{SQT} Things I've Learned About Using Formula


Tomas has been on his new feeding plan for over a month now and things are really looking up.   See those chunky thighs?!?!  We've learned a lot and I'm hoping progress continues right up until his issues disappear completely (a mom must always have hope).  That being said, our adventures in feeding Tomas have taught me a lot about (previous-unused-by-me) formula.

1.  People do judge formula feeding moms.

From the looks at the store to health care providers to other moms and even grandmas, people really do look down (literally) at formula feeding.  Straight down into the cart with narrowed eyes and mmm..hmmm glances.  I thought (wished?  hoped?) that all of the things I've always heard about the judgmental attitude about formula was wrong, but well...it's not.  Based on my own reactions, I'm seriously worried that I have been the one casting those nasty looks and making assumptions in the past.  It was hard for me to overcome my own formula-predjudice.  I really believed that I was a failure for not being able to do this.  I still cringe every time Tomas needs a bottle when we are out and about because I know that the looks are coming.

2.  Everyone has an idea that would fix your breastfeeding problem.

Some people constrain their formula feelings to "the look".  Others, however, are sure they know your baby and your body better than you and want to take it a step further and fix it for you.  Since most all breastfeeding advocates think that all feeding problems can be solved with just a little more work or a different health care provider (even if that person is half way around the country), everyone has an idea that will surly *fix* the problem.  Sending the loud and clear message that mom is simply lazy or not doing enough.  Of course if *they* were in the situation they would have no problem sacrificing themselves, their family, and maybe even their baby on the alter of breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding is hard and there are a lot of problems that can be overcome.  I applaud those moms that have been able to do that, but I resent the implication that the fact that I didn't means I failed.

Honestly, the best fix to our breastfeeding problems was when I returned the rental breast pump to the hospital in order to have even five minutes/day for my other children and to actually enjoy my baby rather than handing him off again and again to someone else so that I could sit in a room alone with a couple of plastic cylinders.  I'm glad I pumped as long as I did, but honestly it was time to let it go.  (In case you don't believe me regarding points #1 & #2, someone just read this last paragraph and was tempted to tell me that if only I had a different bra or a different pump or a certain baby carrier *then* I wouldn't have had to choose, but I digress.... Oh, and if that was you shame on you!)

3.  Formula and bottles are not for the faint of heart.

For almost five months I was basically unable to leave the house because there were a limited number of places that I could feed Tomas.  I never knew if he would eat, so I never knew if we would be able to finish shopping or whatever else.  Maybe he would nurse, maybe he wouldn't.  Maybe he would throw up once, or maybe he would throw up for the next two hours.   Even when I was pumping I had no idea if he would take a bottle or how much.  I was really excited to finally leave the house for a bonfire with friends!  I packed up a bottle of water and a little pouch of formula measured out to his special 24 kcal blend.  I loaded it all up in the diaper bag....and left the bottle nipple sitting on the counter!  I was so grateful to be nursing part time so we could go find a quiet spot and I could coax him into a few minutes of nursing to tide him over, but if that hadn't been the case we would have had to drive home a half hour with a starving overtired baby.  None of my friends formula feed their babies and all bottles are not created equally so if not for my lactating self my child would have gone hungry.    In all my years of quickly shushing a fussy baby and messing with layers of clothes and bra snaps, nothing holds a candle to trying to measure and fill a bottle one handed with a grabby, hungry six month old "helping".

4.  Formula is marketing gig.

"For Supplementation"  "For Sensitivity" "For Fussiness"  "Advance"  They all look the same and obviously they all sell, so what to buy?  The first time we had to buy formula on our own I was so overwhelmed that I let Kylee (age 7) pick the brand.  Seriously, I had no idea what I was looking for. Once we finally had a (very expensive, pre broken down, hypoallergenic) formula chosen there was still a marketing hurdle to overcome.


These two cans of formula are the exact same physical size.  One, however, holds 13.25 oz of powdered formula and one holds 16 oz.  Not only do the two containers of the exact same size containing the exact same brand of formula contain different amounts, they use different size scoops. This means the formula inside the can is NOT the same concentration.  In fact the smaller can uses the larger scoop, which holds 9 grams of powder as compared to 6 grams.  This is a huge problem when you are concentrating formula like we are because adding and additional 1 tsp of powder for each 80 mls of formula adds a different amount of calories depending on which can you are using.  Following?  Me either most days.  Tim is better than me at math and he tells me that this means a 20% increase in calories or 40% of a 2 ounce scoop goes into 4 ounces.  Enter in the postal scale and measuring and now I need a PhD just to feed my kid.  See point #3.

5.  Formula is expensive.

Continuing on with the marketing gig presented in point #4, both of these sized cans of formula range between $25-$35 depending on where I shop.  For ten cans/month to account for concentrating, this amounts to roughly $250-$350, or more than 25% of what we spend on all of the food for the entire rest of our family of 8.   If the formula cost isn't enough, there are bottles and nipples.  All bottles are not created equal and most nipples are not compatible across brands so figure $10-$20 every time you run into a problem with a bottle or need to stock up on more.  An interesting point beyond this is that we live in a small town and we have to drive a half hour to the closest grocery store that carries our formula, which of course adds a cost.  Yes Amazon carries it but not subscribe and save and not any cheaper than anywhere else.  Enough said about that.

