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Holidays and Feeding Your Baby

Well-meaning family members can make what you feed your baby feel like peer pressure.  Be confident in your choices.

If you are spending time with extended family over the holidays, you want to be able to interact with loved ones.  At the same time, you are responsible for taking care of your little one. This includes feeding them something “off-menu” depending on their age. 

While your family members’ questions and comments may be intended as well-meaning, it may actually come across as hurtful of your choice in how you feed your baby. 

Holidays are stressful enough.  You are already planning how much formula to bring and how many bottles you need to sufficiently feed your baby for the entire visit. Enjoy the time spent with family as well as sharing memories with your baby in what may be their first holiday gathering.

And if questions or statements about how you feed your baby, just pause, briefly respond, and move on.  No need for details about the tears and stress you endured with pumping or low milk supply, or even the first few days you missed because of medication after surgery that would have passed through your milk to your baby. Keep responses short and sweet unless you want to share your story with something who is ready to listen. 

Here are some common questions or statements you might hear.

“Breastfeeding is Best”

There is no doubt about it.  Breastfeeding is the best food for your baby, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it for the first six months of your baby’s life.  However, sometimes mothers have to make a choice. Maybe they nursed for the first month. Perhaps it was only the first few days.

Despite all of the best intentions, mothers will opt for baby formula for the benefit of their baby.  This does not mean that the mother has failed, and bullying a mother for not breastfeeding her baby is harsh when efforts were not helping to nourish her baby.

Instead of taking any bait, take the statement for what it is worth: a statement of fact.

Brief Responses:

  • “Absolutely!” or “I agree.”
  • “Yup, and this little one got a lot of those benefits before we weaned them onto the bottle.”

“Bottle Fed Babies Don’t Bond”

The fact that bottle fed babies do not bond as well as breastfed babies is quite subjective.  While there is a difference in skin-to-skin contact, there is still a bond between baby and parent. 

You are providing your baby with food and spending time with them. You are focused on their well-being while keeping an eye on how they feed to make sure that they are getting something out of the nipple or that it is not coming out too fast.  This is also the time that you can talk to your baby so that they are used to your voice and learning language.

The biggest difference regarding bonding between breastfeeding and bottle feeding is that your partner or childcare provider can also provide for your little one, not just the mother.

Brief Responses:

  • “This little one doesn’t complain about lack of attention, do you? (and say that to your baby so that it may invoke a toothless smile that charms the family member)
  • “Actually it gives this little baby a chance to bond with both of us (referring to your partner). They really like that.”

“Bottle Feeding Will Make Your Baby Fat”

It is another myth that bottle feeding will lead to child obesity.  While there is still research trying to prove that, a lot of times it comes from the opportunity to overfeed a baby. 

Breastfed babies feed on demand, and their demand helps with milk supply. This is what makes breastfeeding remarkable because it allows your milk supply to adapt to your baby’s needs over time.  What mothers don’t know for sure is the measurable amount of milk they are able to produce unless they pump on a regular basis. 

Bottle feeding can lead to higher weight because it is possible to feed them too much.  Babies are able to tell when they are full, but they can also drink more milk from a bottle before the brain can tell them that. 

As for the parent, you need to observe your baby for cues that they are full. If they push away the bottle or turn away from the nipple, it may be difficult to resist trying to let your baby finish the last ounce that may still be in the bottle. 

Some parents consider the cost of formula and don’t want to waste a drop. However, just from bottle feeding, your baby is not destined for obesity.

Brief Responses:

  • “I heard that myth. Breastfed babies may be leaner during the first few years, but the bottle won’t make a baby fat.  I mean, look at _____ (insert name of slender or average-sized family member who was raised on baby formula).
  • “The pediatrician is happy with their weight, and I know they will keep an eye on their growth. Thanks for your concern.”

“Isn’t Formula Expensive?”

Every family has someone who is interested in making money or how much money everyone is spending.  While breastfeeding doesn’t cost a thing, the cost of bottle feeding ensures that your baby is getting the nutrition they need when you are not able to nurse. 

Maybe your family member is asking for their own budget concerns when their family starts to grow. Maybe they are looking for the best deal. Maybe they are nosy. 

Brief Responses:

  • “It sure does cost more than breastfeeding.”
  • “It does, but babies can be expensive, and this one needs to eat.”

“There is No Difference Between Organic Baby Formula and Regular Baby Formula.”

You chose organic baby formula for whatever reason that it was important to you.  You wanted a product that was as close to breast milk as possible. You wanted a natural product that was free of synthetic ingredients and processed sugars that your baby doesn’t need.  Maybe there was an allergy concern.

You have educated yourself about the difference between conventional baby formula and organic baby formula. Your baby means that much to you.

Brief Responses:

  • “I’ve looked at the ingredients for each, and I know that I picked the right one for my baby.”
  • “Only pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and hormones from conventional baby formula that this baby doesn’t need. I’ll stick with organic.”

“What are You Feeding That Baby?  You Can’t Understand That Language on the Package.”

Curiosity may lead to a family member trying to learn more about your choice in organic baby formula.  The packaging for Hipp, Holle, Lebenswert, and Loulouka will not come in English (with the exception of Hipp UK).  They may have never seen the product because it is not sold in stores in North America.

This is your time to educate and share your praise on the best organic baby formula that you can find.

Best Response:

  • “This is from Europe. They have some of the best organic baby formula because of the strict guidelines for organic products by the European Union.  It is 99% organic and this company is a strong advocate for sustainability. They are doing a lot to make the world a better place for this little one.  I can order it online. You can too if you want some for your baby.”

Brief Response:

  • “The translation came with the product separately. I have it memorized.”

Sometimes family members will ask and comment to your partner instead, knowing that you may be sensitive to what they have to say.  Your partner may already be educated on the benefits of breastfeeding and organic baby formula, so they may respond in kind.

Remember that the family members want the best for your baby as well and will make their suggestions based on research, both professional and that which is found on the Internet.  Some family members will benefit from corrections and a brief education while others will never be willing to change their philosophies they readily share with anyone who will listen.

Never let this turn into an argument; rather change the subject so that peace and goodwill can make your season bright.

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