These days, happily, moms who decide to breastfeed their babies often get a lot of support – from lactation consultants in the hospital as well as from friends, family members, and even neighbors who are excited to help them on their way to nursing success. But for mothers who choose formula – and there are many reasons moms do – it can be a pretty lonesome road, not to mention a road fraught with guilt (whether from within or foisted upon you by others). The underlying fear: that you might not be doing the best thing for your baby.
While there’s no denying that breastfeeding has tremendous advantages for both mothers and babies – breast milk not only meets your baby’s nutritional needs but also passes on antibodies that reduce the risk of many illnesses, is available and economical, and can even help you shed those pregnancy pounds – it simply doesn’t work for all moms.
If you’re one of those moms for whom breastfeeding has been a bust (pun intended), the first things to know are that you’re not alone, you’re not a bad mother (you’ll be able to bond just fine), and your baby will be able to get the nutrition he or she needs from an iron-fortified baby formula.
You are not alone:
According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, while about 75 percent of new moms breastfeed their babies right after they are born, only about 43 percent of them are still breastfeeding their babies six months later, and just 22 percent are still nursing at a year. (Some women opt exclusively for either breastfeeding or formula feeding, others combine the two.) Since babies don’t transition to cow’s milk until their first birthday, that’s a lot of babies who are drinking formula in their first year of life.
You are not a bad mother:
Despite what can feel like overwhelming pressure to breastfeed, many women feed their babies formula – and for perfectly valid reasons. Your baby may have been born premature and have difficulty sucking; you may have been separated from your baby for a period of time, perhaps due to illness or other factors beyond your control; you may have found nursing to be too painful; be afraid that your milk supply is insufficient to keep up with your baby’s needs; take a medication that may be dangerous if passed along to a nursing infant; or have a work situation that precludes nursing or pumping.
Whether you’ve tried nursing and found that it didn’t work for you and your baby or you have another situation that makes formula the right option for your family, know this: It’s your body, it’s your baby, and it’s your (and your partner’s, if you have one) decision to make. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. And don’t feel anything but confident in your decision, knowing it was made with love and care. Because love and care are the two things your baby needs most from you.
Formula will give your baby the nutrition he or she needs:
Although formula doesn’t contain the same infection-fighting antibodies that breast milk has, iron-rich formulas can provide all of the nutrients your baby needs. Formula isn’t one size fits all, though; different formulas are right for different babies. You should talk to your child’s doctor for help in determining which formula is right for your baby.
You will still be able to bond with your baby:
Closeness, skin-to-skin contact, and feeling a rush of bliss as you gaze into your child’s face are not exclusive to those who breastfeed. You and your baby can get close and bond with formula, too – especially if you relax, knowing you’re doing your best to get your baby what he or she needs.