The kid is alright, but what about the parent?
May 16, 2013 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me make peace with giving my baby formula when he's at daycare?

My baby is now 10 1/2 months old and at daycare during the week. Up until now, he has been breastfeeding at home and drinking bottles of pumped milk at daycare. We've decided to start switching him over to formula bottles at daycare, but even though there are good reasons for this I'm feeling guilty about it. Do you have any advice on dealing with the guilt/feeling ok about this decision?

There are several reasons why this switch makes sense. First, my son drinks much more milk at daycare than I can pump during the day. This means that I have been pretty stressed out doing a lot of pumping when we're at home, in the mornings and evenings and on weekends, to try and keep up with his voracious milk appetite. At the same time, in the last couple months my milk supply has dropped so I have to spend more and more time pumping. I currently spend 2-3 hours pumping every day, and I still have to go in to daycare once a day to nurse him because I can't pump enough milk. It's gradually gotten worse and worse, and now feels just out of control. I really want to spend more time with my family at home rather than tied to the pump. We're also getting ready to try getting pregnant again, and stopping the pumping will probably help with that. I am also hoping that stopping pumping will help me be less tired. My son is eating table food and drinking water like a champ, so I don't think he needs breast milk as much as he did when he was younger. I was planning to stop pumping once he is 12 months old and can drink cow's milk, so by starting formula now we're basically just making the transition away from the pump a bit earlier.

This all seems quite logical. And I'm going to keep nursing my son in the mornings and evenings, because both he and I love it.'s hard for me to think about giving him formula when I've been so committed to breastfeeding. I feel like I'm letting my son down. And while I know that breast milk is slightly better for his health, I am definitely having some guilty overreactions and thinking that by giving him formula I'll just be shoveling processed crap into him and guaranteeing him a future of obesity.

Rationally I know my feelings are out of proportion, but I could use some strategies for feeling emotionally ok with giving him formula bottles at daycare. Any suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (52 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sixty years from now, your formula-fed son will have about as much in his 401(k) and have about as many expected years ahead of him. If not, it'll be nearly impossible to pin it on the formula, and there's a chance you'll probably be dead anyway and thus won't be around to feel guilty about it.

And between now and 2073, if things aren't going well you can tell yourself to wait and see how things are for him at 60.
posted by michaelh at 8:27 PM on May 16, 2013 [10 favorites]

I read somewhere that breastfeeding seems like a set up to fail, on that no matter when you stop you feel like it isn't enough so you " failed." Really, you should look at this as success. You have successfully fed your baby for ten months. For many of those months you were his sole nutrition. You have succeeded, Mama!

That being said you sound frustrated about the situation and you should know that it is a possibility that when you go to just morning and evening nursing you may lose your supply. I breastfeeding my son for a year and then went to just twice a day nursing and within two months he was no longer interested because the let down was so slow. Not to scare you off, but to let you know this might be a possibility you will want to come to terms with.

Otherwise, congratulations, you did awesome for your baby !
posted by aetg at 8:33 PM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

Six months was the guideline everyone threw at us. You're way past that. Everything is going to be fine.
posted by ook at 8:36 PM on May 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

You know rationally that your baby is almost 12 months old and that his drinking formula at day care will not negatively impact his health. And you know that having both enough bottles to keep him full and a less-stressed mother will positively impact his health.

Since you know all this rationally, I wonder if you're going through a little bit of mourning over this as the first step of weaning your baby. You still have nursing times with him, but they are going to be fewer and fewer, and on some level it can be a little bit hard to know he doesn't need your breast milk to thrive anymore. Even though in your heart, you feel it's the best thing for him and anything else just feels like crap. You've started one of the first steps towards compromise, letting in the less than perfect stuff as your child begins to just live his life away from your protection in the imperfect world. You can be thrilled that he's growing and becoming independent, but it can still make you anxious and have that not quite ready feeling.
posted by third rail at 8:38 PM on May 16, 2013 [23 favorites]

Honestly, I think the biggest benefit from nursing a baby is the bonding and the quiet time that it brings and the pleasure that mom and baby both get from it. It sounds like the need to pump was making you stressed, worried, anxious and unhappy. That does not benefit your little one. If formula feeding at daycare contributes to a happy and relaxed mom and baby it is hands down worth it. Enjoy the nursing time when you are together; let the rest of it go.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:39 PM on May 16, 2013 [14 favorites]

