We talk about breastfeeding a lot here on Making of Mom, but what about moms who can’t or choose to feed their baby with pumped milk or formula? In this series on formula feeding, Emmy is going to talk us through a lot of things you need to know when choosing formula for your baby.
But your baby will be sicker if you formula feed!
No, not necessarily. But have you been told this?
MANY MANY maaaaaaany times.
There are a number of myths that are floating around about formula feeding. This one seems to be up there.
You may have had some other comments out of left field.
But I want to cover some of the more common myths that I have heard floating around and may be making you feel guilty. We need to get rid of that guilt – and give you some answers when people decide to comment on something that isn’t actually their business….
If you wanted to breastfeed like I did, then you probably feel guilty if you can’t – like I did. Let me tell you now that feeding your baby in the way that you can makes you a good mom. You’re doing a great job!
Formula Feeding Myth #1 – “You’ll have sicker kids!”
So let’s address this straight off since this is the one I got most often.
Will your baby get sick more?
Honestly, it depends. And how will you compare to how sick they would get on breastmilk? Coz that is so not the only factor.
- How much contact do they have with others outside the home who might bring in something?
- Do they have a house that keeps them warm enough, or cool enough? That is something most parents obviously try to do, but it isn’t always in their power to make it right all the time.
- Are there older kids around them? Since they are most likely to give them some kind of bugs or viruses!
When I realised we would have to formula feed, I had an image of my kids having endless colds, snotty noses, horrible coughs…
My kids hardly had any colds until they went to preschool. Apart from when other kids visited!
So, no, your baby will not necessarily be sicker if you formula feed. They will be just as healthy as other babies with all the factors to be considered.
Formula Feeding Myth #2 – “Your baby will have a low IQ!”
Actually not true! Although there have been studies in the past where breastfed children outperformed formula fed children, a recent cohort study in Ireland has proven there’s no difference.
Here’s the thing: whether you are breastfed or formula fed, there are loads of other factors that affect your IQ. Genetics, environment, socioeconomic status… this study took factors like that into account and found no statistical significance to breastfeeding and it’s impact on IQ.
Formula Feeding Myth #3 – “Formula feeding is way too expensive!”
Many people, including close family, worried about the cost of formula feeding. They didn’t necessarily say things like “how can you afford it?!?” but they raised it as an issue far more than they raised any other costs to do with having a baby.
Which made me feel like I had made a bad choice to formula feed.
Until I remembered that the other choice was giving me pain to the point of feeling crazy… so it wasn’t really a choice.
If something doesn’t work with breastfeeding, or in spite of trying you can’t cope with it, or you need to return to work after six weeks… or… or… or… there are so many variables that sometimes make formula feeding the best option for moms.
If the choice is feeding your baby or not feeding your baby, then that ISN’T a choice is it?!?
I do get it. After all there are lots of costs to having kids. Diapers, baby gear, food, toys…
But I have to confess I really hate talking about affording a baby.
Humans cost money. Period.
Because they are valuable.
And if you don’t pay in dollars then you pay in time and energy… and grey hairs! Breastfeeding is not actually free. It just may not cost money – and frankly lots of my friends had so many costs in breastfeeding gear that I think it does actually cost money!!
Feeding kids costs. Kids cost. Life costs. It’s costly.
Because it is SOOOOOOOooooo valuable.
And if you need an answer for someone asking about this (more than saying “I love my kids so I don’t mind buying food for them!” and watching them shut up!) then you could say that it will not last forever. Coz it won’t.
The husband of a friend of mine drove her nuts by keeping all the empty cans of formula. He wanted a photo of all of them at the end of the year. It was his trophy for getting through it!! 🙂
Myth #4 – “You’re taking the easy way out (translation: you’re a lazy mom)”
Yeah… so people who say this have obviously never tried formula feeding! And I only ever had this hinted at towards me… but even a hint is enough.
It’s NOT the easy option. Trust me.
It is not selfish.
Feeding a baby is not easy.
There are NO easy options.
Yes, you may be able to share the feeding load with others. But, in exchange you get the critical job of always making sure you have formula ‘in stock’ at home, water boiled, and bottle feeding gear clean and ready to go at all hours of the day.
Anyone laying this myth on you shows a lack of understanding… but mostly it shows that this is not one of your people. Find your people. Find the ones who make you feel like you are doing ok. Doesn’t matter how you feed your baby, we ALL need support to do this mama business. Find those people who can be YOUR people. Maybe you can be their people too 🙂
Myth #5 – “I wish I was as comfortable with not losing my baby weight as you…”
Pfft… Firstly, no one is comfortable with their baby weight.
It is true that breastfeeding uses quite a bit of energy (around 200-500 calories a day). By the laws of ‘calories in / calories out’, burning extra energy should meant weight loss.
But it is only a part of the whole picture.
I know quite a few moms who are still struggling with their weight and they exclusively breastfed.
All of us struggle with the tiredness and so we grab food to shove in our mouths to keep us going and wake us up a bit more… Dads included!
To be honest I was large when I got pregnant and lost weight after having kids since I was (probably) too busy to eat! This is so individual.
