Arsenic and Old Ladies

I’ve learned a valuable lesson this week: don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today, because tomorrow something even more aggravating might happen and then you find yourself buried in a pile of horse manure.

There are two big stories going down in the infant feeding world at the moment. First, arsenic was found in baby formula. Second, a meddling concerned grandmother decided to investigate the sugar present in formula, and discovered a sticky sweet conspiracy to hook America’s children on simple carbs from day one.

Let’s start with the arsenic scare, because it’s the least annoying story of the two, and better we should ease in to this evening’s exercise in frustration. A group of researchers hypothesized that brown rice syrup, a sweetener often used in organic foods in place of villainous high fructose corn syrup, would have high levels of arsenic. This is because organic arsenic (not the same thing as inorganic arsenic, the kind we commonly hear about in old detective novels) is often present in soil; rice tends to soak up the arsenic, and if brown rice syrup is used in a variety of foods that we eat, it could add up to potentially harmful levels. High levels of organic arsenic have been linked to cancer, heart disease and other health problems. Now, theoretically (and not-so-theoretically, as arsenic has been found in other rice products), any kind of rice-derived food could be a source of trace amounts of arsenic. But if we’re talking baby food, we’re also talking tiny humans who are far more susceptible to chemicals and such. As NPR explains, “The risk appears to be dose-related… with higher levels of arsenic increasing disease risk… Concentrated foods like rice bran or brown rice syrup, which is sometimes used as a sweetener in vegan recipes, can be very high in arsenic…”

(Just want to pause for a moment to muse about the irony of everyone turning up their noses at table sugar and HFCS as if it is poison, and yet something totally organic and supposedly better for you ends up being truly poisonous. As we’ve discussed on here quite a bit, “natural” or “organic” does not always necessarily mean “perfect”. Death is natural and organic, and so is body hair, and I really dislike both of those things and do my best to keep them out of my life.)

So, to be clear – this study was looking at products containing brown rice syrup, especially those fed to babies and children, as their relative risk is higher due to lower weights, developing bodies, and the fact that a lot of kids eat massive amounts of certain products like cereal bars, rice cereals, and yes… formula. One of the types of products tested was infant formula; out of a slew of formulas tested, only two – both organic brands- contained significantly high levels of arsenic. While the researchers would not call out the companies manufacturing these formulas by name, a bit of investigative journalism unearthed that only one company used brown rice syrup in their formulas, and that was Nature’s One, makers of Baby’s Only Organic Dairy Toddler Formula and Baby’s Only Organic Soy Toddler Formula (I say this with an arched eyebrow, as it took me all of 10 minutes to figure out that brown rice syrup was only used by one type of organic infant formula by checking the ingredients of all commercial organic formulas. And yet it took at least a day before anyone was naming names on the news… seriously, guys. It’s called Google.)

Interestingly, Nature’s One is pretty adamant about marketing these formulas as toddler formulas anyway, so they aren’t even technically “infant formulas” – semantics, but important semantics, as the news bytes made it sound like the arsenic problem was a common one, endemic to all infant formulas. Not so much.

Bottom line? The only folks who need to worry about this particular risk of formula feeding are those using Nature’s One products. And if this is you – please don’t worry too much. I might consider switching to another product if you can, at least until more research is done about the true risk of the measured levels of arsenic – but it’s highly doubtful that your baby will suffer any ill effects if s/he has been using these formulas. Talk to your physician, but remember:  all this study showed was that there are relatively high levels of arsenic in ONE relatively unpopular brand of formula – it did not show that this particular level of arsenic was harmful in any way. 

Speaking of Nature’s One, the very reason they got in this pickle in the first place offers a perfect segue into my next topic: sugar in formula. The company prided itself on being the only formula manufacturer to use brown rice syrup as a source of carbohydrate, rather than the other types of sugars typically used in formula: lactose and sucrose:

Organic lactose and evaporated cane juice are simple sugars. Simple carbohydrates are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, increasing insulin levels. A more complex carbohydrate, such as organic brown rice syrup used in Baby’s Only Organic® formulas, requires more time for digestion resulting in slower and steadier absorption of the carbohydrates into the blood stream and a more constant production of insulin…The medical community has expressed concern over using cane sugar in infant formulas because it is five times sweeter than lactose and could pose health or medical issues related to obesity or dental caries. The carbohydrates in Baby’s Only Organic® Dairy Formula consist of 35% naturally occurring lactose from the organic non-fat cow’s milk and 65% organic brown rice syrup.

