Breastfeeding 401: Supplementing with Formula by Desirae Ofori
Written by Desirae Ofori. Originally posted August 28, 2016. This blog post may contain affiliate links to products I personally recommend and love. If you click on the link and make a purchase this allows me to earn a commission that will help support SincerelyMrsMommy.com
Oh the breastfeeding journey! For some it’s “easy”, for many it’s hard, for others it’s simple, for most it’s complicated – especially for first timers. However, in the end no matter how baby ends up being fed, I believe most if not all can say they are happy that they gave breastfeeding a shot.
I wanted to take some time to share my 13 month breastfeeding journey with Samson, how we landed on the decision to supplement with formula and what we chose. I’m not into, nor will I ever be into Mom shaming how one feeds their baby. Like I’ve said in the Breastfeeding 101: Baby’s Gotta Eat post, the baby has to eat. So, if you’re into shaming or have negative per-conceived notions on formula feeding, try to read this with an open mind, less judgment, and more as an educational experience.
In the Beginning
Our breastfeeding journey started in the hospital shortly after Samson was born. After they cleaned him up a bit and checked his vitals they replaced him on my chest. He had a strong latch and did not appear to have any struggle or challenges. Throughout our time in the hospital, the lactation coach and nurses commented on how well he did. The day after discharge at his first doctor visit, they discovered he had lost some weight. They recommended for me to keep nursing to help my milk come in. I talk more about this in my Breastfeeding 101 post. Because I felt some pressure to use formula, I was determined that I wanted to give my body a chance. After day four, just like the Pediatrician said, my milk came in and over that week he regained his weight.
When Samson was 3 weeks old, Sam and I went to the movies on our first post-baby date for my birthday. I thought and hoped I had pumped enough milk to last Samson for the few hours we’d be out. I had some pre-mixed sample bottles from Similac in the pantry, and told his godparents, if he needed it they could give him one. Well, he ended up needing extra milk, and they made the wise choice to not let him starve, and fed him the formula. I must admit I was a little disappointed in myself, that I didn’t leave enough for him. I was also feeling a little guilty that maybe I shouldn’t have gone out for my birthday. However, it is what it is. Samson didn’t starve, and Daddy was sweet to set up some time away for my birthday.
Deciding to Supplement
I returned to work at 8 weeks postpartum, and sent Samson to his private sitters with pumped or partially frozen breast milk. During the day he would drink from the bottle, and when he was with me I nursed him. We would use a bottle of pumped milk or two at night. Usually, Sam would feed him a bottle so that I could pump, or I would give him a bottle so that Samson could go back to sleep quicker. Babies take longer to nurse than they do drinking out of a bottle.
After a few months, my body was still working on regulating it’s supply, and I was trying to keep up with my supplements (oatmeal, water, raspberry leaf tea and pills). However, I was becoming overly sleep deprived and exhausted from either Samson waking up throughout the night to nurse, or having to get up and stay up in the middle of the night to pump for the next day.
When he was about 4 months old, I was out of my small freezer stash of milk, and I didn’t have enough pumped from the day to cover him the next day. Also, my supply was declining. Sam reminded me that I needed to get rest for my body to produce. He said, choose a formula, and I’ll go buy it. I knew he was right. Since Samson had seemed to do okay with the Similac formula I had in the pantry, I told him to buy that. Being able to get some rest, and releasing the stress of my child possibly starving, helped me a lot.
Since my supply started to pick back up, he rarely needed the formula while he was at the sitters. I always sent an extra bottle of formula just in case I was running late to pick him up. But most times he did not need it.
In the evening, we’d give him a bottle of formula so we could save the pumped breast milk for the next day. We ended up throwing away at least half a container of formula a month.
Choosing an Organic Formula
Samson was a “happy spitter” (reflux without the acid reflux pain), and it was really annoying. We’d go through so many clothes in a day, and was at the point of using hand towels instead of burp cloths because of how much he happily spat up. So, I was on the hunt for formulas that could help, along with evaluating my diet for possible irritants in my breast milk. I also noticed the change in his poo (sorry Samson I have to go here, lol) which were tougher and MUCH smellier. Breast milk poo does not smell nearly as bad as formula poo and the consistency is much softer.
I knew I had to do more research and find other options. That’s when I discovered the amazing Gimme the Good Stuff blog and learned about organic formula. She has a concise yet easy to understand guide to infant formulas. She breaks them down as the good, the bad and the sneaky. Here is the link to her Safe Infant Formula Guide. She also has a link to an article that goes into more scientific details about formula. I used her chart as a guide to do further research on individual formulas and to read reviews from other parents on the formulas I was considering.
