11 things you should never say to a formula-feeding mum

Jessica Bosco
Jessica Bosco
Jessica is a writer, editor and professional wrangler of two boys. Working in women's lifestyle publishing for over 15 years she has written about everything from fashion and beauty to royal weddings and true crime. These days she loves helping parents navigate pregnancy and the early years of raising little ones...
Created on Sep 25, 2023 · 4 mins read

I’ll never forget when a friend of mine welcomed her beautiful new baby into the world, only to be reduced to tears by a midwife just hours later for not breastfeeding her child. Had the midwife taken a moment to speak with her before stepping onto her soapbox, she would have realised my friend had lost part of her breast in an accident when she was younger and therefore her body did not produce milk. Breastfeeding for her was not a choice, it wasn’t even an option.

And while yes, breastfeeding is the ideal option where possible, a fed child is the most important thing.

Breastfeeding is a challenging and emotional experience for many mothers, often involving difficulty, doubt, and pain. Despite entering into it with good intentions and high expectations, it’s not always feasible to breastfeed. Factors like low milk supply, a baby who can’t latch, a physical or medical condition of the mother, or simply a decision to stop can all be reasons why breastfeeding isn’t possible. Fortunately, we are lucky to have various options nowadays to ensure that our babies can still thrive.

So while you might feel strongly about breastfeeding, or it came so easily to you and you feel like you’re helping with your advice – remember that most mums who have moved from breastfeeding to formula feeding (or have not breastfed at all) have done so because they didn’t have an easy time and they’re often grappling with their own sense of failure without you needing to make them feel even worse.

Keep in mind that if a mother is unable to breastfeed due to medical reasons or personal choice, she may experience feelings of guilt and inadequacy. These negative emotions can further exacerbate symptoms of PPD. So, before you add your two cents or share your own personal experiences, stop and think about how your words, however well intentioned, might make the person you’re speaking to feel.

11 things you should NEVER say to a formula-feeding mum:

  1. Breast is best
  2. Breastfeeding came so naturally to me
  3. You won’t bond with your baby if you don’t breastfeed
  4. Formula feeding is the easy option
  5. At least your boobs won’t be ruined like mine are
  6. Your boobs are so big I’m surprised/You boobs are so small I’m not surprised
  7. Have you tried doing it this way?
  8. Do you know what’s in that formula you’re feeding your baby?
  9. Formula will make your baby fat
  10. How will you lose the baby weight if you don’t breastfeed
  11. Couldn’t go without the booze hey?

And here are a few things you SHOULD say:

  1. Well done, you are doing an awesome job!
  2. Is there anything you need/want me to help with?
  3. You look amazing
  4. Well done on making the right choice for you and your family
  5. You have NOTHING to feel bad/guilty/ashamed about
  6. Your baby is so lucky to have you

The truth of the matter is that parenting can be hard enough as it is, without people chirping up about things that, frankly, have nothing to do with them! Unfortunately, in the age of social media, everyone not only has an opinion, but feels entitled and emboldened to share it.

However, whether a person chooses to exclusively breastfeed, use a combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding, a combination of breastfeeding and formula feeding or exclusive bottle feeding, is a choice that they should feel comfortable making without judgement.

If you, yourself are a formula feeding parent, here are a few tips for for how to drown out the noise and feel confident in your feeding journey.

Surround yourself with support. Seek out other formula-feeding parents, either in person or online, who can offer support, advice, and encouragement. It’s also essential to find a pediatrician who is supportive of formula feeding and can answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Take control of your feeding choices. Do your research and choose a formula that works best for you and your baby. There are many different types of formula available, including organic, hypoallergenic, and soy-based. You can also choose between ready-to-use, liquid concentrate, or powdered formula. Finding the right formula can help you feel more confident in your feeding choices.

Lastly, practice self-care. Being a parent, whether you’re breastfeeding or formula feeding, can be exhausting and stressful. Taking time for yourself to relax, exercise, or pursue hobbies can help you feel more confident, energised, and fulfilled. Remember that a happy and healthy parent is essential for a happy and healthy baby – and don’t let any of the critics out there let you feel otherwise.

PS – you’re doing amazing!

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