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    April 09, 2012

    Notes For My Sister On Having A Baby: Formula Is Just Food

    Hey FPC! Today the Seattle City Council passed a breastfeeding ordinance that "makes it illegal for businesses and other entities to ask nursing moms to stop, cover up or move to a different location in public areas." Our fine city has made the right to breastfeed your child a protected civil right! Yay Seattle!

    Of course, this only reminds me that I need to write the post about bottlefeeding. HEH.

    For some people, for plenty of different reasons, breastfeeding just doesn't work. There are so many different ways it might not work that I seriously wonder how the human race just didn't STARVE in infancy. (Then I remember there were wet nurses and they were probably fine with the whole breastfeeding set up and then I start to feel sad for them because it kind of sounds like the worst job ever. Except maybe not? Like maybe they were Kept Women? You know? Lots of treats? OKAY I DIGRESS.) 

    Seems like most women TRY breastfeeding and then, for the ones who struggle with it and ultimately decide to go the formula route, most of them feel like Horrible Mothers. At least at first. Because shoot, if people are going around making it a PROTECTED CIVIL RIGHT, what's wrong with YOU? 

    But when I was feeling like a failure because I was going to start giving Emma formula to give my body a break from the pain, I remember taking it to Twitter (THERE'S a good recommendation! Get thee a Twitter account!) and I'm pretty sure it was Emily who said something I will remember forever: Formula is just food!

    You know me, FPC. I can turn anything to Superdrama, especially if I can perceive myself somehow Failing Spectacularly, etc. You are not so neurotic. If you are in this position YOU will be fine. BUT JUST IN CASE! Just in case I will tell you: Formula is not how good you are as a mother! Formula is just food! 

    So anyway. Have some bottles. You'll want them even if you're breastfeeding. Well, I guess there are those ladies who don't mind being the cafeteria 24/7 but I was not one of them and it improved my quality of life four trillion percent when Phillip could do one of the nighttime feedings. We use Avent bottles, but does it matter? I don't think so. Especially now that they're all BPA free. How things change between your first kid and your third kid!

    I've heard that you want to introduce the bottle at about 2 weeks old? Is that right? (This applies to breastfeeding too, obvs.) I'm sure this varies. People say if you do it earlier it confuses the baby? Nipple confusion? Jack we had to give a bottle right away because he was just too tiny to latch. We waited too long with Molly, though, and I think she was 6 or 7 months old before she took a bottle. WOE WAS ME. Emma got a bottle in the hospital and never seemed confused to me. So. I don't know. Just something to think about. 

    The worst thing about bottles, in my opinion, is washing them. I HATE WASHING BOTTLES. Seriously. Phillip and I have actual fights over this task. Having one of those bottle brushes and a drying rack makes it a little less horrible. 

    Munchkin makes these little formula holder thingies. So you can measure out three servings of formula and tote it around in your diaper bag. Easier (and cuter!) than a plastic bag with a scoop. 

    With Jack we bought Special Filtered Water and freaked about the temperature and the foaminess or NOT foaminess of the formula. With Emma we, uh, use tap water, we don't worry too much about if it's cold (she still drinks it!) and we are often combining random bottles and sticking them in the fridge. We hope she'll still be accepted to college. 

    We use store brand formula. As far as I can tell, it is EXACTLY THE SAME as the formula that costs twice (TWICE) as much. We're really lucky that all our babies were just fine with whatever formula we happened to give them. Not all parents are so lucky. (There's a good tip for 4am when the baby is on her seventeenth wakeup: someone somewhere has it worse than you.)

    Pay attention to how hard your baby is sucking to get the milk out. Don't be like Phillip and me and realize you should have moved up to the 3 month nipple size (bigger holes) at, oh, six months. Oops. 

    Don't be afraid to talk about it. As you know, I am Fairly Transparent and when it comes to breastfeeding talk I don't even think before I say, "Ugh, not my favorite" and I've had more than a handful of New Moms look at me with Shock - right before they say, "me either". Solidarity! It's fun!  

