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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?

Thanks!
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.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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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Tiffany
Guest

No advice, but just chiming in that my baby has essentially been formula-fed from birth so *fistbump* of solidarity.

Kelly
Guest
Kelly

I breastfed my only child, and my sister formula fed from birth all three of hers. All of the children have grown happy, healthy and smart. I don’t see a point to the shame-y thing. Whatever. Now, the questions! From what I’ve seen, hospitals have a whole bunch for you. My hospital still did the Similac diaper bag thing and I used that formula later when I could not produce to meet his need. LC may have really good advice on the whole drying up faster with less discomfort thing, so maybe worth a chat even pre-birth on that! Oh,… Read more »

CS
Guest
CS

All of the hospitals I’ve birthed in were rather generous with the ready to feed formula bottles. The first hospital had a nursery and would take the babies overnight if requested. The second two didn’t have a nursery, so it was mandatory rooming in. Whether or not they have a nursery might affect how specific you need to get with feeding instructions. Also, some hospitals are going for or are already designated “baby friendly”, which usually means you have to specifically request formula.  But yes, confidence and firm decision making should help you in this. It’s so funny that the… Read more »

Shannon
Guest
Shannon

I would definitely recommend talking with your hospital first, or your midwife, nurse, OB, etc to find out the general policies.   We used a hospital that has been designated as “baby friendly” (I think? or family friendly or breastfeeding friendly…something friendly) which includes a ton of resources toward breastfeeding and lots of breastfeeding related messaging everywhere, which might be really frustrating to navigate.  If yours fits that mold, and you have other options, it might be worth a slightly longer drive or other compromise to be sure you are in a place that will work for you. 

Julia
Guest
Julia

Check out the Fearless Formula Feeder blog, facebook page, and support group on FB https://www.facebook.com/groups/617151455038288/.

If you are delivering at “baby friendly” initiative hospital be prepared for more pushback and general assholish behavior by nurses and LCs.  If it’s not a “baby friendly” hospital hopefully they will be more supportive.

Ann
Guest
Ann

I formula fed from birth with both of my kids and never felt any judgment or resistance from the staff at the hospitals where I delivered.  This was 6 and 4 years ago, so it may be different now, but I never had to explain my decision nor meet with an LC.  I think it’s a great idea to talk to your OBGYN ahead of time, if you haven’t already, to ask what the practices are at the hospital where you’ll deliver.  And I’d just suggest being confident in your decision and clear, but kind, in saying that it’s not… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

I am a momma of 20 month twins who did breast milk and formula. I did intend to only bf until I discover thru 4 tortuous days in the hospital that making enough to feed twins is HARD. Also one son would latch perfectly and the other had trouble latching despite breast shields and working with a LC. So to get my supply up enough to feed twins, I pumped and pumped and pumped. I think my hubby and I only slept 8 hours in 4 days-no joke. On discharge day we were so exhausted that when my Dr. walked… Read more »

mariposa
Guest
mariposa

I pumped like a madwoman for my first. Didn’t want to for my second and couldn’t anyway (no maternity leave). The hospital for baby #2 was horrible from start to finish when it came to pressure to breastfeed after I’d explained my reasons and decision multiple times. My OB hassled me, the chief resident hassled me, the attending hassled me, my nurses hassled me, and the hospital pediatrician gave me an outrageously condescending 15-minute lecture (filled with some incorrect and outdated information and snark about bottle feeding was something she’d expect from someone “with a far lesser financial and educational… Read more »

Jeannie
Guest
Jeannie

I have no experience with your situation BUT I did want to say that I found all the hospital folks *much* less likely to give any advice or question my decisions when I had my second as opposed to my first. So I would hope you will find the same. (I mean — I hope no hospital staff is ever judgey. But lacking that perfect world, just the fact that this is your second might work in your favour.)

Rayne of Terror
Guest
Rayne of Terror

I came here to say the same thing.  With my second baby the nurses assumed I knew what I was doing and largely left me to my own devices re: baby feeding.  

