Why I Wouldn’t Give My Baby Formula If I Couldn’t Breastfeed, and What I Would do Instead.





Let me start with pointing out that the title of this article states that *I* would never give my child formula, and what *I* would do instead. While I hope to inspire those with nursing struggles, I am not here to tell you what you should do, because I don’t know what it is like to struggle to nurse my baby (so long as blistered and bleeding nipples don’t count as a struggle. Heh.) I am simply here to exterminate the “it’s either breastfeeding or formula feeding” dichotomy. Well, that, and explain why I think we can do better as far as what we offer non-breastfeeding mothers as milk alternatives. Because I believe what we currently carry on the market is doing babies a disservice.

I recognize that the fact that I have chosen to never give my baby formula is largely because I have the privilege to not have to do that based on where I live and the resources  I have access to. Not everyone will have the same advantages as me, and I get that. Of course, if I found myself in a situation where the only thing available was infant formula, then obviously I would do what I had to to keep my baby alive. But still, I don’t believe that is saying much, because I would give my child anything if it meant keeping him alive. Those people who lack the resources are not so much who I am writing to here.

I will also add that my recommendations are not meant to replace breastfeeding. I will always promote breast as best. The ultimate agenda here is to provide more breastfeeding support and education to new mothers and less pushing and advertising of formula in hospitals and by formula companies. We need to grow up seeing our mothers, aunts, cousins and community nursing out in the open. It needs to be normalized from the time we are young. All new mothers need free access to a lactation consultant and be supported by educated loved ones who know the importance of breastfeeding for the baby and the mother. Our culture needs a fundamental shift in the way we view feeding and raising babies. This statement might sound harsh to some people, but I believe children have a right to be breastfed, and to carry out the developmental disruption of not nursing comes with inevitable consequences, which are going to look differently from child to child (health problems, attachment issues, etc).




Look, I know that not all women can breastfeed, but in 2011 only 49% of babies were being breastfed at 6 months old in the U.S.! That is less than half. By a year old, only 27% of babies are still breastfeeding. These numbers are too low and raise concern for the public health. Sometimes a woman cannot breastfeed, but 51% of American women are not physically unable. The World Health Organization suggests nursing for at least two years and estimates over 800,000 lives could be saved per year if every (or most) women nursed their babies. With that said, I have seen women struggle and be tortured by the fact that they were having such a hard time nursing their babies. It is part because we lack the education and support, and also because with the way we live our lives these days (unhealthy diets, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, sedentary lifestyles, etc etc) has it be that our bodies don’t always function in ways that are biologically normative. But when you are sitting there with a new baby and struggling to feed her, the last thing you need to be doing is figuring out why your body isn’t working as it should. The thing that calls for immediate action is to feed your baby and that is why we have and need alternatives. Healthy alternatives.

Here are the reasons why I would never give my own baby formula and what I would do instead, given the resources I have.

  1. I don’t see formula as the next best thing to breastmilk.

For me, keeping my child as healthy as he can be is very important to me. As I look at the healthiest option for my baby, formula falls so far down the list that it has become a non-option.  I know sickness happens, and I welcome the rare times he gets sick because I know it is building his strong immune system to be even stronger. So for me, if I couldn’t breastfeed, I would only and obviously want to give him the next best thing, and formula is not that. It isn’t even the third best, in my opinion. We have a way of thinking that says a baby is healthy so long as baby is alive and more or less hitting their milestones. In my opinion, there are so many other things that indicate true health and vitality that are too much to talk about here (maybe another blog). I believe that because of many of our modern parenting practices, we don’t actually get to often see how truly healthy and vibrant children are meant to be.



2. The ingredients.

What makes it not healthy you say? Let’s take a look: The first few ingredients found in mainstream formula brands, like Similac are Corn Syrup Solids (gmo), Soy Protein (gmo), and Sugar (this is added, processed sugar. Not natural glucose that our bodies and cells require. They are not created equal). It goes on to list a slew of other ingredients I would never give myself, much less my baby. Amongst them are casein (milk protein), choline chloride (first isolated from ox bile, an ammonium salt often used in pet and livestock feed), and synthetic vitamins.

formula2formula1

 

So then what would I do?