I think this is similar to saying you are more likely to get depressed if you don’t breastfeed. There are so many other factors going on for both these situations. And the fact that some people lose weight easier, or are more prone to depression…
And on the depression front, I was told by a professional to STOP expressing so that I could get some treatment for my severe depression, which was being made worse by the expressing and attempts to breastfeed…
Myth #6 – “Lucky you! Formula fed babies sleep through the night…”
Umm… no they don’t. Here’s the proof: this study shows that breastfeeding and formula feeding babies wake up equally often.
I AM lucky. I have two gorgeous kids. Who were gorgeous babies.
That were TERRIBLE sleepers.
So yeah… I can tell you that this sadly wasn’t true for me. And then I had to deal with other moms jealously wishing they could formula feed to get more sleep… hmmm….
By the way, those were not my people!
So I did feed my son breastmilk for his first few weeks and then switched to formula. It made no difference to his sleeping patterns really. It made no difference to us at all. Because we had to bottle feed, my husband and I were sharing night shifts for the first few weeks anyway, whenever we could.
And my daughter was formula fed from the beginning… and she was possibly a worse sleeper than my son.
Where does this myth come from? Maybe it comes from people adding a formula feed at night to supplement their supply of breast milk right around the time that children can begin sleeping for longer without needing to wake for feeds?
Myth #7 – “But you can’t mix breastmilk and formula!”
Why not? Both are nutritionally good choices for your baby. And I did for some time while I attempted to express what breastmilk I could since I believed it was so much better for my baby.
Some working mothers manage to continue breastfeeding their babies in the evenings and have them bottle fed during the day – either formula or expressed milk. I think they are heroes!
Myth #8 – “Your baby will get confused!”
This is one which confuses me!!
Why would your baby be confused about which nipple to take from?!? Especially when they are hungry?!?
I completely get that your baby may decide that they PREFER one nipple type over another. But there are so many different types of nipples – for bottles and for people! So if you find that one type of bottle isn’t working for your baby, try another. It can sometimes be a process to find the bottle and nipple type that your baby likes best.
And if you introduce the bottle fairly early on for them to get used to potential change in nipple, then you will have the choice to use it later on as well, especially if you know you need to go back to work or something like that. The advice to wait a few weeks first is not great advice at all…
Formula Feeding Myth #9 – “How will you bond with your baby if you aren’t breastfeeding them??!”
Maybe if I didn’t look at them and ignored them completely while feeding them, and the rest of the time too… but since I look at my kids and talk to them, I have no problem with bonding thanks!
Yeah, there is a lot of talk about best ways to bond. Again, if you feed your baby and cuddle them and take care of them… well, that makes for a pretty good relationship and that will make a strong bond.
And as an aside, because we had to bottle feed, my husband got to get in some pretty awesome bonding time as well.
I know a mom who actually chose to bottle feed their second child from about 3 months especially so that her husband could have that experience since their first baby preferred only her for the first year of her life. So I don’t think there is less chance to bond. Sometimes there is more!
By the way, I should say here that some babies will not let just anyone feed them simply because they take a bottle. My kids were reluctant to have just anyone feed them. But they were happy with grandparents and a few close friends. So we made the most of that chance to share a bond with those people too!
Formula Feeding Myth #10 – “Your baby’ll have poor gut health!”
Gut health is such a popular topic these days.
So, the truth is that breastmilk gives our babies more good stuff in their gut (over 200 different types of prebiotics AND probiotics too). It is a natural product after all! The argument is that formula feeding means kids don’t get a good start for their future gut health (though you can find infant formula that contains prebiotics and probiotics).
Which is a big deal these days.
So, I have to say I think there is some truth to this one.
I am a mom who had caesarean sections and formula fed my babies. Both big no-nos for ideal gut health in my kids. Apparently when baby goes through the birth canal they get a dose of healthy bacteria which they don’t get if they are born by c-section.
But I would rather have my kids alive. Seriously!
If either of them had needed antibiotics when they were small, it would be exactly the same effect – stripping good bacteria out of their guts. And I would have given them antibiotics in a heartbeat if they needed them.
No guilt needed. We make the best choices we can. I did.
And my kids are really quite healthy, normal kids. Even the one who has autism and eats frozen bread with tomato sauce as his main meal… yeah. Really.
[I have even had a hint from someone that his autism could be because of the formula feeding… if you have anything “special” up with your baby, people want answers to why. And some go as far as to find reasons that can blame the parents. That is really unhelpful thinking. Ignore it. It’s their problem, not yours!]
So, you may not have come up against this myth. But with medical professionals as friends and family, I heard about it reasonably often. And honestly, most of my friends and family agree that we made good choices with our kids. Didn’t stop them talking about it… or my guilt at the time…
So do yourself a favour and know that you are making the best choices you can for your baby. They will be ok.
Formula Feeding Myth #11 – You have to Defend Your Reasons for Formula Feeding
You may get comments that sting or questions like the ones we’ve talked about above, but at the end of the day you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your reasons to formula feed. It’s none of their business!
Mama, the main thing I want you to take from all this is that you are doing well. You are making the best decisions for your family. You feed your baby. You worry about doing the right things. You care enough to search for the best thing to do for your baby!!
You are doing a great job. Go you!!
Has anyone made any weird comments to you about formula feeding your baby? Let us know in the comments below and give us some more myths to bust!
Read More About Formula Feeding
- Formula Feeding Baby: How Much, How Often?
- Formula Feeding Must Haves – Essential Bottle Feeding Equipment