Switching to Formula: Mom Survival Tips

I follow a lot of moms on Instagram. I follow a lot of moms who breastfeed and make their own baby food and use cloth diapers and plan on homeschooling or any number of other demanding, admirable things. All of these inspire me and motivate me to provide the things I hope to for Haines. I can breastfeed, puree those carrots, cloth diaper and teach my baby all kinds of things. And go to work? (And by work I mean on someone else’s schedule.) Well, shit.

Pumping at work was never fun but started out really well. I was pumping more than I needed each day. Slowly things changed. It went from just inconvenient to downright difficult with meetings pushing my pump time or me just getting busy, forgetting or putting it off. Several times I’ve had to travel during the day and pumped either in my car or in a bathroom stall just enough to get through the day and be comfortable. Over time it’s thrown off my production and for several weeks I wasn’t able to produce enough for the next day despite increasing the number of times I pumped. Each day we had to dip into our freezer stash to have enough milk. It was depressing to watch my small stash disappear.

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I used to be able to fill this bottle. Then I got lucky if I could fill half.

At least twice a day I was stressing out watching my pump bottles stay mostly empty. So I upped my pumping to 5 times a day but still wasn’t making enough. I had really wanted to use breastmilk exclusively for Haines’ first year but the stress was taking over. It seems ridiculous but breastfeeding became all I could think about. Tyler, not surprisingly, was incredibly supportive of making whatever changes I needed. Right before he turned 7 months we introduced formula.

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Happy 7 months baby!

There was no immediate relief for my anxiety. Just choosing a formula made me feel insane! Organic or non-GMO, sweetened with lactose or something else, designed for less spit-up or to help with fussiness? Good lord. Eventually I just chose the one that seemed the most organic and hippie. This brought me some relief. The first few days were really hard. The best way to sum it up is I spent about 5 days crying. I didn’t want to give up nursing but with my first work trip looming, it felt like the best choice for everyone. Haines adjusted fairly well although he fought the first couple bottles and his stomach took a couple days to get on board. We ended up mixing his formula with breastmilk to help with the flavor and his digestion. We also cut out the little bit of rice cereal we were giving him (formula and rice cereal can mean constipation, just FYI).

We’re about three weeks into formula and feeling better about it. I’m still nursing before bed and for the first feeding of the day. Although it’s nice to still provide breastmilk for his health, it really comes down to that I wasn’t ready to give up nursing. I love the way it calms him when nothing else will. I love the comfort it brings him when he’s teething or upset. I love having that card up my sleeve and I love that it’s my card. No one else can do it.

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A lot of breastfeeding isn’t as sweet as I thought it might be. He scratches my face or pulls on my nipple often. Then sometimes it’s just hand holding and everything is just right.

 The cost of formula doesn’t help. It’s something I really wanted to avoid. It’s expensive and babies drink a lot. We’ve tried two brands so far with the Costco brand lined up to try next. Honest Baby and Whole Earth’s Organic have gone over well. The Costco brand is non-GMO and only sweetened with lactose so even though it’s not organic, I think I won’t feel terrible giving it to my baby. (Mom guilt to the extreme over here, y’all.)

Many people have commented on how relaxed I am with Haines. I pass him off to anyone who will hold him. I don’t tell people how to hold him or what he prefers and I don’t worry when I find him across the room with a baby-loving person I don’t know. But life in public isn’t life in private. I feel more uptight, more anxious than I ever have before. My mom hawk eyes have grown in. I worry about every bump and scratch even though I pretend I don’t. The switch to formula brought this out in me to the max.

But I’ve finally relaxed about our new feeding arrangement and I’m enjoying it. I love being able to hand off feeding to someone else when I’m in the middle of something else- like sleeping! Unfortunately it also means I’ve moved on to a new focus for my nerves. This week- baby swim lessons. (They’re actually really adorable! More on this later.)

Tips for switching to formula:

(I am not an expert. These tips are not for your baby, they’re for you. Chances are your baby is fine.) 

  • Buy a formula that is too expensive. Make sure it says all the right things on the label. This will make you feel less guilty about the switch.
  • Now go to Costco or Walmart or whatever and get the formula you can afford. Use that one next.
  • Start with a 75% breastmilk, 25% formula mixture once or twice a day. Increase the formula each day as you start freaking out less.
  • If you have some frozen breastmilk you can utilize save it to use at bedtime when it might be most comforting to baby.
  • Drink a glass of wine when feeding baby formula. Realize that feeding baby formula means that you can drink alcohol with less anxiety about it.
  • If you’re really freaking out, eliminate the bed time and morning feeds last. These are the sweetest ones and the hardest to give up (in my opinion).
  • Take a break and realize how nice it is that your boobs no longer hurt when you’re away from baby. (This is several days into your transition.)
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This is a baby on formula. He’s clearly pretty upset about it. 

Okay, you’ve done it. You’re onto formula now. Don’t worry, you’re only a few days away from your next big concern. Damn you diaper rash/mosquito bite/developmental cues/teething/sleep patterns!

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