Breast vs. Bottle: What Do You Think of Hospitals Taking Away the Formula Option?

Posted August 9, 2012 by

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I recently read an article that said dozens of hospitals around the country are starting to forego free baby formula for moms, including an announcement that has met with controversy in New York City to put formula on lockdown in hospitals there. Their objective is to promote and encourage breastfeeding. But what if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you or your family?

When my first son was born, I had a strong desire to nurse him, as I’d heard it was a great way to bond with babies. I even took the nursing classes offered through my workplace. However, I learned quickly that nursing wasn’t meant to be for us, try as I might. It was a very intimidating process because E did not want to latch on. Added to that was that fact that I was not producing enough milk to make it worthwhile for him, giving him jaundice (and a huge headache for us on our first night home) and had to supplement with formula. Meanwhile, the lactation consultant was breathing down my neck and trying to sell me overpriced products, like a special nursing pillow (a Boppy worked the same way). My husband was getting frustrated, saying I should just give up nursing altogether. I wanted to give it my best shot, though. For the first few months I was home with him, I kept trying to nurse and would then top E off with formula if he wasn’t completely satisfied. I pumped at other times — and that was another extremely uncomfortable process. After about four months and very little success (even with pumping at work), I gave up nursing altogether.

When both M and my daughter were born, I immediately ruled out nursing in favor of formula. Both feeding experiences were pleasant and stress-free. It didn’t necessarily mean my husband and I were going to take turns for middle-of-the-night feedings, but they were fulfilled from each bottle. The first few days were painful for me, but ice packs and a chest wrap helped the first time, cold cabbage leaves helped the second time. If I had the chance to go back and nurse either of them, I would still choose the formula method each time.

If I had a baby in one of the hospitals in question, I would be absolutely furious. It is no one else’s right to tell me how to feed my baby. If formulas weren’t safe and didn’t provide the right nutrients, doctors would find another way to make things work. I physically can’t produce enough milk to feed my babies and moms in a similar position should not be forced into doing so, either.  Whenever a friend tells me how she gets looks of judgment from other mothers when they find out she formula feeds, I am quick to say that breastfeeding is not for everyone.  Personally, as long as my babies got the proper vitamins and nutrients from their formula (and our doctor has confirmed that they’re growing and functioning just fine), why is it anyone’s business what or how I feed them? I’m not giving them something harmful! I’m thankful that such an alternative to breastfeeding exists. I don’t know what my babies would have done without it, considering that I couldn’t fulfill them with what I had available. Just like it’s not another mother’s business to tell me how to feed my babies, it is also not the hospital’s business to tell new moms how to feed theirs. If the hospitals participating in this program continue to carry it out, I have a feeling they’re going to lose a lot of patients, as people start to lose their patience with such an agenda.


Melissa A. and her husband have 2 young sons, E and M, and a new baby daughter. Melissa's son E has hearing loss and wears a cochlear implant. Melissa works as an administrative assistant for a non-profit and also runs a bullying prevention group and a book-related fan group, in addition to blogging for Empowering Parents. You can check out Melissa’s personal blog here.

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  1. Mumofthree Report

    I totally agree with ‘Older Mum’. I have 3 children. And that is what I can see from my experience: my fist son had a formula milk because I was very stressed, didn’t have possibility to have plenty of rest the days that followed the birth and as a result I did not produce enough milk. My 2 other children were 100% breasfed (they shared the bed with me to make night time breastfeeding easy) and I can see all the difference: they are calm, happy, very ‘easy’ children. The first son has all sort of issues: problems with his digestion system (we are not carves but humans – therefore it is not surprising that majority of children have consequences due to the intruduction of the cow milk(formula milk)), he has behavioral issues and so on. Provide new/expectant mothers with the appropriate information, psychological and physical support and plenty of rest during the critical period and the nature will do its job. There is no reason whatsoever to think that a mother is not able to produce milk for her baby.

