How Formula-Feeding Liberated Me

Piccolini’s founder shares her personal feeding journey.

Feeding baby a bottle

*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.

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.

Piccolini's founder with her babyMom carrying her baby

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.

feeding baby a bottlemom rocking baby

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.

Hanging out in baby's nurseryputting baby in the crib

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.making a bottleEnfamil formula

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.

Cute baby

Jessica Pallay

Jessica Pallay

JESSICA PALLAY is Co-Founder and Editor of Well Rounded NY. She is a Brooklyn mama to Libby and Elsie, and writes about all things pregnancy and new motherhood.

Comments {6}

  1. Not a fan of this article. Title makes it seem like mom’s who exclusively breastfeed are trapped because they are the one fully responsible for feeding their little one. But hey, that’s how God designed it. There are situations when people need to formula feed but don’t act like that’s liberating. Not surprised one bit that this is sponsored by Enfamil. Lets make people feel like the hard work and lack of sleep that goes into exclusively breastfeeding your child is too hard for a mom to handle so that they’ll buy our product. UGH. Thanks a lot Enfamil.

    Natalie
  2. Thanks for sharing! Not to throw shade at the above commenter but parenting is all about choices. Breastfeeding is difficult and while it is “natural” sometimes it DOESN’T come naturally to new moms. If those moms choose to not breastfeed, that is their choice and it doesn’t devalue moms who choose to breastfeed, as vice versa moms who choose to BF don’t devalue those who don’t. My son didn’t latch in the hospital so I exclusively pumped. I wanted to enjoy my time with him and not be stressed, visiting LCs, etc. so when we tried multiple times and he didn’t latch, I said “forget it!” and made friends with my Medela. I found not breastfeeding to be incredibly liberating. I liked being able to share feeding duties with my husband and I never for a second felt bad when my son needed to have a few bottles of formula when first born – fed is best. Natalie – It’s great that you want to + are able to sacrifice sleep and put all that hard work in but that is your choice. It does not mean that mothers who choose NOT to do those things are lazy or unnatural and I can personally say that not breastfeeding is, in fact, extremely liberating and I don’t for a second regret it!

    Meghan
  3. loved this article, spoke to me on a personal level since I lived such a similar experience with my son. It was almost like reading my own thoughts. Thank you

    Nina
  4. Thank you for the article! New moms need all the assurance they can get. I was able to breastfeed my daughter and her two brothers and I loved every minute. I was present when our daughter gave birth to our first grandchild and was home with their family the first few weeks. I watched my daughter stugfle with inverted nipples, using nipple guards and pumping all with a very “hangry” baby. She gave it her best but when nursing just wasn’t cutting it (grandbaby was also very impatient when momma’s milk didn’t immediately let down) she started switching over to formula. The entire house heaved a sigh of relief and everyone could start a relaxed bonding period. Our daughter did go through the guilt stage, but it was short-lived. Like was mentioned in the article….can you tell a breastfed toddler from a bottlefed toddler at the park????

    Ellen Swartz
  5. Well said, Meghan! I am a breastfeeding mom and I completely agree with you. Do what’s best for you and your household and stop internalizing what others choose to do for theirs.

    Kelly
  6. I’ve BF my daughter for 9 months and my son for 4 months. When I had to switch to bottle feeding with my son because he refused to nurse or latch on (he “got rid” of the bottle in favor of spoon feeding completely within 2,5 months) I didn’t feel liberated.
    All the stuff you have to tug around with you always taking into consideration that you might stay out longer than planned so you need to bring extra.
    I actually lost sleep bottle feeding because while BF it took seconds to pull the baby close enough to have it latch on and I was asleep again while the baby nursed. Now I had to get up, mix the water and formula, make sure it was the right temperature plus you can’t sleep while holding a bottle. And then it took me ages to fall asleep again. And all the extra dishes and cleaning during the day…

    But – and that is my point – I never had any major issues with BF. I imagine how miserable I felt having to bottle feed is exactly how mums feel when BF doesn’t work for them.

    Sasha

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