Also, third rail is a wise woman.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:40 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

How about ... the breast milk he gets from you will probably be healthier because you are more relaxed because you won't be pumping 2-3 hours a day. And a better of quality of life for you is definitely better for your baby! Now this time with him will be truly special, because he will only get breast milk while nursing with you.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:55 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

One thing I like to remind people in your shoes is this: "formula is not poison". It may not be as great as breast milk, but there is nothing Wrong with it. You have conferred many benefits upon your baby by breast feeding for any amount of time, and 10 months is great. There are many other things you can worry about now, so try to stop worrying about this!
posted by gubenuj at 8:55 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

You have done an awesome job!

Back when I was going to a mom's group, there was a mom there who for lots of reasons couldn't nurse and had to use formula, and was feeling awful and guilt-ridden. "The most important thing," I assured her, "is to feed the baby."

The moderator of the group corrected me: "The most important thing," she said, "is to keep mama from going crazy. The *next* most important thing is to feed the baby."

Your baby's childhood will be full of milestones, and weaning is a big one. Be gentle with yourself, you have worked very hard.
posted by ambrosia at 8:59 PM on May 16, 2013 [12 favorites]

Formula isn't actually processed crap, I don't know who has been feeding you that line. It's a nutrient rich drink that many babies worldwide thrive upon.

If you are worried about the obesity thing, are you aware that a recent study in JAMA did not find any connection between formula feeding and obesity?

Both the World Health Organization and the American Association of Pediatrics only recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then "breastfeeding to some extent" for up to 12 months. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me..... hope you're able to get some peace with this.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:59 PM on May 16, 2013 [18 favorites]

How about think of it as - he will only be drinking 2 bottles or so of formula for 6 weeks. Once he hits his bday you were planning on switching to cow milk anyway. It's really not that much, and it certainly isn't a very long time. Good luck!
posted by bahama mama at 9:00 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

By the way, I qualify my statement above about formula by saying that I am currently a mother (and a physician) who is breastfeeding a baby. But I still feel strongly that formula is a completely valid option for feeding an infant.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:02 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

You're going to have a lifetime of making peace with decisions you make for your son. One thing I try to do is to consider the health of my family above the health of any individual member, and make the choice that will keep the family as the strong foundation each member needs to thrive. It sounds like that's what you're doing here, and congratulations on raising a healthy strong family.
posted by judith at 9:03 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I know this is slightly older than your son was, but my wife was diagnosed with cancer when my daughter was 15 months old. Breastfeeding stopped immediately because you can't breastfeed on chemo. A few months later, my wife died of her cancer. My daughter never had another drop of breast milk after 15 months. She turns two this summer and she is a healthy, happy, awesome little girl who runs across the room shouting "DADA! HUG!" with outstretched arms when I come home from work.

There are much more difficult things you and your son could be going through, and even those things you can handle. Don't worry too much about what is really a pretty minor issue.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:13 PM on May 16, 2013 [13 favorites]

1. Congratulations! You were lucky and strong enough to hit a major desirable biology benchmark for best practices for your baby's physical health.

2. So now, DO NOT underestimate how tightly your mental health is linked to your child's mental health and development. Sounds like you have tons of reasons to go with some formula. It's really okay for you to be happy with this decision.

3. Anecdata: I happen to know a successful genius. I mean this literally, this person is world famous for their intelligence. When this person had a child, they offhandedly mentioned that they would use formula if the situation arose, and that they themselves had been raised on it. Scientific proof - formula will not prevent your child from becoming a successful genius.
posted by synapse at 9:15 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just a data point - I hated pumping and stopped when my oldest was about 4 months old or so. She happily breastfed in the morning, at night and all weekend and took bottles of formula at daycare. No supply problems at all and she kept breastfeeding until she was 16 months old. So quitting pumping might not neccesarily lead to total weaning if you're worried about that.
posted by artychoke at 9:17 PM on May 16, 2013

Give yourself some time. After a few weeks you'll be so freakin' happy that the pump is sitting in the corner collecting dust that you won't know what to do with yourself!

You can continue nursing whenever your baby is with you for as long as you both want to.

