Friday, September 3, 2010


Formula is gross.

I've been exclusively breastfeeding for the three weeks since he arrived and lately have noticed some changes in Dom's behavior that have led me to think about supplementing. I am a believer in the whole 'breast is best' thing, but as is the case for the way I feel more generally about pregnancy, birth, and parenting, I don't feel the need to be a purist about it. I'm a huge fan of breastfeeding, but I'm not too conflicted about the idea of giving the baby formula as a supplement.

This week he went from going straight to sleep after every feeding to getting really fussy after being put down at least half the time. He'd seem sleepy at first so I'd put him in his crib only to discover via video monitor that a few minutes later he'd start sucking on his hands and smacking his lips. And then he'd start crying or fussing. Then wailing. So I'd try to breastfeed him more but I doubt (based on my experience pumping after feeding) that there was anything left. One of several things could be happening, I figure. He might still be hungry either because I'm not producing enough milk or because he's going through a growth-spurt and my supply hasn't caught up. He might be colicky, but I don't think so because he can be soothed pretty easily by putting a boob or a pacifier in his mouth or sometimes even just picking him up and talking to him. Finally, he might just be growing out of that newborn "amoeba" stage and actually require a little more awake time and stimulation, more attention - he may be realizing the difference between how nice it feels to be held and how lonely it feels to be left in his crib.

All signs pointed to 'still hungry' though because no matter what soothing, or distracting, or attention-giving steps we took he still ultimately reverted to sucking on whatever he could reach and fussing when he realized that none of those things was a boob. So I decided to fix him a bottle of formula last night. Some work friends mentioned a useful rule of thumb: If they still seem hungry after a feeding, try formula and if they drink more than 2oz they probably were hungry. If they drink less than that, there are probably other reasons for the fussing.

I chose Similac because I had a couple free samples. As unreasoned and uneducated as that rationale is, I actually hear it a lot. Genius campaign. Whoever figured out how to get those little canisters into every hospital giftbag and to mysteriously appear in the mailboxes of new moms everywhere is a genius. I've never gotten a free sample of any other types of formula which makes me wonder if Similac has some kind of injunction preventing it.

Anyway, I opened the can and just about puked. It smelled awful. I triple checked the expiration date, I knew I had examined the seal on the can just before opening, but there you have it. It smelled like rotting plastic. I couldn't believe that that's what it was supposed to smell like so I opened the second canister to compare. The second one was equally as nasty. I proceeded to mix it. Still smelled absolutely awful. By this time I felt a little sick. I started to wonder if I had stored it at the wrong temperature and what was I about to do to my poor tiny baby?! I tasted a few drops, not too bad. So I fed Dom a little. He wasn't into it. I tasted a little more, an actual sip this time. Undrinkable. I continued to worry that maybe it was tainted and pictured a story on the news about new recalls for potentially fatal contamination and then I googled and realized...this is normal. WTF?

I'm not sure what I expected, something like ensure I guess. Why not make it a little sweeter - babies need calories, right? Or make it at least neutral. Like milk. I don't expect them to throw in butter pecan flavoring or anything but it must be possible to make this stuff palatable. Anything less offensive than "toilet scum." Upon learning that formula really just tastes that bad it started to make sense that it would smell like crushed up vitamins and minerals. I also saw a few things online about how babies don't have taste buds or the nipple goes so far back in their throat that they don't taste anything. I don't know how plausible these explanations are but apparently masses of babies don't mind this funky stuff for one reason or another.

Like I said Dom wasn't into it. He got this scowly look on his face and spit the nipple out after a sip each time. He's had bottled breastmilk before so it wasn't the bottle. Either he was as grossed out as I was or he wasn't hungry or it was the wrong temperature - he was screaming by the time I got the bottle ready so it wasn't properly warmed. But again, he's had lukewarm breastmilk so I don't think the temperature explains everything either.

I had hoped that our first foray into formula would be more successful. This is only my second post of the new blog and I think I've already mentioned that I love wine. I have severe guilt about drinking and breastfeeding this early, however, and formula could help with that. DH also gets a kick out of feeding and pumping isn't working very well while I'm also breastfeeding round-the-clock so formula could help with that too. Not as a replacement for breastfeeding by any means but a couple times a week maybe. Now I'm not so sure. Perhaps we'll try again when I regain my stomach.


  1. I remember formula from when my half-sister vomited it up when she was a baby. Ever since then, just the mention of it has grossed me out. That is one reason I am hesitant to give B formula...because it is gross! But I definitely will use it if I need to.

    Isn't it so frustrating to not know why they are crying? I wonder if B's constant bearing down is from the caffeine I have been drinking. That is one bad thing about giving them breastmilk-that we have to be mindful of what we eat/drink. I really want a Xanax and I want to drink caffeine all day!

  2. i agree, formula smells horrible, louise is a formula baby so i get to smell it all the time. i'm surprised you only got similac samples, we got all sorts of samples, gerber, enfamil, similac, i think we even got some generic samples. and our hospital used enfamil, not similac, but i think in general it's one or the other.
    if you do have to supplement i know earth's best makes formula, maybe you should give that a try. there's also goat's milk baby formula, we never tried it so i'm not sure if it's less gross but here's a link:

  3. I agree formula smells horrible and some of it even taste (at times) like a rusted spoon.
    Unfortunately, my milk just didn't come in enough so I'm using formula. We decided to go with Enfamil. It did come with that hospital gift pack and what the hospital used and, right now Vivian seems OK.

    Glad you're doing OK!

  4. I agree formula stinks! I even told the pediatrician it was gross. I have to supplement after each feeding because the twins were preemies. Hopefully I can get away from the formula soon. Congrats on the new "space" and I love your little guy's name. So happy for you!! :)