A formula for success?

Last Monday, we began feeding Jamieson one bottle of formula per day.

See how the title of my post is a pun? Ha!

Yeah. The thing is, I’m really having mixed feelings about this. I am trying, as a parent, not to be too dogmatic about sticking to ideals when perhaps in reality a modification is called for. And it was definitely the best decision, even though it’s not what I would have chosen to do in an ideal world.

I breastfed Jamieson exclusively for the first twelve weeks of his life. Breastmilk was the only thing that went past his lips (except for acid-reducing medication, gripe water, Mylicon gas drops, and once, some of his own pee because we weren’t quick enough to catch it on the changing table). I know just how good breastmilk is for him. It’s nature’s perfect baby food, with ideal nutritional and immunological properties. And I know that I’m lucky to be able to breastfeed him — some women can’t or don’t for various reasons — but it is damn hard work.

I am also very lucky to have a husband that is so supportive of breastfeeding; he knows how much work it is and how tired it makes me, he tells me often how proud he is of me for taking on this important task, and he reassures me that he is 100% behind any decision that I make regarding Jamie’s feedings. (Why yes, he IS up for Husband of the Year Award!)

I’m not an oversupplier. Some women make tons of milk, more than their babies need, but I am not one of them. I’ve been pumping as often as I can stand it since about week three, and I’ve just never gotten much extra. Jamie drinks probably about 3-1/2 ounces or so from me at each feeding. It has taken me two or three pumping sessions just to get enough for one feeding. Once I go back to work, I am going to have to pump enough each day to feed him the next day; at least four feedings’ worth, and we’ll need to have extra in the freezer just in case. Pumping 16-18 ounces per day began to seem like a daunting task, if not an impossible one. I felt like I was so far behind in building up a frozen supply and that I would never ever be able to catch up.

So we came to the decision to begin giving Jamie one bottle of formula each evening, and at that time I would pump to build up our supply. Doc has been in charge of the bottle feedings, and has done a beautiful job of coming up with the plan for how we would handle these feedings, mixing and heating the formula, feeding the baby, and cleaning up the equipment. The key is to wake Jamie two hours after his last feeding and give him the bottle while he’s still mostly asleep. That way he doesn’t immediately realize that he’s hungry, that the formula tastes different, that the bottle is not mommy’s nipple, and that the person feeding him is not mommy. Our first attempt wasn’t as successful as we had hoped, because he was awake enough to notice all those factors and he got mighty upset about it. Now, though, he seems totally fine with Doc giving him a bottle. This is good because I go back to work in a week and he’ll then have to drink from a bottle all day long.

We’re giving him a variety of formula that is easy on the tummy for fussy or gassy babies. I made the mistake of looking at the ingredients list, even though Doc warned me not to. The number one ingredient? Corn syrup. Yes indeed, corn syrup. Followed closely by powdered milk and vegetable oil. I was taken aback. And they’re not kidding either; we had a little spillage in the bottle warmer and the stuff caramelized on the hot plate. It smelled like warm caramel. It made me want a sundae. My breastmilk is also sweet (I tasted it once, just to see) so I guess the human body produces sugars and I shouldn’t be that surprised, but I was.

There’s an added benefit to formula: it seems to be helping him sleep better throughout the night. He still wakes every two hours or so to eat (although that may be starting to change, fingers crossed), but he is easier to get back to sleep and seems more rested overall.

As much as I’m trying not to, I can’t help but feel a healthy dose of guilt over this. It’s almost like, if I tried just a LITTLE HARDER, I could make it work without using formula. I know that’s silly, and that this is nothing to be ashamed of. I know that millions of babies are formula-fed (I was) and turn out absolutely fine. I just wanted to do this thing, you know, and now I’m having to admit that I can’t follow through 100% on what I thought I was committing to.

But honestly, this is helping my sanity. And I think that’s worth it right there, for Jamie to have a mommy that’s a little less tired, a little less stressed.

I truly enjoy breastfeeding. It’s like crack, so addicting, such a huge high, but very very tiring. It’s the one thing that never fails to calm our crying baby. It’s 30 minutes, 10-12 times a day, of a bonding experience that cannot quite be described. Sometimes his eyes are closed the whole time and he’s focused on what he’s doing, and so relaxed that he falls asleep. Sometimes he is awake, and stares up at me with those huge dark blue eyes and breaks into an ENORMOUS ear-to-ear grin, so big that he lets go of the breast! I LOVE being able to do this for him. I LOVE seeing my body work as nature intended it to, creating all the nutrition for another human being. I LOVE  having big boobs. (Sorry, but it’s true! It’s freaking awesome!)

And giving that up just once a day… well, it isn’t that big of a deal. Is it?


  1. Carrie

    Here are my own personal statics on formula:
    Nathan=only breastmilk = 29 ACT = likes boobs!
    Anna = breastmilk & formula = 32 ACT = has big boobs!
    (And my boobs just stayed bigger. So did my ass. I think there is a connection.)
    Happier parents = happier children, always!

  2. Laura

    Wow, the formula made you want a ice cream sundae, really? Teehee! Even after just giving the kittens formula all week it’s made me want to try it. Their breathe smells so sweet and cute.

    In all honesty, I think you are doing great. Your body can only do so much and I think it needs a break sometimes too. Jamie will turn out just fine 🙂

  3. Katy

    Carrie – yes, happier mommy and daddy = happier baby. We watched part of “Best in Show” yesterday and the insane dynamic between Meg & Hamilton and their dog Beatrice (“GO GET HER BUSY BEE, DAMMIT!!”) made me think of that. If the parents are stressed, the baby will be too.

    Laura – the formula smelled like caramel when it burned on the hot plate, but let me tell you, it tastes absolutely disgusting. Kind of like vaguely sweet chalk with bitter cabbage overtones.

    Yvonne – I’m taking fenugreek supplements (although not as regularly as I should… I just can’t remember to) so hopefully that will have some effect.

  4. Peter

    Fenugreek is the first thing to eat lots of. Then try non-alcoholic beer. We went through cases and cases. The best is St. Pauli NA, if you can find it. Followed by Becks NA. Erdinger makes an NA Heffeweissen if you’re into that–but it was a pricey $3 a bottle at our local snob-beer shop. Real beer works too but some of the alcohol will get to the kiddo. Some of our friends did it that way and it really boosted her supply and their kid seems fine.

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