A Letter From Your Doula: Dear Mom Who is Choosing to Formula Feed

Choosing Formula Feed

Dear Mom Who is Choosing to Formula Feed,

“Breast is best.” “Fed is best.” There is so much conflicting information and opinions out there. Sometimes it’s all too much. It can feel very overwhelming and isolating

Maybe you’ve just given birth to your baby and cannot get them to latch. The baby is screaming, you are crying, the lactation consultant has given you so many options that you don’t know where to start…or if you want to even try. 

Maybe your baby is a few weeks or months old, but you’ve struggled all along to feed them for a variety of reasons and you’re just… tired.

Maybe your second child is on the way and you are already having flashbacks to what it was like when you needed to switch to formula the first time and all of the trauma that came with that decision. You’re not sure you want to try again.

These scenarios are all too common, so I took it to the internet recently and asked the question:

“Why did you switch to formula?”

When I posed this question to the moms in my life, I was instantly overwhelmed with answers. In the hopes of helping other women in the future, moms from all over the country and from all different walks of life jumped at the chance to share their experiences with me. They knew that it was best for their family, but almost none of them made the choice easily. They all hoped for it to be just a little easier for others than it was for them.

Mothers are often made to feel like they are failing at something when they make the transition to feeding their baby with formula, but actually quite the opposite is true. It almost always means that they are prioritizing the mental and physical health of both themselves and their baby to make sure everyone is functioning at their best. Many moms still struggle with this choice though and experience what many like to call “mom guilt.”

While I can’t take that feeling away completely, I can tell you that there are a million different reasons that moms have made the switch. Perhaps hearing from them in their own words will help you feel more at peace and ease into the transition if that’s the road you end up taking. Many of the reasons overlap, but I want to share as many as possible in the hopes that each unique story will help all of you who are struggling.

Here are some of their experiences:

“He couldn’t latch due to a weak jaw. We tube fed until his jaw was strong enough to bottle feed. Then exclusively pumped until supply was out around 9 months.”

“When I was crying at 3am from being super tired and kiddo nursing for 5 mins, falling asleep then repeating every 10 mins. I knew it was no longer healthy for me, my kid, or husband to have a mom/wife crying in the middle of every night.”

“Nursing was painful and frustrating for the first three weeks after birth. Due to lack of supply and a latch issue, I used a SNS (Supplemental Nursing System) which worked well for my son and I. I ended up sticking with that for around 5 months before switching exclusively to formula.”

“I had one good boob and once we got past 2 months, I couldn’t produce enough to feed her. We started supplementing with formula. After going back to work full time, my body wasn’t producing so we went to full formula”

“With my first, we switched day one because I ended up having a really bad aversion to nursing due to childhood abuse. By my second baby I was able to overcome that to at least attempt breastfeeding, and ended up loving it.”

“She’s seven months old, I’m a work and school from home mom. Adding exclusive pumping on top of that was too much on my plate. She’s happier when I’m less stressed.”

“I got mono when my first was 9 months old and that stopped my supply. But I was very happy to see that it didn’t change my supply amount for my second.”

“My son had high levels of jaundice and didn’t seem to be getting enough from the breast. I was anxious to get his levels down and felt that formula would achieve that faster. My PPA and PPD were also very debilitating and I needed one less thing to fall completely on me.”

I got pregnant with my second and my milk dried up instantly, even before a positive test.”

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and after trying all of the ‘pregnancy and breastfeeding safe’ medications for it, I was still in miserable pain breastfeeding my son for 15 months. The one medication I’ve been on that worked for me isn’t safe for breastfeeding. I plan to nurse Baby #2  for 2 months this time and then get back on my effective medication, which means formula for baby and no pain for me!”

“Initially we had latch issues and lack of supply. We were supplementing with formula within a week of birth. After 4 months of pumping non stop and still having to supplement, I made the choice to strictly formula feed. I only wish I had stopped pumping sooner for my mental health.”