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

My OB believed that I wasn’t medically able to bf because of a medication I was taking, so the LC didn’t even come to visit. They asked me if I wanted Similac or Enfamil in the delivery room and served up a lovely premixed bottle, no questions asked…until three days in we landed in the NICU and the neonatologist asked me to try to help wean her off the medication more gently.  When I ended up with mastitis and couldn’t produce enough to meet my ravenous child’s demands, the NICU again asked which flavor she preferred and off we went,… Read more »

Leslie
Guest
Leslie

What type of hospital will you be at? I delivered both at a large public university hospital, and my experience has been that you don’t have a ton of control and will have a combination of completely amazing and totally jack-ass care providers. My only goal for the third delivery is to recognize the jerks sooner and not feel one bit bad about asking for someone else. If you think your hospital is similar, that might be a way to go – not get hung up on how awful a baby-feeding debate would be, but rather come up with a… Read more »

LR
Guest
LR

As a nurse, I will warn you that there is a new type of certification that is only allowed if formula is  not readily available. So, just double check with your hospital beforehand  (maybe at a childbirth class – even though you already have one) just so you are fully prepared before you add in hormones (all the hormones!)

Emily
Guest
Emily

Hospital tour! We did the tour for our baby and the hospital sent us home with a folder of paperwork/flyers/policies that made it pretty clear where they stood. Even as a mom who planned to breastfeed, I found some of the flyers uncomfortably pushy. We ended up going there in the end and sharing a room for a few hours with another new mom (crazy busy night for babies!) and she did formula from the start with no problems from the nurses that I picked up on. Like Amy said, they gave her the pre-mixed bottles by the package to… Read more »

Lindsay
Guest
Lindsay

Definitely, definitely enlist your significant other/parent/sibling/close friend, SOMEBODY to run block for you if a staff member starts giving you a hard time. Maybe even have them prepare a firm but friendly spiel about “she’s made her choice and that will be all, thanks.” The last thing you need after giving birth to an adorable baby is to bicker with strangers! This will also help prevent any emotional, hormone driven weakening of your determination to do what you have decided is best for your family. Also, remember that you can always complain as high up the chain as you want.… Read more »

Athena
Guest
Athena

I didn’t get it about formula – I breastfed – but I found that things were very mixed in general among the nurses. Some of the nurses were okay, others were very assholish about varying things. One told me off for not totally swaddling my child so his arms were wrapped too, despite the fact that he would insistantly try and suck his thumb and got annoyed if his arms were bound (additionally, he didn’t start startling himself away for a good couple of months).

S
Guest
S

Congratulations! I thought this was great advice. Definitely let the hospital know ahead of time, it’ll be on your pre-registration forms. Don’t most hospitals room-in now? My babies were only ever away for one 40-minute nap/potassium heel thingie. You might also want to clue in Dad that questions could arise, an LC might accidentally pop in, or some jerk might say something insensitive. As the one who didn’t just pop out a baby, it’s on him to shush them up and shoo them away quickly. Here I go assuming things – that you have a partner and that he’s a… Read more »

Caroline
Guest
Caroline

Just a suggestion but I would suggest you get your OB in the know before and put it that – with her / his help – you are *not able to breastfeed*. You need not supply a reason, but you aren’t ABLE to. This will shut down any and every pushy busybody who wants to ”just let you chat with this nice lactation consultant” when you are trapped in your hospital bed. You can say ”oh there’s no point, I’m not able to, so no thanks”. That’s just my take, but definitely let them know ahead of time in some… Read more »

Claire
Guest
Claire

All excellent advice, and I’m only popping on with some milk drying up advice! I’m in the UK and they don’t prescribe anything to dry up milk. I breastfed my giant daughter till 11 months and dropped to 1 feed and yet my god the engorgement. I Googled the hell out of things to make it stop! Sudafed, or equivalent. Anything that dries up mucous when you have a cold. It made a massive difference overnight so I highly recommend it for when your milk comes in.
Good luck!

Caroline
Guest
Caroline

I KNOW!! It’s crazy, because such medication exists, but because it’s for your own ”selfish” and ”personal” comfort, they won’t damn well give it to you… I got an absolute dressing down when I asked for some when I finished breastfeeding DS1 a few months in. I’d had terrible mastitis and ”no dear. We don’t”. No reason given, just bloody-minded. My gynae here in SA assures me that such a thing exists and can be prescribed quite easily! It’s not particularly ”good” for you, but you’re hardly likely to take it constantly, are you? I could rant on about the… Read more »

Jean
Guest
Jean

My son is now 10, but I can tell you when I gave birth, I formula fed from day one. No one harassed me, no one gave me a hard time. They gave me plenty of bottles and a bunch to take home as well. I was able t feed him as he needed. I had him in the nursery for 2 of the four nights because I had a c-section and was going through a rough time. The only person who was an idiot was the nurse on discharge day who came in (never met her before) and physically… Read more »

Kimberly
Guest
Kimberly

You got this, Mama! I formula-fed from Day 1 with no hassle from any of my care providers in my “baby friendly” hospital. Plenty of ready-to-feed Similac for baby, and they showed us where the extra stash was…just in case. 😉

Also: CABBAGE LEAVES IN YOUR BRA. You’ll smell like sauerkraut, but it really works.

