Nearly all babies in the UK receive formula milk at some point during their first year of life. Yet finding independent and factual information about formula feeding can be surprisingly difficult, as much of the material available to parents, carers and health professionals is generated by the formula industry for marketing purposes. How can parents make properly informed decisions about which brand to choose, how much to feed and when, and how to prepare products safely?
In Why Formula Feeding Matters infant feeding specialist Shel Banks tackles all these questions and many more, drawing on the evidence and her extensive experience supporting families with infant feeding to communicate essential information for anyone involved in caring for formula feeding babies.
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Essential reading, especially as a breastfeeding mum supporting parents.
It landed on my doorstep a few weeks ago now, and i ran myself a nice warm bath, jumped in and started reading. I was coming at this book from the perspective of someone who has never used formula for either of her children, not even one bottle or a single pre-made carton, however almost ALL of my friends have either exclusively or combi fed formula. I have always tried to help as much as i could with my limited knowledge, but that mostly extended to "you only need stage 1 formula", "watch YouTube videos on paced feeding", and "all formulas are the same" - but truth be told, i had NO IDEA whether any of these things were true, of just something i once read on a Facebook meme. I felt woefully inadequate in supporting some of my closest friend in their infant feeding journey, and felt guilty about that. Where to even signpost those who wish to, or make the decision to use formula in their feeding journey? Honestly, until this book came out, i had NO IDEA. Shel is an IBCLC and has a fantastic track record in helping write guidelines, as well as supporting families in their feeding journeys. Her book is easy to read and comprehend, and not only discusses evidence/lack of for things like additional ingredients (spoiler alert - there is none), and claims behind gimmick milk such as "hungry baby", but states, in plain and easy to understand terms the absolute basics of formula feeding like safe preparation, how to choose a formula, costings per year of multiple brands (correct 2021 - i was shocked at the difference between some brands), paced feeding and choosing bottles and teats. This is the stuff that we assume is easy to do "you just follow the back of the pack right?", but it's often not clear, and when you are tired, and just trying to feed your baby, you don't need to crack out the magnifying glass to read the small print on your formula can - instead you can hit up this book! Honestly, the main reason that i did everything in my power to avoid using formula had NOTHING to do with formula itself, and everything to do with feeling terrified of the process of safe preparation, and the total lack of support for the basics. There is a common belief i think, that formula feeding is "easy" in that problems rarely arise if used properly - true story, at a 3 month health visitor check up for my 2nd baby, i was told "we refuse to see formula fed babies here - it's pointless, formula is simple and rarely goes wrong" - however, given some of the common problems that my friends have experienced (constipation, reflux, CMPA for example) and the minimal support they have been given to navigate these issues, i was delighted to see a lovely chunky "troubleshooting" section for the most common problems. I think it is important to note that i am reading this book as a breastfeeding mother wishing to know how to support those around me better. I did not, and do not have a traumatic or difficult breastfeeding journey, so i was able to read this with ease and fascination, however I can imagine that for those with unresolved breastfeeding trauma, some of the discussions within the book may feel quite triggering and confronting. It is important to note that this is NOT because Shel is judgemental, AT ALL - but she presents facts, and as formula is a human milk substitute, comparisons between formula and human milk, or bottle feeding and breast/chest feeding are, quite rightly scattered throughout the book. Withholding such information from parents is at best infantilising, and at worst dangerous, as decisions are made on incomplete information. So who do i think should read this book? Anyone wishing to adequately support formula feeding families (including exclusive and combi) within their scope of practice. New parents, trying to navigate the world of formula - buy it antenatally, and consider this book as part of your antenatal breastfeeding preparation. Supplementation with formula is often suggested from within the hospital, therefore understanding your options other than formula and when and how to use formula appropriately is essential. Anyone in the middle of their feeding journey who needs more support, reassurance or troubleshooting pointers for any problems they are encountering. Thank you Shel, for writing this book - long overdue, but glad it now exists.