Hospital Food (for Baby)
During both of my hospital stays, I was offered formula. Not just in my going-home gift-bag (that’s probably a topic in and of itself), but well before discharge. My babies’ bassinets were clearly labeled “I’m a breastfed boy!” to alert nursery staff that they were not to receive bottles, but that never stopped my nurses from offering to give the boys bottles multiple times.
Not sleeping? We can try a bottle.
You’re frustrated and tired and your boobs hurt for reasons no one has tried to figure out yet? You could just give him a bottle, you know.
I always refused. And I always got a slightly eye-rolly kind of look, like WHATEVER, YOUR FUNERAL.
It’s Ok to Supplement
Here’s the thing: I don’t really think “nipple confusion” is as common as some LCs would lead you to believe, and I don’t believe supplementing is the end of the world (or the end of breastfeeding).
After Noah was discharged, his weight dropped too much and my milk still hadn’t come in by his first doctor’s appointment, so my LC admitted that it was time for a little formula. Chronic low supply (thanks to scar tissue, poor suck) meant we pretty much always needed to have formula on hand. But he was fine and we kept nursing. After Ezra was discharged, he had an unresolved tongue tie and my toes were curling in pain at the thought of another latch and he was nursing for literally hours on end. Jason fed him an ounce or two of Similac on Saturday night and my milk came in on Sunday morning and that was that. He was fine and we kept nursing.
So I’m not writing this as some kind of nutso zealot for either side. But seriously, hospitals, give us a CHANCE, you know?
It’s Also Ok to Refuse a Bottle
There was one night with Noah when he would not stop crying. The nurse offered a bottle and I said I’d prefer not to. Then she offered a bath. Maybe that would calm him down. I agreed to this and passed out cold as soon as she wheeled him out the door.
I woke up FIVE HOURS later, the next morning, and a different nurse wheeled Noah back in. He was still sleeping. He was…not hungry.
At the time I didn’t really think much about this. I just thought maybe it was one of those fluke-y things that newborns do. Now, though, I have a really, really hard time believing that my wishes were followed and that nobody gave him a bottle during those hours in the nursery. I’m glad he slept and I slept and all that, but…still. I was ready and willing to figure it out myself, and sending new first-time moms the clear message that formula = sleep and breastfeeding = crying & hunger doesn’t seem like the best way to encourage us to stick with it (or help build a supply after missing crucial early feedings).
That one bottle was so easy…maybe let’s just try one more tonight.
So on the one hand, if you’re offered formula at the hospital and accept it, that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you’ve blown your chance at a successful breastfeeding and should just give up. But if you’re offered formula and feel pressured to accept it, that’s not okay. Unless you’re dealing with a preemie, or if there’s a reason to believe something is wrong (that your baby isn’t even getting colostrum or is losing weight TOO rapidly or not wetting or pooping), know this: you’re not starving your baby by refusing formula on day one or two or even three. Our milk takes a few days to come in. There’s colostrum in the meantime. Nature knows what it’s doing here.
Published April 20, 2010. Last updated January 24, 2018.