The moment you discovered you were going to be a mom, you became introduced to something called mom guilt. Mom guilt seems to infuse just about every aspect of motherhood, but one of the first places you're likely to experience it is in how you choose to feed your baby. There's a lot of pressure on moms to breastfeed, but for many reasons, exclusively breastfeeding isn’t always possible or desired. How can you deal with this guilt while nourishing your little one in the way that’s best for you, your baby, and your family?
Understanding Mom Guilt
It’s hard to find an official source that acknowledges mom guilt by name, but any mother knows that it's a genuine phenomenon. Mom guilt is the feeling of worry, doubt, anxiety, or uncertainty about the choices you're making for your baby. Guilt is brought on by the standards, expectations, and advice of those around you. The internet and the wide world of social media don't make it any easier.
The pressure can be intense, and it seems that everyone has a strong opinion on what’s best for your baby. Even those offering well-meaning advice can unintentionally cause the mom guilt to swell up inside of you. Here’s the thing, mom. Nobody loves your baby as much as you do, and it's so vital that you trust your instincts and your own decisions when it comes to your baby. You don’t need to live up to anyone’s standards, and the only thing that matters is that you’re doing what you feel is best for your family.
Is breast "best" for your baby, and should you feel guilty if you can't or don't want to breastfeed exclusively? The best way to nourish your baby is the one you feel most comfortable with and the one that creates the least amount of stress in your life. There is no single best way to feed your baby. Many moms use a combination of feeding methods to ensure their babies get the best possible nutrition. This includes breastfeeding, bottle feeding (whether breastmilk or formula), and pumping to supplement what's received by the baby at the breast. Each of these, or any combination of them, is a perfectly acceptable way of nourishing your baby.
Triple Feeding – Nursing, Pumping, and Bottle Feeding
One reason that moms feel so much guilt is because, for whatever reason, breastfeeding alone isn't working out as planned. Many things can interfere with the breastfeeding experience, but one of the most concerning is when your baby isn't gaining weight appropriately. It's enough to stress a momma out to the point of tears. Then add in all the guilt on top of it.
One solution that is becoming more popular is a method called triple feeding. Triple feeding combines breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and pumping – something that many moms do anyway, except with triple feeding, you do all three of these things each time you feed your baby.
With triple feeding, you nurse your baby at the breast for as long as you can, then you pump and bottle feed. The pumping helps increase milk supply considering that the baby isn't taking in a full feeding at the breast. Some moms bottle feed their baby pumped breastmilk, while others supplement with formula. Either approach is fine, as long as you’re comfortable with it and baby is left with a nice full tummy.
Quick Tip: To save time you can pump while you bottle feed your baby. Use a lounge pillow (or a Boppy with a blanket on top) and feed baby while you pump using a hands free bra and double pump.
Can You Transition from Triple Feeding to Exclusively Breastfeeding?
Many moms plan on breastfeeding before their baby is born, and have dreamy expectations of how the experience will unfold. Triple feeding or choosing to supplement with formula is often what happens when something interferes with being able to breastfeed exclusively. Some moms can let go of their initial expectations of breastfeeding easily, while others might feel guilty or depressed. You might be wondering if you start your breastfeeding journey by triple feeding or supplementing if it's possible to return to exclusive breastfeeding.
The answer is yes, but it isn’t something that should be done out of guilt. If you genuinely want to work toward nursing your baby exclusively at the breast, the first step is to begin reducing the amount of nourishment your baby takes in through the bottle. Nurse your baby at the breast first for as long as possible, and then offer the bottle. Never provide the bottle first. Slowly reduce the amount of each bottle feeding until the bottle is no longer necessary to satisfy your baby.
It’s so very important to continue pumping or hand expressing after you nurse your baby during this transitional phase. Your body needs to acclimate to the increased need for breastmilk, and pumping will help stimulate production and signal your body to make more.
How can you tell if your baby is getting enough nourishment during this transitional process? Weight gain is, of course, the primary indicator, but daily, you can keep track of your baby's soiled diapers. At a week of age, your baby should produce at least six wet diapers a day and at least 2-3 seedy stools. If you're transitioning from formula to breastfeeding, the consistency of your baby's stools might be a little darker, firmer, and less seedy-looking until they’re taking in only breastmilk.
Choosing the Best Formula for Breastfed Babies
If you’ve ever wandered down the formula aisle, you already know that it’s an overwhelming experience. There are so many brands to choose from, and then many different formulas on top of that. Some formulas are designed for babies with special dietary needs, such as those with a suspected dairy allergy. If you're using a formula to supplement breastfeeding, how on earth do you decide which one to choose?
First, it’s always best to start with the advice of a pediatrician or lactation consultant who is familiar with you, your baby, and any special health needs that might exist. Some pediatricians may offer samples of extra gentle formula to ease the financial burden of supplementation. More so than anything you read on the internet, these people will provide you with recommendations based on your needs, not that of affiliate marketing or paid sponsorships. Formula is very different from breastmilk in composition, and a drastic switch to a typical formula may upset your baby’s digestive system.
If you find that your trusted professionals aren’t helpful with recommendations, then you’ll have to do a little research yourself. To help you, I’ve taken a close look at what the professionals say are the best formulas for supplementation with breastmilk.
Please keep in mind that these suggestions are based only on research. I do not personally endorse any one of these products, nor am I being paid to promote or sponsor any formula. Like you, I’m just a mom looking to make the best informed choices for my baby.
The general consensus on the best formulas for supplementation seem to focus on Gerber and Similac. Gerber offers two different formulas that come recommended for supplementation – Gerber Good Start Gentle and Gerber Good Start Gentle for Supplementing. These formulas include smaller, more easily digestible comfort proteins that may minimize digestive upset for babies accustomed to breastmilk.
Similac Pro-Advance Non-GMO is another option that is often recommended by pediatricians. For mothers who choose to breastfeed, Similac is the top choice offered by many hospitals. Enfamil also makes a formula that is said to closely resemble breastmilk called Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease. This formula contains a milk fat globule membrane previously only found in breastmilk.
Say Farewell to Mom Guilt and Find the Support You Need
As a mom, you need a support system to lift you up when the challenges of motherhood come your way. Raising children is hard enough without mom guilt making it even more challenging. It's time that we start supporting each other and the choices we make for our babies. We're here to offer breastfeeding mothers the support they need, and this includes those who choose to supplement and bottle feed. Reach out to the Luscious Letdown Breastfeeding Support Group on Facebook to find the support community you need.
Breastfeeding. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2020, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/breastfeeding-your-baby/breastfeeding