No, I don’t want to hear another study about how breastfeeding makes my kids smarter. I’d prefer to listen to my 3-year old formula-fed child read. -anonymous
We get it: breast is best. There’s nothing as nutritious and complimentary to your babies health than breast milk, and the latch is an incomparable connection with your new baby. But what we need to be reminded is that best isn’t always a viable option for some moms (myself included). Some women can’t produce a sufficient amount / moms with twins can be easily overwhelmed and have no choice / business-oriented moms need the flexibility of bottles with their busy agenda / some women become emotionally exhausted from numerous failed latches and opt for the guaranteed-ounce feeding / and some women simply prefer bottle feeding… just because. Whatever your reason is, stand behind it and feel proud that you’re an amazing mommy with an indescribable love for your child.
If you’re currently bottle feeding, struggling with breastfeeding and considering the switch, or thinking about which path you want to take once your bundle of joy arrives, here are a few things you should keep in mind that may help you find clarity + direction:
- You’re not a bad mom: If you’re struggling with breastfeeding (physically or emotionally) and considering switching to the bottle – or – if you chose bottle feeding from the get-go because of your work schedule or other personal reasons, you are not a bad mom. What constitutes a “bad mom?” A woman who loves her child and nourishes them when they’re hungry? A woman trying to find a healthy balance in her busy life to keep her baby healthy and growing strong? A woman who physically cannot provide enough breast milk to give her baby the amount they need, so switches to formula ensuring their bellies are full? Yes, there’s heavy emphasis around the virtues of breastfeeding, but bottle feeding is a beautiful thing, too – you’re bonding with the little darling you created, while providing them nourishment. Recently, there’s been more focus around bottle feeding mothers, and many photographers are acknowledging the beauty of the practice. Photographer Mikaela Bodkin created a photo series called “Fed is Best,” showcasing mothers both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, via Huffington Post (pictured below).
- You will bond: It’s undeniable there’s a special bond between a mother and her baby when she’s breastfeeding, but is there not a special bond with a mom who can lift her bottle feeding baby up a little higher to kiss his/her forehead while they’re drinking and gaze into their eyes? I’d say that’s pretty special. The bond I share with my two girls is so incredibly powerful, I can’t imagine anything greater in life. And guess what, they were both bottle fed.
- Flexible mama: Aside from the emotional and physical tug of war, breastfeeding moms lose a generous amount of flexibility during those first 12-months (even a simple trip to the market – aka vacation – while your partner stays with baby) can be a daunting ordeal. Scheduling to pump before hand, storing the milk properly, and/or lugging around the breast-pump is no simple feat – we give you mama’s a lot of credit! If you’re bottle feeding, anyone can take the reigns while you get things done, get some rest, or “get out of the house.” This also gives daddy (or your partner) special boding time with baby as well, which is important. If you’re traveling with baby, there are great products on the market to help you consolidate the equipment and formula (including formula dispensers, formula travel packets, and smaller travel bottles).
- It’s not all or nothing: They’re likely not headlining it, but many breastfeeding moms are using formula, too! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 42% of 6-month old breastfed babies are supplemented with formula. I can personally vouch for this. With both of my girls, I wasn’t able to produce enough breast milk to keep up with their needs, so within a few weeks I was supplementing with formula. You don’t have to choose bottle or breast. You can switch between the two depending on your agenda and milk production. *As my breast milk production became increasingly low, I began primarily formula feeding then supplementing with breast milk when it was available (which didn’t last very long).
- You’ll feel self-conscious, but don’t. This was me. The moment I’d whip out a water filled bottle and formula dispenser in public, I immediately felt judged. As if the breastfeeding fairy was standing on my shoulder with her hands on her hips shaking her head… along with everyone around me. Watching, judging. Bad mom. It’s not just breastfeeding moms who feel the eyes of the public on them, you may feel it too when bottle feeding and that’s ok. But try hard to focus solely on you and baby and keep reminding yourself “I’m feeding my hungry baby. I’m a great mom. We’re connected and we’re both happy.”
- Eat, drink & be merry: When you’re formula feeding, you don’t have to worry about that glass of wine or aggressively spicy meal. What you consume isn’t making its way into your babies system, so enjoy the things you’ve been missing for the past 9 months!
- Heating up the credit card: The downer with formula feeding is the expense. A typical 32-34 ounce tub of formula powder will last you about a week, and run about $35-37. You can do the math. It adds up quick. But on the positive side, companies include coupons with almost every tub – be sure to collect these. They add up to significant discounts and will help keep your monthly expense lower. Just something to keep in mind depending on your budget.
- It’s not forever: As much as we’d love to hold our babies in our arms and feed them until they’re 16, that’s not real life (just day dreaming). The process of breast or formula feeding can feel like a lifetime when you’re in the middle of it, but once your child reaches 12 months, pediatricians recommend switching them to cows milk (gradually). So whichever method you choose, savor those moments you have with your baby when you’re feeding them. Soon enough they’ll be asking for specific snacks on demand – followed by packing school lunches (just the thought of that makes my heart drop. Cringe. Too soon)!
You are the best thing in this world for your baby. Motherhood isn’t only about the first 12-months and whether you choose to breast or bottle feed – its the overall concept of nurturing your babies, teaching them, making them smile and helping them grow. These other decisions that seem like a big deal aren’t what make you an incredible mom. It’s LOVE.
*Yes, there are some true (and mythical) ways to increase your breast milk production – your doctor can provide you with resources if you’re interested. I tried a few “natural tricks” with my first daughter and didn’t see a substantial enough increase in production, so I just let nature run its course and adjusted accordingly.
**NOTE: I have nothing but love and respect for all of you breastfeeding moms out there. I understand it’s not easy, but you’re doing an amazing job. Nothing in this post is to shine negative light upon breastfeeding, it’s to shed positive light upon those who aren’t able to or simply prefer the bottle. We’re all great moms and we’re in this together! If you just keep loving your babies – then you’re doing it all right.