Formula wars


A mom posted on a local mommy page today asking for recommendations on what formula is best to suppliment her baby.  The onslaught of comments and suggestions from various parents and professionals had me raging to some degree.  It’s a topic that hits very close to home for C and I and our battles with feeding.

Moms are sent home with their bundles of beautiful joy with a pat on the back for producing a perfect tot and a reminder to see the paed for a checkup in a couple of weeks.  For most this checkup will go well, baby is drinking, and they are thriving little wriggling, pooping bundles of joy and most parents saunter out of the consult room with a smug smile that their little bundle is just the bees knees.  But what happens when your baby isn’t thriving, what if they are struggling to drink, or if the milk isn’t staying in, or if they aren’t getting enough?  That is when things get interesting and a can of worms is opened up.

If one is placed in the position of needing to supplement, or fully switch to formula (and by the way, the reason behind the decision has sweet fuck all to do with anyone other than mom) is actually fairly daunting. Everyone is an expert, and I mean everyone…  What works for your friend Jane won’t necessarily work for you though and finding the correct formula can become something like trying to guess this weeks winning lotto numbers.

What irks me to no end though is that everyone has an opinion, from a medical perspective it will likely depend on what experience, knowledge, training your doctor/paed/midwife/lactation consultant/nurse/doula/dietician has been on, add to that the fact that every year new information is provided based on the most  recent studies and what was acceptable and advised last year, may not necessarily be the approved norm for this year.  So now your precious is struggling a little with their current formula but who do you turn to for help as everyone has a difference in opinion, who is right, who is wrong, who is more right that the other, who is more up to date with the latest information, did they all attend the same conferences and studies, do they have on hand experience with your problem?

So you have your chosen specialist with whom you have consulted, but did they tell you how to transition onto formula, or how much to to give in each bottle? Welcome to a whole new world of differing opinions based on studies, conferences, experience and voodoo.  Here one will tell you to mix your formula with breastmilk to get baby to adjust, another will pop an eyeball when you tell them this is how you did it, you’ll feel like a complete and utter tool for doing so, but you didn’t know any better.  Or you’ll be advised to ‘thin’ out a thicker formula if baby is struggling to swallow it, or if it keeps repeating and causing baby discomfort you’ll be told to thicken it, what is used to thicken it will also vary depending on who you speak to, you get special thickeners for this purpose, one will swear by it, another will tell you it’s not medically proven, another will tell you it’s crap and you should use cereal, which one of these options is correct?

What happens if after a few weeks you’ve seen no improvement and need to try another formula? Were you told of how to switch over from one type to another? No?  Don’t worry, most don’t know because they weren’t told, and they weren’t told because it was probably assumed they knew, only they didn’t because how are they supposed to know these things right off the bat???

What if your baby has reflux and struggles to wind?  You’ll likely be advised by many to use some form of winding medication, freely available over the counter,  but did anyone tell you that it causes stomach cramps and aggravates reflux?  No, and by the time you have found it out your baby is probably very, very grumpy and you are left feeling like once again you’ve harmed your angel by being uneducated.

This in the extreme case such as me, will result in you becoming neurotic about every little thing, because every single piece of advice you have received from the moment you brought your precious home has been conflicting amongst medical professionals.  You will become an expert at Google trolling and navigating support forums for answers and more advice, that will in all likelihood further conflict with all the already conflicting information you’ve received.


I’m sure by now your head is spinning in an attempt to grasp what on earth is going on in this post, and this is what the mother of a high needs baby feels like every single day.  There is so much overwhelming information out there that finding out what is right for your child is next to impossible, and by the time you have figured it out, it is either too late or you have inadvertently made the situation worse because you were given the ‘wrong’ information.

I know that a lot of the information given to me in the beginning directly made many things far worse, many I was able to resolve before harm was done, others I’m certain have contributed to our current situation.  Navigating the world of high needs babies is simply put, terrifying.

So the next time you see a mom standing in front of the wall of mystical formula tins which promise you the sun and moon and stars, spare a thought for her, if she’s staring, it’s because she’s at the cross roads of uncertainty. Tapping her on the shoulder and reminding her that ‘breast is best’ is guaranteed to make her feel like a failure so just bite your tongue, keep your opinion to yourself and just move right on past her, don’t be a dick. She’s likely just been given a lifetime supply of recommendations by her paed, mom, midwife, doula, lactation consultant, Facebook, Google and the fortune teller and is trying to decipher it all to make sure she doesn’t make the wrong choice, because when/if she does and she is asked why she tried brand xyz, she’ll probably get a raised eyebrow as a response and a lecture on why so and so isn’t qualified to have provided her with advice, and she’ll feel like a failure, again.

PS:  I’m still none the wiser as to who to consult as everyone professes to be qualified to provide you with the correct answer. Best of luck and the only pieces of advice I’ll provide are these:

  • Don’t swop formula immediately, if you must change do so slowly, one bottle every day or two changed to the new one;
  • Don’t mix formula types or brands, this will mess with your kids gut, really, don’t do it;
  • Don’t mix formula with breastmilk, or mix formula with breastmilk, I’ve been told to do and not do both;
  • Don’t mix formula with baby cereal, or mix formula with baby cereal, again, I’ve been told both;
  • Don’t thin out formula with extra water, this one is true, these powders are specially formulated to work at certain strengths, why would you mess with that and potentially reduce the amount of nutrients your baby is getting????;
  • Don’t change formula without consulting a specialist, when you can find 2 or more specialists who can agree with each other on what is best, please let me know.
  • First and foremost, trust your instinct, 99.9999999% of the time it will be correct, if you have been offered advice that doesn’t sit well, then it’s probably wrong, if what someone has told you sounds hinky, it probably is, if you feel that your child is not adjusting well to a specified formula or additive to that formula, then your child probably isn’t. Learn to trust your gut, it could save you and baby a lot of trouble and sleepless nights later on. Do not always take advice at face value, question the crap out of it before you walk out of that office.

Best of luck navigating the world of formulas!



2 Replies to “Formula wars”

  1. Oh man I love this! I had such a good giggle right now. I also read the post to which you are referring and almost added a comment as well but thought to myself the poor woman posting the question has enough to deal with!

    For me, as long as a baby is fed (who cares how – breast, bottle or peg and who cares what – formula or breast) that is the main thing.

    I have been through this and we were one of the extreme cases as you are. It is not fun. It is not pretty. You get neurotic and are ready to rip off anybody’s head who decides to actually comment…either positive or negative. You just want your baby to eat. To be happy. To keep it in and to grow. Is it THAT difficult? Oh man you bet!

    Thank you for the laugh, really enjoyed it!

    1. That post, sjoe, I think I must have posted at least 10 comments which I promptly deleted because I knew that poor mother was already going to have her head spinning with all the information and hotly contested debates and bruised ego’s to work through!

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