You are a good mama and you've done a great job so far!
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:21 PM on May 16, 2013

My daughter couldn't breastfeed so I pumped exclusively for seven and a half months. Then it got to be too much, and with much sorrow, I weaned off the pump.

My daughter is doing fine on formula. And she's doing even better with a mama who is not stressed and who can spend time WITH her instead of hooked up to a milking machine feeling guilty despite making the best effort she could. Give yourself the space to grieve, but know that it's more important that you are there for your child than what you feed after 10.5 months--and being tethered to a pump is not the most fun way to be there.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:22 PM on May 16, 2013

I can relate. Oh my gosh can I relate. My daughter was this age when she got her first formula, and it KILLED me. In retrospect, I have absolutely no idea why. I don't even mean that my reasons seem silly now, I mean that I literally have no idea what my reasons even were. I can remember the feeling, but none of the thoughts.

What your reasons are, I don't know, but I do know that your daughter is happy, safe, fed, healthy, and loved. That's what's important.
posted by KathrynT at 9:22 PM on May 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Both the World Health Organization and the American Association of Pediatrics only recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then "breastfeeding to some extent" for up to 12 months.

In case people are reading this and making decisions about feeding older babies: this is a little misleading. OF COURSE formula is a fine choice and an individual one for the mother. But just to clarify, WHO actually recommends that "breastfeeding is an appropriate choice" (always supplemented by other food after 6 months to greater and greater degree), not for "up to 12 months" only but "for two years and beyond." Twelve months is a fine time to wean but WHO is not implying that all breastfeeding SHOULD stop at 12 months.
posted by third rail at 9:30 PM on May 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anecdotal data: I'm an adult who for various reasons was raised almost exclusively on formula as a baby. I turned out fine, pretty damn intelligent, normal, with absolutely no discernable difference from my sister who was raised on breastmilk. And I have never once wished my mother had breast fed me. Don't worry!
posted by shazzam! at 9:35 PM on May 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

I stopped pumping when my daughter was about ten months old too, and kept the morning and evening feeding. She kept nursing until she was four (when I said enough already). Though I ignored formula, basically just figured she'd be fine with food during the day, and she was. So even letting go of the pumping and daytime feedings, you can still nurse as long as you want to (or end soon, whatever works best for you). If it helps, think of the formula as a glass of (cow) milk with your baby's meal -- a perfectly healthy choice.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:36 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry, inaccurate wording, I meant to say "up to at least 12 months." (that was from AAP). Yep, of course you can breastfeed pretty much indefinitely if you'd like, by either WHO or AAP standard. :-)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 9:58 PM on May 16, 2013

Unless you are in a country like China where there have been problems with tainted formula, the formula you refer to as "processed crap" doesn't deserve that description. It is a highly regulated, scientifically formulated, carefully produced, and nutrition-packed product. Your choice of what daycare and preschool you choose to send your son to, and the way you raise him, will have a much bigger impact on his life than will the choice of breast milk vs. formula.
posted by Dansaman at 10:02 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh god, I know the difficulties of pumping! I had to work so hard for every ounce.

At 10.5mos I had to start supplementing my son's milk because I just couldn't keep up with his needs via pumping. As much as I didn't want to, I started supplementing him with formula. As it turns out, he can't tolerate cow's milk (formula is based on cow's milk) and he got really sick in a matter of days (severe tummy trouble sick). So I figured hell, he's close enough to 1, and it's only one or maybe two bottles a day, so I just started supplementing him with whole milk (goat's milk, which he tolerates just fine). So you could consider skipping formula and going straight to whole milk.

Another thing you could consider would be donated breast milk. There are a few milk-sharing banks out there, just google it or look on facebook.

Otherwise, my supply didn't really dip after I stopped pumping. But I think it would have been better maintained if I'd kept up with my vitamins (I stopped taking them because I felt that they made my LO gassy, particularly anything with dha or fish oil) and if I'd eaten more leafy greens and nutrient-dense foods.

