Baby Led Weaning

Growing healthy babies with healthy appetites

More Tina. It’s like I’m obsessed with Tina. Tina veh funny on bfing and formula…

more from Bossypants.

I have to say, however, that much of the Guardian article is deadly. I love her anyway.



Breastfeeding v formula

Invented in the mid-19th century as a last-ditch option for orphans and underweight babies, packaged infant formula has since been perfected to be a complete and reliable source of stress and shame for mothers. Anyone who reads a pregnancy book knows that breast milk provides nutrition, immunities and invaluable bonding time. The breast is best.

When I was pregnant for the first time I asked my mother for advice. “Don’t even try it,” she said. This is a generational difference. This is the same woman who told me to request “twilight sleep” during delivery. (Twilight sleep is the memory-erasing pain medication that doctors gave women in the 1950s whenever they had to take a baby out or put a body snatcher in.)

As a member of Generation X, I was more informed, more empowered, and I knew that when it came to breast-feeding I had an obligation to my baby to pretend to try.

There are a lot of different opinions as to how long one should breastfeed. The World Health Organisation says six months. The American Association of Paediatrics says one year is ideal. Mothering magazine suggests you nurse the child until just before his wedding rehearsal. I say you must find what works for you. For my little angel and me the magic number was about 72 hours.

We tried the football hold, the cross-cradle hold, and one I like to call the Bret Michaels, where you kind of lie over the baby and stick your breast in its mouth to wake it up. We didn’t succeed, so that first night the nurses gave my little one some formula without asking. I tried to be appalled, but I was pretty tired. Once we got home, we tried again. I abandoned all vanity, as one must, and parked it shirtless on the couch. Here we experienced another generational difference.

Gen X wanted to succeed at this so she could tell people she did it, and little Gen Z wanted me to hand over that goddamn formula, and she was willing to scream until she got it.

One of my 500 nicknames for my daughter is Midge, which is short for Midget, because she was a very small baby. She was born a week early and a little underweight at 5lb 7oz. My obstetrician suggested the next day at her bedside visit that perhaps I hadn’t rested enough during my pregnancy and that was why she was so small. “What a cunt,” I thought to myself in what was either a flash of postpartum hormones or an accurate assessment of my doctor’s personality.

So we started supplementing Midge regularly with formula. She was small and I didn’t want her to get any smaller while I mastered the ancient art of breastfeeding to prove how incredible and impressive I am. Of course, I still provided her with breast milk. You must, must, must provide them with breast milk. You owe it to your baby to get them that breast milk. Here’s how it works.

If you choose to not love your baby enough to breastfeed, you can pump your milk using a breast pump. I chose to pump every two hours while watching episodes of the HBO series Entourage. Over the whir of the milking machine, I could almost hear my baby being lovingly cared for in the other room while Turtle yelled across an SUV, “Yo E, you ever fuck a girl while she has her period?” I was able to do this for almost seven weeks before running out of Entourage episodes and sinking into a deep depression.

Shortly thereafter, we made the switch to an all-formula diet. If you’ve ever opened a can of infant formula mix, then you know it smells like someone soaked old vitamins in a bucket of wet leaves, then dried them in a hot car.

Also, formula is like $40 a can. They keep it locked up behind the counter with the batteries and meth ingredients. That’s how bad people want this stuff!

However, the baby was thriving. I was no longer feeling trapped, spending 30 out of every 90 minutes attached to a Williams-Sonoma Tit Juicer. But I still had an overwhelming feeling of disappointment. I had failed at something that was supposed to be natural.

I was defensive and grouchy whenever the topic came up. At a party with a friend who was successfully nursing her little boy, I watched her husband produce a bottle of pumped breast milk that was the size of a Big Gulp. It was more milk than I had produced in my whole seven weeks – I blame Entourage. As my friend’s husband fed the baby, he said offhandedly, “This stuff is liquid gold. You know it actually makes them smarter?” “Let’s set a date!” I screamed. “IQ test. Five years from today. My formula baby will crush your baby!” Thankfully, my mouth was so full of cake they could not understand me.