“My son was taken to the NICU after a traumatic birth. I was exclusively pumping for him for the week that he was in the nicu. When we got out of the hospital, I only had a week of help before my husband was back to work full time. I couldn’t manage exclusively pumping and feeding alone around the clock. I switched to formula. I had some regrets and considered trying to re-lactate after I dried myself up but decided that he was going absolutely fine on formula and I needed sleep.”

“My first had latch issues so I ended up exclusively pumping. In order to pump enough to meet his needs, I was pumping for 45 mins every 2 hours and it was too overwhelming.”

“With my last baby, and only one that latched, I had to wean her cold turkey when I sprained my ankle in three places and broke it in the middle. The pain medicine wasn’t safe for her. I was severely disappointed, but try to remember that accidents happen and I never could have predicted the fall.”

“Was determined to breastfeed for a year. Had a postpartum heart attack and had to stop breastfeeding at 3 months due to the required medications. I was more distraught about having to stop breastfeeding than I was about having just had a heart attack at 31.”

“I attempted to breastfeed the first 4 days and by then my son had dropped 25% of his body weight. He was literally starving and I had no idea. I made the switch and thought absolutely nothing about it. No regrets. Best of all my husband was able to help with feedings which helped a ton with mental health and overall momentum, which is so important when becoming new parents.”

“My daughter was 8 months old when my supply dropped. She wasn’t having nearly enough diapers and starting dropping weight. Every feeding was stressful because I knew she wasn’t getting enough.”

I had gotten an infection during birth and after delivery I only got a chance to try [to breastfeed] once before they put me on meds and bottle fed my baby. When I tried again after 3 days, it was such a struggle and she would really fight it. I continued to pump and try to supplement with bottles of breast milk or formula. After 6 weeks, I gave in and switched to all formula. I was really sad at first and disappointed that it wasn’t what I had planned, but thankful for the ease of the formula and happy baby. No more struggles at feeding time.”

“I stopped after 10 days as I had low supply and formula made everything so much easier for me.”

“I struggled for weeks with low supply and a baby who would sleep every time I held her against me. I tried SNS and exclusive pumping which I found to be stressful and painful (a lactation consultant told me my nipples were “the worst she’d ever seen”, cracked and bleeding). I switched to formula which cured my anxiety about weight gain and allowed my partner and family to help with feedings as well so I could rest/sleep.”

“I stopped at 9 months when I finally got defeated with their reflux (assuming it was something in my milk that was making it worse). I also wanted to be able to actually measure how much they were eating.”

“My children had to be both bottle fed and breastfed because they attended daycare. They stopped wanting to breastfeed, and pumping all day was not enough to keep up my milk supply. It became a huge emotional and physical burden on me to feel like I wasn’t giving them enough, so we changed over.”

“[Baby] was born at 28 weeks so my milk barely came in. I would pump for a drop or 2 and then it stopped a few weeks after her birth. She went onto donor milk for 32 weeks then onto formula.”

“We started breastfeeding in the hospital, and it only lasted about a week for us! Babe started projectile vomiting each feeding, so we tried pumping and bottle feeding for a few days with no improvement. I have a very limited diet for medical reasons, so trial and error elimination wasn’t in the cards for us. Glad babe got the colostrum, and so thankful we got the bonding experience, but wouldn’t go back.”

There is no doubt that had I left it open for longer, I would have gotten hundreds more answers and stories in response to my inquiry. This just shows that choosing to switch to formula is much more common than you might think and there are countless valid reasons to stop breastfeeding.

Whatever your reason is, it is valid. And you are not alone in this decision.

Dear mom who is choosing to formula feed, you are making the best choice for YOU and YOUR baby.

All of the mothers who have come before you are joining together in spirit and waiting to welcome you into their circle. They’ve been where you are; they know the struggle. And when you look into their eyes, you will not find judgement, you will find exactly what you’ve been needing to hea

It’s okay. 

You did not fail. 

You are a great mother, the perfect mother for your baby.

With so much sincerity, 

Your Postpartum Doula

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