From my pov you don't have anything to feel guilty about. You're obviously a very committed and attached parent, and even if every single drop of liquid he gets isn't breastmilk, don't forget that you are in fact still breastfeeding, and he's still benefitting from it.
posted by vignettist at 10:08 PM on May 16, 2013

Re: treehouse+bunny. I hate to correct a doc who's answers I always respect, but the 6 months of exclusive breast feeding recommendation is actually about NOT introducing solids or anything else other than breast milk for the first 6 months and not a recommendation for a duration of breast feeding. I think the official WHO standard is up to TWO years or beyond.
/End of side topic

OP I am a huge supporter of breast feeding for as long as possible and I believe that you are doing what's best for you. Pumping for as long as you have is a huge accomplishment, well done! But I would encourage you to continue to breast feed him when you are together if you can as he will still get lots of the benefits of nursing as he continues to develop.
posted by saradarlin at 10:15 PM on May 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went back to work at 11 months and kiddo wouldn't take expressed milk or a bottle at all. So she had food, water and cow milk, and reverse cycled like a maniac. Pumping was shit, I hated it and gave up after a month because it was getting wasted (she just flat out refused to drink it). I ended up donating what was in the freezer when we moved at 12 months. We didn't use formula because she was still nursing a lot at night/evening/mornings and had no issues with growth. If she'd been a tiny thing, or losing weight, we would have.

I am a huge believer that if pumping isn't working for you, it isn't working, and after six months the benefits of all milk being breastmilk (as opposed to some being formula, some breastmilk, some cow) aren't nearly enough to outweigh the irritation/time sink for me.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:19 PM on May 16, 2013

Thanks for the compliment Sara! Actually the recommendations from the WHO and the AAP are based on a document called "Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding: a systematic review" which you can find available for download at the link. This document revolves around the research evidence for 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, so I believe that indeed it is meant to be interpreted as a recommendation for the "optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding" - but both organizations, again, state quite clearly that breastfeeding can be continued beyond this point as the mother and child desire. The OP might find this an interesting read to quell fears. I really do recognize that this is a tetchy sort of subject but I think in the interests of answering this question (asking how to come to terms with the decision already made) it would be best not to focus in on legalistic interpretations of each phrase stated here...
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:33 PM on May 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I was never breast fed a day in my life and I am healthier than a lot of people who were breast fed and was in the GATE program. Don't worry about your child's brains/health going downhill from formula. Alas, I can't do anything about the guilt-shaming mommy war crap for you, but your kid will be fine.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:38 PM on May 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

In tiny, incremental steps, starting the day her child is born, a mother's job is to facilitate the child's ability to function in the world successfully and entirely independently of her. Looking back, I see motherhood as a long process of separation and each stage introduces new pangs and anxieties. This is just one of the stages. You have already done this breastfeeding stage really well and your head tells you it is time to move forward. Pay attention to that.

You may feel the need to do a little grieving because this is a precious ritual of motherhood/babyhood that is ending. Then let it go with grace and gratitude, knowing that you did a good job. Other challenges will take the place of this one. You will keep on doing a good job and one day you will find you have succeeded so well that you have an awesome adult in your life who used to be that baby.

He changes bit by bit as you care for him and teach him and you have to change right along with him. Your every success requires you to let go a little bit more. It's a secret of motherhood, this learning to love by learning to let go.
posted by Anitanola at 12:05 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I breastfed one daughter for about 12 months, no formula, straight on to cows' milk, another for six months and then a mixture of formula and breast milk for I don't remember how long, the third I breastfed, no formula, for 2+ years. They are all now in their early twenties. I would bet you good money that nobody could tell which one was which (without asking them of course)
posted by sianifach at 1:06 AM on May 17, 2013

KathrynT reminded me that just one scant year ago, my feelings about a lot of things were different than they are today concerning my child.

Also, wanted to say that I used Baby's Only Organic Formula and was super amazingly happy with it.

Whole Foods stopped carrying it because they came out with their own organic formula, which I stridently advise you stay away from, if you were considering that option. Quality is NOT the same.

After doing a lot of research and choosing the Baby's Only, I stopped feeling so guilty about formula. I also ordered directly from this small company directly, because their customer service is fantastic, and owning a small business myself, I wanted to support what they are doing.
posted by jbenben at 1:19 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

There is no reason for you to feel guilt about any choices you make based on the need to balance the welfare of you and your child..
posted by BenPens at 2:32 AM on May 17, 2013

Just another anecdote, my son went to daycare at 10 weeks and I was only able to pump once a day, so he had one small bottle of pumped milk and guzzled formula all day at daycare. Sometimes it was fancy formula and sometimes it was Costco-brand generic formula, because they are all very similar and very nutritious. It drives me nuts that breastfeeding advocacy has led to the demonization of formula. I never had supply issues despite pumping once a day, and was able to successfully breastfeed-only when I wasn't at work, so my son was able to nurse in the morning, evening, night, and on weekends. We kept that up until he was almost two. But the kid still drank a ton of formula, and he's a healthy smart little guy. Free yourself from formula guilt, you're doing a great job!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:38 AM on May 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

You know what? You can mix feed. You can stop pumping and give him formula at daycare. And still nurse (if that's what you want).

