Home » Mothering » Supplementing


Bah! I’ve been working on this dumb post for two whole weeks now!  Why is it so hard? You would think talking about this would be easier than the decision to ultimately do it.  But it isn’t.  Instead of writing this, I have been posting about Ike pretending to drive my car and things we forgot at Target.  Awesome, by the way, I am a world class avoider.  I’m really very good.  I should write a how-to book.    I wanted to find the right way to tell the whole story, honestly, and without judgement from anyone who may not share my views, I’m very frightened of the internet police.  Well, I think I got it half right anyway.

We finally bought a canister of Similac Infant formula.  Wait. No. That is not honest.  We bought a canister of formula FIVE MONTHS AGO.  I freaked out, cried, yelled at my husband, and then buried it behind canned tomatoes and oatmeal packets in the pantry.  Because nobody saw us buy it, it was a momentary lack in judgement, EBF enthusiasts please don’t come and arrest me.  I really am doing the best I can.

It’s out now, on the counter in all it’s plastic-y mass-produced glory, for everyone to see.  I think it taunts me when I’m not looking.

Honest time.  I didn’t actually “decide” to start supplementing.  That sounds like it was an actual choice that I was privileged to make.   We were almost out of milk.  Even the meager reserves in the freezer. And Ike was consistently drinking all of the milk I expressed at work PLUS the little that I got when I pumped at night.  AND was immediately showing me the milk sign as I walked through the door in the afternoons.  AND WAS NOT SLEEPING AT NIGHT! Ike’s “normal” sleeping usually includes one night feeding thing and either an early morning feeding thing or a “hey it’s time to get up and make breakfast” thing.  But it had gotten a bit out of hand, in the manner of:

8:00pm Put Ike to bed

10:00pm Ike was hungry

12:00pm Ike was still hungry

1:35am Ike was hungry again

2:40am Ike needs to nurse

3:55am Ike is now in bed with us because he is busy nursing until the sun comes up

5:00am Ike would like on of you to please get up and fix him some eggs and toast.  Like NOW! And then a bottle pls thnx.

Five months ago, Isaac and I had decided, together, that we should test out the formula BEFORE it was the only thing available to a starving baby.  To be sure that his stomach reacted okay and he wasn’t allergic to anything in it.  This was just before I freaked out and decided that I would pump enough milk for him even if it meant staying up all night!  At this current point, even that was not going to be a feasible solution, well it wasn’t that feasible to begin with.  Anyway, good thing we made that plan, that sensible one of testing out the formula not the insane one of me never getting any sleep ever.


Well, because Ike does not like formula.   I mixed up a bottle, all strong and brave, and handed it to him.  He sucked a little, looked at me, and let it all dribble out the side of his mouth.  Then he smiled, threw the bottle down, and showed me the milk sign again.

Why had that not occurred to me? It should have, because the stuff smells very unappetizing and I am not willing to even try it myself.   All five months it took me to get on board with this concept, I never thought that Ike might need more time with the idea.  Why? Idk, I’m a selfish jerk I guess.

I have to admit, seeing him refuse to drink the formula made me feel a little bit happy.  BUT it did not solve the milk shortage problem.  TO THE MESSAGE BOARDS, the internet has all the answers!

The interweb mommies pretty much agreed that to get an older baby to drink formula for the first time you have to introduce it slowly.  So we mixed it with breastmilk.  He drinks it. He doesn’t love it.  And he won’t drink it at all for me.  Unless I hand him the bottle and go somewhere he cannot reach my shirt.  He refuses bottles altogether from me at night. For now, that is OK with me.

We started with a 1:3 ratio of formula to milk.  He drank it, reluctantly.  We’ve moved up to about half and half.  He drinks that for dad.  Dad has even managed to get an ounce or two of straight formula in him at night.  Dad is apparently the “formula king” and Dad is currently the more favored parent in the house.  Mom is not happy.

So why supplementing?  

Why not check a milk bank or pump more or try harder?

Well, to me, I was trying as hard as I could.  I was pumping as much as I could without compromising my work and my little piss-poor excuse for a good night’s sleep.  Three times a day, with an 8 minute walk to the room each way (and that is at speed walkers pace!).  Once I consider lunch, but the other two are inevitably inconvenient as it is.  And then another at least two hours AFTER Ike goes to bed.  Around 10-10:30, which if I went to sleep immediately after and Ike only woke up once would give me about 6 hours of sleep.  I never get six hours of sleep.

As for the milk banks, to be honest, I’m not completely onboard with the concept.  My milk is best for my baby.  Yes. Got it.  Stranger milk?  Not so sure.  They don’t know my baby.  I don’t know their diets, or habits.  Do they drink their 3 glasses of milk every day?  Do they eat the spicy indian food that makes my baby’s poops electric orange?  Then the milk is pasteurized to boot.  It’s not “all natural” anymore after processing, and if he’s going to have processed milk, it may as well be within strict guidelines and hard and fast nutrition FACTS.  The pediatrician put it very bluntly when she directed us to use formula to help Ike get back to his birth weight (we did not listen by the way, but that’s a different story).  She said that breastmilk varies in its nutrients based on a mother’s diet.  Formula while not perfect, is at least consistent.  What’s on the label is what is going into the baby.  I’ve worked very hard on my diet, I have eaten more dark leafy greens and drank more milk than I even did when I was pregnant.  How do I know that a person selling their milk is doing the same?

So no milk banks, no crazy pumping before all else notions.  Just rational, logical problem solving.  He needs more to eat.  I am doing all that I can.  I do not want my baby to be hungry.

We are two weeks in, he is doing fine.  He’s not being poisoned from the formula.  He still wants to nurse A LOT.  This is our solution and it is working for us.  Most of the time.


One thought on “Supplementing

  1. I’m so glad you have been honest with “the internet” – a lot of mommies, especially working mommies – are doing the best they can but sometimes are made to feel ‘less than’ if they can’t keep up supply. At some point, you can eat oatmeal until it comes out your eyeballs and it’s still not enough. It’s nice to know there are other moms out there working to accept this reality, and normalizing that the journey is not all-or-nothing. For us, yesterday E would have cried ALL DAY from hunger if we hadn’t supplemented. The baby needs to eat.

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