The debate around formula vs. mom's milk seems to be an endless one, with advocates from both sides constantly butting heads. As most research and parenting literature points out, breastmilk has come out on top over 80 percent of the time as the better source of nourishment for children. But with so little resources available with advocates supporting formula feeding it is easy for new moms to get mixed messages. The truth is that with the bulk of research and parenting literature available, comes a great deal of heat over the heads of mothers and families who chose to go the other avenue and formula feed their children.
The reasons behind choosing to use formula are numerous, yet many people do not seem to talk so much about them. A lot of moms choose to leave out their real experiences formula feeding, and dare we say, even the advantages they have found in choosing to feed their children formula. We sat down and talked with a few moms and asked them to get real about formula feeding. We asked them what led to their decision and what it has really been like, and some of their responses may really come as a surprise. The truth is, there is no right or wrong way to feed a baby, the only wrong thing would be to not feed them at all. So for some first hand truths about formula feeding, read on for 20 little tidbits that supply a look into the lives of mothers who have chosen to go that route.
As it turns out, babies can be allergic to a lot of formulas available on the market; and finding one that seems to work with their systems can be a hard task. The most predominant type of available formula is cow's milk formula. Next in line would be soy and only a few hypoallergenic options are available.
The predominant type of available formula is cow's milk formula. Next in line would be soy and only a few hypoallergenic options are available. The AAP advises moms of formula fed babies who are showing signs of allergies to consider a whey-based brand rather than the casein-based ones for hungrier babies because they resemble breastmilk more closely. And as it turns out, soy-based formula has been found to contain phytoestrogens, which is a group of hormones that are linked to infertility in animals.
The debate surrounding infant sickness for formula has been going on since formula has existed. Although the numbers are there, and although the research backs it, in reality, formula fed babies get sick only slightly more often than breastfed babies. Though it is true when KidsHealth.org reports that none of the antibodies found in breastmilk which protect infants from illnesses are present in formula, The Atlantic pointed out that extended breastfeeding did reduce the risk of a gastrointestinal infection by 40 percent.
As mom, Adrienne Stortz points out, in real life, it only adds up to about four out of 100 babies having one less incident of stomach issues per year.
Though there are a few exceptions, overall moms who formula feed get more sleep. Let me explain, if you have help, and are formula feeding, and have gotten together a mixing routine that can happen in a few seconds or less, you will get more sleep. Here's why: You will not be the only one waking to feed your baby since bottles will be readily available. You will be able to mix feed and sleep for longer since formula is digested slower. You will have time to yourself during the day for mid-day naps if your support system can feed the baby.
All of these things result in more sleep.
We mentioned the association that formula is "bad" and breastmilk is "good."
But the same feelings can arise for mothers who feel embarrassed or targeted for nursing in public and who often feel like they have to cover up, which can make mom and baby really uncomfortable.
Everyone talks about how breastfeeding can create such a special bond between mother and child, but rarely do people talk about the emotional rollercoaster that also comes attached to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding releases two major hormones, prolactin and oxytocin, which can really play with a mom's mood and emotions. One thing that formula feeding mommas report is that after the initial surge and leveling off of emotions after having their babies, their hormones seem to just even out, which isn't usually the case for several months with breastfeeding moms.
Moms who choose to formula feed can still bond with their little ones, they just don't have to have hormone elevation in order to do it.
When formula feeding, parents can track a baby’s eating schedule more easily.
According to Psychology Today, breastfed babies need to eat as much as every 2-3 hours in their early months, that is a lot. But when you formula feed, that time doubles. Not only that but anyone can partake in feeding the baby. Meaning that parents and extended family can equally partake in planning baby's eating schedule.
If you have had a baby in a hospital, chances are you were not exempt from the probing of nurses and lactation consultants, unless of course you chose immediately to formula feed. Mothers who chose to formula feed from the start have reportedly had less anxiety about nurses coming in to size up their newborns, since they were visibly able to see what their little ones were consuming, and were given more time to rest instead of being coached by lactation specialists on how to get the hang of breastfeeding.
Let's face it, for something considered to be so natural, breastfeeding is hard. Formula takes the guesswork out of it, and gives mom more time to mom.
Many moms who choose to formula feed, or switch to formula, will talk about how their lives have changed or how their babies have adjusted to the change, but rarely do you hear mothers talk about what happens to their milk and their milk supply after making that decision. News flash: drying up milk is a process.
Mother Adrienne Stortz discusses at length what it took to diminish her milk supply. She mentions the need to wear a sports bra at all times, using ice packs for discomfort, drinking tea and taking medications to dry up her supply. The thing is, no matter when one chooses to wean, chances are you will face a least a little discomfort, so for her, doing it in the beginning was just part of the process.
Contrary to popular belief, formula does not actually make babies sleep better. Formula doesn't really make babies more "full" it's just that the composition of formula is a bit harder to digest, making the time between feedings longer, according to Psychology Today. Which does translate to sleeping for longer stretches, but does not necessarily translate to sleeping better.
Moms of formula fed babies have reported their babies sleeping for longer stretches of the night, but as the Psychology Today states, longer sleep stretches can also mean greater risk for SIDS in younger infants. Since an infant's sleep cycle is programmed to wake continuously throughout the night, giving your little one a dose that will knock them out cold doesn't really help get better sleep.
Despite what people may say, and many new mothers may think, mothers who decide to formula feed their children still develop a very healthy bond with their little ones. According to KidsHealth.org feeding one's baby is a great way to establish a bond between parent and child, no matter how a mother chooses to feed her child.