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37 Responses to “More Tina. It’s like I’m obsessed with Tina. Tina veh funny on bfing and formula…”

  1. joszefja says:

    In tears at the “Bret Michaels hold”. I know it well and it has dislodged many a blocked duct — we call it “low-hanging fruit” at our house, though. I also died at the “Williams-Sonoma Tit Juicer”. Tina Fey is a funny lady and I will now proceed to buy her book, using the Amazon link above. :)

  2. Aitch says:

    oooh, you need to explain Bret Michaels to the UK massive, i think.

  3. joszefja says:

    Hmmm… what’s UK-ese for a past-his-prime 80’s “rock” “star”, allowed by the endless proliferation of cable channels and resulting need for scores of new shows to imagine himself much, much more sexy/interesting/hair-covered than he is by creating a stable of sad, damaged women willing to grossly debase themselves in hopes of dating him and/or having 15 minutes of fame via a reality dating show? Do those twins from Bros. have a reality show where women have suggestive hot dog eating competitions in order to win midway trinkets from them?

    Also, that’s a really long sentence. I may be slightly tipsy on account of shockingly early baby bedtime. Wikipedia “Rock of Love” for best answer.

  4. Aitch says:

    oh i see. a musician. ;-D i had assumed him to be, based both on TF’s description and my own miserable bfing experiences, some sort of american football player.

  5. Wallis says:

    I don’t understand why some women cannot breastfeed, and what happened to all those babies whose mothers couldn’t breastfeed before the mid-19th century. Am not knocking formula feeders, with all that is expected of todays women sometimes it is a necessity, but I’d like someone to explain what the problem is when someone says they cannot feed – no milk is produced, baby can’t suckle, or what?

    • Aitch says:

      In my case it seems to have been a conflict with some medication and also possible complications of having PCOS, so what happened to me is that despite the baby suckling okaaaaay (not brilliantly in case of dd1) and me pumping round the clock, i just couldn’t get my supply up to exclusive levels. I did batter on for about four months in both cases, though, probably at the cost of my sanity. And the infant mortality rate was horrific before the mid-19th century…
      This is a brilliant website, showing that there were baby bottles and pap feeders throughout history, so it doesn’t look like everything was rosy in the garden until formula was invented. I knew an elderly person who talked of having a cow set aside to feed the baby as a matter of course, for example, and that was at the turn of the last century.

  6. Victoria says:

    Wallis, before the advent of formula the babies would have died or they were fed by relatives (in cases where there was more communal living), were fed cows or goats milk or for wealthy families a wet nurse was hired.

    The reasons why a particular mother and baby can’t feed can be either of the reasons you mention or a combination. Sometimes there isn’t enough milk or sometimes the latch is a problem which can be for all sorts of reasons. If the latch is a problem for long enough then there won’t be enough milk as the mother’s body will stop producing it if it’s not being taken by the baby.

    I think it is also made more difficult that we are generally less comfortable with our bodies and feeding in public than previous generations and many women will not have seen anyone breastfeed before they try to do it themselves – there’s a world of difference between knowing how it ought to happen and trying to do it yourself. I’m sure the tension of trying and failing in the early days also makes the whole thing harder.

    For us it was a combination of a very impatient baby who was born with a lot of head control so was hard to keep him in the right area plus other problems, supply was fine but latch was pretty much impossible, we tried for a couple of months then went to exclusive pumping for seven months – I’m still a bit sad it didn’t work out but that’s more for me than for him – he’s fine :-)

  7. ben's mom says:

    reply to Wallis:
    google wetnurse; that is what helped for moms who could breastfeed; that, or infant mortality
    and I laughed till crying after Tina said that Mothering Magazine recommends breastfeeding until shortly before the wedding rehearsal!