Joanie
Guest
Joanie

I didn’t have a problem with the bottle-fed shame with my second child – first one OH LAWD, you’d have thought I was trying to feed the kid crack. I had also switched Drs and hospitals in between so that could have had something to do with it. In my birth plan I submitted to the hospital with No. 2, I had a whole paragraph dedicated to the fact that I would not need LC services as my child would be bottle fed and that I was happy with this choice and that they respect my decision.

Mary
Guest
Mary

I will tell you my experience just to chime in with another “the nurses were nice and you don’t have to worry” story. With my first I intended to breastfeed exclusively, but after an overnight labor and a loooong tough day of both recovery and really terrible breastfeeding attempts, I was exhausted and barely functional trying desperately to feed my newborn on his first night. At three in the morning, a nurse offered to take him to the nursery to give him a bottle of formula just so I could rest. She was very nice and sympathetic, she reassured me… Read more »

Anne
Guest
Anne

I just want to reassure you, we gave birth at a baby friendly hospital.  we didn’t formula feed from birth- but were open to theW possibility of needing the formula, and lo, the nurses made sure we had a couple of 6 picks of formula in the room just in case. I did have to sign for it, but everyone was super chill about it. It was definitely more a feeling of  “feed the baby” and less of a “breastfeed the baby”. just talk to your OB and their nurses and make sure she/he is willing to advocate for you… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I breasfed my four but even I WISH WISH WISH I had noted that I didn’t need to see the Lactation Consultant automatically and would ask for one if I did.  Our hospital is wonderful but we did have a VERY judge-y LC I really didn’t to encounter again.   And this is for a BF mom!   I figured I knew how to contact someone when/if needed but this lady could GO. I couldn’t imagine what she would say to a mother choosing (for her own damn good reasons, thank you very much) to formula feed.   My sister… Read more »

Formula Feeding Mom
Guest
Formula Feeding Mom

Just popping in to say thank you, Amalah, for answering my potentially controversial question. And thank you, readers for being kind and super helpful. It is so nice to get tips from other parents and to hear about their experiences, pitfalls, etc. Much appreciated!!

CeeBee
Guest
CeeBee

Just chiming in again on the “baby friendly”. When baby #1 was born our hospital wasn’t, but 14 months later for #2 it was. Oddly I got the whole “breast is best” speech quite frequently BOTH times. I’d get the speech when they doled out that pain relieving 400mg ibuprofen… Just be prepared.

jennifer
Guest
jennifer

I’m a breast feeding mom and I’m pregnant with baby number 2. I debated between breast and bottle for this baby, but ultimately decided to go with what i know best, but i totally support formula feeding moms (i usually transition to formula around 4-5 months when food starts getting introduced. by then I’m back to work and my supply is down, so i don’t have to deal with bad engorgement), and i want to talk about the benefits of choosing to formula feed from day 1! 1. You don’t have to deal with hospital staff, LCs, and visitors all… Read more »

Cmprow
Guest
Cmprow

Our hospital will not let you bring in your own formula.  They have a strict no powder policy but happily supply the pre mixed packages.  The powder is considered a health risk if someone inhales it (silly, yes).

Jennifer R.
Guest
Jennifer R.

The powder also can’t be sterilized properly, so there is the risk of bacterial contamination. If you heat it enough to kill the germs, it damages the nutrients in it. The WHO states to use water that is 70 degrees Celsius (158 F) to kill pathogens, but many don’t do that. See: http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/micro/PIF_Bottle_en.pdf

Emily
Guest

I wanted to chime in here from the perspective of a student lactation consultant. As many others have said find out what the policies are at the hospital you plan to give birth at regarding being asked to sign a “consent to formula feed”, bringing in your own formula/bottles, whether you will be visited by an LC, etc. At some hospitals (specifically those designated as “Baby Friendly”) you will have a hard time obtaining “free” formula You may have to bring your own, unless your doctor writes an order for formula. Technically, even if your hospital doesn’t “permit” you to… Read more »

Callie
Guest
Callie

Emily, your attitude is great. I do want to point out that I was someone who said “I’m not breastfeeding because I have to go back to work right away,” and while the right to pump is protected by law, I didn’t WANT to pump at work (I did try first, though). Please, unlike some of the people I heard from, let that be reason enough after you check that they know it’s protected by law (as in, “Pumping at work is protected by law if that’s your concern, but not wanting to do so is also valid.)! Thanks for… Read more »

Suzy Q
Guest
Suzy Q

I would definitely advise against leaving the hospital Against Medical Advice (AMA) as this might jeopardize your insurance coverage.

