So, before I even begin, I want to make something really clear. I am not dissing formula feeding. We mamas like to get into a tizzy thinking that people are condemning our parenting decisions.
I am not going to condemn formula feeding in this article. I am, however, going to speak some truths that are 100% pro-breastfeeding. And as the title conveys, this post is about how to avoid formula feeding. I breastfed and formula fed my first baby, so I can speak from experience on both.
If you’re a mama who formula fed your last, but really wanted to breastfeed, I hope that this helps you feel more confident that you can achieve your goals with your next baby.
If you’re a first time mama who is worried that you won’t succeed, I hope that these tips help make you feel more prepared and sure of your abilities.
If you’re a mama who has already successfully breastfed, I hope that these tips are relatable to you. If you can think of any more, please share in the comments!
1. Tell yourself that you will breastfeed.
Every time I’ve asked a first time pregnant mother if she was planning on breastfeeding, I get the same response: “If I can!”
Ladies, I’m not trying to condemn you here. But the truth is this: YOU CAN. Our bodies were literally made for this.
Yes, there are absolutely frustrations and hardships. There are situations where you may really struggle. But here is where the rubber meets the road.
Almost all breastfeeding hurdles are achievable. It would be very rare to have a situation where you actually could not breastfeed. So it basically comes down to your determination to overcome the hurdle (and the appropriate knowledge and assistance to actually overcome it, which we will discuss in another point).
So the proper answer wouldn’t be, “If I can.” Because you most likely can. What most girls mean is, “If it’s easy.” Which it probably won’t be. Which is why a huge percentage of women fail.
If you really want to breastfeed, know that it will be hard. If you are only wanting to do it if it’s easy, be prepared with some formula because you’re probably going to give up.
Like I said at first, if that is what you want that’s okay. If you want to formula feed because it’s easier, that’s okay! But if you’re really wanting to breastfeed, you have to know ahead of time that there will have to be determination to get past the uncomfortable and frustrating struggles up front. Just like labor, it won’t be a walk in the park… but it will be worth it.
2. Be willing to commit the time and the effort.
I would imagine that one of the biggest reasons that breastfeeding has become a rarity is because so many women work. That’s absolutely your choice, but the thing that needs to be realized is that full-time jobs and breastfeeding don’t mix well.
If you choose to be a pumping mom, know that it will be incredibly draining and difficult. That absolutely doesn’t mean that you can’t do it! I know many women who have achieved it and been so proud (I was proud of them too!). But I personally don’t think I could handle it.
I was a stay at home mom, which made my choice to breastfeed a lot more attainable. Breastfeeding takes a lot of time and dedication (especially in those first few weeks). But even after breastfeeding is established, there are weeks where your baby will want more food and be crankier or want to be up all night nursing. A lot of those things won’t mix well with being away from your child during the day.
You will have a much higher chance of success if you are able to commit the time, whatever that looks like for you. Breastfeeding can take up to 8 hours a day… that’s a full time job, ladies!
Of course the time gets shorter as they get older, but my son nursed about 6-9 hours a day for the first 3-4 months. And if you think that it won’t take as long if you choose to pump, you are wrong. Pumping take almost twice as long to get the same amount of milk as when a baby sucks. Your breast was made to respond to a little mouth, not a plastic contraption.
Breastfeeding takes dedication. If you know you won’t have the time or stamina, be prepared to fail. Some women just won’t have the time and that’s okay! But if you know what you’ll be looking at it can help you decide if you want to try.
3. Make formula a last resort.
Something that I did right was saying NO to formula. Most doctors will persuade you to give them formula in those first few days when you aren’t making milk. Say NO. You will probably get formula testers in the mail and the companies will suggest you keep them “just in case”. Say NO and give them to your local pregnancy center or to a mom you know who needs it!
If you are really committed, don’t even have bottles in your home for the first month or so. If you have no formula and no bottles in the house, you will be much less likely to cave. There will be lots of frustration and hard moments while you and your new baby are getting used to breastfeeding. In some of those hard moments, you may be tempted to just give in for that one feeding and give them formula to get them to stop crying.
