Moving from breastfeeding to formula

About a month ago, after umming and ah ing for quite a while, I made the decision to move from breastfeeding to formula feeding. It wasn’t a easy decision but for us it was definitely the right one.

Why we moved from breastfeeding to formula

WP_20141022_16_24_10_ProWhen Little Miss was born, she latched on straight away and fed really well from the get go. In complete contrast to the difficult journey I had with Monkey I was so relieved and very optimistic about being able to feed her until around 6 months, much as I had been able to do with Monkey. But within a couple of weeks the problems had started. LM was spending hours every night screaming, she was a nightmare to burp and she developed colic, far worse than Monkey had ever had it.

I had an oversupply of milk and every time I letdown I was in agony, but also it was almost drowning her. She would choke and splutter and it made feeding a nightmare. I tried numerous methods to reduce my supply, which helped with some of the pain and speed but still the problems continued and the screaming worsened. I was still getting soaked at every feeding with the excess milk and it was all incredibly stressful.

LM was then diagnosed with reflux in addition to colic and was prescribed Gaviscon to be given at every feed. They came in sachets which had to be mixed with water or milk and given from a syringe or bottle before every feed. It hugely helped her reflux and pain and made nighttimes bearable all of a sudden… but getting her to actually take the Gaviscon was a bit of a nightmare. She hated it in water and for a while we syringed it in, until she learned to store it in her mouth and spit it back out again. I then got some great medicine dispenser teats*, which definitely helped, but again she would often spit it out or just refuse to drink it.

So then I started collecting some of my excess milk in a shell at every feed so that I could store it and mix it with Gaviscon to give her at the next feed. Bearing in mind she was feeding 6 or 7 times a day and we only had 2 shells and 3 medicine dispensers, there was a huge amount of washing and sterilising going on. Plus the fact that I still had an oversupply of milk meaning I was walking round half the day wet and she still bobbed on and off the boob at every feed and was often coughing and spluttering. Never mind the times I forgot to take the shell out and spilt all of the milk all over myself thereby wasting it completely!

She also still had terrible colic. The reflux was hugely improved but the colic was still there. I had noticed early on that her colic was always much, much worse whenever I had had any milk, so I cut that out of my diet. Then followed anything with dairy in. So no cheese, chocolate and, well it’s amazing how many things contain dairy. Then followed eggs as she seemed to react badly to them also.

It  affected our family mealtimes. Because Monkey has always been a fussy eater we always eat the same meals as a family and the rule is that we all have the same, you either eat it or go hungry. Obviously I didn’t want to cut dairy or eggs out of his diet so all of a sudden we were having to prepare 2 separate meals some days, 1 for me, and another for hubs and Monkey. Confusing for him but also miserable for me having to limit my diet so much. It was a bit tortuous seeing all the foods I loved but couldn’t eat and I began to eat really quite poorly, often resorting to toast or pasta because I just didn’t have the energy to work out what else I could eat. It was worth not eating any of those foods for her sake but it was, very, very hard

I was not very happy in general and I actually began to hate breastfeeding. I think because although everything we did lessened some of the problems, none went away entirely and there were still others. The Gaviscon helped  with the reflux, cutting out dairy helped with the colic, reducing my supply helped with feeding, but none of them were a miracle solution and all of it was hard work. Every feed felt like a rigmarole trying to get her to take the Gaviscon, making sure I had a shell sterilised to collect more milk, trying to feed her without choking her on my supply and without soaking both myself and her. Then having to prepare the gaviscon for the next feed and wash and sterilise another shell. The cycle continued.

It was exhausting. I wasn’t enjoying being a mummy and I wasn’t enjoying LM’s early months.

Hubs was very keen for us to move to formula. With all the sterilising and preparation going on, breastfeeding was actually more time-consuming than preparing formula would be. The Gaviscon could be mixed straight into her bottle so there would be no need for extra dispensers. Using formula would also mean I wasn’t limiting my diet and I think that was hubs’s biggest motivation. He was worried about me and what I was eating and worried that I wasn’t taking care of myself.

I could understand the rationale but I was worried.

Worried that we would be no better off with formula.

Worried she would still have all of the problems she had.

Worried how her system would react to formula.

Worried how she would take to the bottle.

Worried about the pain and engorgement stopping feeding would bring.

Worried that I would have given up breastfeeding without a good enough reason.

Worried that I was taking away the best available nutrition for my baby and that our hopes of a solution would be dashed.

Worried that it would all be for nothing and that there would be no going back.

