This post was originally written in 2016, prior to the current formula shortage facing the nation. As moms it is incredibly relatable to not want to be told “just breastfeed” when there are many reasons a mom my need to rely on formula. The formula shortage has taught us a lot about motherhood, including that we are better off as moms together, standing as one village without judgment or shame for how you feed your baby.
Pros and Cons of Formula Feeding
Pro: You can buy your supply
If your experience breastfeeding was similar to mine, you invested a lot of time and effort into building your supply: pumping for a half an hour after every feeding, waking up every three hours to pump even when your baby is sleeping in 6 hour stretches, taking Fenugreek, massaging your nipples, and so on. Wouldn’t it have been great to be able to purchase a natural breast milk supply? Oh, how many days did I wish there were a magic pill I could buy to increase my supply. The good thing about formula is that you can buy your supply.
Con: Your supply is expensive.
The bad thing about formula feeding is that you have to buy your supply. And it is expensive. If you are considering formula feeding, go ahead and tack on an additional $50+ (or more) to your weekly grocery bill.
Pro: You have your body back.
After carrying your baby for forty-ish weeks (and breastfeeding for however long you did, if at all) it is so nice to have your body back to yourself. Drink a bottle of wine while watching The Real Housewives and feeding your baby. Eat spicy Indian food without worrying if it will give your baby heartburn. Enjoy red beans and rice on Monday knowing that it won’t give your baby gas. Have milk in your coffee without considering your baby’s dairy intolerance.
Not only do you have your body back, you also have your style back. Sometimes it’s hard to find cute nursing shirts and you can start wearing fancy, supportive bras again (which you may need as your breasts are no longer nice and full from pregnancy/nursing).
Oh, I almost forgot! With formula feeding, you also don’t ever experience the pain and discomfort of thrush or mastitis.
Con: The judgment you receive
Sure you can drink as much alcohol as you want, but know that you may receive stares and judgment for chugging margaritas with an infant beside you. It happened to me. People asking you if you are breastfeeding and then commenting negatively when you say you aren’t is infuriating. And, my goodness, post that you formula feed on a parenting board and expect for sanctimommies to question your love your child. In fact, someone will read this article and judge me for giving up breastfeeding after three months.
Pro: You can share feeding responsibilities with your partner.
Although I wasn’t doing what some say was “best” for my babies in terms of feeding, I was doing what was best for them, personally, in terms of parenting. Once I allowed myself to exclusively formula feed, my husband was able to take over some of the feedings, so I was able to sleep for more than three hours at a time. Because I was better rested, I had more energy and patience with my kids throughout the day.
Con: You don’t burn calories feeding your baby.
Since, I was already overweight when I got pregnant, I made sure to only gain a handful of pounds during my last pregnancy. Two weeks after delivery, I had lost 14 lbs. I weighed 7 lbs less than my pre-pregnancy weight. Once I stopped breastfeeding (and started drinking those margaritas and eating those red beans and rice), I gained some of that weight back.
Pro: You don’t have engorged breasts.
Okay, so you don’t burn calories feeding your baby if you formula feed, but you can go to the gym to burn calories without worrying about uncomfortably engorged breasts.
Con: ALL the dishes
Sigh. A major reason I wish I had succeeded better at breastfeeding is all of the dishes. Rinsing, washing, sterilizing, and storing bottles is a pain in the behind (although admittedly it’s not as time-consuming as cleaning bottle parts AND pump parts). I would love to be able to just lie beside my baby to feed her when she wakes up in the morning, rather than having to go to the kitchen and dirty another bottle.
Pro: No leaky boobs.
Do you hear that baby crying in the grocery aisle next to you? Letdown strikes at any time. If you don’t have a fresh nursing pad on or your pad has shifted, you could soon be walking around with a damp shirt.
Con: Formula stinks.
Literally. It smells really bad. I never understand how my children can gulp it down like it is the sweetest nectar on the planet when the smell of it makes me gag. Breast milk smells and tastes (Yes, I tried it.) sweet.
Pro: Your schedule doesn’t revolve around feeding your baby.
When you formula feed, you are not tethered to your child’s feeding schedule. You can leave the baby with a sitter without having to pump beforehand. Speaking of pumping, you don’t need to schedule work meetings around your pumping schedule or take a pump with you when you have to be away from your baby for more than a few hours.
Con: You always have to plan ahead.
Every time you leave the house you have to make sure to have enough formula, clean bottles, and water for your entire day. Is there a flood, hurricane, or tornado warning? You’d better make sure you are stocked up on cans of formula and bottled water. Traveling while formula feeding is a pain. I am always nervous about being stuck on the runway for hours before takeoff so I have to pack way more bottles and formula than I would likely use just in case we need it. With breastfeeding, the only thing you need to pack is your nursing cover (and even that isn’t a necessity).
Pro: No Breast Pumps!
I have a love/hate relationship with the breast pump. I love that it extracted my milk when my children refused to, but I hate everything else about it. I hate the sound of the pump. I hate the gross farting noise it makes if you detach too soon. I hate all.the.parts. I hate having to lug it around with me.
Con: You don’t have the sense of pride and satisfaction that comes from breastfeeding/pumping.
It is heartwarming seeing your babies fall asleep into a milk coma with your breast milk dribbling down their chins. You don’t get that with formula feeding. And I always took pride in putting the milk I pumped into the refrigerator (although I also felt a little frustration at how little I had pumped…).
Pro: The most important one: your baby is nourished.
And that is all that really matters.