Does formula-feeding bring up mixed feelings—in yourself or from others? Here are four truths you need to know for you and your baby’s benefit.

At a time when new moms should be celebrating and enjoying time with their babies, many feel burdened by not-so-sunny feelings. What’s (unnecessarily) bringing them down? Many moms say that formula-feeding their babies makes them feel guilty, on the defensive, or even like “failures”—even though their babies are thriving and bottle-feeding has, in many cases, helped lower everyone’s stress and added welcome flexibility. In fact, recent consumer studies show that 9 out of every 10 new mothers use formula at some point during their baby's first year for a variety of reasons, including to provide extra nutrition, to share feeding duties and to facilitate returning to work.

When I found out that I would not be able to breast-feed because of the medication I was on, I was devastated. I cried on my way home from the doctor’s office, says Ann G., a new Mom in Chicago. Others talk about being frowned at or lectured when they pull out a bottle of formula.

The knowledge of what's right for you and your baby—and the confidence you need to have in that knowledge—could come from two places: from you yourself and your doctor. Whether negative reactions to formula-feeding are real or perceived and whether they come from within or others, here’s how to not let them bring you down.

Think of baby-feeding choices as options, not opposites.

The Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, and Health Canada recommend exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. Breast-feeding is the nutrition standard for babies. But, when a Mom cannot breast-feed or chooses not to breast-feed, formula-feeding is the next best alternative to breast-feeding.

Leanne H. of Waukesha, Wisconsin, who breast-fed exclusively for four months, says, “My job requires me to travel, and formula allows me to supplement feedings when I am away from my baby and Daddy is caring for her. It is a great feeling to know that she is getting the nutrition that she needs when I'm not there to provide it for her.”

Few aspects of parenting—with the exception of life-or-death matters like using car seats or giving kids toys that are choking hazards—are entirely right-or-wrong, either-or, black-or-white. Remember that every Mom-baby pair is unique and the most important factor is providing a feeding option that will contribute to your baby’s normal growth and development.

Bolster your own formula-feeding confidence level.

Thanks to decades of research and scientific advancements, today’s infant formulas are closer to breast milk than ever before and contain the nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive.

I felt like a failure as a mom about using formula, says Justine C., of Ellenville, New York “But once I did my research, I felt loads better, and my son was happy. Win win!”

Remind yourself that only you know your story.

Each family makes the choices that are right for their own situation. Before you take others’ comments to heart, pause to remember that they’re almost always coming from that person’s individual perspective. They aren't factoring in your history, lifestyle, medical story, or other factors that went into your decision to use formula. You don’t need to explain yourself, and neither do you need to invest too much in criticisms.

“There’s so much pressure to breast-feed now; sometimes it just doesn’t work out,” says new Mom Maria C of Hammond, Indiana. “I say, just do what you can—my baby is proof that formula-fed babies thrive too.”

Focus on what matters most for you and your baby.

Keep in mind that your baby is the only person you need to please. “I felt like such a failure as a mother that I could not provide for my child. I was never so emotional and unstable in all my life, and cried for days,” says Charlotte, North Carolina, Mom Antoinette P. “On day eight, I had accidentally spilled the small bottle of breast milk that I just finished pumping. I decided right then that there was 'no use in crying over spilled milk.' So that day, I switched over to bottle-feeding. Alli is healthy, happy, and growing like a weed.”

Being a good Mom comes from a combination of love, responsiveness, attention, and communication. “The choice to give up breast-feeding was neither quick nor easy,” says Lorie M. of Omaha, whose daughter spent her first days in the neonatal intensive care unit. “It really came down to understanding that every baby is different. I finally concluded that it is not breast-feeding that determines my success as a mother; it is understanding my baby’s specific needs and choosing her well-being.”

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