Worried about the judgement I would get for feeding her formula.

Worried people would think I hadn’t tried hard enough to breastfeed.

Worried that if I talked it through with any healthcare professionals that they would tell me that I should carry on breastfeeding, even though I knew, deep down, that it wasn’t what was best for me and my baby.

In truth I was a mess. I knew that many of LM’s problems were probably temporary, that she would grow out of them after a few months, but at only 6 weeks old, I couldn’t bear the thought of going through it all for another 6-8 weeks. We talked about expressing, but I didn’t feel I could manage it. I had expressed some feeds with Monkey and I found it exhausting and double the work as you have to express every feed as well as actually feed them and I felt I would be spending all of my time doing that when I also have a toddler to look after. We talked about trying colief to help her digest the lactose and hopefully help with colic, but it is another remedy that needs to be mixed up and given at each feed and I didn’t have the energy to do that twice at every feed!

Thankfully we had a very supportive health visitor who happened to come for a check-up on a day when LM had been screaming for 5 straight hours that morning. When she arrived I had just got LM off to sleep in her bouncer with the white noise on full and we had this as a soundtrack to our meeting. I cried a few times as we talked about all of the problems we were having and she was hugely supportive. She didn’t try to tell me I should continue with breastfeeding as I had feared. She said that formula may not solve all of our problems, but she put forward the same argument that hubs did, that even if she still had colic and reflux, that at least by not breastfeeding anymore I would be able to eat what I wanted and could look after myself better, putting me in a better position to look after LM, and Monkey for that matter.

We talked through different formulas and though I had heard of formulas with less lactose in, I hadn’t heard of any with no lactose in, which she did advise me were available. This helped lessen some of my fears. The Dr early on suspected some of her problems were caused by a (hopefully temporary) lactose intolerance, which seemed to match with her adverse reaction to dairy in my diet. With the lactose in formulas I was concerned that this may make things worse rather than better. With the potential of giving her a lactose free formula I was hopeful this would help her.

How we moved from breastfeeding to formula

So when LM was 7 weeks old, we started the process. Substituting a formula feed for a breast feed one at a time, seeing how she got on for a couple of days before moving onto the next. We started with a feed in the evening, then one in the morning, alternating feeds so that my body could adjust and get used to producing less milk, without too much of the engorgement that cutting off entirely would have caused. We felt it would be better for LM this way too, to allow her digestive system a bit of time to adjust. She took the bottle with ease and didn’t seem to have any problems digesting the formula.

Over the course of the next week  or so, we stopped breastfeeding entirely. It wasn’t totally plain sailing, though I didn’t suffer with engorgement and pain to the extent I had when I weaned Monkey at 7 months, it was still painful and it took a good few weeks after we had stopped before my breasts felt normal again.

As for LM, she was like a different baby. We still had some sleep troubles with her but the colic basically disappeared and she fed so so so much better on the bottle than she ever had from the breast. She was just so much calmer at feeds and a lot more contented afterwards.

Moving forward with Formula

Over a month on, she has suffered a bit with constipation – due to the combination of Lactose Free Milk (which is high in casein apparently) and the Gaviscon. Over the past few days we have been reducing her Gaviscon to see if her reflux has improved to the point where she needs it less, as that should  help lessen the constipation. It is early days with it but so far, so good on both fronts. The idea is that once her reflux is manageable without Gaviscon, then we will at some point introduce a normal formula, to see whether she can handle the lactose better.

As for me, I am eating better and feeling a lot better in myself. I have had to deal with some hormonal ups and downs now that I have stopped breastfeeding, my hair (which stops falling out during pregnancy) is now shedding. I have a lot of hair so unlike some women do I am not worried about it all falling out, but I still hate it because it is so knotted and tangled it feels like I have a bird’s nest in there! I spent about 15 minute this morning just trying to de-tangle it all and pulled out a huge wad of hair! Plus there is hair everywhere in the house! My monthlies have reappeared now too with all of the hormonal ups and downs they bring with them but things should hopefully start to settle down from here on in.

Formula feeding itself is a whole different ballgame to breastfeeding – we are much more aware of how much she is feeding and constantly trying to work out how much milk she would like at feeds. There is a lot of faff with the cleaning, sterilising and preparation of bottles (though a lot less faff than we were experiencing previously). There are different guidelines from the NHS and WHO about how long you can store formula for in the fridge, with the NHS stating that you must always prepare a bottle fresh for every feed, and the WHO saying you can store them in the fridge for up to 24 hours. We have found the NHS rules completely impractical if you ever want to leave your house so are following the WHO guidelines and getting used to having to prepare with freezer packs and flasks of hot water whenever we go anywhere! We are getting into a bit of a routine with it all now thankfully!

