I Finally Stopped Feeling Guilty for Formula Feeding My Baby

Last week, my three-month-old, my third child, had his first bottle of formula.

A few days later, it dawned on me that I hadn’t really thought twice about it. I was running low on the breast milk I had been pumping and freezing and my mother-in-law was taking our kids for a day. So, I dug around in my pantry and found the samples the hospital had sent home with me after my baby was born

There was no obsessing about the decision. No frantic, middle-of-the-night pumping in hopes of squeezing out just enough for our time apart. No embarrased explanation of why I was using formula when I handed him off to my mother-in-law.

And, when I dropped my son off with 5 ounces of breastmilk and a formula can in tow, I didn’t feel a shred of guilt. After three kids, I’m finally free from the guilt of formula feeding.

When my first daughter was a week old, I introduced formula for the first time. My milk was slow to come in, she was struggling to gain weight and I had no choice but to follow up with a little formula each time she nursed.

Formula was what my daughter needed to thrive, but boy did I agonize over the decision. I felt sick every time I made up a bottle. I cried for days after she started to prefer the bottle at six months and weaned from the breast shortly after. I felt like I had failed. I felt so much guilt for not being able to exclusively breastfeed my child. Wasn’t this what my body was made to do?

The next time around, things weren’t quite so dramatic, but I wasn’t free from guilt when I started adding formula to my second daughter’s diet. She exclusively breastfed for a long time, but my return to work made it difficult to keep my freezer full for her bottles when I was at work. I pumped as much as I could, but I simply didn’t respond to the pump the way I did to a baby at the breast. So when I ran out, I found donors to fill my freezer full of breastmilk. Eventually, that ran out too and I was forced to consider formula.

Once again, I felt like I was failing. I felt embarrassed to admit to friends that I couldn’t keep up with my daughter’s demands on her own. It’s ridiculous, really. I had no control over the fact that my body doesn’t respond to a pump, but it felt like a moral failing. I felt like I wasn’t a good enough mom because I didn’t have enough milk for my baby.

So much has changed since then. Maybe it’s because I have a better understanding of how safe formula really is or maybe I’m simply to swamped with raising three kids and working from home to sweat over such a small issue. I can’t really explain it, but I am thrilled to be free of the unnecessary guilt over formula feeding my baby.

At the end of the day, what a baby needs most is for his belly to be full and to be loved and protected by his parents. Different parents accomplish this in different ways. Some formula feed, some breastfeed until their kid turns five. Some moms stay home with their kids full time, others find a daycare they can trust so they can provide for their family by working outside of the home. We’re all working towards the same goal: to raise healthy, well-adjusted kids. No one should feel guilt for how they accomplish this. In fact, parents should be applauded for their hard work, no matter their methods.

Here’s the thing: It’s great that I don’t feel guilty for formula feeding my baby, but this issue is bigger than me. It took three kids before I felt comfortable with my feeding choices when I shouldn’t have felt bad from the start. No mom should feel ashamed for choosing what is best for her baby.