  2. Older Mom Report

    Interesting points of view and great to have a calm discussion about a volatile subject. I am a 42 year old mother with a 15, 13, & 2 year old. Yes, I was on hormone birth control with the last one. I had 20 years of successful use and a surprise blessing. My two oldest spent a significant time in the NICU related to congenital birth defects. I had to have a c-section with the first and opted for natural births for the last two; even though some doctors discouraged me. I think it is important for women to educate themselves. The benefit of breast milk is beyond calories and vitamins. Also, it is REALLY hard work. Perhaps a better solution is placing more value on the family bonding and encouraging mom’s to stay home with their babies for longer periods (regardless of method of feeding)with longer FMLA and financial support. A stressed mom (and babies can tax the calmest of us)cannot produce milk adequately. Smaller breast size means less storage capacity; not production. That increases feeding frequency and is really tough. Some babies just cannot suck. However, mom’s should be in good shape before they get pregnant because it takes a tremendous amount of endurance, dedication, and support to successfully breastfeed up the AMA’s recommended minimum of 12 months and the WHO’s 24 months of age. I would challenge people to examine their thoughts around breastfeeding. Studies show the first two weeks are critical and every mother can tell you they are usually the toughest. I applaud the hospitals that no longer give away product for formula companies. This due to a shifting culture of embracing “evidence based practice.” The evidence shows breastfed babies fare better in all categories. The studies are so positive the major criticism is “it must be too good to be true.” Formula is like insulin. If you need it, it is a blessing and a gift. But, can we not do everything in our power to avoid needing it? I have no judgement for mother’s who choose to bottlefeed their babies. However, women need complete information to make the best decision for their families. Shoving a product at a tired, exhausted, overwhelmed new mother is like handing a type II diabetic insulin and never supporting healthy lifestyle education and choices. Regardless of mother’s choice, the individual must ask, “am I doing what is best for my baby within my abilities?” It sounds to me that returning to work was a major contributor to your decision. It certainly impacted my timeframe with both my older children. Pumping breast milk gave me a sense of satisfaction and control because it was the only thing I could do; the rest was in the hands of the doctors and nurses. All three are healthy, but my child with weight issues, behavioral problems, and anxiety was nurse the shortest, had the least amount of touch at birth, and was under sedation (drug induced coma) the longest and it makes me wonder. . . Should I have nursed longer, and would she be worse off if I had not nursed at all? So, we all have a story. Let’s not jump to judgment.

  3. jynjerbear Report

    I too had a tough time trying to breast feed my first son. When he was born one of the nurses at the hospital tried to help teach me the correct way to get him to latch on. Instead she pushed his little face into me hard and he became very upset that he refused to latch on after that. That being sad I continued to pump but couldn’t produce enough milk and battled mastitis and pluged ducts and after 4 months of trying and blood starting to come instead of milk my doctor told me that I had to stop for my health. My second son was born and I told the nurses in the hospital that I could do it by myself and it was a success. I nursed him for over a year until I became pregnant with my daughter and the doctor told me that it was time for him to stop as my daughter needed all the nutrition. When my daughter was born I pumped every 3 hours day and night (she was premature and in NICU for the first month and I wasn’t able to hold her and start nursing right away for 3 weeks). I nursed her the first 4 months and then had to bottle feed her due to my health. That being said NO the hospitals shouldn’t have the right to NOT give formula for one reason or another, but I do think that they should encourage breast feeding. Both of my bottle feed children have asthma where my middle son (who was breast feed) does not. I think it should be up to the mother, but I would encourage them to at least try and breast feed the first few months. If I had another baby I would choose breast feeding because I do feel that breast is the best. Good luck to all the Mom’s out there.

  4. MorseCode Report

    I agree that parents ought to be able to choose for themselves as long as they are willing to pay for their own choice. What free formula is this article referring to? Isn’t the parent or their insurance charged? Or are we referring to medicaid patients for whom the taxpayer foots the bill? I do believe that breast is best, but there are mitigating circumstances that require a substitute. We need to transform the culture by supporting and encouraging breast feeding. Strides have been made with many celebrities choosing to breastfeed, however, people don’t appreciate being treated like children by the nanny state.
    I have 5 children, ages 23-4. The first I had as teen in 1989 and did not even consider breastfeeding. With my second child I had a breastfeeding experience that was very similar to the author’s. However, with much encouragement, support, and mentoring, I was able to successfully breast feed my last three. My daughter had her first child this spring at 34 weeks. The baby was in NICU for 2 weeks. My daughter spent her waking hours at the hospital. She would pump with a double pump the hospital provided, but the baby still had to be supplemented with formula (The breast milk and formula was mixed 50/50). The baby never learned to successfully nurse and after a couple of weeks at home she was on pure formula. If supplementing continues, the milk supply will never be enough–its a supply and demand thing. The best practice for successful breastfeeding is to nurse almost immediately after birth and on demand or at least every three hours thereafter. Breast feeding, even for a little while, provides increased immunity and better digestion for the baby and benefits the mother by helping her body get back in shape. Even under less than ideal circumstances, determined mothers with the right support system have been able to breastfeed. Let’s encourage mothers without judging or trying to dictate to them.



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