What’s the problem with that? Well, as soon as your baby realizes that drinking out a bottle is so much easier and that formula is much more filling that breastmilk, they will begin to prefer it and will fill up on it and not be hungry the next time your boobs are full. Breasts work with supply and demand. If your baby is not demanding milk from you, your body will stop making it and before you know it you’re fully formula feeding.
If you really want to succeed, don’t make formula a “filler” or “supplement”. Just breastfeed until you decide you’re done. If you decide to supplement with formula I guarantee you will end up quitting breastfeeding (trust me, I know from experience!). If that’s what you decide to do then that’s fine. But, if you are hoping to succeed and think that one bottle of formula won’t harm your journey, you will be very disappointed.
4. Have a solid support team
Since you’re not supposed to supplement with formula, you might be wondering what you ARE supposed to do when things get hard.
This is why you need a fabulous support team on hand to ask questions or to have help you. These should be women that you trust and aren’t awkward around (they very well may see your nipples at some point!).
A lot of women fail at nursing because their medical team isn’t knowledgable or supportive of breastfeeding and they quit before they even leave the hospital!
Pick a hospital that has a great lactation consultant and a medical team that champions breastfeeding. If you have women in your life who have breastfed successfully, ask them questions. Tell them you want their help and encouragement and ask them to be available for weird and random questions.
If you have these people in your life, you will be so much more likely to succeed! Just the simple fact that you won’t be alone and will have others to share your burdens and frustrations can be monumental (not to mention they will know the answers to some of the questions that are making things difficult for you!)
5. Buy great products to inspire you.
This may seem like a silly thing, but it really worked for me. I spent a significant amount of money on breastfeeding products. I had breast pads, nursing nightgowns, bras and clothing, a breast pump, milk storage bags, nipple shields, nipple creams of various kinds… I had everything you could ever need to nurse. And as we discussed previously, I did not have bottles or formula in the house.
I had everything on hand to make sure I was successful, and it honestly did work. When I began to fail and question things, I got ahold of my lactation consultant and she told me what was causing issues and I was able to change it! Just having all the products I needed, as well as cute bras/clothes to nurse in, helped me feel motivated to continue and succeed.
6. Do your research.
One of the most common reasons I’ve heard of women quitting is that their milk “didn’t come in”. What a lot of women don’t know is that your milk takes 3-5 entire days after birth to come in!
Most women think their babies are hungry because they want to suck constantly at first. The crying and sucking and the fact that no milk is coming out makes women, logically, assume that their child is hungry and needs milk. They think they aren’t able to feed their baby and automatically turn to formula.
What’s crazy is that newborns suck and cry because they are overwhelmed, scared and just need you to comfort them! It’s just a reflex. Get a pacifier or offer your finger. They aren’t starving. Their little bellies can barely hold a teaspoon of colostrum – which I promise you have in your breasts right away, regardless of size.
Your baby doesn’t need milk right away. If you give your baby 2 oz of formula right out of the womb, they cannot handle it. It’s not good for them. They aren’t hungry and they only need your colostrum to satisfy them and give them the antibodies they need to stay healthy.
Here’s the deal…
There are so many questions and concerns that go along with breastfeeding and unless you have the knowledge about breastfeeding, you won’t know what’s happening and will likely succumb to formula.
I succeeded in breastfeeding for the first 4 months despite going through a c-section, having inverted nipples, and a hungry baby with a bad latch. I had lots of help and support and was able to overcome my obstacles.
But after some really terrible health issues on my part, I made the decision to switch to formula (you can read the full story here). My lactation consultant kept telling me that I could work through it and if I did all these things I could succeed. But my decision was this: I was done. I was in too much physical pain from my health to continue and I didn’t have the desire to work through the obstacles to succeed at that point.
The reason I wasn’t disappointed about my decision is because I made that decision with full knowledge of what I was choosing to do, knowing the pros and cons. I made that decision completely on my own… not because I failed or couldn’t figure it out. I chose to quit.
And as a fellow mother, that’s all I want for you! If you CHOOSE to formula feed, that’s great. But if you really want to breastfeed, I don’t want to see you fail because of not knowing how to succeed. I truly believe that if you have the right tools and information, you will be able to breastfeed if that’s what your heart’s desire is.
Best of luck on your breastfeeding journey!