Parents can often feel a lot of pressure when it comes to feeding their babies.
Infant feeding tech Mallory Whitmore, a mother of two, is trying to ease some of that stress.
"My goal is that parents can feed their babies confidently, even if they're using formula," Whitmore told "Good Morning America."
Whitmore is the creator behind the popular Instagram account "The Formula Mom," where she first opened up about her own experience formula feeding and has since become a resource for other families who are looking for practical information and support.
Earlier this month, Whitmore also took on a new role as education lead for Bobbie, an organic infant formula brand.
"Like most parents, I had assumed that we would breastfeed and that's just not how it turned out," Whitmore said of her own experience as a mother of two. "I was desperate for information about how to formula feed safely and successfully. I couldn't find any information that felt supportive, judgment free and research based."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of their life before introducing nutritious complementary foods because of the health benefits of breastmilk, which can include reduced cancer risks for moms and immunity and nutritional benefits for babies.
However, health care providers said not all parents can or want to breastfeed and that a fed baby is what's most important.
"We know that breast milk is the gold standard for infants, we can know that breast milk offers ideal nutrition," said Whitmore. "But we can also acknowledge that it might not be the ideal choice for us based on the lived circumstances of new parenthood."
Whitmore said there are many reasons why a family would choose formula.
Some parents take certain medications that prevent them from breastfeeding safely. The CDC notes that only a few medications are not recommended while breastfeeding and physicians can make a case-by-case assessment.
Neurodivergent parents may dislike the sensation of breastfeeding. Others who might choose formula over breastfeeding include mastectomy cancer treatment survivors, adoptive families, working parents or parents who want their own "bodily autonomy" back after nine months of pregnancy,
- 1August 21, 2019
Ultimately, Whitmore explained, parents don't need a reason at all.
"There are really a lot of reasons why a family may end up formula feeding. It could be something as simple as that's the choice that the family makes, that's what they want to do," said Whitmore. "I like to encourage folks that any reason, or no reason at all, is a valid reason for formula feeding. You don't need to meet some sort of benchmark of suffering."
Earlier this year, a baby formula shortage escalated to a national crisis due to a voluntary product recall of the one of the country's top baby formula producers.
As a result, nearly 50% of all baby formula in the U.S. was out of stock by early May, according to previous ABC News reporting. The crisis prompted an emergency response from business leaders and the White House, who tried to help alleviate supply issues by importing nearly 300 million bottles of baby formula from other countries.
As the crisis unfolded, and desperate parents faced increasingly empty supermarket shelves, Whitmore was there to help her followers navigate the ongoing situation.
"For a lot of babies, formula is their sole source of nutrition and there's not another option," she said. "It's really been incredibly difficult, both logistically and also mentally and emotionally taxing for new parents who are already exhausted."
While the situation has improved somewhat in recent months, the shortage is not over, and some parents are still struggling to find formula.
For those still looking for advice, Whitmore has a few specific tips, including recruiting other family members to help search for formulas and preparing the formula to make it last.
"Batching formula in a dedicated formula mixing pitcher, which is good in the fridge for up to 24 hours after you've prepared it," said Whitmore. "This allows parents to pour exactly what they need for each individual feeding instead of making a big bottle and then throwing away whatever they don't need."
Whitmore added that it's just as important for parent's to put together a feeding plan ahead of their baby's arrival, just as they would a birth plan, and lay out what's important to them when thinking about formula and what circumstances they would consider using it.
"It's also important to have a contingency plan and to not wait until you're sleep deprived and hormonal and recovering from a major medical event to think through these choices and decisions," she said. "If you can make those decisions and craft a plan when you still have more mental capacity before the baby gets there, that's always going to be a better option."