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‘We are … his whole world’: Tan France on bonding with his baby through formula feeding

The "Queer Eye" star tells TODAY that he and his husband received some backlash for choosing to formula feed their son, who just turned 1.
Tan France
Tan France spoke to TODAY about his experience bonding with his son, Ismail, through formula feeding. Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

When Tan France knew he and his husband were expecting a baby on Christmas Eve in 2020, he said the couple soon began to get questions from their doctor and surrogate about what their feeding plan would be.

The “Queer Eye” star told TODAY that he and his husband, Rob France, decided they wanted to use formula, the same way both of them were fed — but this decision received some criticism on social media, France said.

The couple announced on Instagram that they were expecting a baby in April 2021. Their son, Ismail France, was born just a few months later in July. France, a spokesperson for baby formula brand Bobbie, has been open on social media about the family’s journey with surrogacy and formula feeding.

When the couple decided to feed their son formula, France said some people told them they wouldn’t be able to bond with their baby.

“Just because I’m not female and didn’t carry my baby and breastfeed my baby doesn’t mean that I can’t have a strong bond with my baby,” France said. “He knows that we are the ones feeding him, we are the ones giving him sustenance.”

France said he does believe breastmilk is “the gold standard” and wishes he could breastfeed his son, but just because he uses formula doesn’t mean the experience is any less meaningful for his family.

“When certain moms get angry and say I have no right to say that my bond is the same as theirs — I do. I’m a parent too,” France said. “Just because I’m not his mother doesn’t mean I don’t get to have a strong bond with my son. He doesn’t know what it’s like to have a mother. We are his mother, his father, his whole world. We get to have that bond with him, and you can’t take that away.”

Just because I’m not his mother doesn’t mean I don’t get to have a strong bond with my son.

Tan france

The birth experience of France’s son was not easy. Ismail was born premature at 33 weeks and had to immediately spend time in the NICU, France said. At the time, France was out of the country for a project, not expecting his baby to be born for another two months.

“Knowing that your baby is in the world and you are yet to see them is so upsetting,” France said. “I can’t even describe how upsetting that feeling was and how you’re not there to hold them, especially when they’re going through such a hard time.”

France said it was vital for the couple to find formula for their son, who was born at less than four pounds, so he could grow in the NICU to a healthy weight.

Now, Ismail is a perfectly happy and healthy baby, France said, recently celebrating his first birthday on July 10. France said the family kept the birthday simple and private, opting not to throw a grand, Instagram-able party.

“Me, Rob and our nanny went out for lunch, we played with him, we had nice food and he had his regular meal,” France said. “It was just a really regular day — when he’s older and when he can remember these things, absolutely we will do a birthday party for him, but I like to think that we will never do an excessive Insta party for him.”

France said he’s grateful for his son’s health and thankful for the bond he and his husband get to share with Ismail.