As for judgement, I guess I have just had to get over it a little. Friends and family have all been completely supportive as they knew what a hard time we were having. If anything I was constantly trying to justify it to myself as I felt guilty and that I was somehow failing as a mother for not coping with all of the problems in order for her to have breast milk. Like I should sacrifice myself for her sake. But then I realise how much it was affecting the rest of my family. Hubs and Monkey matter too. And actually, having seen her on formula, she is so much better on it. I cannot feel guilty about choosing the option that causes her less pain.

As for people who don’t know us, whenever I see judgement in someone’s eyes, it is tempting to explain the reasons but I don’t because it’s not worth it. It just isn’t their business after all. At a postnatal yoga class (post to follow about how good it was!) that I attended recently, I was the only formula feeding mum there. There is a little residual discomfort I have to be honest as I want to say “I tried, I really did!” but again I keep it to myself, I am sure they aren’t judging me, just as I never judged other formula feeding mums, it is just me, judging myself.

Though I did internally chuckle, the instructor, who was very lovely, made a big thing about how ok it was to formula feed and how it was proven that you could still bond just as well with bottle as with breast, and she was very kind, but also she went a bit ott about how fine she was with it. Do you know what I mean? I think I would have believed she was ok with it a bit more if she actually hadn’t made quite such a point of how ok she was about it. I’m not criticising her as I know it must be hard to find a balance but I did chuckle and I guess proved to myself that am ok with it, as it didn’t bother me that much.

I am obviously not recommending bottle over breastfeeding but wanted to share my experience as there are times when it is worth considering it as an alternative. I wish I could have breastfed LM for longer than 7 weeks but I know that this was the right decision for us as a family and that is all that matters.

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37 thoughts on “Moving from breastfeeding to formula

  1. I am glad both you and LM are doing better. It’s hard to face the need to formula-feed when you’d intended on breastfeeding, and I understand your worries about judgment. You know, sometimes breast may theoretically be best, but when in practice it isn’t, you need to move on.

  2. Wow what a journey you have had. You shouldn’t feel guilty for doing what’s best for your baby. I know it’s easier said than done. I’m dairy free at the moment and it’s so hard. Might also have to switch to formula if her weight gain keeps dropping down the centiles :/ xx

    • SOunds like you are going through it a bit too and I know how hard going Dairy Free is! Hope her weight gain improves! xx

  3. Welcome to the bottle feeding club :). I have some tips on ff for you. I dont heat my daughters bottles up, they are all room temp although if LM is used to body temp milk this might not work for you. I have 10 bottles in total which I sterilised, pour the right amount of freshly boiled water in them and im sorted for the day by adding the formula whenever she’s hungry. The only time I pre make bottles is at night time when I make up one bottle for when she wakes up in the middle of the night. Leaving the house is easy I take 3 bottles filled with water and my avent milk powder dispenser filled with formula and im ready to go. Sorry its such a long comment i hope this is of help x

    • Thank you and thanks for the tips! She did initally need it to be really quite warm but she is adjusting to lukewarm feeds now. I read you’re supposed to make formula with water no less than 70 degrees to kill any bacteria in the formula, not sure how accurate that is though, so we make up the days bacth in the morning, pop them in the fridge and warm them up at each feed. Your way certaily sounds easier for out and about! No problems at all, thank you for commenting! xx

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey, I am glad that things have settled down and you are all feeling better and getting more sleep. You always feel as if you are being judged whether it is breast or bottle feeding in public and everyone has a reason for their decisions, we shouldn’t have to explain them to anyone.
    I went through a slightly similar experience with Little 1 she had colic and screamed for hours but no reflux or lactose problems that you have had to deal with, I expressed for 9 weeks as she hated my letdown and wouldn’t latch, rocking a screaming baby in the bouncer with my foot while expressing the next feed, it was tough and when we made the decision to move to formula it was such a stressful decision but was the best thing in the end. I hope things continue to improve for you.

