Why I chose to formula feed? Pediatrician and mom, Dr Jacq, tells us why breastfeeding and formula feeding don’t have to be mutually exclusive, or “in competition” with each other.
There’s a lot of discussion these days surrounding formula feeding and breastfeeding. This conversation is super personal and involves so many factors related to mom AND baby. Feeding your baby is a journey; a journey that can not be planned and never goes how you want it to. Every soon-to-be parent will learn that you can’t plan parenthood. You can’t plan for poops that go up the back of baby’s shirt, you can’t plan for marathon cries (which mostly come at night) and you can’t plan on whether or not breastfeeding will go well (or even go at all).
Breast Milk is not the only option for all those caregivers feeding and raising babies. Same sex couples, adoptive parents, moms who have undergone mastectomies, moms who just can’t product enough milk, or moms who simply don’t want to; they all need a supplement or a full alternative— and that’s where baby formula steps in.
We talked to pediatrician and mom, Dr Jacqueline Winkelmann about the benefits of formula feeding in both her professional and personal life. As a mom— it was a lifesaver for baby #2.
In this article: 📝
- Why I chose to formula feed
- Choosing to formula feed pros and cons:
- Top reasons to formula feed:
- Choosing formula over breastfeeding; why choosing to formula feed was the best decision
- Why is it Important to make up a formula feed accurately?
- Is it OK to just formula feed?
- To breastfeed or formula feed? That is the question
Why I chose to formula feed
Dr Jacq: With my daughter, I supplemented with formula from the beginning- low supply, small baby, and I had seen too many babies admitted to the hospital for jaundice and dehydration while being exclusively breastfeed. I combo fed (formula and breast milk) until I went back to work at the hospital when she was 10 months of age.
My second child developed a severe milk protein allergy at around 3-4 months while being breastfed so he was fully formula fed from about 4 months of age. Professionally, I have seen so many babies thrive on formula, even saved by it, I have no issues with any parent choosing to formula feed their child. Formula is the most tightly regulated food product in the US, and I have no concerns over its quality and safety.
Choosing to formula feed pros and cons:
Dr Jacq: There are pros and cons to formula feeding, but in my opinion, the pros outweigh the cons.
Pros to formula feeding:
- Convenient and flexible
- Knowing how much a baby is taking, especially in the early days.
- Allows mom to take a break from feeding and to get help from others.
- Makes it easier for mom to return to work and pursue career goals.
- Early formula supplementation may improve rates of breastfeeding and prevent severe jaundice and/or dehydration.
- Formula can be lifesaving in certain conditions (galactosemia, severe failure to thrive, low blood sugar, milk protein allergy).
Cons to formula feeding:
- Many bottles/dishes to wash
- Immune factors in breast milk cannot be replicated in formula
Top reasons to formula feed:
Dr Jacq: Some moms decide breastfeeding is not for them, and that’s perfectly OK! You don’t need a reason to formula feed, simply CHOOSING to formula feed is OK too!
Main reasons parents might choose to formula feed include:
- Low supply
- Desire to return to work and nature of your work doesn’t allow for breastfeeding or pumping
- Maternal conditions that don’t allow breastfeeding (HIV, active herpes, breast surgery, radiation)
- Infant conditions that don’t allow for long-term breastfeeding (milk protein allergy, galactosemia, low blood sugar, failure to thrive)
- Adoption or surrogacy
- Desire to spend more time with other children
- Multiples (twins, triplets, quads)
Choosing formula over breastfeeding; why choosing to formula feed was the best decision
Dr Jacq: For me, formula feeding was a lifesaver for both of my kids. My daughter was supplemented from day 1. She was small and I had a low milk supply. It relieved A LOT of anxiety for me about her growth and allowed my husband to help out at night. Combo feeding was the best solution for me. With my son, having developed a severe milk protein allergy while I was breastfeeding, formula was a lifesaver! We were able to find a formula designed for babies with a milk protein allergy and within 48 hours he was happy, bloody stools and rashes were gone! He thrived on formula and I was so grateful for it.
Professionally, I see formula not just as a food, but as a tool in our medical arsenal, helping babies with jaundice, dehydration, failure to thrive, low blood sugar, etc. It can literally help save a baby’s life. I also see formula as a great resource for overwhelmed moms struggling with postpartum depression, moms with twins and triplets, or moms that simply need some help on the feeding front to be able to continue pursuing their own passions; it’s OK to prioritize YOU once in a while!
Why is it Important to make up a formula feed accurately?
Dr Jacq: Research has shown that the rate of growth and development during the first 2 years of a child’s life are of utmost importance. The amount of calories, macro- and micro-nutrients, and trace elements are precisely calculated based on mixing the formula correctly. Some medical conditions (most commonly prematurity) require formula that is mixed outside of the manufacturer’s recommendations (always under medical supervision), but most babies will thrive, grow and develop when they receive formula in adequate volumes and concentration.
Formula that is too diluted will not only prevent the baby from growing adequately, it can cause serious metabolic harm if “underfed” for a long period of time. Formula that is too concentrated may lead to kidney damage, relative dehydration and other potential harm.
Is it OK to just formula feed?
Dr Jacq: YES! Formula feeding is a perfectly safe and adequate way to feed a baby. Babies will grow, develop and thrive on formula alone. There are many ways to bond with a baby, and formula feeding can be one of them! There should be NO shame or guilt associated with formula feeding, and I am happy to see that we are beginning to evolve this conversation. It is important to let parents know that it’s OK to make feeding decisions for the health and well-being of BOTH baby AND mom.
To breastfeed or formula feed? That is the question
Dr Jacq: I believe in motherhood and in life, there are no absolutes. Even breastfeeding/breastmilk has its pros and cons. It’s best to try to find balance, and that is a very individual issue. I have no problem with a family choosing to exclusively breastfeed, combo feed or exclusively formula feed.
Breastfeeding and formula feeding don’t have to be mutually exclusive, or “in competition” with each other. I strongly feel your pediatrician and birthing hospital should be able to respect and support ALL decisions, without judgment or prejudice.
Jacqueline Winkelmann, MD, FAAP, Dr Jacq, is a Board-certified pediatrician and Bobbie Medical Affairs team member. She has a 20-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son.
💡 Read next:
Your Essential Formula Feeding Guide
How Many Ounces Should a Baby Eat? A Chart
Newborn Baby Feeding Schedule Ideas
How Long is Formula Good For?
Do I Need Special Water for Baby Formula?