  8. Trudi says:

    Victoria, I think you hit the nail on the head with your afterthought. We live in a society that just can’t handle it. For all the ‘breast is best’ propaganda, as a breast feeder you feel in the minority. People just can’t handle seeing a mother feed her baby with her boob. Its easier to find it difficult (and it can be in the first few weeks) than deal with not just strangers in public places, but a lot of the time your own family. There are five men incIuding my father and brother not comfortable with my feeding my baby. They keep asking when am I going to express or wean even?! This was when she was only 8 or so wks old. Then you have the going back yo work conundrum. A friend has recently started formula because of this, and expressed embarrassment at expressing in an all male environment. Best to switch to formula. In my head I’m screaming nooooo! I know there is and always has been a small minority that struggles. Back in the 19th century infant mortality rate was due to poor diets of the mother in general amongst a myriad of other problems not to do with ‘not enough milk’. Tina Fey’s article was funny and I guess reassuring to those that found it hard. But nothing in life is always easy.
    As it seems to be. Fact:- breastfeeding hurts

    • Aitch says:

      the infant mortality rate was, however, that only 2 out of every 10 babies made it to toddlerhood, and the previous poster had cited that period as something of a golden age.

      sorry that the chaps in your family are proving a drag, certainly i’d hope that the next generation of boys will be less squeamish but who knows? well done on keeping up bfing under pressure but can i just say, and i mean this with such kindness, this business of ‘nothing in life is always easy’ makes it sound like you think that some people ‘who found it hard’ just didn’t try as hard as you. is that what you think?

      and bfing never, ever hurt me. not once.

  9. Trudi says:

    Sorry I submitted before finishing my very long point. I wanted to say breastfeeding hurts and it’s practically a round the clock job. There is no sleeping through the night. And if you feel you don’t have enough milk it just means they hang off your boob for longer. We live in such a controlled society that this is hard for us to fathom. Instead of help and reassurance we are me with pressure from all sides. Women are against other women. Each sticking with the club they know best. I feel sad when I hear negative comments about breasfeeding because it is such a natural thing and I think out complicated fast paced material world doesn’t allow or tolerate it. I recently went to an audition and left my baby with a friend for an hour the friend breast fed my baby. My siste was horrified. I think it’s sad that we’ve become so estranged from the self. That the natural is the abnormal. Bring back wet nurses is what I say, then if you run into difficulty someone else can give the milk and make a living from it instead of big business churning out the ever faithful formula. I hope I haven’t offended anyone. I just had a lot of negativity lately surrounding feeding and I felt the need to speak up.

  10. Trudi says:

    Umm I never said the 19th century was a ‘golden age’. I also didn’t mean that people ‘don’t try hard enough’ what I said or meant was it is difficult and I think mothers especially new ones aren’t aware of the difficulty until they are there with a new born and it can be very overwhelming. I think for warned is forearmed, I you are aware of the problems/difficulties it maybe easier to navigate.

  11. Aitch says:

    oh i see. well it really didn’t hurt me at all, i kind of wish it had because then i might have had a clue as to what was going wrong. perfect latch, twice, no tongue tie, twice, not anxious at all, in fact bfcs all promised i was ‘a natural’. it’s just that i didn’t produce enough milk either time, despite pumping, taking domperidone etc etc etc. if the milk-producing cells ain’t there, they ain’t there.
    do you mind if i ask where you are in the world? hope you did well in your audition, i totally agree with you that the idea of being okay with feeding your baby formula (i am, and i did) but NOT someone else’s breastmilk is a bit screwy, to say the least. more milk banks would be a start.

  12. Aitch says:

    no no, you didn’t say it was a golden age, Wallis kinda did, further up, when she said “I don’t understand why some women cannot breastfeed, and what happened to all those babies whose mothers couldn’t breastfeed before the mid-19th century.” it might have been a golden age for bfing but it sure as hell wasn’t for babies. ;-D

    anyway, i dunno about us being told that it’ll be easy, you know. if anything, sometimes i wonder if the message is that it’ll be too difficult. maybe we are getting different health messages though?

    what we really need, what we ALL need, all over the world, is a woman who has done it, who knows about bfing, who is kind and smiley and compassionate and who will Do The Dishes and bring us cups of tea and dvds and biscuits during those early weeks, while we get our heads round it all. How reasonable this is for a government to provide i don’t know, but in Norway they send new families to a baby hotel with room service and hot and cold running bfcs so that they can recover and establish bfing. this seems very civilised to me.

  13. Eleanor says:

    This is interesting – small study of mothers in Tower Hamlets and Hackney and their attitudes to breastffeding before and after having their first baby.