6.  WIC is a lifesaver.

For part time bottle feeding, and because of medical necessity, WIC covers all of our formula for the course of a month which for us basically eliminates point #5 now that we have a system that works (although due to the process of finding that, we shelled out a fair amount in the meantime).  I hear it's not that easy for all moms, however, because WIC is brand specific.  Formula companies negotiate with WIC for the right to all of the WIC purchasing in a particular state.  See point #4 about marketing and enter the rant I will resist giving you about the government controlling what kids eat!   If breastfeeding isn't your plan, for whatever reason, you are basically limited to the formula they sell (if you want to use WIC... and you do) unless you have a medically qualified exemption.  And just in case you were wondering, there is a long list of reasons that WIC won't cover a different brand including things like diarrhea, constipation, food sensitivities, etc.  Only medically "necessary" and even with that, we had a fair amount of back and forth faxes between our GI, dietician, and the WIC office.  That being said, I have no idea how we would afford this without WIC.

7.  This can be beautiful and celebrated too.

Of all the things I've learned, this one is the most important.  Tomas had a rough start in life.  Not a lot happened in ways that I would choose to do again.  I have seen him in pain, struggling to breath, and hungry but unable to eat.  Yet, when I see him excited to see his bottle being made I am excited for him.  When he reaches to help hold the bottle when it starts to be lighter at the end of a meal I let go for a few second to let him try.


And when he doesn't throw it back up on me?  Even all the more reason to celebrate.

This post has been linked up to 7QTF, hosted by This Ain't The Lyceum.  Head on over there for more!


AnneMarie said...

Thank you for this awesome post!!! Oh how I wish there was less of a stigma around formula feeding. I'm sad to admit that when I was a child surrounded by homeschooling, breastfeeding moms, I probably expressed some anti-formula sentiments at one time or another. But, since I have grown in many ways and am now a pregnant mom myself, I have become more aware that "fed is best," and formula may be the best (or only) answer for some people-and that is okay, and the kids will still turn out fine. (Like, hello? St. Therese of Lisieux was not breastfed by her mom, and she's a Doctor of the Church) Thanks for sharing about the struggles and joys of formula feeding; I think it is so important to share this perspective, especially since it's not often heard from in homeschooling and Catholic circles!

Kirby said...

Both of my kids have largely had to be bottle fed, and, you know, they're doing great! A lot of people truly did not believe me when I tried to talk about how much judgement there was about formula feeding. People will actually stop me and ask if I'm feeding my child breastmilk in that bottle IN THE MIDDLE OF THE GROCERY STORE LINE. Umm, how many ways are there to send a death stare? Because I'm pretty sure I came up with 8 in 10 seconds flat.

Keep being strong mommma!

Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alicia @ Sweeping Up Joy said...

I've been in this situation for all 4 of my children. Although I've nursed three for about a year (and am still nursing my 10 month old), I can only produce about 10% of what they needed. So against everything I ever hoped or planned, we've largely formula fed. All you've said is true, true, true.

I find all the breastfeeding in public hullabaloo sort of funny. I don't mind nursing in public at all. I DO mind having to mix up a bottle. I'd rather bottle feed in the bathroom than in public.

You aren't alone, and thanks for the reminder that I'm not either. :)

Jenny Evans said...

We have done it all - formula, nursing, pumping, and all combinations of the three! I'm sorry that you've felt judgment. I don't think I've ever felt that way, but maybe I was just too sleep-deprived to notice! For the proper perspective on the whole thing, I'd recommend a a beautiful article on the subject called "Why I Don't Care Whether You Breastfeed or Bottle Feed."


Maybe you could print hard copies and hand them out to strangers if they give you the stink-eye?

me said...

Try to ignore the looks - you're doing what your child needs, and doing it with love.

Please know you're not alone! I did nurse my first kids (it worked mostly fine) and then hit major issues with a few. One just didn't want to do anything but sleep - he was turning into a little skeleton before I started supplementing. Then my daughter was born with IUGR - formula was necessary. I even had to enrich the breast milk I was pumping. (let alone the fact that she couldn't nurse due to developmental issues.) That really brought home to me that how a baby is fed is really a minor detail in the grand scheme of things.

I'm sorry you have to use the expensive formula (my kids luckily could get by with the generic stuff for the most part). I actually grew fond of bottle feeding as I went on. No more having to bring the baby everywhere because the little one would not take a bottle, or receiving a call 15 minutes into a shopping trip to come home to nurse. Prepping a bottle in public gets easier, and don't worry about the comments. Just smile blankly and ignore them, and give your full attention to your adorable little one. He's a charmer!

jen said...

i had to bottle-feed my preemie because i was too sick to breastfeed. the nicu told us what kind to get and we had people giving us cans of it as part of baby shower gifts.

and seriously, wic is AWESOME. i'm bummed that my kiddo has aged out because they were so wonderful at the second wic office we went to. (the first one had a dietician who did not understand my kiddo's feeding issues and i was getting hassled because of failure to thrive... when none of the suggestions worked. thank God for the second office who understood sensory and texture issues in preemie mouths!)

Heidi said...

Thanks for all of the encouraging comments! My OB is always telling me every baby is different when I try to compare pregnancies and this little guy has just kept on proving that again and again!

Hannah @Sunshine and Spoons said...

LOVE this! I breastfed, formula fed, and tube fed my babies. My youngest had to be on Alimentum and we were so thankful that WIC covered it. It didn't cover enough for his needs, but because my son was tube fed, insurance covered the rest of it.