Formula feeding mamas don’t feel supported—and that needs to change

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It's an amazing substance that provides our babies with the nutrients they need, and mamas hate to waste a drop. We could be talking about breastmilk, or we could be talking about formula, but it doesn't really matter because they both feed babies and are both amazing in different ways.

What does matter is that In 2018, mothers are no longer being grouped based on whether they feed their babies with a bottle or breast. The social media conversations around infant feeding— once known for being divisive discussions—are changing, and more and more moms are feeling included and supported in their infant feeding choices, even by moms whose choices aren't the same as their own.

Now, though, it's time for those who support mothers—physicians, midwives and those leading mom and baby support groups—to offer "solid, sensitive, personalized advice" to all mothers. This, says Suzanne Barston, the author of Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn't, is the key to creating a shame-free infant feeding experience.

"My hope is that that will be the next frontier. I think we've conquered the social media thing," says Barston, who has witnessed the evolution of online discussion of infant feeding go from "beast is breast" to "fed is best" since launching her blog, The Fearless Formula Feeder nearly a decade ago.

Times have changed

"I think it's a very different experience being a parent who uses formula now than it was when I started doing this work back in 2008," Barston tells Motherly. "I've actually seen quite a positive turn I would say in the last two years."

According to Barston, moms who physically can't breastfeed or who don't produce enough milk are more supported now than ever before, thanks in large part to the efforts of organizations like The Fed is Best Foundation and its co-founders, Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi and B. Jody Segrave-Daly, who advocate against formula stigma in an effort to protect babies from dehydration and starvation.

There's been a big shift in how people speak to and about moms who choose to supplement with formula, but according to Barston, what hasn't changed is the perception that moms should at least try to breastfeed before switching to or supplementing with formula. "There is support for people who cannot breastfeed, who have physical limitations, but I still don't think people look at choosing to formula feed from the get-go as a legitimate choice," she says.

Mom is qualified to choose

While the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, it also officially recognizes that a baby's mother "is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant."

Unfortunately, some moms still don't feel like they're being supported if they choose to use formula, says Barston, who believes health care provides are still approaching infant feeding education as if breastfeeding needs to be sold to mothers, but she believes it's not a lack of education, but a lack of societal supports that contribute to low breastfeeding rates.

"Whether you're feeling physically uncomfortable from your birth or you have to make dinner for your two other kids or you have to go back to work in three weeks, those are all very real issues that women have to deal with and no amount of awareness or education about breastfeeding changes," she explains.

And even if we woke up tomorrow to find paid parental leave and lactation break rooms were the standard and not the exception, some moms would still still choose to use formula from birth, and that choice should be respected, according to Barston and the ACOG's official position.

In 2018 the online conversation about infant feeding isn't about breasts and bottles as much as it's about moms supporting other moms. Barston hopes 2019 will be the year health care providers and those leading support groups for new mothers join that conversation and replace 'breast is best' messaging with something more inclusive. Bottle, breast or both, mama's choice is best.

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Gabrielle Union + Dwyane Wade have been blended family goals, an inspiration to those struggling with infertility and now they are an inspiration to parents of trans kids and supporters of trans rights.

Earlier this month Wade appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and spoke about his 12-year-old daughter Zaya coming out as transgender and Union posted a beautiful video + caption to Instagram, inviting fans to "meet Zaya."

This week Wade appeared on Good Morning America, explaining that Zaya has known she was transgender since she was 3 years old.

"Zaya has known it for nine years," the proud dad said on GMA, adding that he credits Zaya (who was assigned as male at birth) with educating him and helping him grow.

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"I knew early on that I had to check myself... I've been a person in the locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words myself," he told GMA's Robin Roberts. "My daughter was my first interaction when it comes to having to deal with this conversation...Hopefully I'm dealing with it the right way... Inside our home we see the smile on my daughter's face, we see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself and that's when you know you're doing right."

It sure seems like Wade and Union have been doing it right. When Union posted a video to Instagram earlier this month introducing Zaya it was clear the tween's dad and step-mom have her back.

In the video Zaya is riding in a golf cart with her dad and dropping wisdom. She says: "Just be true to yourself, because what's the point of even living on this earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?...Be true and don't really care what the 'stereotypical' way of being you is."

Union was so impressed by her step-daughter, captioning the video: "She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It's Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people."