    • Thanks lovely and it does sound like you had a hard time too, so hard to make the decision because like you say you feel judged which ever way you go, but sometimes it is the best thing xx

  5. You should not feel guilty, or bad about moving onto formula. I started weaning my baby at 8 weeks and it was the best decision. I did not have it as tough as you, i just couldnt keep up with the demand. My tiny baby was so hungry, i was feeding every hour, i was exhausted and seemed to be so upset that i wasn’t enjoying my baby. Bottle feeding brought on colic but it was easier and it meant my husband could help too, it seemed easier working as a team. As i said at the time, she needed my love more than my milk!

    • That is certainly true and I feel much more able to be loving towards when I am not quite so stressed and exhausted! xx

  6. I combi fed my first and exclusively breastfed my second and I really don’t understand why people think bottle feeding is easier, it seems like so much more hassle! I’m sure the majority of people would rather have it on tap but it doesn’t always work that way. Glad your little one is doing better now and I agree, it’s funny about the yoga instructor because if you really don’t care you don’t need to say anything at all.

    • Thank you and I’m glad it’s not just me that feels that way! I know she was trying to be kind but it certianly felt a bit ott! xx

  7. This is a great post. I had completely different problems with breastfeeding, but most of my worries about switching to formula were exactly the same as yours. In the end, it’s a happy, healthy baby – and happy, healthy mama! – that are important. Breast milk and formula both nourish the baby just fine and don’t you worry at all about anyone judging you. You did what was right for your family – they don’t know the details. I’m glad you had such a supportive health visitor too. That makes such a difference.

    • Thank you, you are so right, my HV even said that formula today is better than it has ever been so we really can’t feel guilty about using it if it makes life happier all round! xx

  8. Really great post. I think its a really difficult decision especially when it was going so successfully for you. But what is most important is that you and baby are doing well and are happy and if that is formula feeding then so be it. Amelia would not latch and after 5 days I was soo desperate to get out of hospital I gave her formula. It was a very rushed decision that I sometimes wish I hadn’t made. But now she’s 17 month’s having cows milk and is super healthy and super happy so I guess it worked out ok!
    Thanks so much for linking up #MummyMonday

    • Thank you, it is such a difficult decision whenever you make it and it must be so much harder when you feel that that decision is rushed, but it does sound like she is doing absolutely fine on it! xx

  9. Wow that was quite a journey for you and I am so glad that Little Miss is doing much better now – it definitely sounds like you made the right decision for you.

  10. wow hat must have been so stressful you poor thing. Especially coping with lack of sleep without chocolate. Glad you reached the best decision for you and Little M. Especially giving hope to other mums who must be in the same position. #MaternityMondays

  11. sounds like you’ve had it hard. I had a similar experience with my little man and he was so much better on lactose free formula, it helped all round with his feeding and my emotional wellbeing. Good luck with it all, I hope it works out for you x

  12. Ah, every single decision we make is so loaded with questions about what’s right, and from whose viewpoint is it right. You do need to take care of yourself, and know in yourself that you tried and considered the options and made an informed choice. It is YOUR choice, and YOUR baby and YOUR life, no-one else’s.

    Thanks for linking to #AllAboutYou x

  13. Wandered over here from #thetruthabout linkup. I always get suspicious when someone goes on and on about how “okay” they are with something…

    We’ve done the same thing with each of our kids. (I have 5.) For different reasons than you, but every one ended up on formula sooner or later when I intended to breastfeed. With breastfeeding, I liked the price most of all and the bonding second. But it’s fine that they’re on formula, and the other kids like that they can participate. They used to fight over whose turn it was to give #5 his bottle. Every time. It worked out.

  14. I’m glad this has worked out for you after some very stressful weeks. I’m glad you have supportive family and friends, and you are right to not assume people are judging, and if they are, that they don’t know your situation so it’s none of their business (not that your choices are any of their business anyway!). I’m sure this great and honest post will be very helpful to those struggling with this emotional decision.

  15. such a great post to read, very interesting. I didn’t really get the choice to breastfeed as my son was premature. I did express for a bit but he wasn’t eating for a couple weeks so it wasn’t very useful. I have never really been a fan of breastfeeding for me though but I would consider next time if there is a next time. This post was very helpful. It sounds so very stressful for you though, I hope it all works out in the long run!

    thankyou for joining in on #mummymonday – love Gemma (host) xo


  16. This is such a great, well-explained post Caroline. You always write such detailed, thoughtful posts which I’m sure help others having the same dilemmas. I know how much of a wrench it can be to make the decision to give up breast feeding but you’ve really put your finger on it with the reasons why and what it can be like when the breast feeding journey isn’t all plain sailing. I never even had any idea about things like Gaviscon to try and manage JJ’s colic way back when (it could have been a case of ‘silent reflux’) but I’m almost glad I didn’t because the faff of trying to give a breast-fed baby something like Gaviscon. I think you will all be so much happier as a family from this point on. Xx Thanks for linking with #thetruthabout

