies at once.
To take away at least part of the strain of getting out and about with twins, mom can grab some formula and bottles and hit the road. There will be other challenges, like double the poo explosions, but feeding doesn't have to be one of them.
When babies are born early or when they fall seriously ill right after birth they often stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). During this time, many babies will have feeding tubes put in their bodies since eating any other way can cause strain or choking.
Doctors and nurses will encourage mom to pump like crazy to provide the powerful benefits of breast milk, and since babies are usually fed slowly while they are on feeding tubes, mom's milk supply might just pull through even without a suckling baby.
However, when it's time to come home, mom may find her baby has forgotten how to latch or that she is low on milk due to all the time the baby wasn't nursing. Mom has already been through a stressful situation having a child in the hospital. If she needs to use formula until she can build her supply back up and teach her wee one to latch again, it's fine.
She can nurse as much as possible and give formula if her child is still hungry.
There is plenty to do when a baby arrives, and dad will likely have his hands full changing diapers, burping his baby, and helping mom recover from giving birth. Being able to feed the baby can also help dad feel involved since babies eat constantly. It's true that dad can offer pumped breast milk, but it's fine if he and mom choose to let him give the baby formula.
Dad being a part of the feeding experience this way lets mom take a shower without a baby screaming for milk. It's also help for parents whose children fall asleep during feeding. Basically, dad can offer a bottle of formula, and when the baby falls asleep he can remove the bottle and put him down for a nap.
It gives him more of an ability to help early on, and that's good for parent/child bonding and for mom to get a break.
Doctors recommend women wait 18 months between pregnancies, but things happen. Many women have found themselves expecting again six months later when they are still nursing a newborn. Nursing can suppress ovulation, but it is not 100% effective birth control. So if mom finds herself dealing with morning sickness while trying to nurse an infant, she may notice her infant isn't having it.
The reason is that mom's milk can change when she is with child. There are plenty of babies who don't care and just keep right on nursing, but there are others who pick up even a subtle difference and revolt.
If mom is hoping to continue nursing through pregnancy and possibly tandem nursing beyond, formula may help her hold on during this time when her infant is resistant. Children will usually come around to the new taste, but until then mom can replace a couple of feedings a day with formula to curb hunger.
This will also give her body time to energize while feeding an infant and growing a baby.
While parents may not imagine children teething until they are over a year old, many children start the process of cutting teeth by the time they are four months-old. This process includes the desire to gnaw on anything they can get in their mouths, including mom's boobs.
Nursing through the teething stage can give babies comfort and respite from their pain, but it can cause mom tons of pain in the process. Breasts will be sore, and some babies don't understand that biting or gnawing isn't an acceptable form of affection.
It's okay to gently remove a child from the breast and tell them no, but that approach doesn't always work. If mom's sore chest just needs a break, offering a bottle full of formula is fine.