Later in the week Union addressed criticism of Zaya's transition on Twitter, writing: "This has been a journey. We're still humbly learning but we decided quickly w/ our family that we wouldn't be led by fear. We refuse to sacrifice the freedom to live authentically becuz we are afraid of what ppl might say. U have the ability to learn & evolve."

Zaya's big brother is also on her side. Newly 18-year-old Zaire posted the cutest throwback pic from when he and Zaya were just little kids, noting how the siblings were and are best friends.

"Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad. I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of," Zaire began his caption. "I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years. We did everything together … we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind."

Zaire continued: "I've told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth," he told his younger sibling. "I don't care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there's no love lost on this side ✊🏾"

We are so impressed and inspired by the love Zaya's family is showing her (and other kids by sharing this story publicly). You've got this Zaya!

[A version of this story was posted February 12, 2020. It has been updated.]

News

Back in August the the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Contigo announced the recall of millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles—about 5.7 million of them.

Now, the CPSC and Contigo are recalling millions of water bottles and the replacement lids that were given to consumers as part of the August 2019 recall.

"Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled water bottles and the replacement lids provided in the previous recall, take them away from children, and contact Contigo for a free water bottle. Consumers who received replacement lids in the previous recall should contact Contigo for the new water bottle," the CPSC states.

Millions of Contigo Kids Cleanable water bottles were originally recalled after it became clear the silicone spout could pose a choking hazard.

"Contigo identified that the water bottle's clear silicone spout in some cases may detach from the lid of the water bottle," Contigo stated in a notice posted to its Facebook page back in August.

According to the CPSC, "Contigo [had] received 149 reports of the spout detaching including 18 spouts found in children's mouths" before the original recall.

Now, the CPSC reports "Contigo has received a total of 427 reports of the spout detaching including 27 spouts found in children's mouths."

All of the recalled water bottles have a black color spout base and spout cover.

This week Contigo expanded the recall. The original date range was for Contigo Kids Cleanable Water Bottle from April 2018 through June 2019. Now it is for bottles purchased through February 2020, and all the replacement lids.

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If you are looking for some alternative water bottles, here are a few of our favorites:

Hydro Flask

Hydro Flask features an easy-to-drink (and clean) top, a silicone bottom that won't scratch your furniture.

Motherly has tested these with a two-year-old and an eight-year-old and found these bottles are perfect for Pre-K to elementary school.

$29.95

CamelBak

The CamelBak is a big hit with little kids as it is easy to maneuver and it's a big hit with moms because it is easy to clean in the top rack of the dishwasher. CamelBak Eddy 12 oz Kids Vacuum Stainless Water Bottle

$14.99

Skip Hop

The designs on the Skip Hop stainless steel bottle keep kids happy and the silicone sleeve keeps the bottle from falling out of little hands! Bonus points for a flexible straw that is easy to clean!

$17.99


Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

{A version of this story was originally posted August 27, 2019. It has been updated.]

News

Shannon Bird is a well known mom blogger and influencer with more than 100,000 Instagram followers. For years she's been known for her style and for her family's quirky adventures, but in 2020 the mom of five became internet famous for something else.

This mama called 911 in the middle of the night because she ran out of breastmilk and asked the police to bring her formula.

The criticism was swift, but Bird's story isn't just about when it is appropriate to call emergency services—it's about who has the privilege of being able to call 911, the lack of support for mothers in America, gender roles and the erosion of the village. In short, this isn't just a story about Shannon Bird calling 911. It's a story about a society that is failing mothers.

Here's what you need to know about this viral story:

This week Bird appeared on Fox News Channel's Daily Briefing, but the 911 call happened in January 

It's been weeks since certain corners of the internet blew up after literally watching Bird (via Instagram stories) call 911 because she ran out of breastmilk and had no formula. To Bird's followers, this is old news, but it's been making the news in recent days.

On February 17 Bird appeared on Fox News Channels' Daily Briefing with her youngest child to talk about why she called 911 when she ran out of breastmilk (and had no formula in her home). As the Utah mom previously told Fox 6, "I've never not had food for my newborn. It was really scary for me."

How this mom ended up calling 911 for formula

Those watching Bird's Instagram Stories on January 28 saw this unfold in real-time. Bird was recovering from some postpartum complications at the time and a medication she was taking may have been a factor in her declining milk supply.

She found herself home alone (her husband was out of town) with her infant and her four other young children (one of whom had a cast on a broken leg). She thought she had enough pumped breastmilk in the freezer to get her though the night, but eventually realized she didn't. She also didn't have any baby formula.