Source: Nature’s One Website

In other words, Nature’s One was trying to distinguish itself from other organic formulas with its sugars. Their marketing team was on to something, although sadly for them, by the time society caught up and started freaking out about sugar in formula, it happened to coincide with the discovery that brown rice syrup may pose its own “medical issues”. Coincide as in the very same week.

This sweetener scare was started by a grandma who was troubled by her granddaughter’s rapid weight gain (four pounds in a month) after switching from breastfeeding to formula feeding. She went on a mission to find out just how much sugar was in these “baby milkshakes” her grandbaby was chugging, and was shocked to find out that some formulas contained as much as 13.4 grams of sugar per serving. But the amounts varied, with some formulas only having about 3 grams, and in the formulas with higher sugar, the sugar tended to be lactose, which is the same sugar that’s found in breastmilk (and considered to be a “good” type of sugar). These findings apparently make one pediatric dentist nervous:

Chicago pediatric dentist Kevin Boyd, who also has a Masters in nutrition and dietetics…said he has long been concerned about the sweetness of formula and the effect it has on babies. 

“We’re conditioning them to crave sweetness,” Boyd said. “I would say any formula that has sucrose, it?s super sweet, it makes the kid crave sugar. It triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, and it’s a comfort-level thing. It makes the kid want to eat more, so they become hypersensitive to sweetness.” 

While the amounts of sugar grams may be low, Boyd said the impact on babies is huge.
“They’re conditioned to just really like super sweet?. And their fat cells are saying more, more, more please.”

But color me confused, because breastmilk has around 7 grams of sugar, in the form of lactose, as well.

Formula is trying to get as close to breastmilk as it can in terms of its constituents. Because, as any breastfeeding website will gladly tell you, it’s supposed to be a substitute for breastmilk when babies can’t have the gold standard It’s not being produced as part of a nefarious plot to make the human race a bunch of sugar addicts. Babies are pre-programmed to like sweet things; this is exactly why breastmilk is so much sweeter tasting than cow’s milk. Nutrition guru Dr. Cinque explains it quite nicely:

Breast milk is loaded  with sugar!  Human breast milk has nearly  40% of its calories as sugar! Human milk is the sweetest milk on the planet, and by far.  In this whole wide world of mammals, going from the tiny pygmy shrew which weighs less than 2 grams all the way up to the blue whale, which is the largest animal that has ever lived, to every mammal in between,  none makes a milk as sweet as ours.  Nothing even comes close. Human breast milk, by weight, is over 7% sugar! In comparison, cow’s milk is only 4.8%, goat’s milk 4.4%, sheep milk 5.1%, and water buffalo milk 4.9%…

The news reports were all up in arms that formula companies weren’t listing the amounts of sugar in their products, and I can understand why people might think this was sketchy. But if you look at the back of a formula can, the nutritional information doesn’t look like a normal nutrition label. That’s because formula is not really considered a food as much as a supplement. I’m not condoning that, necessarily, but what other food has a warning on the label stating that you shouldn’t eat it because something else is so much better? (Imagine if the back of your V-8 said “Fresh fruits and vegetables are best. We recommend not drinking this in place of eating fruits and veggies.”) Most parents (and apparently most grandmothers and new reporters) don’t understand the difference between sugars – lactose and sucrose are beneficial in different ways; lactose is the sugar which is in breastmilk and thus preferable for babies, but lactose-intolerant or milk allergic children can’t tolerate this sugar, which is why hypoallergenic or sensitive formulas often use corn syrup solids or sucrose as a carbohydrate instead.

As for the pediatric dentist who jumped on board this particular media circus caravan – the sugar in formula is no more likely to “program” us to like sweet things more than breastmilk, which is (at least in most cases) equally sweetTake a taste of breastmilk, and a taste of formula. Which tastes better? Why would a baby learn to crave sweet things from something that tastes kind of odd and not all that sweet in the first place? Haven’t we all read a ton of anti-formula literature that talks about how bad formula tastes, how much sweeter breastmilk is, etc.? One of the higher-sugar formulas in the study was a hypoallergenic, and this just proves to me how many holes are in this report, because the hypos most certainly do not taste sweet. (This is one of the reasons I knew how much my son was hurting on my milk when we switched from bottled breastmilk to hypoallergenic formula – if he looked so satisfied with something that tasted so god-awful, breastmilk had to have been making him feel horrible.)  From a business standpoint, what benefit would there be to a formula company to make their formula sweeter? It’s not like babies have a say in the matter; parents choose formula based on what coupons they get in the mail, what their friends or pediatricians recommend, or what ultimately works best after a lot of trial and error. How “sweet” a formula tastes does not factor in.

In terms of obesity – there’s no evidence that the sugar in formula causes obesity, as far as I know. If you watch the video about this story, you’ll notice that the baby in question isn’t at all obese, which makes me wonder what the circumstances were prior to her rapid weight gain. Why was she switched to formula? Perhaps the mom had low supply or other feeding problems which were not allowing the baby to gain properly? Without more information, we’re left with half a story. Also, FFF Siobhan caught something interesting in the video that she posted over on the FFF Facebook page – at one point, the grandmother appears to be encouraging the baby to keep drinking her bottle, even though the baby is showing no interest in doing so… “Try a little more?” she says, as milk dribbles out of the baby’s mouth. Perhaps teaching this woman better bottle-feeding techniques would help her combat her fears of baby obesity and feel a bit more proactive.

To review: sugar is not inherently bad, especially for babies; formulas use sucrose or other sugars in place of lactose because some babies can’t tolerate lactose or milk-derived ingredients. Except for a few formulas, most commercial formulas have equivalent (or in some cases less) sugar to breastmilk.

Got it? Sweet.

FFF Friday: “I didn’t feel guilty about her being on formula- more that I couldn’t be there for her…”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.
Dana’s story is refreshing in that from the very start, she had a guilt-free approach to infant feeding. I see this less and less these days, and I think that’s a shame – because the physical discomfort Dana went through would have been compounded by emotional duress if she hadn’t had such a good outlook – and no new mom should be suffering like that. Of course a mother should feel more concerned about not being able to be with her child than she should about not feeding him her milk – but so many of us are brainwashed into not seeing things this way. (Not that we should feel “guilty” about being sick, or much of anything for that matter, but you get my point.)
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
I didn’t really pay attention to all the “breast is best” hype while I was pregnant – I figured I would try breastfeeding and if it didn’t work, formula is also great.  My doctor never really pushed breastfeeding on me during my pregnancy visits – she mentioned a few times that whatever breastmilk I could give the baby would be great, but that’s about it.  And the pediatrician I chose for my baby was also supportive in my decision to just see what worked best.  It wasn’t until I was in the hospital that I saw a preference for breastfeeding in that the nurses and lactation consultants really tried to push it on me.  From the beginning my daughter couldn’t latch on – my biggest concern was that I was already large-breasted and every time my baby was shoved on to my breast by the nurses, I felt like she couldn’t breathe since her nose was covered.  And I had flat nipples, which was also making it difficult for her to latch.  The nurses tried to get me use a nipple shield, but I really hated it.  Towards the end of that first day of her life, it was obvious my baby was hungry and wasn’t getting the nutrition she needed, so I strongly suggested it was time for formula – luckily, my hospital didn’t push back on me too much.  However, I was still willing to try breastfeeding, so the lactation consultant taught me how to pump and the feeding plan we came up with was that I would supplement with formula until my milk came in, then I would exclusively breastfeed through pumping and bottles.  My plan was to try this for at least a month, but no longer than 3 months since I had made the decision already to not pump when I went back to work.
The lacation consultant had my husband and I rent a hospital-grade pump for a month – she said my milk wouldn’t come in properly using a regular one.  It wasn’t that expensive so we had no problem with this.  She also told me I would have to pump about every 2 hours or my milk wouldn’t come in properly.  Again, I was OK with this – pumping didn’t seem that bad to me since I could catch up on my TV shows while doing it.  At first things were going well – my milk came in that first night I was home from the hospital, so right away we were able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter through bottles.  We had a good system going and I came to actually prefer feeding my daughter through the bottle as I could see what she was consuming and put her on a feeding schedule right away – she was sleeping 5-hour stretches at night within 2 weeks of her life!  However, since I was told in the hospital that pumping is not the same as the baby feeding directly from the breast, I should still pump every 3 hours or my milk production would suffer – so even though my baby was sleeping, I still had to get up to pump. 
During week 2 things started to go wrong – my right breast started to feel very sore one night after pumping, but I thought it was because my milk was fully in now and I just needed to pump a little longer than I had been to completely drain it.  Later that night I woke up in a huge amount of pain – both my breasts were extremely hot and engorged and the rest of my body was very achy.  I took my temperatue and it was 103 degrees.  I went to see my Dr. first thing the next morning and it was discovered I had mastitis in both breasts.  When you read the literature about breastfeeding it mentions that you could develop mastitis, but that’s pretty much all it says – what it doesn’t say is that mastitis makes you feel like you have the most awful flu imaginable and that you will be completely useless.  I was put on antibiotics right away, but was told I had to continue to pump in order to get the infection out.  It took every ounce of my will to get myself out of bed every few hours to pump.  My husband and sister were amazing – they took over my baby’s feedings and all her other needs, but I felt so useless that I couldn’t be there for her.  The Dr. said she could continue to have my breastmilk even on my meds, but she developed diarrhea so we quickly switched her back to formula until I was over my illness.  I didn’t feel guilty about her being on formula – more that I couldn’t be there for her at all.
After 2 days of being on my meds I still felt awful, so I went back to the Dr. and she helped my to drain my breasts through massage – something that I would have to continue doing before and after pumping to really move the infection out.  I started to feel better after that so I thought I was on the mend, until 2 days later my fever and body achiness came back with a vengeance – I had constant chills and could barely move, I’ve never felt so sick in my life.  I ended up in the hospital about 5 days after I first got sick – I’m so grateful that I did, or I’m not sure when I would have gotten better.  The nurses in the emergency room asked what I prefered to do regarding breastfeeding – something I was never asked by the nurses in the maternity ward – and I said I just wanted to get better so I thought it’d be best to stop altogether.  This decision was never questioned by either of the nurses I saw – in fact, one of them had worked in OB/GYN for 10 years prior to emergency medicine and she taught me the best way to dry up my milk fast.  I was given a very powerful antiobiotic intravenously that almost immediately knocked out the infection and I was given fluids for a couple of hours until my fever finally dipped below 100.  Within two days I felt 100% better and was able to bond with my baby again.
After speaking with the nurses in the hospital about what could have caused all this, they thought it was because I was over-producing, which caused a back-up, and I was never going to be able to pump all the milk out in each pumping session.  While many women’s breastfeeding issues have to do with underproducing, I discovered there are also issues with producing too much! 
Maybe for a short while I felt guilty that breastfeeding didn’t work out, but I quickly got over that when I saw how well my baby was thriving – her pediatrician was so pleased with her weight gain, she started sleeping through the night at 8 weeks, she has met all of her developmental milestones so far, and she is so happy and well-adjusted.  Plus formula-feeding gives both my husband and I a chance to bond with her over feeding, and I had more time to be with her and play with her when I no longer had to pump.
I’m happy to share my story and I hope it helps with other new moms who may have struggled with breastfeeding – no one should feel guilty for feeding their baby formula.  I believe that what’s best for the baby when it comes to feeding is what the parent decides.
FFF is a big supporter of PDE – Public Displays of Emotion. Purge your soul to an intimate audience of random strangers on the Internet by sending your infant feeding story over to It’s more cathartic than it sounds. I promise.

Caffeine and breastfeeding: Do we need to wake up and smell the coffee?

I know it’s odd for the Fearless Formula Feeder to be discussing something that really only pertains to breastfeeding moms (except in one minute way, which we’ll get to), but I worry that a lot of studies which could be construed as “discouraging” to nursing moms are swept under the carpet like my son’s puzzles (don’t ask – I think he’s trying to protect them from his baby sister, who does have a criminal record for the capital offense of wrecking a 90-piece puzzle we worked on for a frustrating 2 hours; in any case, I find various and sundry puzzles hiding under the rug in our playroom on a daily basis). Plus, some of you are thinking of breastfeeding future children, or are combo feeding or pumping, and I think it’s really vital that we ALL get fully-informed about any form of infant feeding. We’re not children, nor Tom Cruise; we can handle the truth.

So, onward, fearless soldiers… Today’s post is about one of my favorite drugs: caffeine. I am currently maintaining a 4-cup-a-day habit with my coffee addiction; while I abstained during my first pregnancy, I held onto that 200-mg pregnancy “allowance” like it was a lifevest during my second. There was just no way to care for a 15-month-old who was still waking up several times a night, while suffering from pregnancy-induced exhaustion, without my faithful, beloved cup of joe. Or peppermint soy latte, depending on the day.

After I gave birth, one of the first thing I did was hit my local Coffee Bean. And I have to tell you, I think the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine was as beneficial to my second postpartum experience as was my prescribed antidepressant. Alone with my new infant and a needy toddler, going on no sleep? No problem. I could even chug a Red Bull, if need be.

I know that I could have had a small cup of coffee every day that I was nursing (or pumping for) Fearless Child. But he was fussy; it would have been ridiculous for me to cut out dairy, soy, chocolate, green leafy veggies, and nuts if I was going to keep caffeine in my diet. So I abstained.

Perhaps I was being paranoid; my breastfeeding friends definitely drink caffeine, although probably in more moderate amounts than I typically consume. Most breastfeeding websites will tell you that caffeine is fine in moderation; that only a small amount passes through to the infant. However, breastfeeding mothers are counseled not to smoke due to low levels of nicotine passing through; how do those levels compare to that of caffeine in breastmilk? Is there a bias towards nicotine, because smokers are popularly vilified and coffee drinkers are not?

I came across an interesting interview with Ruth Lawrence, PhD,  an executive director of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the veritable grand dame of breastfeeding advocacy, which seems to suggest that this may indeed be the case. Published in the Journal of Caffeine Research, the discussion centers around how caffeine is passed to an infant during pregnancy and lactation, and how long-term – and especially early – exposure to the substance can affect development. “If caffeine is consumed by the mother, then a small amount of caffeine will get into the breast milk and, therefore, into the baby,” Dr. Lawrence explains. “This is probably not too important later on, but initially in the first week or so, babies do not metabolize and excrete caffeine very well. So, if a mother consumes a lot of caffeine, it accumulates and her baby can become quite symptomatic.” The interviewer then asks her if the 300 mg limit typically given to breastfeeding women is prudent. 

I think that (300 mg/day is a) reasonable starting place. I think it varies from mother to mother and baby to baby. Probably one of the biggest problems is that women do not realize all the sources of caffeine… (and) it depends on whether the mother drank coffee during her pregnancy and whether the baby is already attuned to it and has begun to be able to metabolize it. There is going to be some variation.”

Lawrence goes on to ponder if babies who are diagnosed as colickly may actually be suffering from higher levels of caffeine exposure. She even cites an extreme example, where a baby was thought to be having seizures:

“Unfortunately a lot of things about breastfeeding are based on opinion, and I do not know that the ‘‘safe’’ amount of caffeine for daily use has been carefully measured. I know of case reports. We had a case here in which a child was brought in, thought to be having seizures, and was headed for the mil- lion-dollar workup, the EEG, the MRI, the works. And in the emergency room we drew a caffeine level. It was off the charts! And we spared that child an admission. Taking a history from the mother, she said, ‘‘Oh yeah, I drink coffee all the time. I have a cup ready for me all day long. Is that a problem?’’

It’s an interesting read, and I think this journal piece speaks to the real lack of truly evidence-based advice given to nursing moms. As Lawrence suggests, further research into this issue is warranted, and for the love of all things Java, I hope that someone will fund an infant caffeine study instead of yet another showing the superiority of breastmilk over formula. 

Even those who go straight to the bottle could learn something from this interview: part of the discussion focuses on caffeine withdrawal, and if babies who are exposed to significant amounts of caffeine in utero may go through withdrawal after birth. In this case, a breastfeeding mom who consumed a specific level of caffeine might actually help her baby slowly withdraw. For those not breastfeeding, this knowledge could give a little hope to those with fussy babies in the first few days: maybe Junior just needs an espresso shot.

FFF Friday: “My story of my two attempts at nursing.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

This evening, FFF Lisa shares her story of how she fed her two babies. I love how her narrative shows just how different every experience can be – even within the same family. Lisa always offers such lovely support for everyone’s journey, and I hope we can all return the favor!

Happy Friday, fearless ones…



I’d like to share my two stories at breastfeeding.  I have 2 wonderful sons who are now 3.5 years old and 20 months old.  They are wonderful, and they were both formula feed.

My lovely little boy #1 was born at 41 weeks after induction at the grand weight of 6lbs 14oz, coming in under the 10th percentile. The reason I mention this is that because he was under the 10th percentile, he had to have his blood sugar level every 3 hours for the first 24 hours of his brand new life.  

I was able to get him onto the breast fairly quickly after birth, we were getting things going, it wasn’t easy, but we were doing ok.  So the little guy was getting his blood sugar tested every 3 hours, basically using a diabetic monitor.  If he didn’t score a certain number the lab had to come in and take a vial of blood and use a more sensitive meter.  This happened twice. The first time the nurse called the lab, and my baby boy cried while we were waiting. He was hungry, so I fed him. 
The lab came just a few minutes later and said that was wonderful, they’d be able to take the blood while he was distracted and it wasn’t a problem.  The nurse came back and yelled at me because feeding him would affect the results.  She hadn’t told me NOT to feed him, and my baby cried, so I fed him.  Luckily I was taken off this nurse’s rotation and given another nurse.  So later that night, when they had to come in again and poke my little guys foot yet ANOTHER time, the number was low again.  This nurse didn’t want to have to call the lab (it was more invasive to take a vial of blood and his little heels were already purple grapes); she explained that the meter they use wasn’t as sensitive, so she asked me if she could give him a little bit of formula from a cup to get his blood sugar level up. I said yes.  She gave him just a few drop and took his reading again, and it was fine.  That was ALL the formula he got.  
I went to the breastfeeding clinic in the hospital the next day because hey, I was there.  Got some advice, fixed a few things, and was told I was doing great.  So I was happy about that.  Discharged, and home we went.  Things were going well, until that first night home.  I know that the first few nights are always the toughest, everyone is getting used to everything.  Well my sweet baby boy decided that he was happiest sucking, so this little man nursed every 15 to 20 mins for 6 hours – yes 6 hours!  That is beyond cluster feeding for sure!  At that point I said the hubby go and sterilize a soother NOW. I was not going to be a human pacifier!  So the first few days I don’t even remember.  Then the pain of the nipples started; then my little guy decided he was going to become a “sipper”.  He’d latch, suck a few times, swallow, let go, look around.  Latch, suck a few times, swallow,let go, look around.  And that’s how the feedings started to go.  He’d take 45 mins to an hour just to eat.  Then it seemed we’d start all over again.  
After 2 weeks, I was SO tired, SO sore and hating EVERY minute of the whole feeding process.  He’d wake to feed and I’d try anything else to comfort him and put it off.  Then I tried pumping and using a bottle, but the little monkey did the same thing with the bottle (he went on to do this for his whole bottle feeding time; as he got older and could hold his soother, he’d drink a few sips spit the bottle out, put the soother in, take that out, take a few pulls and on and on).  Well, I got fed up with that, I only had a single pump and I’d miss holding him and look at him and cry.  I went back and forth and back and forth for a few more weeks.  My husband trying to convince me to keep going.  Then one night my sweet baby boy spit up (he was fond of that) and he spit up blood, my hubby freaked a little and I said oh, don’t worry – that’s from me.  After that he said maybe switching was the way to go.  
I really really really struggled with my decision to make the switch.  There was really NO reason, but for the fact that I HATED nursing.  HATED it, I couldn’t force my son to stay latched on because then we got into a power sturuggle and he’d just end up SCREAMING and it made it ALL worse.  So I made the switch, I talked to my doctor and she said because he was so young that going cold turkey wouldn’t hurt him.  So that’s what I did. Drying up hurt, but wasn’t too bad.  But then I could enjoy him, I actually enjoyed him.  I could sit and feed him a bottle and look into his little face and stroke his little cheek and LOVE the time spent with him.  It was a turning point & I loved it.  I felt much more connected to my son after that & I don’t regret it for a minute.  Could I have continued, probably, but to what expense?

My lovely little boy #2:  Ah – my boy!  He was born at 39 weeks after induction at 6lbs 8oz, just making it over the 10th percentile so I didn’t have to go through the blood sugar tests!  YEAH!!  I had him on the breast minutes after birth, he was on and he was great.  Him and I managed to establish a great nursing relationship right from the start.  WOW, what an experience that was.  He came home slightly jaundiced so had to nurse him every 2 to 3 hours, which was ok.  This little guy would latch nurse away and be done.  We managed this relationship for 3.5 months.  Which was wonderful, we went to San Diego for a vacation when he was 3 months and if he got fussy, I’d just nurse him.  It was great.  At 3.5 months I got mastitis, very very badly.  I was in pain, everytime my little one would latch on I would literally cry out in pain and it took all I could to not just rip him off again.  So I pumped the affected side and tried to bottle feed him the breast milk.  He was NOT having it, that was NOT how he got that & he wouldn’t take breast milk from a bottle and I tried every one I had in my house.  So being desperate I mixed in a little formula to change up the taste.  That did the trick.  So for a few days that’s how we got by, I’d feed on the unaffected side every time that side came up, then pump and feed a mix of milk & formula on the affected side and do one or two feedings on that side a day to try and clear the blockage.  We were successful, we managed to work through that, latching wasn’t so bad, I could tolerate it.  

Then, the other pain started.  I’d nurse on the affected side and for 2 to 3 hours after that the intense stabbing pain started.  It was like someone was stabbing my breast with an ice pick, sometimes it wasn’t so bad, other times it was so bad I’d cry out, after that subsided, the dull ache started in.  Then it would be time to nurse on that side again & it would start all over.  I managed to deal (with the help of Tylenol & Advil) for a few days, but I knew drying up was easier than that, so I pumped a few more days & thought that he’d gotten a few extra months over his brother, his brother was perfectly fine, what was I doing to myself.  I was EXHAUSTED, I hadn’t slept for days, it was time to make the change.  So again I went cold turkey and he was great.  He started sleeping through the night and just seemed a little fuller.  This time though, I did feel a little guilty…I felt like I’d broken something that was so wonderful and amazing.  Also, after nursing for so long, making the switch to bottles was a bit of struggle. I actually went out 2 or 3 times and forgot a bottle!  I was so used to being able to just go I had to make that adjustment again.
So that is my story of my two attempts at nursing.  If this helps anyone in their decision to nurse/formula feed/combo feed, or even provided some support, I am happy.


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A Formula Feeder to Breastfeeding Advocate Translation Guide

The Leaky Boob posted a really good piece today, attempting to untangle some of the misunderstandings between well-meaning breastfeeding advocates and presumably defensive formula feeders. I thought the post was great, and I applaud Leaky Boob for trying to diffuse the breast/bottle battle.

In the same spirit, I thought it would be good to provide my own “reverse” translation guide (I hope The Leaky Boob won’t mind me stealing her idea), which can hopefully increase the trans-feeding-method communication even more.

Before I start, I want to say one thing: I think the majority of bad feelings between the two “camps” comes from the confusion between the terms “breastfeeding mom” and “breastfeeding advocate”. Most formula feeding moms who are making the typically defensive comments that Leaky Boob is referring to in her post are doing so in response to breastfeeding advocacy, not in response to posts or comments about breastfeeding. I certainly can’t speak for all formula feeders (and I don’t think breastfeeding moms are one heterogeneous group, either), but most of my readers come to this blog because they are the only people in their respective groups of friends that aren’t breastfeeding, for whatever reason. Meaning, we all have breastfeeding friends, and we support them in their endeavors – as long as they support us back. And even online, if I see a post where someone is just celebrating her accomplishments and says something a bit off-color regarding formula, I’ll ignore it. Usually the writer doesn’t mean anything by it, and why rain on her parade? It can be a hard thing to breastfeed in today’s world, and she has a right to be proud of that. I would be too. I reserve my anger and defensiveness for those who actively strike out at formula feeding parents.

Having said that, trying to clear up a misconception about formula feeding or formula feeders is not necessarily being combative or defensive. Like Leaky Boob so wisely suggested, we’re all wearing rose-colored glasses, but they come in different hues. The filter of our experiences can be so thick that it’s impossible to see another point of view clearly. And in the case of infant feeding, we are all defensive. I don’t think it’s possible not to be.

So without further ado – a few quick entries into the Formula Feeder to Breastfeeder Translation Guide:

What you say: Let’s start with an example Leaky Boob used in her post:

Then there’s the mom celebrating her success in breastfeeding, sharing “So excited we’ve made it to 6 months without even one drop of formula! GO BOOBIE MILK! WOOT!”

What you think we think: “This woman is insulting my choice because she’s proud of breastfeeding exclusively. She’s judging me that I wasn’t able to do it. Screw her!”

What we really think: “It sounds to me like she’s talking about something really challenging, and that she’s a bit scared of formula. I find that troubling, because formula is not the devil. I hope she didn’t kill herself over doing something which should be a pleasant experience.”

Why we don’t say what we think: We’re afraid that by talking about how positive our own experiences with formula were, you’ll think we are somehow downplaying your efforts, or saying that they aren’t worthwhile. We do think they are worthwhile; many of us wish we had been able to do exactly what you are so proud of doing. But on the other hand, we’ve learned – typically the hard way – that formula will allow a baby to thrive, and that a few drops of formula can actually save a dwindling breastfeeding relationship. We worry that you could’ve saved yourself a lot of suffering if you were less hard on yourself.

