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How Formula-Feeding Liberated Me

Piccolini’s founder shares her personal feeding journey.

How Formula-Feeding Liberated Me

*This post is sponsored by Enfamil. We’ve partnered with Enfamil to share the feeding journeys of moms who are breastfeeding, formula-feeding and everything in between. Join the Enfamil Family Beginnings® program to get Enfamil baby formula coupons, baby formula samples, special offers and other savings. You’ll get up to $400 in free gifts for you and your baby throughout your pregnancy, baby’s first year and into toddlerhood.

There is no more personal decision to make as a mother than how to feed your baby. Breastfeeding, formula-feeding, or combo-feeding — only you can decide what is right for you and your family. And yet, it seems that everyone has an opinion.

FEATURED VIDEO

Our opinion? You’re doing great. And we’re proud of you, no matter how you choose to feed your baby. But in case you need a little more inspiration, we’ve partnered with Enfamil to share the very diverse feeding journeys of some very diverse parents, from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, and the very blurred lines in between.

Alexandra Ng’s feeding journey followed one of those blurred lines. As the owner of NYC’s famed baby boutique, Piccolini, Alex spent years meeting mamas and planning for her own motherhood experience. And that motherhood experience was absolutely going to include breastfeeding. Below she talks about the obsession, the guilt, and ultimately the empowerment of changing her feeding course.

What did you envision your feeding experience to be like when you were pregnant?

Ali Wong, in her latest comedy special put it best: she had a vision she would be this crowned goddess on a lily pad, breastfeeding her child, while the fat Hawaiian guy sang his version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I thought that too. But breastfeeding was exactly NONE OF THAT.

Breastfeeding was very painful and frustrating process. I had an emergency C-section and my son was born with an upper and lower lip tie. He couldn't latch properly and we were losing a lot of that liquid gold. With each suckle my uterus contacted, and it felt as if someone was cutting my nipples with glass. Even with the protection of a nipple guard. Even with ice before and after feeding. Even with a heating pad. I had to mentally prepare myself for each feeding. And I felt like I didn't get to have that bond of nursing him, which was the most painful of all.

Tell us about those first few weeks breastfeeding.

I tried breastfeeding for about 4 weeks and decided to exclusively pump, though we began supplementing at about 3 weeks. Those first few weeks were a total fog. I had an amazing support system between my husband and family. My husband was game with me either breastfeeding or formula-feeding, though at first, I was all about breastfeeding. It became obsessive, but I think it's a natural as a new mom to want the absolute best for your newborn.

But as I was adjusting to this new life with minimal sleep, I recognized that I was missing out on certain bonding aspects with my son. I was pumping round the clock. I felt like a 24-hour diner. My husband was doing most of the feedings while I was just miserable and moody.

How did you cope during that time?

One thing that really helped me was being a part of a Facebook groups for moms. I'm usually a voyeur, but would sometimes confide in the group and spoke about "the darkness" I was feeling when I started to wean off breastfeeding. Postpartum hits you like a ton of bricks and you need to hear from others that what you're feeling is normal. That it is temporary and you will get through this.

It was also helpful for me to remember that this period is meant to be a bonding session. If it's not enjoyable for both mom and baby, then you should not continue. I was missing the big picture.

When I was deciding whether to stop breastfeeding or continue trudging along, my mother told me to look at the children at the park and point out the children who were formula-fed or breastfed. The point is, you can't. All you see are the new moms and the happy and healthy children.

How did you feel when you made the decision to transition to formula?

Oh man, LOADS OF GUILT, followed by feelings of empowerment. It was so liberating when I finally packed up all my breast pump parts in a bag and offered it to another expecting mom. The turning point for me was when I realized I was missing out on bonding with my son. I helped myself by keeping other like-minded moms in my circle. It's very easy to be swayed when you're in such a fragile, guilt-driven state. I had made two pretty solid new-mom friends and I'm grateful for this new friendship and shared experience.

Tell us about your feeding rituals.

My husband is the MVP. He does the late night shifts. Often times, Sonny wakes up between 4am and 6am for a feeding. Tyler is always there for those shifts because he knows that I need the sleep to function. I make sure I have a bottle measured out for him as I did when those bottles were full of breast milk. They usually snuggle and have a bottle in Sonny's nursery, eventually making it back to bed for another hour or two of sleep before work.

What's the best aspects of using a bottle?

With a bottle, everyone can pitch in. From my sister to our parents and aunts, the family had ample opportunity to bond and love him up. When I was exclusively breastfeeding, it's solely my responsibility. Coming home from the hospital was especially trying, with a healing C-section scar and a active, hangry little boy. He kicked my incision many times, while trying to get him in the football position to feed. He will hear about all of this when he's old enough.

How has bottle-feeding continued be a positive, empowering feeding experience?

Oh my gosh. The way his little finger grips onto mine when I finally get the bottle into his mouth is the best feeling in the world for me. We lock eyes and I'll throw on Rockabye Baby lullabies, sing some Adele to him, or tell him a silly story. I think the feeding experience is what you make it.

What kind of encouragement or advice would you give to a new mom struggling to figure out how to feed her baby?

Time is so precious. So go with your mama gut. If that baby is hungry, feed that baby! If you're nursing, maybe consider supplementing. Don't feel like you're not doing enough if your body isn't producing enough milk. And don't ever blame yourself! If you're tired and at wit’s end, ask for help. The saying, "it takes a village" can be used in so many ways, but especially when it comes to feeding your child. It's not just the mama's job.

Photography by Belle Savransky of Augusta Belle for Well Rounded.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

    Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

    Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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