Choosing Formula at a Baby-Friendly Hospital

A couple days ago I received an email from another employee at our hospital. She wrote to me about a concern I’m sure others have as well. I asked her if I could share our emails with all of you. Here they are below:

Hi Amy,

I have a few questions regarding the new Baby-Friendly initiative here at Memorial. As a non-breastfeeding mother to a beautiful little girl and another little bundle on the way, I am concerned about my next childbirth experience at Memorial. What does this movement mean for mothers, like me, who choose not to breastfeed? Will I be forced to nurse my new baby? Will I not be allowed to give my baby formula in the hospital? I have been trying to keep up and sort through your blog, but there is so much information 🙂 (which is great for breastfeeding moms).

Any info on this would be much appreciated. Thanks Amy.


Hi Becky,

I appreciate your email and am glad to help ease your concerns. It has been part of our Baby-Friendly mission from the very beginning to keep mothers like you in mind. The words we use are that “we want all mothers to feel golden and confident in their parenting choices.” We have also recognized that with all the extra effort toward breastfeeding, it is likely we may inadvertently upset mothers who choose to formula feed. Our goal is to be very sensitive on this point, and any input you have is welcome.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • A nurse will likely ask you about your feeding decision. It is our job to be sure people have made informed choices. You would be surprised how many people choose to formula feed because that is what their mother did, and they haven’t given any thought to breastfeeding. Some of these women have gone on to breastfeed successfully. Please pardon us if we ask you about your decision. Our goal is not to make you feel badly but to help others who do not already have the benefit of information.
  • We will encourage you to hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after delivery and often throughout your hospital stay. Babies not only feed better when cared for in this way, they also reap benefits such as better temperature regulation, improved GI flora, less stress hormone, better glucose control and effects on the brain we are only beginning to understand. The NICU has been placing premature babies skin-to-skin for 20 years because of all the benefits!
  • We will also encourage you to room together with your new baby. We used to think taking babies to the nursery helped mothers rest before going home. We now understand that mothers learn to rest with their babies and are more prepared to confidently care for their babies at home when we allow them to remain together throughout the hospital stay.
  • Formula will be provided for you while in the hospital. Myths exist that you will have to pay extra for formula. That is not true.

Please feel free to give me feedback on what you think. I’m happy to have an open discussion. Thanks for emailing.


Hi Amy,

Thanks so much for the thorough explanation. I am happy to know that my decision to formula feed my new baby will be respected by staff at Memorial.

Like you stated, I think that it is important to consider the feelings of the mothers who decide to formula feed their newborns. In my case, I have been made to feel guilty by both my mother and some friends on my informed decision to formula feed, as I know the many benefits of breastfeeding newborns. I feel that mothers who have made informed decisions to formula feed their babies need to feel like they have someone that supports their decision, and sometimes that has to be medical staff. The birthing process brings many emotions and, as you said, each woman should be made to feel confident in the choices that they make for their babies.

On the other hand, I wholeheartedly agree that women who do not have the information needed to make an informed decision have a right to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding their babies 🙂 All too often, we do what others tell us to do, or stick to what we know.

Formula feeding was the best choice for my family. Knowing that breast is best and given the decision I made not to breastfeed my child, my husband and I practiced skin-to-skin with Isla and will do the same with the new baby. Isla was diagnosed with low kidney function and grade 5 kidney reflux when she was 5 weeks old. Before her diagnosis (and after until she had her surgery) she had frequent high fevers. Skin-to-skin contact helped to regulate her temperature and calm her down in a natural way. We are firm believers in skin-to-skin contact and I love that Memorial promotes that as soon as each child is born and frequently throughout their hospital stay.

When I came in to deliver Isla, I was very firm with the R.N. who admitted me that I had made an informed decision about formula feeding my baby and I never felt offended by her words. I also felt like I had the support of staff when I was able to hear each R.N. who cared for me pass it on in bedside reporting. Honestly, it was nice to know that I came to a hospital that respected my decision. But when I heard about our steps toward being a Baby-Friendly hospital, I became more anxious about delivering another baby here and afraid that I would be frowned upon (especially given my child development background). I am so happy to hear that you all have taken into consideration the mothers who choose to formula feed their babies. I would be happy to be a resource to you if any questions arise about the sensitivities surrounding choosing to breastfeed over formula feed.

Amy, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to answer my email. I am happy to know that we are considering the sensitive issues around breast vs. formula and that all mothers are being made to feel “confident and golden” in their parenting decisions.



About blogtobabyfriendly

blogtobabyfriendly is written by Amy Murray, a Childbirth Unit nurse with a touch of earth muffin crunch. A childbirth educator and IBCLC, she's been a breastfeeding advocate all her adult life, believing that if our bodies make milk, it just makes good sense to feed it to our babies. blogtobabyfriendly is her hospital's journey to Baby-Friendly designation. Click to get email updates on new blog posts. Our desire is to learn, share, and learn more.
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5 Responses to Choosing Formula at a Baby-Friendly Hospital

  1. sshruff1 says:

    Thank you for posting this. I too have made the decision to formula feed, based on a number of factors and I am scared to death that i am going to be treated badly while in the hospital. I wonder whether it is beneficial to tell my OB and then the L&D nurse that I will not be breast-feeding and do not want to feel pressured about it due to stress/anxiety issues.

  2. Patty De Stefano says:

    It makes me sad to think you are “scared to death” you will be treated badly. If you are delivering at Memorial, we will offer education hoping you make an informed decision. We want to treat every patient we care for with respect and to be non judgmental. Our ultimate goal is to give you the best birthing experience possible – it is our privilege to share in such a special day with you. Please share with your OB your choice to formula feed and let your labor nurse know on your arrival to the Childbirth Unit. It is my hope the CBU nurses support you in your decision and you do not feel pressured to do otherwise. We take pride in being open to our patient’s desires surrounding their birth experience and advocate for you to have things as planned.

  3. Mason, Kathy L says:

    Amy…this is another great blog! I love the way you answered this mom….but I’d love to know why she chose to formula feed.

    Kathy L. Mason RNC-NIC, BSN, IBCLC
    Lactation Consultant
    Newborn Intensive Care Unit, Room 3044
    Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health
    705 Riley Hospital Drive
    Indianapolis, IN 46202
    O: 317.944.4795/P: 317.312.7768/Fax: 317-944-6666

    Discover the strength at


    “The decision to breast feed is not a lifestyle choice but rather a basic and critical health decision regarding infant welfare.” AAP Revised BF Policy, 2012 Pediatrics

  4. Stephanie says:

    Thanks for posting this! I gave birth at Memorial on April 20, 2012. I too chose to formula feed and was worried the nurses would try to pressure me into breast feeding and make me feel guilty. Not one of the nurses I encountered during my stay (or the three visits prior to my scheduled c-section) made me feel bad about my decision. Some went on to simply explain the benefits of breastfeeding while others just went on to the next thing. I do not regret my decision to formula feed and will do so again when it is time for baby number 2. Thank you Memorial for supporting me in my decision and for a wonderful birthing experience.

  5. Sarah McK says:

    So what are some reasons for choosing to formula feed despite the benefits of breastfeeding? A mother who knows she must return to work very very soon and who has a very demanding and unpredictable schedule? A communicable disease? Because I just don’t see choosing to formula feed as an equally desirable choice. More like a socially pressured default. Some women think they can’t nurse and end up being champs. Indeed, the biological default (what the body is able to do and naturally starts doing — though not necessarily without challenges!!) is nursing, and the overwhelming majority of women can successfully nurse a child to health and strength….

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