  17. It’s amazing how many mothers feel guilty about moving on from breastfeeding, but they always have a genuine reason and have really tried their best with breastfeeding. It sounds like you were really putting yourself through the mill, and it must have been a tough time.
    I was in a similar position with a baby with reflux and I spent weeks agonising over the decision to start giving formula. From day one with a bottle we had a completely different baby and I started to feel guilty about taking so long to introduce formula (we can’t win!).
    Gaviscon was great for us, but it was solids that eventually solved the reflux problem.
    Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂
    Alana x

  18. Sorry to hear you had such a trying time! I remember the guilt I felt when I moved my little one from the breast to formula at 8 months after battling with supply issues (among other things). In the end, all that matters is that they are fed and loved, how they get their tummies full isn’t nearly as important! Thank you for sharing your story with us!

  19. I nursed my first three children, but then I had twins. I tried to breastfeed for about a month, but it was exhausting, time consuming and difficult to eat enough to produce enough milk for both of them. I moved completely to formula by six weeks and it was great! They’ve been just as healthy as my other three. I think you do what you need to do and none of those decisions are made easily. You know your situation and baby best! #thetruthabout

  20. Wow what a journey you have had. I am glad you and LM are better now. I had so much trouble feeding MM when she was a baby I had to eventually to go formula and I was so worked up and made my self sick over stopping for nothing. I was a formula fed baby and there isn’t (much) wrong with me. lol You have done so amazing and formula or breast it’s all food just the same to help us grow. She is so adorable and sounds like she is doing better now. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

  21. everyone has such a different expierence with feeding their baby you have to do whats best for you, I never got on with breast feeding my first two but with Lottie its been so easy now at 11 months I still can’t get her off! x

  22. I really am speechless of the work that you need to do but I am so glad that you are testing things are are working.

    Sending you hugs, I know you have a lot of hugs already from your fam but you are so awesome so I am sending you some more =)


  23. Pingback: Little Miss at 3 months | Becoming a Stay at Home Mum

  24. Oh you really haven’t had an easy time and you should be SO proud that you managed for this long. It is so miserable when you’re having to cut foods out and battling with other issues too. I went on like that for 16 weeks with Luka and then was given an ultimatum by the hospital- either formula or NG tubes. I know formula was best for him but I went through similar emotions about it all too. Now I am back on the dairy free diet with Elsie and she is on meds for reflux and I too am beginning to wonder if breastfeeding is the right path for us. Its to hard and the mummy guilt doesn’t help. Thanks for sharing how you made the switch x x x

    • Thank you lovely and I am sorry to hear you are having problems with Elsie too, it is so hard and mummy guilt really does not help at all! I hope things improve for you and Elsie, whichever way you go! xx

  25. Thanks for sharing this. I think it can come as a shock when breastfeeding isn’t easy and doesn’t go to plan. It’s a hard decision to stop but we do it with the best of intentions.
    I breastfed both mine for 5 weeks. With my first I couldn’t keep up with him. He was so hungry and I was exhausted. With my second he just never took to it and we struggled at every feed.
    Only yesterday I was talking to a friend in the playground about the shortage of baby formula when another mum said “that’s why I breastfed”. I felt really judged. I told her that I had breastfed too and she replied “I was determined to never use bottles and breastfed all the way through”. I too was determined. I persevered. I cried myself to sleep over the decision to stop. Congratulations mum in the playground at being better than me at breastfeeding!!! #sharewithme

    • Oh I hate it when people say things like that, it’s so awful, I try and tell myself that they are just lucky and have no idea how impossible it can be for some of us – but I wish they could have more empathy or at least just keep their opinions to themselves!!

  26. So glad things are so much better. There is so much pressure on people to breastfeed and people have to understand that sometimes it just doesn’t work. I was lucky enough to keep breastfeeding until 5 months but when the little one was feeding every 2 hours, 24 hours a day, I knew I had to change it and weaned him onto the bottle. Life changed so much as he started sleeping and fed really well. I did feel guilty though, like I failed at getting to the 6 months I aimed for! We have to do what we have to do though for the sake of our baby and our sanity! Your baby got so many benefits just from the 7 weeks you were breastfeeding so well done mumma…you should be proud 🙂 x #brilliantblogposts

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