Why I Formula Fed

Breastfeeding. As any mum knows, its an emotive subject. Its something I've wanted to blog about and share my story for some time because I get extremely cross when people that can't breastfeed get tarred with the same brush as those that say they can't but with the right support actually may have been able to. 

When I was pregnant, I was adamant that I would breastfeed. I wanted to be the one that was feeding my baby. I wanted to experience breastfeeding and the closeness it would bring to us. My mother-in-law kept telling me to keep an open mind and that I shouldn't be disappointed if I couldn't breastfeed but my mind was made up. No bottles were purchased but plenty of breast pads were. 

When E was born and wrapped up, the midwife put E on my chest to latch on and it was the most amazing moment. I can't put into words the love and happiness that I felt at that time.  It didn't feel uncomfortable or awkward, it just felt right.

In those early few days we had the usual midwife visits. They checked our positioning and that she was latched on properly, my milk came in and everything was good.

And then day 10 came. And the haemorrhage. During the stay in hospital the midwives did their best to help me continue breastfeeding.  I declined medication that I was told would deal with the blood loss quickly so that I could continue and whilst they had to formula feed whilst I was in surgery, they gave it out of a cup. As soon as I was out of surgery, I was back on the ward with the oxygen tube and blood transfusion in and E straight back on the boob.

For 6 weeks I tried to breastfeed. E would be on and off the boob all day and night, catching what little sleep we could in between. The midwives checked our positioning again (we were under their care for the first 30 days, with visits every few days), that E was still latched on properly and advised me to eat healthily and drink plenty whilst getting plenty of rest. I did. I got a breast pump to help me express, in the hope that it would increase my supply. It didn't. 

And so the 6 week mark came. And after several days of E crying and being unsettled and me crying for feeling a failure because my baby wouldn't settle or stop crying, my mother-in-law gently suggested I try formula to see how E responded. After a bottle of formula, E settled and immediately slept, without crying. And instead, it was me that cried. Because I felt like a failure for not being able to provide for her and because she had obviously been hungry and I had been so insistent on trying to breastfeed her that she had been suffering.

So much that I read nowadays tells us that breastfeeding is best for our children and that we are in some way neglecting them or doing them harm by giving them formula.  I recently read something that said if a woman can't breastfeed they should express, then to try donor milk and then as a final resort, formula. In my scenario,  I wasn't producing enough milk. I did all I could to breastfeed and express and this did not change. Donor milk was not available in my area. So what other choice did I have than to give formula? After I started formula feeding E finally started to consistently gain weight and has grown into a healthy and happy toddler. Does that make me a bad mother for giving her formula?

If you're a mum struggling to breastfeed, please don't feel bad if you can't do it. Some people can't. There will, of course, be people who judge you but you have to do the best for you and your child and if that means feeding them formula, so be it.

The plan with baby number 2 is to breastfeed but after my last experience, I'm not going to beat myself up over it. What will be will be.

There is a lot of help and support for women wanting to breastfeed. Some links that may help:

La Leche League GB
United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking
The Breastfeeding Network 
NHS - Breastfeeding Help and Support

Did you breastfeed or did you struggle? What were other people's reactions? I would really love to hear your thoughts on this subject.


  1. I breastfeed and my struggles come in waves. My little boy goes through phases of being so fussy on the breast and its emotional for us both. Women shouldn't be made to feel guilty for not breastfeeding. It is down to personal choice and personal circumstances! And yes, what will be will be. Formula or breast, babies just want to be fed, either way!

  2. This post is great, I'm so glad I read it.
    I breastfed S, but I'm fairly sure we were only successful because we were in hospital for 2 weeks, during which time we had a NICU nurse at our side for every single feed. Women are not given enough support, and midwives and health visitors are not given enough training and information. There are lots of things women can try to increase their supply, but often it's a lottery of whether you stumbled across the right person at the right time. I've a friend who's been supplementing with formula because they told her she didn't have enough milk in hospital - but then met a health visitor who said if she'd stuck at it her supply would have increased; she should have never tried formula. I'm sure she meant well, but what a horrible thing to say to a new mum!

    I would say that while there are all sorts of benefits to breastfeeding, it's not by any means the largest influence on whether a child is happy and healthy. That comes from the parents, and you seem to be doing a fine job!

  3. I couldn't agree more, I also wrote this post: http://andthenthefunbegan.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/yet-another-breastfeeding-v-formula-feeding-post/ on why formula feeding worked better for me than breastfeeding second time round and I think its time to bin off this guilt that the health profession dole out to non-breastfeeders. X

    1. Thank you! Its all about personal choice and what works for individuals. No one should be made to feel guilty over it. Off to check out your post now x

  4. At least you tried! I'll never forget over hearing a new mother say in the bed next to me 'I was going to breast feed but the birth was just too traumatic for me'!! I breast fed my daughter for 11 moths, son for 8 weeks & my youngest son for 3 months before adding in a bottle feed in the evening.

  5. A great post. I fomula fed my eldest (I did try, maybe not hard enough though), and I breastfed my youngest until he self weaned at 22 months. I'm currently 23 weeks pregnant with my third, and I'm going to breastfeed for the first few days (or that is the plan anyway!) and then move on to formula. I've been judged already because I'm apparently selfish for doing this - but being on my own 12 hours a day with three kids under 3.5 it is the mosr practial method, and one that I refuse to feel guilty about. Breast is best - if possible, but no one should ever judge anyone for their feeding choice, whether they can't or just don't want to. Formula isn't poison, it is a perfectly acceptable alternative.Well done for perservering so much though :-) If you did want to take a look at my rather controversial 'selfish' blog post, it's here http://www.activities4kidz.eu/sheldon-country-park/

    1. Just reading your (great) post and about to leave a comment but I completely understand everything you've written. I managed 9 weeks this time and that was a struggle - painful feeds despite latch/positioning being ok, mastitis and illness and, like you, long days home alone. Its whatever makes life easier for you and you're quite right, formula isn't poison, its been used for many years perfectly safely x

  6. I have written a similar post. I gave up bf my 1st after a day and suffered guilt & depression so was adamant I was going to bf my 2nd. We had the exact same struggles. We ended up in NICU because he wouldn't feed but wasn't going to give him formula. Battled for 4 weeks before switching to formula. Well done you for 6 weeks x

    1. Thank you. Sorry to hear of your struggles, you shouldn't feel bad for formula feeding. Its what's right for you and your family. Hope the guilt has now gone xx

  7. Thanks for writing this! I struggled with my second as he had a tongue tie. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx