Like a good cup of tea, some ideas need a bit longer to steep. Therefore, while I try and get my next post (one that is not merely a post, but a call to action for all FFFs) to sound somewhat coherent, I’m going to share the following guest post from Firgas Esack, who wrote me a spectacular email a few months ago. I loved what she had to say, so I asked if she could elaborate. She obliged. And I am thankful she did, because I think her essay kicks ass.
I’ll let Firgas explain her point of view, but I do want to say that I share her outrage at the lack of quality information regarding formula feeding. I’ve tried to make up for that lack of info with my FFF Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Formula Feeding, which I’ve been sloooowwwwly building over the past year or so. It sucks eggs that you need to rely on a blogger who doesn’t have an M.D. for this type of info, but I’m working on it, y’all. (The fact that there isn’t better medical advice on formula feeding, not the M.D. – although that would be cool… Dr. Fearless…. paging Dr. Fearless….oh, lay off, a girl can dream.)
I’ll be back either tomorrow or this weekend with a new post (at this point, I’ve built it up to such a degree that it better be really good, which of course means I need to spend more time checking it for typos) but for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the literary stylings of Firgas Esack. Oh- and speaking of a nice cup of tea, she’s British. British people like tea. Almost as much as I like cliched metaphors.
Formula Feeding Tips- Since You’ll Be Hard Pressed to Find Them Elsewhere
by Firgas Esack
If you googled ‘Formula Feeding’ and you came to this site I’m guessing this makes you one of the following:
Category A: Like my partner and I, you’ve chosen to formula feed your child.
Category B: for whatever reason, you didn’t set out to formula feed your child but now you have to.
Category C: you are a staunch breastfeeder and are trawling the internet for someone to pick a fight with.
Now, the internet is a pretty helpful place. Over the years I have gained many a skill – from unblocking my sink to knitting legwarmers – but (with the exception of this site) there are criminally few sources of honest-to-goodness facts, tips and advice on formula feeding – and if you fall into Category A or B this is probably what you are currently looking for.
Ditto midwives. Whilst I was pregnant I lost count of the pamphlets I was given about breastfeeding. There were cartoon ones, for the more playful would-be-BFer. There were ones that explained mastitis in plain English. Politically correct ones with multicultural mammary representation. Ones championing local volunteers who offer to visit my house and patiently show me how to put my boob into my child’s mouth correctly.
But with FF not so much. Yes, sure – the pamphlets mention the subject. As an afterthought or an appendix. Possibly with diagrams so archaic and clinical they resemble the Biology textbook which explained baby making to me in the first place. Furthermore, if a medical practitioner ‘doesn’t support’ formula feeding are they really experts to seek advice from?
I could also get some ‘information’ on the subject of FF from one of the many Mummy chatrooms out there. But try and read more than four responses into any thread and doubtless it will be crashed by a Category C person suggesting your DD or DS will be struck down with Leukaemia, live life as the class dunce or possibly grow gills as a result of consuming formula.
Even ACTUAL FORMULA BRANDS require me to tick a box before entering their website essentially declaring myself as a second class mother before reading about their product.
As I said at the top of this post, we chose to FF. But even if we hadn’t, the choice still exists as that: a choice. Yet whilst I can find plenty of guidance on how to build a bomb, roll a joint or start a cult on the interweb, I still found myself having to call up premium rate helplines advertised on the backs of formula packs – whispering into my BlackBerry so as to somehow not let on my ineptitude to my son – in order to find answers.
So – for the benefit of Category A and B readers – here are some of my FF tips based on our experiences. I’ll just add here that I live in London, UK:
- People will have you believe sterilizing takes a science degree to master. Sterilizing is a doddle if you get a steam sterilizer. Don’t bother with the fluid (unless you like the smell of bleach) but we recently went traveling and found those sterilizing tablets brilliantly convenient.
- We had no idea what brand of formula to buy. In fact, I bought every brand in the supermarket and made a spreadsheet comparing all the nutrients. But our son liked Aptamil the best, so that’s what he drinks. And as for the cost of FF, yes – it’s not cheap. But then neither is eating mackerel and camembert daily to ensure your breastmilk is rich in Calcium and Omega 3. Nor are Pirate parties, piano lessons or the little one’s future obsession with Ben Ten for that matter.
- Babies are happy to drink formula at room temperature or even cold. Obviously warming bottles is ideal but you drink cold milk so why shouldn’t they? Don’t beat yourself up if it’s 2am and you can’t get the bottle warmer to work or can’t face asking the smug waiter in a restaurant to heat one up.
- People zealously proclaim that BF babies have sweeter smelling poop. Personally, I’m not that into sniffing baby poop so have no great desire for it to smell of candyfloss. But if your bambino’s botty is producing something that’s a strange colour (grey, green…) it’s most likely temporary and most likely caused by him working some dirt or other through his system. Dirt most likely NOT from FF but from the big wide world he’s now exposed to.
- With formula it is easy to get your little one onto a feeding schedule that resembles yours: breakfast, lunch, supper – and a couple of snacks. You’re unlikely to overfeed if you do this and it’s a bit more sociable for all concerned than cluster breast feeds. Category C people make a lot of noise about overfeeding: as a parent you’ll be controlling your child’s portion size for many years to come so it’s no harder with a bottle than with a bowl of ice cream. Trust your instincts.
- Many formula companies offer a version marketed for ‘hungrier babies’. This is a little confusing (surely all babies are hungry?) but essentially fills them up so that you can hold off weaning for longer. We found a little bit of mix and match works well: hungry food at night and regular during the day.
- There are various schools of thought about giving water as well as formula. Unless you live somewhere really hot (i.e. not London!) you only need an ounce or so of water per day, tops. We offered our son boiled, cooled water in a tippee cup from around 12 weeks – he controlled how much he wanted and he learned to use the cup. Interestingly on our recent traveling adventure we discovered that formula companies in warmer climates make powdered fennel tea to rehydrate FF babies – it is meant to be beneficial and it’s a nice idea to have a child that prefers herbal tea to Sunny Delight later in life.
- Bottles come in all sorts of shapes and many people think it is the bee’s knees to have a bottle that resembles a breast. In our experience, the cheapy, straight up and down ones you get from the chemist are easier for the baby to drink from without trapping air bubbles and therefore less likely to cause hiccups or spit up.
- Finally, if anyone genuinely thinks that FF reduces their ability to bond with their baby then I’d question what the heck they are doing with their little one the rest of the time. Love is expressed in so so many more ways than via the medium of lactation!
If you’re a Category C reader (and you’re still reading this) please don’t let me stop you voicing your opinion. The internet also supports freedom of speech. But my happy, smiley four month old son sleeps like a professional and thrives on formula – especially when his Daddy gives him his bottle. And (I’ve just checked) he doesn’t seem to have any gills.