Getting pregnant changes everything. The second that test produces two little lines, it’s no longer just you, it’s you and the baby. It’s exciting, intimidating, nerve-wracking, and heart-warming all wrapped into one gigantic emotion that’s virtually impossible to describe.
Pregnancy also changes the way people interact with you. From the moment you announce you’re expecting you’ll find everyone has a wealth of information to impart to you regarding healthy and unhealthy pregnancy habits, child-rearing, and of course, feeding your baby.
Though we’re sure they’re always well-intentioned, sometimes the people closest to us can pressure us into feeding the way they fed their children, or hope to feed their future children. Even certain websites and social media accounts can influence us to go against our gut, and attempt to feed in ways that are not conducive to our lifestyles or our way of thinking.
If all the opinions surrounding how to feed your new baby has you questioning your sanity, you aren’t alone.
In fact, many women who plan to formula feed their babies feel pressured to breastfeed, and are afraid they’ll be pressured into breastfeeding by the hospital staff after they deliver.
The good news is, you don’t have to feel pressured to breastfeed. Hospital staff members who pressure a new mom to forgo her choice of formula for breast milk are unprofessional. It is, however, up to you to make clear your intentions of formula feeding and ensure you get the support you need to pursue it.
What To Expect At The Hospital
If you have the option of taking a hospital tour or orientation, do it. Many hospitals offer these programs so you can fill out necessary paperwork ahead of time, meet with nursing staff, view the facility, and get a better idea of how your birth and delivery will go.
This is a great time to give the hospital a copy of your birth and feeding plan so it’s already on file when you arrive for labor and delivery.
Also important is ensuring that your baby’s primary care provider and their staff knows of your feeding plan, too. Most pediatric offices operate on hospital rotations, so the provider that sees you and your baby in the hospital may not be the one you met with prior to your baby’s arrival.
Taking these extra steps can help eliminate any confusion about your intentions when you arrive to deliver your baby. When it’s delivery time, here’s what you can do to ensure a pleasant feeding experience.
When You Arrive At The Hospital
If you’ve already met with the hospital, make sure your birthing and feeding plans are with your care team and up to date. If not, communicate with your nurse about your plans to bottle feed upon your arrival.
Lactation Consultant Nurse Chatterjee states, “I love to see a birth and postpartum plan for the families I care for. There is no mistaking the clear written plan the family has decided upon. This is a great way to ensure your choices are heard, documented, and respected.”
If you feel uncomfortable at any time during the intake, labor, or delivery process, make your concerns known. This experience is yours, and it’s important you’re comfortable and feel in charge of decisions about your baby’s birth and subsequent feeding.
Your family members and hospital staff know you’re bottle feeding, but your breasts don’t have a clue!
Unless you have a medical condition which prevents you from producing milk, it’s important to make sure you have what you need to keep comfortable with engorged breasts until your milk supply dries up.
If you are planning for your baby to exclusively enjoy formula, Nurse Chatterjee recommends limiting breast stimulation by wearing a form-fitted bra, and if needed, icing your breasts to prevent engorgement. You may also need to bring nursing pads with you to the hospital to prevent any leakage into your bra or gown.
You can ask your hospital staff to offer any other kinds of lactation suppression techniques they have, but generally your milk should dry up enough for you to remain comfortable in just a few days.
“Hospitals are practicing safe infant feeding, and implementing best feeding practices,” Nurse Chatterjee states. In doing so, you can expect to be asked what your feeding preference is and your feeding plan when you are discharged. Many parents begin by formula feeding at the hospital with plans to breastfeed when they return home. If this is your preference, make your nurse aware.
If it is suggested that you speak with a lactation consultant, decide for yourself if that’s something you’d find beneficial. A lactation consultant can offer advice about traditional methods of breastfeeding, but she should be aware of your plan to formula feed first and be respectful of those wishes.
Asking for Formula
In the hospital setting, formula is treated as a medication, so you won’t have access to it unless you ask. Additionally, you will most likely not be allowed to bring your own formula into the hospital, or use your own bottles, nipples, or other feeding equipment. Check with your hospital to ensure you know what their policies are so you aren’t surprised on arrival.
“If you’d like to feed your baby formula, ask your nurse for formula,” Nurse Chatterjee says. Be aware that it is not uncommon for the nursing staff to bring formula for two to three feedings at a time. “Don’t be alarmed, just inquire about getting more when you have one to two bottles remaining. Understand that this is not the nursing staff’s choice, it’s their hospital policy,” Nurse Chatterjee says.
Because the hospital practices safe infant feeding, you can expect to be provided with education on the possible side effects of formula. You may also be asked to sign a document indicating you have received this education. This is a standard procedure to ensure healthy feeding habits and parent education.
You can also expect education on recognizing feeding cues, demonstrations of PACED feeding and burping, and education about recommendations for waking your baby to feed every three to four hours.
It’s crucial that your entire team is on board with your feeding plan. You’ve just gone through countless hours of labor and delivered a new life into the world; chances are, you’re going to be tired.
If your family members and care team know your plans, they can step in and advocate for you and your baby when you’re tired or distracted.
As previously mentioned, if you have no plans of breastfeeding, you’ll want to remain as comfortable as possible until your milk supply dissipates. Some moms will want to consider herbal remedies for lactation suppression. It is recommended that you partner with your provider or herbalist before taking lactation herbs.
It is okay to allow your milk to dry up on its own. This encourages an ease in decreasing the hormones present following delivery. There’s not much evidence to support lactation suppression drugs as being a superior in ceasing lactation over simply allowing your supply to dry up on its own.
If you are engorged, Nurse Chatterjee says you can suppress lactation with cabbage leaves. Cabbage leaves can absorb some of the fluid from your glands, giving you greater relief. To use cabbage leaves, take the individual leaves apart, and place them in the fridge for twenty minutes after washing. Insert one leaf into each bra cup. Change the leaves when they’ve wilted.
If you’re having trouble, or are feeling more and more uncomfortable, ask questions. If in doubt, you can always reach out to your favorite Lactation Consultant, Nurse Chatterjee.
Fed Is Best
Especially hard for first time moms can be standing up for the choices you’ve made once your baby arrives. No matter how decisive you typically are, you may find decisions concerning your new baby are hard to make. It’s easy to feel pressured to do something by someone who you feel is more experienced than you, but how you feed your baby is your decision.
Nurse Chatterjee says, “Your baby, your choice. It’s very clear when it’s in writing! Your birth and postpartum plan is a documentation of your preferences and becomes a part of your medical chart. It’s a great conversation starter, as you may be inquired about the reason for your preferences. Sharing is a great way to connect with your care provider and gather more information to support your decision!”
You should never feel pressured to feed your baby one way or the other. Your needs, your circumstances, and your own research around healthy feeding have helped you make the decision that is best for your baby.
It’s important your entire care team, including family members and friends, know of your decision and how best to support you and your baby going forward.
Formula-fed babies thrive. Breastfed babies thrive. Most importantly, the moms who feed them happily and stress-free create an environment most conducive to bonding and healthy development.