"I never felt like I was missing out on bonding with my daughter because I chose to feed her formula. I was also able to witness her bond with her father from day one. I love seeing her cute little eyes look up at me. I doubt that feeding her my milk would make that much of a difference," says mother Constance Witterman.
It is obvious that formula does not contain the same compositions of breastmilk; every mother's milk contains antibodies and a specific composition of vitamins and minerals to feed their unique baby. Not only that, but breastmilk also changes throughout the course of the infant's life and breastfeeding journey. One exception is vitamin D, and another is iron.
The AAP recommends that all breastfed babies begin receiving vitamin D supplements during the first 2 months and continue until a baby can consume enough vitamin D-fortified milk, which is not a requirement for babies that drink formula. Formula fed babies can also avoid taking iron supplements, which is often a common requirement for breastfed babies.
Formula provides a great opportunity for parents to have equal parts in feeding the baby. A shared venture that Brooklyn mother and blog writer, Adrienne Stortz, feels is invaluable. "We wanted to be 50/50 partners in raising our child, and that started with sharing every feeding from day one. I would not be the 'primary parent'. We would do this as a team."
Many mothers who chose to go the formula feeding route express happier partnerships with their co-parent. Being able to share the feeding schedule at night can really take some of the pressure off of mom. And that is certainly a very attractive option for many mothers.
If you are a mom who loves to research, chances are you have heard that breastmilk fed babies often have diapers who don't smell so icky; which is not really the case for formula fed babies. Let's get real. Formula has a smell that's pretty distinct, but this is not to say that all formula available smells (but it certainly does not smell like breastmilk). For mother of premature Caroline, Cara says that giving formula to her little one before her milk came in made her nauseous.
"I will never forget sitting in the hospital bed with tears rolling down my face as I held my little girls head and watched her take in Similac. The smell alone just reminded me of how unnatural it was."
One thing many moms may not be totally aware of is the fact that formula is not really a sterile product. Formula gets recalled all the time. According to Psychology Today, infant formula is not monitored in the same way as medication is monitored. This means that seemingly innocuous powdered substance moms across the country are feeding their babies, is not sterile and not rigorously tested for toxins and safety. Since formulas are largely powdered-based they can be easily contaminated, unfortunately.
The Independent reported that 12 children were put in the path of salmonella in Great Britain, before the recall of Milupa's Milumil infant formula for bottle-fed babies.
Ready for a real truth? Despite the connection moms get while breastfeeding, most of the mothers we spoke with and researched admit to feeling happier than their friends who chose to breastfeed. In addition to having their bodies to themselves, moms who formula feed never have to guess how much their baby is consuming.
"So many of my friends battled weight issues with babies or wondered if their babies were actually eating enough. OR! even worse, if you ask me, if they could take medication they needed for sickness or whatever while breastfeeding. I have never had to deal with any of that. Thank goodness," said happy formula feeding momma, Cheryl Clarkson.
Of the 12 moms we spoke to and the numerous articles and forums we've read, nearly all mothers feel some sense of empowerment from formula feeding. Here's why: formula gives mothers the opportunity to get their body back, plain and simple. After nearly a year of being pregnant, choosing to be your baby's primary food source for several consecutive months is a really noble decision to make, yet a really tiring one too.
Women who choose to formula feed can often combat postpartum depression at higher rates, according to a really interesting study conducted by the National Institutes of Health.
For some reason, society has taught us that when it comes to formula feeding, there is only formula or only breastmilk, but the truth is, as explains mom Charlotte Hill, mixing is an option. "I supplement breastmilk so I don't have to pump. When I'm home with my baby I give her breastmilk since it's easier, but when we're out and about mixing a bottle makes me more comfortable than nursing in public. Supplementing has also allowed me to work without worrying about pumping, I pump only when I really need to."
According to Breastfeeding Magazine, supplementing is a great option for moms with low milk supply or moms who just don't want the headache, and there is no medical reason why it is not okay.
As your baby grows he or she will hopefully pack on a few pounds; this is a really good thing and every parents and pediatrician's dream. The thing is, when going out with your little one, their added weight plus the weight of a can of formula and filtered water is a lot more added weight than what moms who breastfeed have to calculate since they are their baby's food source.
"I'm a single mom, I already have so much to think about. I don't want to add how to fit in a can of formula, mix the formula just so, and find water to the mix of things that are already weighing me down," mother Janet Price said.
Many breastfeeding women dread going back to work after maternity leave. Aside from the idea of actually leaving their little one home or at daycare, the idea of pumping daily, stashing up enough milk or even negotiating a pumping schedule with their bosses can bring on a lot of added pressure that moms who choose to formula feed just do not encounter.
"When imagining myself back to work, I did not want to schedule meetings all day around pumping alone in a dingy room or shipping milk across the country while at conferences," mother Adrienne Stortz writes in her post, Why Choosing To Formula Feed Was The Best Decision I Made As A New Mom.
From cocktails to coffee to spice, moms who choose to go the formula feeding route have no cap when it comes to what food or drink options they are allowed to consume, unlike breastfeeding mothers.
In the beginning, breastfeeding mothers are advised to avoid certain foods, just as in pregnancy, in order to deter their little ones from having any undesirable results when drinking mom's milk. Some effects that could occur if mom consumes some things that don't comply with baby's system are gassiness, fussiness, rashes and the like. When formula feeding, moms can indulge in all the things they missed out on during your nine months of pregnancy.
References: Breastfeeding Magazine, Interviews with moms, Medium.com, Psychology Today, Kids Health.org, Today.com, The Independent, AAP, Reuters