    “Breast feeding involves performing a practical skill, often with others present. The knowledge, confidence, and commitment necessary to breast feed may be more effectively gained through antenatal apprenticeship to a
    breastfeeding mother than from advice given in consultations or from books.”

  14. Trudi says:

    Ah right gotcha. We definitely need that. It is to do with our lifestyle. It’s hard for us to let go and just be. I got used to carrying her attached to breast to grab me some more of that Madeira cake! I read somewhere that these two women would take it in turns to go to each others house. They’d make a day of cooking, cleaning, feeding, napping. Very civilised cups a tea a go go. And each house got it’s weekly clean! No pressure, one was a formula feeder the other a breast feeder all batting from the same team of ‘support the Mum’. Anyone live in Se1, my house is falling apart since having The Mabyn!?

  15. Aitch says:

    That sounds great, doesn’t it? hey listen, why don’t you come on the forum and hang out, god knows there are Londoners-a-go-go on there, maybe you can work a jedi mind-trick on them and get someone to come clean your gaff?

  16. Trudi says:

    Aitch, I only just read your other post. Bermondsey. Lol my sister was horrified at my friend feeding my baby. It doesn’t bother me but I can see how others would be grossed out by it. I got the audition the Birdseye ad with the Polar Bear, wreaking havoc in my kitchen. Took the mabyn and mother in law with, because I’m afraid of my ‘express’ machine. So where boob goes she does at mo. Wise words Eleanor, other mums are better than a book. Like everything you take what you need and discard the rest.

  17. Aitch says:


    So are we going to see you ON THE TELLY?

  18. Psychomummy says:

    Maybe coming a bit late to this, but my LO just didn’t read the manual on how to feed (she was 3 weeks early, maybe she didn’t get to that chapter…) She was HUNGRY and I had GALLONS of milk (much of it cascaded down the front of my new Tesco jammies in the Post natal ward) but she just didn’t know how to stay latched on. I didn’t know she wasn’t doing it right, so we went home after two days. Then on day four, the midwife realised she had lost 16% of her birthweight and was dehydrated so off we popped back to the hospital to “learn” to breastfeed. In the interim, I had to pump and bottle feed but eventually, with the help of nipple shields, we got there. One of the midwives, at my blackest point (somewhere around 3am on day six) told me that breastfeeding required “sheer bloodymindedness” and I am inclined to think she was right – if things don’t go well to begin with (like you, Aitch, you lucky lady!) then you have to be stubborn as hell t get it to work! And a lot of folk nowadays just don’t see the point in stressing themselves out…however, I believe all that sterilising and measuring would’ve stressed me out far more (i.e. I am a lazy, slovenly cow). I must say though, I feel really disappointed when people say they tried bfeeding but gave up. Think I have latent lactivist tendencies…..

    P.S. Loving the “Brett Michaels” description…I thought he was a wrestler though???

  19. Aitch says:

    So did I! who ARE we thinking of?
    Re the luck thing, though, i think of myself as pretty unlucky on that score because i never managed with either child to conquer the exclusive feeding thing. (well with dd2 i thought i had for a week but she lost weight and being a preemie didn’t have any to spare so…)
    i was as stubborn as all get-out, hand on heart… just sometimes that isn’t enough, for a gazillion reasons. and for a lot of people being a new parent is enough of a sledgehammer blow that fighting a battle on another front is not possible. i feel sad for the woman i was, tbh, making myself miserable trying to crack breastfeeding. plenty of people tried to tell me that it wasn’t the most important thing in the world, but it really felt like it was. i wonder what i’d say to myself now, if i could go back in time knowing what i know now? and i wonder if i would listen?

  20. Psychomummy says:

    I only actually feel disappointed when I don’t know the facts….being the milk-gushing creature that I was, I didn’t realise that some women can’t produce a lot of milk and I didn’t realise til VERY recently that some women can’t express (cos I’d been doing it since Quiglet was 4 days old!) I did freak out when they gave her my milk in a bottle in the hospital, though “Oh, she’ll get nipple confusion and she’ll never feed direct from me” – that turned out to be rubbish – DD was (and still is) so hungry she doesn’t care how her milk is delivered, booby or bottle…luckily for me. So maybe I was the lucky one, after all. It is terrible that us mummies stress ourselves out about the whole feeding nonsense – as long as the baby is getting fed, who cares?!

