Everybody’s a Winner! Breastmilk v. Formula Part 2 of 2: FORMULA
As if being pregnant, giving birth, and raising a baby weren’t hard enough, on top of all that, you have to decide how you’re going to feed your newborn. Is breast best or is formula number one? It can be hard to maintain perspective when you face a lot of pressures from friends, family, and even strangers to do it one way or another. We at The Scold have been there. In this two part series, Scold co-founders, Danika and Tiffany, interview each other on their experiences feeding their babies with breastmilk and formula, respectively. Check it out for some non-judgemental storytelling about the challenges and joys of both. Spoiler alert: both babies are now happy and healthy toddlers who, Danika and Tiffany are certain, are also super geniuses who should probably be celebrities and/or world leaders because they are so charming.
Check out part one on breastfeeding here.
TIFFANY ON FORMULA FEEDING
Why did you choose to use formula?
I started out breastfeeding. Five days after my son, Mikey, was born we went to his pediatrician who was very concerned - Mikey wasn’t gaining enough weight. Our doctor told us to use formula. He told us that if we wanted to keep breastfeeding, that was fine, and if we wanted to go to a lactation consultant, that was fine, but we really needed the formula to get Mikey’s weight up. He never said this verbatim but my takeaway was that Mikey was starving. We had already done a breastfeeding class, we had already spoken several times to a lactation consultant, we were scared and so we immediately went out and bought formula. It was magic. Mikey was so much happier from that point forward and so were we.
What happened to your body when you stopped breastfeeding?
When Mikey was born, I went through all the typical physical stuff: my breasts became alarmingly GIGANTIC, hard, sensitive and, when Mikey started nursing, my nipples cracked and bled. I leaked all over the place and slept on a towel. When we started formula I kept breastfeeding for seven weeks, after which I went back to work part time. My milk dried up without me really noticing. I think I wasn’t producing enough milk by that point for stopping to have a noticeable effect on my body.
Was it as convenient as everybody acts like it is? I mean I feel like when people are being shitty about formula feeding it’s partly a very puritanical judgement because they think women are just being lazy and if they weren’t so lazy they would “be able” to breastfeed, and maybe also because they’re not self sacrificing enough. So . . . was that at least partly true? WAS it the lazy mom’s choice??? Like, let’s say that I found having a newborn to be really exhausting and required enormous self sacrifice (just hypothetically). Would formula feeding have allowed me to sleep more and be more selfish?
It was more convenient because my husband, George, could feed Mikey, too. The thing I didn’t know when Mikey was born is that they tell you to feed your kid every two hours. What they mean by that is that you have to start feeding your kid every two hours. So, for example, if you have a feeding at 1:00am, your next feeding needs to start at 3:00am no matter what other shit you have to do in the meantime. So say, for example, your kid takes 45 minutes to eat - which Mikey did. That meant that I had 1 hour and 15 minutes to put Mikey down, make sure he was asleep, put myself down, and get some sleep myself, before my damn alarm went off again. When we switched over to formula, my husband fed Mikey half the time. That meant, if I fed Mikey at 1:00am, I could selfishly indulge in about 2.5 to 3 hours of sleep before my damn alarm went off. Or, during the day, I could take 2.5 hours to make a meal or run an errand or something. So yea, if that’s lazy and selfish then, hell yeah, I’m lazy and selfish.
Was it so expensive though? Did you have to torture yourself over whether you were buying the “best” formula even though it was like, a million dollars for a week’s supply or something?
Yes and kind of. Our doctor told us that all formula was the same and so we could just buy the cheap stuff. But the cheap stuff didn’t sit right with Mikey’s tummy. What did sit right with Mikey’s tummy? The most expensive stuff in the store, of course. At the beginning it cost us about $30 a week. When Mikey got older and ate more it cost about $50 a week.
What kind of labor was involved in formula feeding? AND WHO DID IT????
You have to buy the formula which was harder to do than it seems because we were living in New York at the time. We lived in baby-heavy neighborhood and so a lot of times the store by our apartment would be completely out of the kind of formula Mikey ate. We might have to go to two or three stores to get the formula. We tried ordering from Amazon but USPS rarely delivered packages to us because New York is broken in a lot of weird ways. When they didn’t deliver our packages I had two options. Option one: walk my baby across a highway, into a neighborhood where the police had recently found a murdered woman on a parkbench, pick up the package at the post office, and carry both baby and package home on foot. Option two: call many USPS representatives until you get the regional manager’s direct line, call that line, tearfully explain that we needed our baby’s food to be delivered. I took care of option two - I had the manager’s phone number saved in my phone.
Other than that, it’s easy. You have to mix the formula, which my husband and I both did and which takes about two seconds. You don’t have to heat it. We kept distilled water at room temperature and used that to make formula. You have to wash the bottles which can be a pain if you don’t have a dishwasher, which we didn’t. My husband did that because what has two thumbs and doesn’t do dishes? THIS WIFE!
