I’ve always assumed that breastfeeding is just easier than formula. And to be fair, for the most part, it is! You always have a “bottle” ready to go, whether you are home or not. You don’t have to pack any extra supplies…. worst case scenario, you can just pop a boob out and feed your baby.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I had the Whipple procedure a couple of months ago to remove a cancerous tumor, I told everyone that this would not affect our breastfeeding journey. I was positive that we would make it through. I made a perfect bottle-feeding schedule for the babysitters and planned to pump every 3 hours during my recovery.
What I didn’t know was that I would be so drugged that I wouldn’t be able to hold up the pumps myself for two days.
What I didn’t know was that I would be in so much pain that I would be on narcotics for a month and wouldn’t be able to use a drop of my breastmilk.
What I didn’t know was that I would lose 25 pounds and not eat or drink nearly enough for 3 weeks and my milk production would drop significantly.
What I didn’t know was that my stomach would hurt too bad and my body would be too weak to actually pick up and position my six-month-old baby to nurse.
He lived off of breastmilk donations for one month while I tried to decide what to do. I pumped and nursed occasionally to keep my breasts producing milk, though it wasn’t very much.
After a month of recovery, I decided that we were just going to use formula. That was never what I desired for my baby, but I was able to give him 6 months of breastmilk and I knew that just had to be enough for me.
So for those of you who are needing or wanting to switch to formula from breastmilk… here are 10 things I’ve learned through the process.
- You aren’t a bad mom for quitting. I struggled with a little bit of depression when we got home. Everything was just so different, and switching to bottles just added to those differences. But once I got over that fact, I realized that I wasn’t a failure as a mother because I decided to give my baby formula. I was actually making a decision in his favor because I was making the best decision for my mental and physical health. I knew that was what mattered most. Though being a mother is usually about sacrificing for your child, I had to get my mind wrapped around the fact that me being weak and frustrated wasn’t good for either of us.
- Serving sizes and feeding schedules are drastically different once you get past the newborn stage. I had such a hard time with bottles from the very beginning. All I knew about serving sizes and feeding schedules was that my baby ate whenever he was hungry, and as to how much… I dunno…. a boobfull?? I was seriously clueless. In fact, I continued to send him to babysitters with 2-ounce bottles until he was 4 months old! I had no idea that they could have more with longer intervals between feedings the bigger they got. Before you switch, make sure you know how much your baby needs for his age. They may be getting more from the breast than you realize.
- The poop is WAY different. The first formula diaper I changed actually SCARED me. I had no idea it would change so much. It went from total liquid gold to a thick, peanut butter-y consistency that looked like spinach from the high amounts of iron in the formula that his digestive system wasn’t used to. Let’s just say this: I much preferred the breastmilk poop!
- Your baby is going to smell weird. Let’s just face the facts: formula stinks. He used to smell like rancid breastmilk, which was somehow still sweet and sweaty smelling at worst. Now, the formula that occasionally leaks under his double chin or behind his ear, that gets on his clothes and blankets, and oh man…those burps! I’m definitely not used to that smell yet.
- Formula lasts so much longer in their little tummies! This is one thing that I do love. Even though your older baby can very efficiently get what he needs from the breast, most moms aren’t going to be making 6-8 ounces at one time. Now he eats 4-5 6-ounce bottles a day. It’s amazing how long he can go between feedings! The month of breastmilk donations, (he usually sleeps from 8PM-8AM in one stretch) and woke up at 2:00 and 6:00 for milk. Ever since we started on formula, he sleeps that 12 hour stretch with NO WAKES! It’s seriously a miracle. I couldn’t be happier or more energetic about it.
- It’s honestly so freeing to be able to just leave your baby and not worry about pumping. One time my husband and I went on a date, and I brought along my electric pump (we took his work truck which I knew had an outlet inside the cab). As it turned out, the outlet was broken. I tried to enjoy myself, but I was SO engorged by the time we got back to my baby that I couldn’t think of anything but the pain. I’m pretty happy that that is no longer a problem.
- Formula is insanely expensive. I’m just so thankful for the 6 months we didn’t have to pay for it. I was pretty shocked by the expense. Thankfully, we were able to get on WIC to help us out. But formula on top of diapers? Talk about breaking the bank. YIKES!
- You will have so much more free time. I became so used to my baby hanging off of me at all times during the day. For the first four months of his life, he was literally on me ALL DAY. It became a joke with my husband because every time he called me I was nursing. One day, he asked what I was doing and laughed. I said “making dinner!”, and I can only imagine that his jaw dropped just a little bit. Now, with only 5 five minute feedings per day, I hardly know what to do with myself or my kid.
- Bottles are really annoying to wash. The first few weeks of bottle feeding, one of the biggest struggles for me was keeping the bottles clean. I didn’t realize how quickly we would go through them all and have to start over again (and need cleaned and dried bottles ready to go)! For some reason, my lazy side still has a hard time keeping up.
- No matter what you choose, as long as your baby is fed it TRULY is best. Everyone always says this, but I didn’t used to believe it. Obviously, breastmilk is better. And while I can testify that breastfeeding is amazing and healthy and great for babies, my baby is personally more satisfied and doing better on formula. Though it isn’t what I prefer, it was what we had to do in this season. As long as your baby is healthy and you are choosing what is best for them, that’s all that truly matters!