J
Guest
J

Emily, may I ask what you do in a situation if a mother tells you she doesn’t want your services/information? How do you handle it when a mother straight up says “because I don’t want to”? In my own opinion, and some may disagree, I can’t help but feel that this may be some of the pushiness others above have mentioned. You might not be judging, but it sounds like you’re still forcing yourself upon her. Whatever reason she gives is valid enough and shouldn’t be met with rebuttals.

Jodie
Guest
Jodie

Emily, it sounds like you’ll be a great LC. That said, I’ve experienced more judgey ones than amazing ones (though I have had that too!) and I’m a BFing mom three times now. While I agree your role is to give medical advice, based on the shared experience above, it also seems like some LCs forget that they should be doing it with good bedside manner.

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lindsay
Guest
lindsay

i second the advice about asking to be discharged early, which would mean that you simply won’t have the opportunity to encounter many of the people you are worried about.  i am currently pregnant with my second child and for several reasons, i did not have a great experience in the hospital last time, and i definitely plan to ask to be discharged early this time.  i would recommend waiting until after the birth to bring this up with your doctor, when you are sure that you and your baby seem ready to go home.  

Kimtoo
Guest
Kimtoo

I breastfed, but both of my children received formula at the hospital.  They were a few weeks premature, and they were also jaundiced (at least I think that was a reason – bit  of a haze now.)  Anyway, this as at a baby-friendly hospital in an area with extraordinarily high breastfeeding rates (crunchy granola town!) Both girls supplemented for the get-go, both girls breastfed until 18 mos. Gonna say this one, too, because it bears repeating – nobody can walk into a pre-school classroom and point out the kids that were breastfed, went through natural childbirth, cried it out, etc.… Read more »

Frances
Guest
Frances

I agree with the above comments about finding out more about the hospital you are delivering at. At many hospitals, the nurses are required to give you the “Breast is best” speech once, so that they can document that you have been educated. Medicaid reimbursement is changing, and breastfeeding rates play into that reimbursement. I’m only mentioning this so that you will be prepared that you may hear this during your stay. In my experience, most of the time the nurses are happy to honor your feeding choices, but are obligated to make sure that you are making an informed… Read more »

Leah
Guest
Leah

Good for you for making your feeding decision based on what works for you in your situation and not feeling pressured to conform to what other people think is best for YOUR baby. I’m giving birth at a World Health Organization “Baby Friendly” hospital where they openly admit to not giving formula as an option to anyone without (in their own words) “an act of God.” On our tour of L&D, the nurses did, however, say that if a family was positive about their decision to formula feed, they would honor it, with a written Rx from the OB or… Read more »

Natalie
Guest
Natalie

I formula fed from the get-go. Our baby is a heart baby (she has a heart defect) so nurses in NICU gave her formula without even asking. Incidentally, I didn’t produce very much anyway. I tried so hard for 8 weeks to give her breast milk but it just didn’t work for me. I guess my point is, we have an “abnormal” baby who is thriving on formula, has never had weight problems or immune deficiencies, and is rockin’. Be willing to test a few kinds of bottles (Dr Browns works for us) which I’m sure you experienced with your… Read more »

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Thank you for this. I had to formula feed my first because my colostrum nor milk ever came in. I just had baby #2 5 days ago and am having the same issues. Today I tried to just feed from the breast and he has been screaming all day and I finally have in and he just chugged 4 ounces of formula. I feel terrible for starving him but was so desperate to try and produce milk. I even had a completely natural vaginal birth with no medication and an 11 pound baby in hopes my body would produce and… Read more »

Vesper
Guest
Vesper

I’ve never had other options than formula feeding so I’ve been down this path four times.  What I advise is finding out your hospital’s individual policies about infant feeding.  If they are part of the Baby Friendly Initiative, then there may be that form, and a few other hoops to work through, but it’s not impossible by any means. You CAN bring your own bottles and your own formula if that is what you prefer.  All four different hospitals I gave birth in were fine with that.  With my first child I discovered that the RTF (ready to feed) nursettes… Read more »