Initially, we switched to Earth’s Best Sensitive with DHA, but his results were similar to regular formula. Plus, if you can imagine it any worse, the smell of his gas and poo was atrocious! Like, open the windows and turn on all the fans, kind of atrocious. I found that many other parents reported the same issue. So I kept researching and finally decided to take the plunge with an European organic formula.
We chose to go with Lebenswert by Holle from Germany and I’m SO glad that we did. After about a week of his body adjusting, his bowel movements returned to the soft consistency of an exclusive breastfed baby. Diaper changes were significantly more pleasant, no more gas issues, REDUCED spit-up, and it tasted sweet like breast milk! Yes I taste EVERYthing that he eats, I have to know! Did I mention that it reduced his spit-up!? At last, my baby was back to normal. I also looooved that when you shook it up, it didn’t produce a ton of bubbles or leave the bubble foam. These bubbles are the usual culprits of excessive gas, caused by the baby swallowing those bubbles.
What I also like about the formula is that they have three stages depending on the babies age. Each stage adds or increases the level of certain ingredients to cater to their digestive stage. At his check-ups, the Pediatrician asked what changed and when I told them what we were using, I didn’t get any kickback. They always said that he was thriving well and did not have any concerns.
I felt much more comfortable giving him this organic formula as a supplement to my breast milk. Although, I was not able to run to the store to pick up more if needed and it was a little pricier, it eased my mind knowing that I was feeding him the most pure and nutritious ingredients possible in formula form. Through my formula research, I learned (and was not surprised) that in America the regulations for organic food is not as strict as we imagine. A friend told me it’s the same with Canada.
In fact, the highest regulated organic foods are in Europe. I am not surprised with that at all. What is unfortunate is that the U.S. government won’t allow for these European products to be sold in stores. Even though they are better than what we have available. However, there are several U.S. online vendors to choose from that you can purchase these products legally.
Where to Purchase
I started out with Formuland, they are from California. Yet, because I live in Florida, shipping could take a little longer. I then found Beyond Organic Baby from Georgia. Shipment for me was fast (2-3 days) and they have an auto-ship option. What I also like about them is their price includes shipping and is actually a little cheaper than other online vendors. They are usually stocked well and do not have daily product purchase limits like other vendors.
The European organic formulas (especially Holle and HIPP) are becoming increasingly popular worldwide, so there are times when the home company runs out, and you have to wait for them to restock. For me, Beyond Organic Baby has done well with staying stocked. They also have discounts for each purchase and when you buy more than one box of formula.
As time went on we slowly increased the amount of formula he drank at school. I would mostly focus on just nursing him at home after daycare, at night and the weekends. I was okay with this because he was still able to get a significant amount of breast milk at home.
We continued our nursing relationship without any issues and we continued to bond through it. Whenever he was sick and didn’t want to drink from a bottle, he had the option to nurse. I started to do a slow wean from nursing and pumping at around 11 months due to him eating more solids. Also, I didn’t want to stop nursing cold turkey. I wanted to avoid the pain of long standing engorgement. I wanted my supply to slowly diminish.
When he turned a year, we switched to almond milk, because I thought he had a milk protein allergy (although the formula had cow’s milk and he did fine). He did horrible on almond milk for about two weeks, before we decided to try Organic lactose free milk. I weaned Samson from nursing 13 months and two weeks. I still can’t even believe we’ve made it past 6 months!
Tips and Encouragement
After doing your research, it is recommended that you consult with your Pediatrician before switching and changing formulas’. If it is an unfamiliar formula to the Pediatrician, you can bring a list of the ingredients for them to review and research. It is always helpful to be knowledgeable and prepared.
The children’s organic food company, Plum Organics recently came out this year (2016) with their own formula, that is created in a Kosher kitchen. I compared their ingredients to Lebenswert and they are pretty similar. I’ve used them twice as a back up. One difference I did see was that it has those bubbles when you shake it to mix. Regardless, Samson didn’t have any issues being on this formula. It’s easy to find at Target and online with Amazon. They also have a helpful article with three different combo feeding schedules from three mom’s. Check it out here, “Nursing and Considering Combo Feeding”.
Reminder, formula is not handled or stored the same as breast milk. You have to take a few extra precautions. So learn the difference to avoid contamination or giving your child spoiled milk.
Sleep and low stress is just as important as any other supplement you can use to boost your supply.
At the end of the day, baby has to be fed. You’re not a horrible parent if you’re not breastfeeding or if you formula feed. The fact that you won’t allow your child to starve, already makes you an incredible parent! You have to do what works and is in the best interest for you and your child, according to what your circumstances allow.
Don’t let anyone guilt you or shame you into feeling that you’re not doing enough. Just continue to do the best that you can with your sanity intact. You’ve got this! You can do this! Let’s feed those babies and watch them thrive!