    The breast/bottle thing feels like SUCH A BIG DEAL when your baby is tiny. It is a big deal. I don't mean to belittle it or say it isn't important or that it doesn't matter. I think it really does matter. I think your own hopes and expectations for how you feed your baby are huge, and how it all plays out can leave a big mark on your psyche, and all the other new moms you hang out with are bringing their own issues to the table, and then if you have the INTERNET it can put even more pressure on you. But one day that baby will be eating grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and carping at you all day long for fruit snacks and how long you breastfed or whatever went down with bottlefeeding will feel like a Really Long Time Ago. 

    Or maybe that's just me. WHATEVS. 

    I know you are cool with this, FPC. But just in case you are not. Formula is just food. 

    Got any bottlefeeding tips for the FPC? I've been writing this with one hand, while watching The Voice, while avoiding the dinner dishes, and keeping track of Twitter conversations. I'm SURE I haven't even scratched the surface. 

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    Comments

    Bravo -- great column. I will just say that I also hated washing bottles, and if you use the Playtex nursers, you get a new liner every time (and don't have to wash them!). I would just soak all the nipples and "outer parts" of the bottle in a sink of hot soapy water at night, rinse them and be done. I also second the part about introducing the bottle early. With babies 1 and 3, they had bottles early on and did fine with both breast/bottle feeding. With #2, I foolishly did not give her a bottle until around 2 months and it was TOO LATE. She never really took to it.

    The only caution I have is that some kids even at birth have strong opinions about this (your nipples versus bottle ones), and if you introduce that bottle too early, that could be what you're stuck with. So if you want your child to breastfeed don't let the nurses stick a bottle in him/her no matter how low their blood sugar supposedly is. Make this explicitly clear before you get too far gone in labor to care anymore.

    I had to pump, and pump and pump and pump forever to catch up and then keep up with my son if I wanted him to have breast milk - he refused to latch. It was hard and I spent every waking minute feeding him or pumping, I kid you not. The first three weeks of his life are a hazy pumping unpleasant memory for me. Try to hold out at least a week before introducing the bottle if he/she will let you. Two weeks would be better.

    But yes, YES, formula is just food. Unpleasant tasting food if you ask me (like an unflavored liquid PowerBar, ick), but food nonetheless, and hope and pray that your child doesn't need soy or gluten/corn/dairy free formula because that stuff is pricey enough as it is without having to be allergen free. Hundreds of thousands of people you know were raised only on formula and they are JUST FINE. Don't let the Internet or other moms pressure shame you into hiding what you need to do for you. Having the ability to say to your partner/husband "YOUR TURN TO FEED THE BABY" might be the 6 best words in the English language when you are the sleep-deprived mother of a 4-week old.

    Bottles - you can put some of that stuff in the dishwasher, but it means having lots of them on hand. Oh, and don't go crazy buying a ton of one type until you know your kid likes them. You may have to experiment with different bottles/nipple styles to find one he/she likes.

    I would totally be a wet nurse. IMAGINE HOW MUCH FOOD YOU COULD EAT. I mean, the calories burned! It would be worth it. Donut in one hand, baby in the other. ;)

    Agree with not buying a ton of one type - we got fancy Dr. Browns (gift card!) and Gabe would only use the wide Tommee ones. (The most boob-like. Maybe exclusively bottle-fed babies are less picky, though?)

    Formula is just food. It makes me sad that moms AGONIZE over giving their baby formula, but I'd probably be the same. My cousin just gave her baby formula from day one and it didn't bother her at all. Definitely more ideal than the angst!

    In the early days, though, the sole purpose of life is feeding your child, so I get the angst. I totally get it.

    My pediatrician recommended Target brand formula and tap water. I think after six months it's good for the baby to have the flouride that's in tap water. Or something. I don't remember.

