I remember the first time I gave my baby formula more than I remember her first latch. At the time, I was so determined to make breastfeeding work, I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my postpartum health. She was a fussy baby, and I started to feel crushed by the weight of being the only one who could soothe her. The first time I put a bottle in her wailing mouth in the middle of the night was a combination of elation and relief I’d never felt from a latch or a letdown.
I didn’t quit breastfeeding, but I did quit putting so much pressure on myself to exclusively breastfeed. I credit adding formula to our feeding mix as the single most important self-care step I took in the fourth trimester. But I will never forget how much I struggled with the decision to use formula. Here’s what helped me know my baby would be OK with formula.
I talked to my pediatrician
Our pediatrician was the first person who I felt “gave me permission” to use formula. I remember sitting in tears in her office as she said, “It’s OK. I don’t know why parents put so much pressure on themselves these days?” I wanted to answer her, “Well, the Internet, the ‘breast is best’ movement, my own self-determination, etc.” But I didn’t. Instead, I took her at her word. Her professional opinion made me feel so much better about my decision.
Plus, with an unusually fussy baby, your pediatrician can help you determine if it’s due to an allergy, reflux, or an issue unrelated to feeding.
I researched formula safety
Infant formula is regulated by the FDA and must meet certain nutrient requirements because it is often used as the “sole source of nutrition for a vulnerable population” (i.e. babies). Store brand formulas are held to these same standards.
I talked to other moms
I’ve read so many online conversations happening in mom groups about the struggles of feeding babies, but it was real-life conversations with other moms that helped me feel the most supported.
In the weeks leading up to returning from maternity leave, I met one mom who quit breastfeeding all-together and told me honestly how much happier both she and her son were. Another friend shared a similar story and confessed breastfeeding affected her anxiety and knew formula was the better option for her and her baby.
I’m still trying to pay forward what they did for me. Our paths weren’t the same, but by sharing their struggles and their stories, they validated my own. I hope sharing my own formula-feeding story will help the next mom struggling too.
My kids are 4 and 7 now. They’ve eaten Goldfish crackers for breakfast and McDonald’s Happy Meals for dinner—and they’re doing just fine. With newborn feeding troubles now years in my motherhood rearview, I wish I hadn’t wasted so much energy worrying about formula.
Read More: I’m a New Mom—Will I Ever Sleep Again?