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Formula Feeding From Birth

Formula Feeding From Birth

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’m currently pregnant with baby number two and I have decided to (GASP!) formula feed from birth. I’ve read nearly everything you’ve ever written (big fan of the blog and the smackdown), so I am familiar with your history and your choice to breastfeed your boys. So why am I writing to you for advice on choosing NOT to breastfeed?! Well, because I know that you are respectful of the mother’s decision and you are able to consider other options AND give advice on things you have not necessarily experienced. Plus your readers give excellent advice in the form of comments, too!

So. I am an educated woman in my late twenties. I teach high school chemistry full-time. I have a two year old. I breastfed my first baby for three weeks before beginning to switch to formula and ease my transition back to work after six weeks of maternity leave. I am not going to go into my reasons for choosing not to breastfeed, but please know that I have done my research and I am content with my decision.

NOW, for my question(s): What can I expect in the hospital when I “reveal” that I will not be breastfeeding? Will I need to bring formula and bottles of my own, or will the hospital supply them? Will I be allowed to use my own bottles and mix my own formula? Will the nurses still bring the baby in during the night so that I can feed him/her even though I am choosing formula? What are some ways that I can politely turn away an overzealous lactation consultant (LC)? What if the doctors and LC are really pushy and rude?

Formula Feeding Mom

So I’m going to let your first two paragraphs speak for themselves as the last and final word on your decision, order everybody in the comments to BE NICE, and skip right to your actual question(s).

No, you absolutely do not need to bring any feeding supplies to the hospital. Your baby will (most likely) be provided with premixed formula in those tiny ready-to-need bottles, with individually-wrapped nipples that screw on. You will be given as many as you need. (And if you get a nice nurse, you’ll probably discover a couple extra four-packs show up mysteriously before you go home. Take them!!!!)

I do not believe you’d be allowed to use your own bottles/formula, mostly because of sterilization/safety/liability concerns. But hey, your insurance will pay for the hospital formula, so save your own for later, once the cost is fully on you. Most hospitals are stocked with a BUTT LOAD of formula and should also send you home with some freebies — my hospital stopped the “free diaper bag courtesy of Similac” thing but the samples were still there for anyone who asked.

For your other concerns/questions, I would recommend visiting or calling your L&D ward and asking them about their formula-feeding policies, since they will vary from hospital to hospital. My third baby needed formula supplementing at the hospital and I had to sign a “consent to formula feed” form, even though I planned to administer every bottle. I took issue with the way the form was worded — it seemed shame-y to formula-feeding mothers like you and hurtful to breastfeeding mothers like me, who were TRYING our best but supplementing out of sheer necessity because our babies were dehydrated or losing too much weight to go home. Kind of  “I acknowledge that I’m choosing to go against what is actually best for my baby” and stuff, if you know what I mean. (I later spoke directly with the head of L&D who completely agreed with me and said the form would be rewritten. Yay!) You may need to sign something similar, so just a heads’ up.

Usually the babies’ bassinets are marked in some way to indicate whether they are breastfed or bottle-fed. But you can ABSOLUTELY request that your baby NOT be fed in the nursery or by anyone other than you. Just tell your nurses and stress that it’s important to you. If you wake up one morning and realize your baby wasn’t brought to you, feel free to pitch a fit. (Though my hospital rarely took babies from their mothers’ rooms ANYWAY, except for weight checks and baths. The bassinet stayed next to my bed, with a big stash of diapers, wipes and the little formula bottles [for Ike, at least] underneath for me to use as needed.)

If you’re allowed to pre-check-in prior to the birth, I imagine you can have your feeding decision marked in your file ahead of time, letting them know that you prefer to not get hassled by a judge-y nurse and that you will NOT be requiring a visit from a lactation consultant. (Unless you’d like to talk to someone about what to do when your milk comes in and how to speed/ease the drying up process.) I’d also recommend talking to your labor nurse about your feeding plans as part of your overall birth plan discussion once you arrive, so you’re not “revealing” the decision right after the birth. (And so they’ll know to have a bottle on hand.) Then reiterate everything to your nurse once you’re in your room: 1) formula feeding, 2) all bottles given by parents/family only, 3) no LC visit needed, and 4) BE NICE.

A good, professional nurse should not give you a hard time, and if they do, simply shut the conversation down (consider it practice for any judge-y people you encounter later), and/or have your partner go to the front desk and ask for a staff change. Be firm, be calm, be confident.


If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice[at]gmail[dot]com.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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