Breaking the silence around formula feeding

There are a couple of things that society has come to agree upon as relates to infant nutrition: breast is best and formula manufacturers have no place advertising in hospitals or anywhere else. But there is one more agreement equally as important: a parent’s right to choose.

Parents’ choices, particularly the mom’s, are sacrosanct and as long as these decisions are evidenced based and not influenced in any way through advertising (not even through the covert techniques of baby milestone posters courtesy of the formula company that were once standard in clinics and maternity wards) or medical staff, this right should never be undermined.

“Some hospitals view formula in the same way they view the mom’s meals: as vital nutrition that is included in the overall hospital package. Others may charge for formula, so double-check to prevent any unwanted surprises.”

Regardless of these agreements, moms today opting for formula feeding are often shamed when requesting one in hospital or pulling out the bottle in public. No mom should ever be made to feel guilty about her choice. What she needs instead is information: what would the best brand be for her baby; what are the safe practices she should follow and how much should she expect to pay?

Antenatal information

Marié van Heerden, clinic manager at Genesis Maternity Clinic says that while Life Healthcare adopts a “breast is best” policy “we do, however, understand that every woman’s journey to motherhood is different, and there are circumstances where formula feeding is necessary.”

Regardless of whether this is your first or fourth baby, all expectant moms should attend antenatal classes and seek information from clinic sisters who are well informed and up to date on research and can provide evidence-based information. All clinic sisters are required to abide by the Tshwane Declaration for support of breastfeeding and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative to encourage breastfeeding. However, formula feeding will also be discussed with those moms who are leaning towards it so that they can make an informed choice and know what safety practices to follow.

Asking for a bottle at hospital

If you are birthing at a state hospital, the staff may deny having any formula at all on the premises and many moms report that the formula they bring in themselves was confiscated. The only time the nurses may relent and allow formula (and bring it out of storage) is if the mother is not producing breast milk. In this case, babies will be cup-fed rather than bottle fed.

At private facilities, just as with state facilities, all moms will be encouraged to let their babies latch. However, if the mother has made an informed or medical choice to formula feed, her choice will be respected. Typically, the milk kitchens stock two brands of formula and these are prepared under clinical standards for hygiene. If you do intend to formula feed, however, purchasing your own pre-mixed formula may be a good idea as it eliminates the need to mix and ensures a high level of safety. The open tin of formula in a milk kitchen may be a petri dish for germs if one staffer is negligent, although most hospital staff are aware of and implement the required safety standards.

Two-week check-up  

Netcare’s Stork’s Nest clinics encourage moms to bring in their babies for a check-up at two weeks. At this stage, babies who are having difficulty digesting milk proteins in the formula may benefit from a change in formula. The clinic sisters are well informed and will suggest alternatives but will still try and persuade the mom to consider breastfeeding, as this is definitely the best for babies who are having digestive difficulties. Whether or not you have a scheduled appointment at two weeks, if your baby shows any sign of intolerance to the milk, see the paediatrician or a clinic sister.

Who pays for those bottles at hospital?

Some private hospitals and Discovery Health Medical Scheme view formula in the same way they view the meals that the mom consumes in hospital – as vital nutrition that is included in the overall hospital package. However, if the facility bills for formula, Discovery will cover the cost. Other healthcare facilities may give parents a list of items to bring in for birth and formula will appear on the list. For those who may require it from the milk kitchens, the charges may appear on the hospital bill. To prevent any unwanted surprises when receiving the hospital bill, it is best to clarify this with the accounts department and their medical aid beforehand.

Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and personal brand preference of the content author and has in no way been paid for or sponsored. BabyYumYum reserves the right to its opinions and fully supports the notion of promotion that breast is best in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) infant feeding guidelines http://www.who.int/topics/infant_nutrition/en/. Breast milk is the best food for infants. Good maternal nutrition is essential to prepare and maintain breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not applied, an infant formula may be used according to the advice of healthcare professionals. Preparation and storage of any infant formula should be performed as directed on the tin in order not to pose any health hazards.

Also read:

The history of formula
Donor breast milk or formula feeding? Information is your key to informed choices