And if you've pumped up until now keeping up with him, that's pretty remarkable. I don't respond to the pump. I get 0.5-1 oz per 15 minute session. And that's it. That's all I get. One let down. No more.

So when I went back to work after having my daughter (my son didn't nurse at all, practically, which was upsetting for a million reasons), I pumped her one bottle of breastmilk in 3-6 15 minute sessions and she had formula the rest of the day at daycare (which was about two bottles). So, that's not so bad.

I kept that up until 12 months when we switched her to cow's milk and I weaned from the pump. And she kept nursing in the evenings and the morning and on weekends. She's twenty months old now and just climbed into my lap for a nurse.

At 10 1/2 months, nursing and breastmilk is about more than just nutrition. Giving him some formula at daycare now won't hurt him and won't necessarily impact the nursing relationship you have.

This doesn't have to be an all or nothing situation. You can absolutely stop pumping and still nurse and give him some formula until he's ready for cow's milk. And you don't have to feel guilty about that at all.
posted by zizzle at 5:07 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's someone on the blue who was a formula baby and went to Harvard.
posted by donut_princess at 5:33 AM on May 17, 2013

So many of us were bottle fed as babies, and we turned out fine.

I think you know that intellectually there's nothing wrong with formula. There's so much pressure to be a perfect, breastfeeder, organic diaper user, homemade babyfood maker, that if you stray from the path of that perfection, that somehow you're doing a disservice to your baby.

Look, it's nice if you're able to do it, but being a parent involves HUGE amount of time, psychic energy and stamina, sometimes something's got to give. Sometimes something SHOULD give, because it's a better decision for everyone involved.

It's better for you because you're not stressing and you'll get some time back in your day. It's better for the baby because when you are breastfeeding, you both have some time together to bond and enjoy each other. You may get more time with your partner and you may resent him/her less because you're not the only one able to provide nourishment to your child.

You can feel a bit sad at the passing of an era, but I'm sure you know that the guilt is misplaced.

When you start feeling guilty just affirm, "This is the right decision for my family. I know little Rodrigo is going to be fine. This guilt is unnecessary."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:40 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

We had to start supplementing with formula when my oldest kid was 6 months and the feelings of guilt & failure were horrible. For about a week. And then my body recovered & my brain was freed from the constant stress of "OMG did I manage to pump enough yesterday to feed her while I'm at work today???" And then heaven opened up & the angels sang & everything was just fine. Baby was happy & healthy. Mama was healthier. And we continued our part-time nursing until she was 2 & I got pregnant again.

With kid #2, we started out with a combo of nursing & formula. And once again, it was just fine. And my life was a lot better because I didn't have to stress about producing enough milk for a voracious baby while working full time & dealing with a toddler.

Adding supplementary fomula DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE FAILED. Really.
posted by belladonna at 5:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

You are doing a great job Mamma!
We were never able to successfully breastfeed due to a combination of severe tongue tie & flat nipples. Lactation consultants couldn't help us even after the tongue tie was corrected. I pumped & formula fed for 3 weeks but couldn't keep up my supply so we have just been doing formula ever since.
I went through terrible guilt, feeling like I failed as a mother & was doing my baby a great disservice. 4 months later I still feel guilty, but much less so. The guilt will get better. Just remember- YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB! I agree with the above poster who said that all the breast feeding advocacy has really lead to making people feel guilty about formula. Sometimes it is better to be happy for your baby than to drive yourself nuts trying to meet standards that just don't work for you.
posted by MayNicholas at 5:45 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

