Online society in particular has this thing where you have to be pro or con on the breastfeeding stance (this is how it comes across, I am not at all saying breast feeding mothers are exclusively bottle feeding haters and anti formula Nazis)
I have felt more shame feeding my son a bottle of formula than I ever did while breastfeeding him and honestly, I breast fed anywhere, walking around the shops, while waiting in ques. At 5 weeks old we had a photo shoot at a pop up “Tickled Pink” stand and he got upset so I fed him, discretely, then and there.
I had people stop to chat to me while feeding him, who patted his head and commented on how cute he was and they didn’t even know I was feeding him at the time, and told me so when they realized (as I redid my bra). There was never a moment of shaming me for feeding in public, just warm smiles and pats on the back. It was a very positive experience for me.
So when we switched to bottle feeding due to lactose intolerance, the shaming started. Mostly family members (who are bolder than strangers I find) asking me “Oh, your bottle feeding him then are you? I thought you were breast feeding. so and so breast fed for X amount of time, that was a good amount I think.” It’s like they think not actually saying to your face you have failed as a mother, in the most basic way possible, feeding your baby, but conveying that exact message through passive aggressive “polite” sentences and that “I know better than you” tone isn’t as offensive and degrading as just saying it outright.
And others commenting on future plans “oh, we are going to breast feed exclusively” when seeing you pull out a bottle.
Well good for you, so were we. Our baby spent months vomiting most of what he drank and was gaining only just enough weight for the MCHN to be unconcerned (especially as he was not showing pain). From four months we started introducing formula as Bubs was refusing the breast except for night time feeds. After much trial and error we discovered our little man is Lactose intolerant and by 6 months old he was exclusively formula fed Lactose free formula.
This was not our plan! I’m glad I don’t have anything against bottle feeding or I would have been devastated. There is so much Anti Bottle negativity splashed all over the internet.
While looking through the Australian Breastfeeding Association website I couldn’t find any positive messages around bottle feeding. In fact I couldn’t all that was mentioned in their Statements was that they don’t recommend alternatives to breastfeeding unless medically advised. And even stating “ It is the right of every mother to have access to up-to-date evidence based information about breastfeeding so that she can make informed choices. It is also the right of every mother to be made aware of the health risks associated with not breastfeeding, and the health impact to herself and her baby.”
Yes, there is research all over the place informing us that Breast is Best and that for optimal health in our babies and in fact throughout their who lives we MUST EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFEED our children for as long as possible but definitely through the first year.
For so many Mothers this is not actually possible. Or not wanted, which is perfectly OK too. The message that needs to be sent is that feeding our babies, no matter how (as long as it is actually designed for babies and meets the Australian Safety Standards-so not cordial) is what we should be striving for.
Education is key. We need to promote the pros and cons of each with accurate information on both sides. Breastfeeding is not a dirty act, and formula is not a dirty word. both are feeding our children.
So, here is a little information about both.
According to ABA breast fed babies are more resistant to disease and infection in early life than formula fed babies.
However this has been recently disputed by Professor Sven Carlsen who claims after more than 50 studies into the relationship between breastfeeding vs formula and the effect on health he cannot conclusively find evidence suggesting that today’s formula is any less beneficial than breast milk for our babies. That outside factors had far greater effect on infant health than whether the baby was fed breast milk or formula.
- Breastfeeding offers mothers a variety of health benefits including lowering the risk of breast cancer, Uterine cancer and ovarian cancer and lessens the likelihood of developing Osteoporosis later in life.
- Breastfeeding helps the Uterus contract back to its former size after birth.
- Breastfeeding aids in post pregnancy weight loss (which I can attest to) However as I personally found I had to eat constantly to keep up my supply, especially as Bubs feeds dropped off and I was trying to express to maintain supply, once I stopped feeding regularly I stacked the weight back on very quickly. So it is no replacement for a balanced diet and regular exercise, it’s a great help but not a magical cure all.
- Formula is expensive. Trying to find the right formula for you and your baby can be a very pricey journey. Some of the most expensive formula’s made my baby vomit as well as the cheaper ones. I am Glad we found a mid range Lactose free formula that works for us.
- Convenience. There is argument for this on both sides. It is SO MUCH EASIER to breastfeed on the run. You don’t have to worry about bottles and formula tins and sterilizing and temperatures and teat flow and different nipples. It’s all on hand (or in shirt) ready to go at all times (provided all is working as it should), but then, it is so handy to have Hubby get up at 3am and feed bubs while you sleep. To feed bubs in the car or pram and not have to get them out to fuss around if your in a hurry. To not feel pressured to find a feeding room (if you are so inclined) if returning to work, formula is so much more convenient that expressing every four hours to keep up your supply and ensuring you have enough milk in reserve for bubs while in care.
- Emotional state and bonding (keep in mind this is my personal opinion through my own experiences) I Hate the argument that Breast fed babies have a stronger bond with their mother. The baby is still carried by their mother, loved by their mother, comforted by their mother and yes, even fed by their mother. Breast feeding is lovely, but Bottle feeding is actually more inclusive of the fathers and other family and friends if that’s what the mother wants. I have had fathers tell me they wished that they could be more involved in the feeding process of their little ones, that they wish for the closeness that comes from providing the life nourishing milk that is essential for babies to survive, no matter of how they receive it. From starting out breast feeding (and pushing through pain to do so) I felt close to my baby, but no less so than giving his a bottle. It was wonderful in the early days when our house was full to be able to go and sit in the privacy of my bedroom and feed him to get away from the commotion of a full house wanting to be with the new arrival, but honestly, I probably would have done that anyway (would have offended people in doing so, but I don’t really care that much) my 11 month old still cuddles in the same now as he did on the boob, the only difference is it’s a bottle he is drinking from and not the breast he is snuggled into.
- Breast feeding provides comfort for an upset baby. Yes, it does. However my bottle fed son is no less comforted by a cuddle from Mummy than he would be from a feed. That makes things easier for me. I don’t have to feed him because Daddy said “boo” too loudly or because he fell over and bumped his head. A nice cuddle and he is all better and off again to explore his ever expanding world. And when Mummy is not around, he gains comfort from cuddles with whoever he is with. A cuddle is his band-aid, not a feed. Which for me is a big bonus. (and a mummy cuddle is nest, but Daddy or his friends Mummy will do in a pinch)
- Breast feeding is natures contraceptive. But there are SO MANY OPTIONS out there anyway ranging from minor and temporary to perminant. For the most part we are adults who at least by now know all about the birds and the bee’s and how we got pregnant in the first place and how not to have an untimely pregnancy.
I have actually so far only found one site where breastfeeding and Formula feeding were talked about evenly and equally and that was on WebMD. I really like the way the facts are stated and it is totally unbiased. So for more information I recommend having a read. Especially if you are struggling with your decision on which way to go. The Australian Breast feeding Association is also a great resource, just keep in mind they are 100% breast feeding advocates so you wont find support for bottle feeding there.