As a new mom planning to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible, I was flooded with free cans of formula - in the mail, at the hospital, and even from (well meaning) relatives who brought over "the very best" artificial (poor-excuse-for) baby food they thought money could buy. These cans, affectionately referred to as 'poison' at our house, sat in a pile under a bench in our kitchen until I could figure out what to do with them.
When our first son was born, breastfeeding did not come as easily as we expected. Birth ended in a violent manner (via a very unwanted c-section) and like many sectioned (and suctioned) babies, our son was not sucking properly to nurse. For days he struggled, and I struggled, as I pumped with vigor to get my supply up and my husband and I syringe fed him this milk. In the meantime, we hired two professional lactation consultants (each with their own expertise and experience) who we worked with daily. We quickly put together a list of milk donors just in case it ended up that we needed outside assistance to feed our new baby. Under no circumstance was feeding our tiny human anything other than human milk (no matter who this milk came from) even a remote option. Not my child.
Somehow, amidst all these early struggles, those stacks of formula cans sitting in the kitchen never did come to our rescue. Instead, they continued to sit, and wait - almost haunting me (and sometimes angering me) that they were even in my house. I did not want to give them to another new mother and (in the process) encourage and enable her to resort to artificial feeding means. Still, because I was ingrained to see them as somehow valuable, I did not throw them out. As a result, they ended up in the background of many pictures when our son started scooting along on the kitchen floor (still exclusively breastfed and void of any processed goop or powder). I'll have to explain those to him someday...
Eventually our son did perfect both his latch and his suck, and several years later was still nursing whenever he wished. You'd never know he had a problem once upon a time.
In the end, the cans went to one of the (well meaning) relatives who worked in a pediatric clinic, and I assume were given to parents already feeding their infants by artificial means. I continued to get surveys and questionnaires always asking what formula brands I fed my child, and at what age, and how much. Throughout the first year of life they frequented my mailbox, along with 3 different 'diaper bags' fully lined with Enfamil's logo, or tear-off-proof-tagged with Similac's slogan.
With each survey that arrived, I simply wrote "exclusively breastfed" in all the answer boxes - and in the margins when this was no longer a 'valid' answer at 8 and 9 and 10 months of age. All the while my tot grew big and strong and smart and normally on momma milk -- the food he was designed to get in the first place for his own baseline level of health and development -- and all of this in no part thanks to any formula company, or their free samples.
For information on accessing human milk donations if you are in need, see resources on this page, or contact your local La Leche League, lactation consultants, midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators or Mom's Milk groups. There are ALWAYS mothers willing and wishing to donate to help others in need. No matter our situation, all human babies deserve human milk, and we can make it work, even if it is more difficult in a formula-filled culture that does not currently support and empower breastfeeding mothers.
Poor latching and sucking abilities in newborns are commonly the result of an unnatural, non-gentle birth -- i.e. induction before baby is ready for the outside world and triggers labor on his/her own, being subjected to drugs during labor, being surgically removed rather than physiologically birthed (as happened for my first son and I), or being genitally cut after birth (leading to PTSD symptoms and withdrawal).
For information on getting your supply up while working with your baby if s/he doesn't have a good latch/suck, apply the tips at Breastfeeding: If at first you don't succeed, Balancing Breastfeeding: When Moms Must Work (even if you are not leaving your baby to go back to work, these suggestions aid in milk supply and hormone regulation), Induced Lactation (if you use donor milk to feed your baby, you are still able to nurse as well - even without a full supply - for your baby's comfort, and use a supplemental nursing system to feed). The books, Breastfeeding Made Simple, Making More Milk and Mothering Multiples (for twins or more) are also good resources to have on hand.
For additional breastfeeding resources, see books/websites/articles on this page.
image from Karen Speed of Bliss Breastfeeding