1.) Wet nurses and donated milk.

I would have other people nurse my baby and give him donated breastmilk. I know two women who adopted children in my area that were able to feed their babies on pumped breastmilk for a year without supplementing with formula. I truly am blessed to live in a big city full of nursing mamas. Between Facebook groups, community connections and word of mouth, it isn’t impossible to have a freezer full of donated milk. I would post in all the local mom groups, tell my friends and close connections to reach out to everyone they know and rally to get me a good stash. If you live in a city or larger town (or within an hour or so of one) I highly recommend this. Thank God for social media in this day and age. I’ve seen it help so many women in this way.



2.) Milk Banks

Where I live there are milk banks where women can donate their milk for babies in need. Now, typically the milk at milk banks is only prescribed to babies with unique situations like preterm babies, failure to thrive and those with allergies and formula intolerances. This is still a good option for those who find themselves in any of those situations. The only downside is that all the milk is pasteurized, but still a better option than formula.

3.) I would make my own.

I make my own food, my own medicinal remedies and baby bottom spray….why not make my own baby formula? That way I can be the one who is 100% in charge of what I am putting into my child’s body. I suppose no matter what we choose, we are in charge of what goes into their body. I want to empower myself and take responsibility for our health and well-being by choosing the best ingredients for my child. There are so many homemade baby formula ingredients to be found online. Choose the one that works the best for you and your child and DO YOUR RESEARCH. The making of your child’s formula is something to take very seriously and be well educated on how, what they need and how much. I will leave the links to a few reputable ones down below.

A recipe with goat milk

A recipe using coconut milk

Weston A. Price recipe (Honestly, not my favorite. Way too much dairy for me.)

**Please always consult with your doctor before giving your child a homemade formula**

 

This is not meant to shame formula feeding moms. I get that based on our choices and lifestyles, we all have different priorities in life, and for me, health is a BIG one. It comes before how much money I make, how big my house is and what type of car I drive. Once we know better we can do better and how can that happen if we don’t open an honest dialogue? Like all big industries, the formula industry stays profitable with your business. In order to keep your business, sometimes companies have to sell you information that might not always be in your best interest. Again, I understand that not everyone has access to loads of pumped milk and/or the money to continuously buy fresh, organic ingredients to make formula themselves. Then again, I know people feeding their babies formula that do have those resources, and maybe they would like a better alternative. That is what I am offering here.




 

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26 Comments

  1. 40% of the protein in natural breast milk is Casein, get your facts right before you trick vulnerable mothers into your propaganda. Your opinions could seriously harm babies and cause unnecessary mental health issues for struggling mothers. Think before you post.

    1. Please research the difference and ratios between cow casein and human casein. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I’d be very curious to have the link regarding the 800,000 lives that could be saved annually by breastfeeding. You are right about one thing though, formula isn’t ‘the next best thing’ – in a developed country, it’s equivalent. The sibling study is just one of the studies that shows the benefits of breastfeeding are greatly exaggerated. My only hope is that some emotional, desperate mom struggling to nurse her child doesn’t stumble upon your dangerous recommendations to use unscreened breastmilk or make their own. I’d encourage you to join an evidenced based feeding group on Facebook to help inform you about the dangers of your recommendations and to help sort out all the ‘woo’ put out there by, well, by women like you.

  3. Thank you for your informative post. I’ve personally never had to substitute breastmilk, but I’m happy to see that there are much better options than formula available. I’ve read lots of benefits associated with raw milk products, so making baby formula yourself sounds smarter to me than purchasing the stuff they sell in the store, with ingredients nobody can pronounce. 🙂

  4. So glad and encouraged to read my exact thoughts coming from someone else… I commend your bravery for writing something so controversial like this- even though I don’t think it’s one bit controversial. ‘Fed is best’ is, in my opinion, one of the worst, most detrimental slogans aimed at new mothers. Of course no mother should feel shamed or less of a mother for her choices, but she should have all the facts and support before making decisions about such important topics. My baby hasn’t had a drop of formula and we continue to nurse on demand at 19 months. Thank you for writing this and let the haters hate… if even one mama is inspired by this post, then it’s worth all the nasty, ill informed comments 🙂

