When I envisioned my life as a mother, my vision did not include formula. However, that perfect life I imagined for myself and my baby does not line up with the life I live today. Allow me to explain.
Throughout all of my research I came to the conclusion that breast milk was the only option. I still believe that breast is best - every Mom should at least give it a try - but I now know that formula isn't all bad. This opinion is, of course, the product of hindsight. When I was in the midst of the transition I felt like I was the worst mother ever for even considering giving Luke formula.
For the first eight weeks of his life, Luke had nothing but breast milk. He had a few bottles of pumped breast milk, but mostly he drank straight from the source. When I returned to work I was hell bent on pumping at the office so that he could still have breast milk while he was at Grandma's house. I was easily pumping 15 ounces a day and that was enough for him. That lasted until he hit a growth spurt a week later. The 15 ounces was no longer enough and I couldn't keep up with his increased demand. Just to be clear - my milk supply wasn't a problem, but I was already pumping 3 times a day for 15-20 minutes each time and I couldn't afford to be away from my desk any longer than that.
I started agonizing over what to do. Do I pump more? Work less hours? Switch him to formula? Formula seemed to be the obvious answer, but how could I do that? I was an anti-formula Mom!
The answer came to me in two ways.
First, I read this (perfectly timed) blog post and everything made so much more sense. You see I had (wrongly) learned that formula was an all-or-nothing deal. I was under the impression that if I skipped even one feeding my supply would dry up and I would be forced to switch to formula. It never occurred to me that I could give Luke formula during the day and still breastfeed him the rest of the time. Biologically, it seems similar to your body training itself to make less milk overnight as your baby learns to sleep through the night.
Even thought the blog post made me feel better, I was still on the fence. One night Steven looked at me, clearly tired of my whining on the subject, and said "It's formula, not poison! Lots of babies eat formula."
What really convinced me was this: one day I picked Luke up from Grandma's house and he was screaming. She told me he finished his bottle an hour ago and had been crying ever since because he wasn't satisfied. That was just the slap in the face I needed to make my decision.
The guilt I have over giving him formula is NOTHING compared to the guilt of watching him cry because my milk isn't enough. There is no room for pride in motherhood.
I went out that night and bought him some formula. The next day he had his 15 ounces of breast milk and then he had some formula and he didn't fuss one bit. Because he took to it so well, I backed off of pumping at work - I basically had to train my breasts to stop producing so much during the day - and now he is only fed formula at Grandma's house.
When he is at home with me he is 100% breastfed. He will get the occasional formula bottle from Steven if I am at the gym (I go 3 nights a week now, hooray for me), but I still plan my schedule around Luke's feedings so he rarely gets hungry before I return home. My body seems fine with keeping up with an erratic schedule. On weekends and Wednesdays I breastfeed him all day, then when I'm at work the other four days I get a little full, but it's not painful.
Perhaps the best benefit of using breast milk and formula is the freedom I feel. Not the freedom to be away from Luke, but the freedom to nurse him more. I had assumed that I would have to wean him completely when I go back to work full time in January. That would make sense for my life, but in terms of his development it's completely arbitrary. Now that I know I can use a combination of breast milk and formula I don't feel the need to cut him off completely in January. He can get an extra formula bottle during the day, but I can still nurse him in the morning and in the evenings. I now have the freedom to watch his cues and let him tell me when he's ready to stop nursing.
So, in a nutshell, I want to express that nothing about motherhood is black and white, especially feeding your baby. Experiment with what works for YOU and trust that your body will keep up. It's smarter than you think.