    I have to say, that the midwives did a sterling job helping me out and that anyone having latch problems should try nipple shields and to hell with the folk who frown upon them, those little rubber buggers saved me a lot of heartache! I think the Norwegians definitely have the right idea, though. If I hadn’t gone back to hospital for 4 days and had the support that I did, I would’ve gone running for the formula, in spite of all the faff.

    I would’ve made a great wet-nurse back in the golden age….

  21. joszefja says:

    (Psychomummy, you’re thinking of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Not that I know anything at all, absolutely nothing, about professional wrestling (lying through her teeth emoticon)…)

  22. Psychomummy says:

    AHaaaaa!!! Thanks, joszefja you are right, I am thinking of Brett “The Hitman” Hart and his buddy (or was Shawn Michaels his rival? Depends on what week you watched the wrestling, I think…)Not that I know anything about professional wrestling either….ahem…

  23. Joy says:

    She says the WHO recommends reastfeeding for six months.. It’s actually 2 years. :)

  24. liz says:

    I just want to clarify something in regards to a reference Tina made. The WHO organization says:

    “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

    I know she didn’t intend for the article to be super factual and that there is plenty of (great) hyperbole, but I am a stickler for facts, so…. :)

  25. liz says:

    Dammit. I didn’t see Joy’s comment. Doh!

  26. Pagea says:

    “She was small and I didn’t want her to get any smaller while I mastered the ancient art of breastfeeding to prove how incredible and impressive I am.”

    You see, this is the problem – that bf’ing is held up as some badge of honour, something you should get a medal for, but it’s not – it’s just normal. If women felt less pressured they might get on better. Breast isn’t best, it’s just normal. We are lucky to have formula as a backup, in place of wet nursing as in times gone by and neither “camp” should be made to feel guilty or ashamed of their chosen feeding method. However, the choice must be informed and I don’t think people are fully aware of the benefits/risks because it’s not ok to say things like “your baby is more likely to die if you ff” in case it upsets people. BFing can be hard to start with, but it isn’t always (6 weeks of agony with DD,not a wince of pain with DS) and women need better support to get it right. It’s not FFers who should feel guilty, it’s society and the government.

    • Aitch says:

      I wonder, though, if she went into bfing thinking of it as some incredible thing… i didn’t. to me, as someone who saw people bf growing up, it did seem normal, however i was nevertheless utterly cack at it. what i recognise in that piece is the hurt she felt at not being able to do it (despite her protestations to the contrary), and i am inclined to think that the ‘ancient art/incredible/impressive’ line is a bit of mental retro-engineering on her part.

  27. ails says:

    Just read this and I agree with previous posters about the pressure on women to bf.
    My baby is 6 weeks old and I gave up breastfeeding last week after 5 weeks of what felt like torture. I really feel like I gave it my best shot but still felt guilty initially. DS has a bubble palette, a shallow latch, very narrow lips and my large boobies all combined to make things difficult from the outset. This meant my milk supply was poor and he lost weight and then wasnt putting any on, in fact he lost a bit more. I pumped, took domperidone, demand fed him and still he wasnt gaining weight. I started topping him up with expressed milk but as he wanted to eat so much I couldnt keep up with his demand to either have time to pump or pump enough to top him up. I went to 5 different bf clinics, hired a private lactation consultant, got him checked for tongue tie and after all this hour after hour me and him were sat feeding. All I thought about was breastfeeding, I began to dread him waking up as I had to feed him and on occasion I got angry at him and swore at him in my exhaustion and frustration. At this point I thought it was getting ridiculous, I felt I was going to lose my mind and not once in his short 5 weeks of life did I enjoy actually having a baby.
    So we switched to formula and after initial guilt he began to thrive putting on a pound in a week. My guilt soon went, I started to smile again and finally had the chance to fall in love with my baby.

    Also just to say the whole way through pregnancy I was encouraged to breastfeed but nobody ever told me that it may be natural but its not bloody easy! and the amount of ocnflicting advice I got from different midwives, health visitors, doctors was ridiculous.