What you say: “I have the flu, but I know my little one won’t get it – hooray for breastfeeding!”

What you think we think: “You’re judging my choice. Formula fed kids are healthy too. So hate on me, hater!”

What we really think: “That’s awesome! Neither my formerly formula-fed ass nor my child’s got sick, so I’m happy too…hooray for formula!”

Why we don’t say what we think: We get really, really tired of trying to explain the flawed nature of breastfeeding studies, and the concept of confounding factors. We also are well aware that if we comment on our child’s good immune system, IQ, etc, people will start muttering, cough… anecdotal…cough cough… It doesn’t matter how many formula feeding parents brag about their children, we will still be seen as the exception rather than the rule. We’ve learned this because we’ve bragged about them as a defense mechanism in response to the “formula fed kids are sickly and stupid” meme a zillion times. But it sucks when you aren’t allowed to celebrate the amazing healing superpowers of your baby just because he is fed from a can and not a breast. We would love to celebrate with you; both breastmilk and formula have nourished our kids well enough that their immune systems – probably bolstered by good genetics and lifestyle advantages, like not being in daycare or having snotty older toddlers as siblings- have been able to do their jobs. Hooray!

What you say: “Until we stop seeing bottles everywhere, I’ll never be able to breastfeed in public without getting dirty looks.”

What you think we think: “Well, you should be covering up. Why not just pump and use a bottle?”

What we really think: “You should absolutely be able to nurse in public; it’s total bullshit. But I kind of think our society’s obsession with breasts and nudity in general is a bigger axe to grind than my bottle.”

Why we don’t say what we mean: We know, we know. If bottles weren’t prevalent, and breastfeeding were the norm, no one would see breasts as sexual. But in Western society, breasts ARE sexual. In fact, many of us derive sexual pleasure from our breasts. Katherine Dettweyler may blame that on programming, but still. It’s going to take a lot of time and therapy for our culture to collectively stop seeing breasts at least as dual-purpose body parts; being that we live in a puritanical culture, anything remotely having to do with sex is going to be scandalous to some degree. I’m not sure having less bottles around is really going to make things any easier for nursing moms, and what it is doing is furthering the divide between bottle-/combo-feeders and exclusive breastfeeders, rather than allowing us to work together to make the world more women-friendly and baby-friendly.

What you say: “Breast is best/All babies are born to be breastfed/ Breastfeeding is the most important thing a mother can do for her baby/Breast is normal./Formula is the longest lasting uncontrolled experiment in the history of humankind…”

What you think we think: “You’re making me feel bad for my choice! You’re rubbing salt in the wound and scaring me.”

What we really think: “Really? I hadn’t heard.” (Insert sarcasm here.)

Why we don’t say what we think: These sayings are blasted all over Twitter, Facebook, etc., and have been for years. We know you are probably regurgitating them because you want to bolster a new mom’s confidence. We hope that you aren’t posting these just to gloat about your choice, and that they are said without much thought about formula feeding parents; that you expect we will just ignore them, or even better, change our ways for the next baby.

But here’s what we really want to say:

Yes, breast is best, until it’s not.

My baby was not born to be breastfed, as she was intolerant of my milk/had a major tongue tie that couldn’t be resolved/almost starved to death.

Breastfeeding is not the most important thing a mother can do for her baby. The most important thing a mother can do for her baby is be there, be present, and be emotionally healthy – and for me, that meant I had to formula feed.

Breast is normal, in a biological sense, but so is having a child at 15 and having a mother be the caregiver. Breast is normal, but so is being able to conceive on your own. Breast is normal, but being sexually abused was not normal; having a mastectomy at 32 was not normal; having to be on medications which are contraindicated was not normal. Breast was not normal, for me.

Just because formula is the longest lasting uncontrolled experiment in the history of humankind, does not mean that the results of that experiment have been, or will be, negative.


Again, I want to thank Leaky Boob for her article; I thought it was a step in the right direction, and I really hope that my inability to stop being a smartass won’t get in the way of furthering the discourse.

I want to go watch Grey’s Anatomy and forget about the fact that there is arsenic in organic rice syrup, so I’m opening it up to the peanut gallery for discussion. FFFs, care to translate any other common miscommunications? And breastfeeding advocates – what about you? What do you think we are hearing incorrectly?

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