  5. I am not surprised to see the comments here. The only thing that caught me off guard was the “talk to your doctor before making your own formula”. Do you really think many doctors would share your recommendation beliefs? In my experience doctors don’t. I am trying to have a baby and I’ve never had a doctor even know about any natural treatments for infertility or want to even learn about it.
    I enjoyed your article though and I hope some mothers do more research and try healthier options. I have been trying to get pregnant ‘ the natural way’ and have dairy goats as a back up plan. Goat milk is the closest thing to human milk and I do hope more people try it. Thanks for the inspiring article.

  6. These are great alternatives. I had a terrible time breastfeeding my first–horrible post-partum depression with suicidal thoughts that magically disappeared the moment I freed myself from the oppressive grind of breastfeeding. Since then, I tend to get really defensive for new mothers going through the same thing; eapecially because there is so much pressure to breast feed now. It truly is an absolute nightmare for some of us that worsens PPD, and we just won’t do it. Period. I didn’t do it beyond one month with my second, and I won’t if I ever have a third. (I, in no.way, am taking away from its benefits and applaud those that do). But these are awesome options for new moms!

    *As a side note (not trying to pick a fight here) I once had a breastfeeding mom lecture me about formula chemicals whilst smoking a Camel Light and drinking a Diet Coke). Oh, the irony. 🙂

  7. As a mom who could not breastfeed, I share your same sentiment. I was positive I would breastfeed my child into toddlerhood, then the worse thing ever imaginable happened. I could not produce milk. Due to a congenital birth defect of my own, which has no other effect in my life, the nerves associated with at breast stimulation and milk production do not exist in my body. So what did I do? For a while, we purchased breastmilk from a milk bank, and then we hit up every peer-to-peer milk donation site known to mankind. My child has had breastmilk from more than fifty healthy, breastfeeding women who also fed their babies. My child has traveled to four countries, and three continents and shared in the breastmilk of international breast milk sharing. We made it beyond one year of age, completely breastmilk fed! To top it off, I’d do it all over again. In fact, I plan to start a freezer stash while pregnant with my next child. I’m hopeful that a mom (a collection of moms) will have colostrum to spare. I, too, read formula ingredients and couldn’t fathom feeding my child those things. Normalizing breastmilk sharing is now my passion!

    1. What an inspection you are donor milk user. An incredible journey you have been on. Really moved by your story. Big love Mama xxx

  8. I think it’s important to remember that not everyone lives near a milk bank or somewhere that there is milk sharing. I live in a remote area, and it simply does not exist here. When I couldn’t breastfeed, this was not an option. I would have to travel 800 miles to get donor milk or to buy milk. I looked into it for months, trying to figure it out, because of the guilt I felt about formula use.

    I probably wouldn’t mind giving homemade formula on the occasion, but I was only able to meet about 50-60% of my baby’s needs, and I’d worry about it a lot, after reading horror stories online. I know you’re saying what YOU would do, but I just hope people can remember that not everybody’s circumstances are the same.

    1. You’re right, Kali. Hence why I stated not everyone will have access to these resources.

  9. I’m a little confused…. theres advertisements for formula from a third party in this post. For someone who is against formula isn’t it morally wrong to be taking money and “selling” formula to your readers? Formula isn’t good enough for your kids but you’ll exploit the formula brands for your own finically gain?

    I know you don’t decide which ads get placed where but you’ve still partnered with a formula brand, ” Babies Own” in this case. Soooooo hypocritical

    1. I agree and unfortunately, like you said, I don’t choose which ads get placed. But formula companies have to pay out of their pockets for advertising, so actually the more you click on it, the more they lose money.

        1. I don’t actually have a problem with people making money off of corrupt companies who won’t be supporting them.

  10. I find this article absolutely ridiculous and obviously written by someone who has never been faced with the devastating realization that they can not breastfeed when they had full intent to.