    I would now never judge anyones decisions around their children as we as mothers should be allowed to follow our instincts without guilt.

    Thanks for such a balanced non judgmental discussion :)

  28. […] found the chapter about breastmilk and formula particularly entertaining, especially the part about using a nursing position she called the Bret Michaels, “where you […]

  29. Zahara says:

    Just wanted to thank eleanor for the BMJ link really interesting. Plus say this is the first time I’ve ever heard people who BF and those who FF being empathetic and actually coming across as united. Every other time feeding an infant is discussed it’s “everyone in their camp, shields up”!
    Pagea I’ve never heard it put better breast isn’t best it’s normal, thats what the slogan should be. In a world where BF was normal, breast wouldn’t be sex toys, mothers who can’t BF wouldn’t feel bad and BF mothers wouldn’t feel like outsiders/saints (depending on thier ego).

    • Aitch says:

      I’m proud of the support that we show each other on this site on that issue, I really am, so thanks very much for your post.

  30. Bitsy says:

    A little late to the game, but responding to the the issue of women who can’t breastfeed:

    For me, I believe it was an issue of medical interventions in most American hospitals (it sounds like most of you are British? not sure what the birthing situation is like over there). My baby was still comfortably in the womb at 41 weeks, and my OB practice “strongly encourages” induction at this point. I was dilated to 2 cm and almost fully effaced, so I assumed the induction would take pretty easily. Needless to say, I had every intervention in the book and ended up with a c-section after 30 hours of labor and only progressing to 5 cm.

    Baby was alert, had a pretty good latch, and a very strong suckling reflex, but I think my body was just dealing with so much (fluid retention from 2 days of i.v. fluids only, no food or water for those two days, healing from labor AND surgery, stress over having surgery and originally wanting a unmedicated/natural childbirth) that my milk was delayed in coming in.

    By day 6, I still had not experienced any sort of feeling that I was producing milk. Baby was feeding on demand and I sometimes actually woke her to eat if it got to be longer than 2 hours. Her number of wet diapers was really low (I think one the entire day?) and her weight was down considerably (more than the recommended 10%). We started supplementing, I started pumping and taking fenugreek, domperidone (here in the states at least) was way too cost prohibitive, and I eventually started producing SOME milk, but never enough to keep up with her. I eventually stopped pumping at 6 weeks because it was putting unnecessary stress on our relationship.

    I would have LOVED to have had a wet nurse or friend or milk or SOMETHING at my disposal rather than paying over $100/month for formula (even if it cost the same amount, I know it would be so much better for her). But that’s not the reality of American culture now. I hope by the time my daughter is ready to become a mom, it’s closer to reality.

    • Jenn says:

      There are ways to reach wet nurses or women willing to sell or donate their pumped milk. It is a buyer beware situation if you don’t buy from an actual milk ‘bank’, but you can find people. I think I looked at to see if there was a need for wet nursing near me. Didn’t find anyone in need but I was a willing nurser.

  31. mary says:

    “If you’ve ever opened a can of infant formula mix, then you know it smells like someone soaked old vitamins in a bucket of wet leaves, then dried them in a hot car.” Urgh!

    Come on.. no mum’s going to choose formula feeding unless they’ve had a pretty rough ride with bfing, plus $100 per month – er, that’s £50 isn’t it? Child benefit down the drain…

    I say as mums we’re way too judgmental of each other (and society as a whole is pretty judgmental of us, but don’t get me started on that). Check out my blog post “The Bottle or the boob let’s stop judging and start supporting”

    (Please excuse the shameless self promotion.. but it is pretty relevant to Tina’s piece :) )

    • Aitch says:

      well that’s not true at all, there are plenty of mums who don’t want to bf and never once tried, as is emphatically their right. all i care about is that if we want to do it, we are supported properly, to be honest.

      Also, my experience in real life and on this site would suggest that in fact mothers aren’t really particularly judgemental of each other. the tabloids might be interested in whipping up a bitch-fest to sell newspapers, but for the most part everyone i meet seems pretty reasonable and live-and-let-live. So we agree, in essence, Mary, except that i think that this line that ‘we are all too judgemental’ actually falls into a bit of a trap itself.

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