My baby breastfed for three weeks and then my supply dried up. Questions like this make it hard not to feel like crap about that. But I have to get over it and you have to get over supplementing your baby with formula at almost a year old. Neither is really that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. The important thing, for me, is that my baby is happy and healthy (and he is!).
posted by amro at 5:47 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I have at times been described as a 'total breastfeeding nazi' (I write this while nursing my 22 month old) and even I recognize that there's something that is always more valuable for a mom to give to her child other than breastmilk, and that is: unstressed, undivided attention of a happy mom who got enough sleep and time to relax. Spend your 3 hours doing fun stuff instead of pumping and you will have SO much more patience for your baby. You'll need it during the next year :) Oh and, you can keep nursing when you're home so baby will still get your antibodies and stuff. You are a great mom and I give you permission to use formula in daycare. Signed, a 'lactivist'.
posted by The Toad at 6:11 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Lots of good advice so far, but since you specifically said you wanted "strategies for feeling emotionally ok with giving him formula bottles at daycare", I'd suggest thinking of it in terms of the natural feeding progression: all breast milk, gradually adding some solids, gradually bringing in cow's milk, eventually going to all solids (and possibly some milk). Every kid does this progression in different ways, every mom has different factors to weigh. So, you're just a month or two from the switch to milk; switching to cow-derived formula now isn't going to hurt him, any more than the difference between starting solids at 5, 7, or 9 months. In the end, he'll make the transition and a million others during his time at daycare, preschool, and on. He's still had the nutritional and emotional benefits of your milk, and he won't know the difference when it's a bottle and not your lap. You may be able to morning/night feed for ages, for all you know, so you'll have time to adjust to the change, but you know that eventually that too will end, the first of many endings, many leavings, the natural way things progress. It's ok to mourn, but it's also ok to feel relief that your pumping battle and production guilt are over and you can just enjoy your time together and look ahead to the next thing(s) in the pipeline. (And walking is not that far off!) Be gentle with yourself, see it as practice in letting go, just a little at a time.
posted by acm at 6:24 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

You did so awesomely!

And think of all that extra time you'll have to be stress-free with your baby now you're not worrying about pumping all the time. And cleaning all the accessories.
posted by gaspode at 6:25 AM on May 17, 2013

My three month old daughter weaned herself-I had become pregnant with her younger sister and apparently the flavor changed? Anyhow I had fully nursed her older brother and the younger sister while she of course wound up on the bottle. Honestly, there wasn't ten cents worth of difference in the health and wellbeing of any of them. (They are all adults now.)

You nursed during the most vital time and beyond. You and your child will be fine. This is simply one of many transistions you and your child will face. Your feelings are normal, but try if you can not to frame them as "guilt" because truly you have nothing to feel guilt over.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:37 AM on May 17, 2013

I'm breastfeeding and have a ten month old and while my son has never had formula, I'd make the exact same decision if I was in your shoes (possibly sooner to be frank, I *hate* pumping and I'm very grateful I've never had to do it). Look at it this way, if you're going to give him cow's milk in a few months anyway, why worry? It's almost the same thing. You're just getting a bit of a head's start on giving him nutritional independence and the side benefit is that you'll be happier. As mothers in the first year of our babies lives, we need to claw and scratch for every one of those breaks. Take a deep breath, relax and be kind to yourself. He'll be fine. Really. Really really really.
posted by saturnine at 7:16 AM on May 17, 2013

Adoptive mom of an exclusively forumula-fed 6 month old. Also, I'm a Michael Pollan devotee, whole-foodist, anti-GMO, farm-to-table, corn-syrup-consipricy theorist, etc. If I'd given birth to my kid, I'd probably have called myself a "lactivist" too.

After tons of research on formula, I decided on an organic formula with an additional infant probiotic supplement. Formula, although it's required by law to meet the same standards of nutrition, does have deviations in terms of where and how ingredients were sourced. From my baby's formula can (Earth's Best): "Our cows are fed certified organic grain and hay that grow in soil not containing potentially harmful pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Our dairy-based formula uses organic non-fat milk from farms where bovine growth hormones, antibiotics and steroids are strictly prohibited...."