I assume there were no emotional benefits to formula feeding and that it was basically the same as rigging a bottle up inside a faux-Tiffany made of baling wire for your kid to drink from. Is this correct?
That is correct.
Seriously though, what were the emotional benefits of formula?
Knowing your baby’s not starving to death.
How much did you torture yourself about being a bad mom for using formula? Were there other emotional costs?
Really a lot. That was the only emotional cost but that was enough.
PLEASE TELL ME EVERY STORY YOU HAVE ABOUT EVERYONE WHO WAS SHITTY TO YOU ABOUT FORMULA. I want to make sure I take the time to hate them all individually for you.
Well, before Mikey was born, people I worked with, but had never spoken with before, all of a sudden were pressuring me to breastfeed and give birth naturally. I was appalled that people would feel free to, not only talk to me, but preach to me about what I should do about something so incredibly intimate. After Mikey was born and wasn’t getting enough to eat, some of my friends (all childless, some male) were like “have you tried a lactation consultant? You should really try a lactation consultant. I have heard lactation consultants are really good for consulting with you about lactation” and I was like OH REALLY I NEVER EVEN GOOGLED A THING BEFORE THANK YOU FOR YOUR SAGE ADVICE.
Who was supportive of using formula?
My husband, my doctor and my mom. George was ready to use formula the day after Mikey was born but I wanted to hold off because the LACTATION CONSULTANT THAT I SAW MULTIPLE TIMES, PEOPLE, told me that my milk would come in soon and everything would be great. It turns out that, as a psychic, that lactation consultant was crap. I started using formula because my doctor told me to. When my mom, who breastfed all her kids, came to visit, I broke down crying and said “I hate breastfeeding” and she said “so don’t”. I kept breastfeeding for awhile but I still really appreciate that she cut through the bullshit like that.
What kind of support do you wish you had had?
Honestly, I wish I had had my own support. I should have started formula sooner and I should have owned that decision completely.
Follow up from Danika: I want to give you a big hug right now.
What do you regret, other than that your child is now an emotional shell?
Haha! I regret not formula feeding sooner. I think about how hungry Mikey must have been those first few days of his life and I cry. I think about how hard things were for all three of us and I cry. I think of the first few days of Mikey’s life with regret and pain because he was so hungry and, had I known better, I could have fixed that.
Follow up from Danika: And another big hug.
What is your best memory of formula feeding? What about your most persistent memory of that time? Do you know what I mean? When you think about “giving the baby a bottle” what do you think of?
When we started using formula everything started to turn around. It was the middle of January but I had that feeling of light and promise that you get when winter turns to spring. Mikey was happier and sleeping insanely well. He slept so well that it was hard to wake him for his feedings, which our doctor told us still needed to be done two hours apart. We had to tickle him and constantly pester him to keep him awake during feedings. George and I still worried and I maintained an obsession with Mikey’s weight for at least a year. But he was on the upswing and that was an incredible relief.
When I think about “giving the baby a bottle” I think about good times. I think about sitting with Mikey in a rocking chair in his room. At night I would put in headphones and watch TV while he ate. During the day we’d listen to music. I liked Devendra Banhart because the songs had a good cadence for a little baby. I used to call Mikey “Little Sparrow” after a Banhart cover of an Ella Jenkins’ song. Mikey loved Beyonce. I used to sing him the hook from “Still Fly” by the Big Tymers as a lullaby. Every Sunday, since the day he was born, we always listen to “Sunday Morning” by the Velvet Underground. Good times <3
Now that you've had one experience feeding a baby what is your idealized perfect baby feeding fantasy? And what is the actual realistic thing you would do next time?
I suspended all ideal visions of having a baby when I got pregnant. A lot of people plan out their labor and all that but nature does nature and you’re bound to run up against the unplanned. So, I planned, and would plan again, to roll with the punches as best I could. If I had another baby, I would probably try breastfeeding again because they say your body does different stuff with each pregnancy. But if it didn’t look like it was going well, it wouldn’t take long for me to stuff that baby full of formula.
What advice would you give mothers who are trying to figure out what to do? What advice would you give mothers who have already decided they are going to use formula?
I would say be your own advocate. You might get a good lactation consultant in the hospital but you might not. In addition, the nurses might dissuade you from using formula even if it’s the best thing for your child, as they did in my case. If you have any doubt about whether your baby is eating enough, or you just want to check and make sure, ask a doctor. If it seems like an inconvenience to the nurses and doctors, fuck them. Don’t hesitate to be a pain in the ass.
If your doctor expresses concerns about your baby’s weight, ask if formula is a good idea and give serious consideration to using it. If your baby is medically diagnosed as properly chubby, you can still consider formula. I would suggest thinking about how you want to spend your time. If you want to spend your time breastfeeding, you should do that and enjoy that. If you have a partner and want to share feeding the baby with him/her, use formula.
If you’ve decided to use formula, good for you, gurl. Own it. Don’t think twice about it.
What parting shots do you have for assholes who think you’re doing it wrong?
Get over it, I’m awesome.