In her Instagram Stories she detailed how she called friends and family for help around 2 AM but no one picked up the phone. Eventually, she called 911, telling the operator she was scared and had no way to feed her 6-week-old baby.

"I've been calling neighbors and no one will answer," she said on the call. "I've never been in this predicament ever. My milk just literally dried out. This is my fifth kid and this has never happened."

Soon, the police were at her door.

The police brought this mom milk + formula in the middle of the night

After the 911 call, Bird posted video footage of police arriving at her home to her Instagram Stories (as her doorbell cam had captured the footage). It shows Officer Brett Wagstaff of the Lone Peak police department arrive at Bird's door with a gallon of milk.

Bird explained that what she needed wasn't regular milk, but baby formula. "We'll be right back with some formula for your baby — she's adorable," Wagstaff told Bird.

Soon enough he came back with baby formula from Walmart, telling Bird, "That's the same stuff we gave my daughter when she was first born, so hopefully it doesn't upset her stomach."

Officer Wagstaff and his fellow officer Konner Gabbitas have been hailed as heroes in the recent news coverage of this story (and they are) but many critics pointed out that Bird had the privilege of being a wealthy, white mom when she called 911, and wonder if the response would be the same from mothers of color or lesser means.

The backlash over privilege + a need for postpartum support 

Twenty-four hours after posting the Instagram Stories showing the police delivering baby formula, Bird announced she was taking a break from social media (she's since returned) which isn't surprising when you look at the comments on her accounts.

People were upset with her for using 911 the way she did, and upset with her husband for leaving her alone with five kids while he went out of town. When Fox News picked up the story the criticism continued.

"This is not what 911 is for... In some places, you'd get a ticket for misuse of emergency services. But, here is everyone enabling some more. Saying how heroic and brave this was. I can't even handle it," one Instagram user commented.

"Flip this narrative and you would get a drastically different response. #whiteprivilege," another noted.

That does need to be part of this conversation. There are many mothers in America who would not feel comfortable calling 911 during a parenting emergency due to institutional bias and racism. And that's not fair, because all mothers should be able to get help when they need it.

Many people have pointed out all the things Bird could have done differently in this situation—maybe she could have gotten her kids up and driven to Walmart herself, maybe she could have used Uber Eats or Instacart to order formula for delivery—but at that moment she couldn't. She was in crisis.

Calling 911 is an act of desperation, and it's a sign that the cultural expectations on women are causing a lot of maternal stress.

It takes time to recover from birth (especially if you have postpartum complications).

Breastfeeding can be very difficult (even if you've breastfed before with ease).

And when your baby is crying and you can't help them, that's terrifying.

Many commenters suggest this is a story about a woman abusing the 911 service, but maybe it's a story about a country where mothers in crisis feel they have no one to call. Maybe it's a story about how when the "village" erodes, mothers suffer the most. Maybe it's a sign that we need more postpartum supports, more education and more empathy for mothers.

[Motherly reached out to Shannon Bird for comment and will update this post if we receive a reply.]

News

Most parents want to leave the planet a little better than we found it for our kids. But the urge to go green can sometimes clash with the reality of bringing up babies—it sometimes feels like you go through enough disposable diapers and wipes to fill up a small landfill on a monthly basis. But for parents who don't have the time or energy (or desire) to commit to cloth diapering, one company is offering a new alternative.

DYPER—an eco-friendly diaper subscription company—is launching the first ever compostable diaper service called REDYPER. Instead of ending up in a landfill (with 20 billion other diapers per year, according to the company), your baby's dirty diapers will be put to good use—such as helping to grow vegetation in highway medians, for example.

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Here's how it works: Along with your monthly shipment of diapers, subscribers receive bags and a specially designed box (one that the company says was engineered to Haz Mat shipping standards set by the United Nations). You'll fill up that box with your baby's dirty diapers, and when it's full, you send it back to the company with a prepaid shipping label. And don't worry—even the environmental impact of the shipping process is mitigated by carbon offsets purchased by the company.

From there, DYPER partners with TerraCycle to compost them. The company notes that its diapers are compostable at home—but that's a DIY project busy moms and dads might not be able to take on. REDYPER is a convenient solution for parents who want go green—even if they don't have time or space to do so.

And for parents mourning the loss of the company Brandless, DYPER represents a new way to do diaper subscription services. If you've got a DYPER subscription, you can opt into the new REDYPER program for free for a limited time (after that offer, it'll cost $39 a month).

You can learn more about the program on the company's website at dyper.com/redyper.

News
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