My larger point is that it used to KILL ME that I couldn't feed my baby nature's perfect food / liquid gold / mother's love milk / perfect perfect amazing best-ever food from my own body. But it's been fine, really. My son is super-healthy, super-happy, and way less colic-y than his breastfed same-aged cousin. We get plenty of intimate bonding cuddle-time while feeding him. I did have to grieve over the loss (of the birth experience, of meeting him on day 2 and not at the moment of birth, of not breastfeeding), but once I grieved those things and moved on, I could focus on just how great and healthy and happy he is and how much I love him.
posted by mmmcmmm at 8:34 AM on May 17, 2013

My mother's gainfully-employed college grads (one Ivy, one with prestigious postgrad) are all rail-thin and never had a drop of breast milk in our lives. Your kid will be fine.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:01 AM on May 17, 2013

The pumping thing didn't work for us and baby did not accept substitutes. So we found other liquids that were not trying to be breast milk.

I was a stay at home dad and got through the day with smoothie, Ensure, home-made chicken broth, sweet potato soup, liquid yogurt, etcetera. If mom was not there, he was willing to try other things. Mom had to do a quick session before she left for work and then sit on the couch for a couple hours when she got home. Boy turned out mostly fine, but he stares at cleavage and talks to his teacher's chest.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:15 AM on May 17, 2013

I exclusively breastfed for three months; even before I went back to work, my supply wasn't keeping up, so my kid started to get one bottle of formula a day. When I went back to work, I pumped (and pumped and pumped -- sometimes three times a day in my office, plus I pumped before I went to bed), and I managed to get no more than she needed (and sometimes less, so she sometimes got more than one bottle of formula a day). And then at 7 months, I was just done. I couldn't take the excessive amount of time out of my workday anymore, and I was exhausted from staying up late to pump (and then wash/clean all my pumping supplies) before getting up for middle of the night nursing. We continued to breastfeed a little bit in the morning, at bedtime, and overnight, but my supply didn't keep up without the pumping and we were done by 7-1/2 months or so.

I was wrecked by my "failure" at breastfeeding -- what I perceived as a failure while I was breastfeeding, and my failure to continue breastfeeding. While I was still nursing, I took so much fenugreek I smelled constantly of maple syrup. I was drinking 6 cups of nursing tea a day at work. I was pumping for longer and longer stretches to try and stimulate more supply. And none of it seemed to matter -- my kid needed more milk than I could make, and trying to keep up with her was driving me crazy. Supplementing helped -- I knew she would never starve -- but I still felt like I'd failed. And after we stopped, I felt like I'd given up too soon, like I should have ordered some domperidone and kept pumping.

Within a few weeks, though, it was clear that I had done the right thing. My emotional state got so much better, I was no longer consumed by how much milk I'd pumped and whether or not my kid was drinking more milk in a day than I could pump. I was able to enjoy her without stressing about how much she was eating; I was able to get more done at work so I could leave earlier and spend more time with her.

And now, almost a year later, I -- like others above -- have trouble remembering why it was so, so painful. I breastfed my kid for more than 7 months! She is a bright, active, thriving toddler now, who rarely gets sick! Formula is not poison or processed crap -- it is food for babies -- and it was OK that I fed it to her.

But that's all anecdata -- here's my advice: Your nursing relationship isn't over, it's just changing. Your child is growing up, and part of that is letting go. Don't think about this as a breastfeeding failure. Think of it as one of many steps along the way in letting go of your child.
posted by devinemissk at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cow's milk? Surely you are planning to buy your own cow and spend 2-3 hours per day caring for and milking it. Or perhaps you have located a local organic dairy farm and will be driving there at dawn every morning to get the best, freshest, least processed milk possible.

I'm a huge breastfeeding fan (I'm doing it right now) but I reached the same point you're at when my first was 6 months (I could only pump at lunch) and after agonizing for a while I just gave up the pump. It was the right decision. Formula isn't perfect, but we can never give them perfect.
posted by that's how you get ants at 1:26 PM on May 17, 2013

Check out Hannah Rosin's article from The Atlantic, The Case Against Breast-Feeding.
The science is not nearly as definitive as the pro-breastfeeding advocates would have you believe.
posted by david1230 at 6:23 PM on May 17, 2013

I think to be emotionally ok with it you need time. It is normal for you to feel sad about this. There is so much external and internal pressure to breast feed the whole first year. I ended up supplementing with formula for both my sons, around 6 mo with my first and 3 months with my second. It was a tough transition both times, but less pumping was ultimately so freeing and made me and my family so much happier. You will get through it. Allow yourself these feelings.
posted by peeps! at 6:39 PM on May 17, 2013

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