    Ree had a bottle when she was two days old because my milk hadn't come in yet, and I breastfed her successfully for a whole year. I don't know if she is the norm or the exception, but it was more important for me to stop her screaming than it was for me to avoid nipple confusion, and it worked out ok.

    Oh, and I hated pumping so much when I was on maternity leave that when I needed to leave the baby at home with her dad for an hour or two, we used formula. Not a big deal!

    I believed all that nipple confusion stuff and waited to introduce a bottle and Elizabeth never took one. NEVER. It was a pain.

    I never understand why people get so militant and put-out regarding formula- it's just food!!! And my 100% formula-fed kid is awesome. :)

    One of the best things anybody ever told me regarding bottles and etc. was from Karolina's daycare teacher (mom, grandma, professional baby nurse for 20+ years, women knows her stuff is what I'm saying)- you can reheat bottles twice. So that's actually three times counting the original heating-up. They never say how many times you can reheat bottles in any baby care manual I've seen (I've looked), but the answer is two. Which makes sense, if mommy can reheat her coffee than it's okay reheat the bottle. So yes FPC should totally be like her big sister Maggie and combine/reheat bottles, because it's totally okay and saves time and money, esp at 3 am!

    I'm a two-time formula only mom who was a formula only baby and one of the healthiest people I know.

    Dishwasher baskets - the only way to go for cleaning the bottles. We had enough to make it through a day and ran the dishwasher every night - totally worth it. Hand washing bottles is awful.

    You do not have to empty a bottle after x number of hours as prescribed by the formula can. We just made 8oz bottles for Pipsqueak and she would snack on one for awhile until it was gone (hours and hours and hours later) and we never had a problem with the formula going bad or the baby getting sick. Also, fewer bottles to wash - score!

    Tap water, yes. Room temperature.

    Generic formula, yes - after you use up the free samples that they give you at the hospital and that you get in the mail.

    We never changed the nipples out with either of our kids. I don't really even know what this nipple size thing is about, but we never had problems. This whole thing makes me wonder about nipple size & breastfeeding, but I probably don't want to know.

    All three of my kids have had some combination of breast milk and formula. I have a nursing baby now, and even though I nurse him for most feedings, it is really nice to have my husband feed him a bottle sometimes!

    I tortured myself and starved Anna for a long time before I gave in to formula. And literally WEPT in the car in the grocery store parking lot. Then with Ivy, I had some on hand before she was even born and feel fine about it. I do not make very much milk. A lactation consultant, a serious devotion to "natural" everything, a crap ton of herbal supplements, a punishing pumping schedule: nothing changed that. I non-exclusively BF'd Anna for a year and am on month 5 of the same with Ivy. And they're both fine!

    Although I agree with Ashley that ironically, wet nurse is basically my dream job because FOOD.

    I could totally understand being a wet nurse. It's like being a babysitter but, as Ashley pointed out, you can eat like a horse. Or a dairy cow, I guess. It'd be even better nowadays. I could use my lucrative earnings to buy an iPad and play Plants v. Zombies the whole time.

    Says the girl who doesn't have children and has therefore never breastfed. I have mixed bottles of formula, though, and it is a total pain. And my mom tells stories of how when my older sister was small she would hand-express a couple of bottles of milk sitting in the bathroom at work. Seriously. Like a cow. (And I mean this in a deeply loving way. Cows are nice. And I love milk.) Then when I was small and my mother was no longer WOH, I nursed for almost 3 years AND took a bottle AND was perpetually attached to my pacifier AND started eating fish sticks at 4 months. (I was born in the 80's. That was before allergies.) Oral fixation, anyone?

    If I ever get a tiny, picky little baby, I'll know where to come, though.

    (I don't have any beef with formula, by the way. My two younger siblings are adopted and therefore formula fed, and they are both tiny little geniuses. And about seventeen other kinds of awesome, too.)

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