    Your solutions are out of touch and next to impossible. Not at all realistic. No one is going to live with me and breastfeed my child on demand for one year. Also, finding people to donate pumped milk is also slim to none. Usually everyone who is breastfeeding is happy to have a slight stash to keep for themselves when they need to leave the baby and have breastmilk in the bottle for a sitter.

    Donated milk banks are EXTREMELY expensive. Thousands and thousands of dollars a month and many that I called would only give their resources to NICU babies.

    Making your own formula is not safe. Not to mention when your child is starving and screaming, you don’t have the time to google and replicate a safe process to make this. What you do is give formula because it is the only option at the time.

    Bottom line- don’t make formula feeding mommies feel less worthy and irresponsible for giving formula when your resources you mentioned are impossible for 99.5% of average people.

    Again, this article was infuriating to me.

    1. I hear that living off of donated milk feels impossible to you, but I live in a big progressive city where moms milk share all the time and I’ve seen babies live off of free donated formula for a year. So it actually feels very possible for me and I know what I would be willing to do if I was faced with that decision. I’m also about two hours in every direction from other major cities and would be willing to drive sometimes to stash up. I mentioned not everyone will have the same resources as me.

    2. I don’t believe it’s impossible for as many people as you say. Also I can’t MAKE you feel less worthy and irresponsible by sharing my thoughts and what I would do. If you feel that way when hearing my experience then look within.

  11. I would love to see what you would do if you were in the hospital with your child and they were starving during your five night stay. Pretty positive you would give formula… just saying

    1. I kept a very small stash of donated milk in my freezer before the birth, just in case of emergency.

  12. This article saddens me, perhaps if the tone wasn’t so critical, and more helpful then you wouldn’t get so many people’s backs up. The world is a hard enough place already, what parents don’t need is another guilt trip about something you don’t seem to have ever actually experienced? Contrite? Just a tad.

    Do what is best for YOUR baby under YOUR circumstances. Millions of healthy, happy babies out there that were fed whatever their parents deemed accessible, affordable and suitable.

    And I also noticed that you referenced “formula feeding mom’s” and women a few times in the article. Let’s give a quick shout out to all the single parents moms, single parent dads and same sex couples out there raising happy, healthy kids. In a situation where both parents are involved, let’s stop telling mom what a bad job she is doing and let’s start recognizing our partners for the equal share of parental responsibilities they have.

    1. “do what is best for YOUR baby under YOUR circumstances.”

      Yep. That’s what this article is about…

  13. There is the A1/A2 milk issue to consider too. Goats milk and some cows milk is A2 e.g. generally jersey herds but the Holstein Freisians are generally A1 i.e. having the harmful beta-casein morphine 7 mutation. I met an older lady who fed her kids diluted cows milk sweetened with honey back in the day. When I was nursing we were taught some similar calculation to render cows milk to the right proportions for newborns.

  14. Awesome! I love this article a million times and I love how you handled the but hurt comments with class, grace assertiveness and education. People will always find a reason to get pissed off and blame You for their guilt. You made it clear that their are always exceptions and for people to do what is best for their family. Somehow people seem to miss certain parts and only only want to bitch and get pissed off at others. Breast is best, period, more moms should breastfeed, period. Forula companies are corrupt and their ingredients are subpar, and formula feeding has risks and consequences both for the baby and for society as a whole, period. Breastfeeding needs to be more supported and promoted, fed is NOT best, it’s the bae minimum we should do as mothers. If society as a whole would prioritize breastfeeding and moms didn’t look to formula as an option unless it was a last resort, breastfeeding rates would climb. There are always exceptions but 51%of women’s breasts don’t fail them, if your body can grow a baby for 9months it can feed that same baby afterwards. Nursing goes hand in hand with pregnancy. I don’t understand why women in general don’t see nursing as a natural continuation to pregnancy. Breastfeeding rates affect society as a whole.
    I support you and love everything you said. More women need to stand up and keep it real without fear of “offending” the formula supporting snowflakes” and their special stories about why they couldn’t breastfeed….or were too lazy not to. (Again…there are always exceptions but 51%of women is not an “exception” so if you are the exception, this doesn’t apply to you)
    Now I will step off my high horse and wait for the backlash lol