Breastfeeding versus Formula: Breastfeeding or formula, what to do? That is the question that many new moms struggle with. Most women, when imagining what life will be like when they are a new mom, choose to breastfeed. According to the literature, breast milk is the most nutritional form of food for a baby. Breast milk passes to the baby antibodies which help newborns stay healthy, breast milk decreases the rate of obesity and allergies in children, it’s free (other than the increase cost of mom’s appetite) and helps mom’s loose the pregnancy weight. In addition breast milk is portable, wherever mom is, food is. Lastly breastfeeding facilitates the mother-child bonding (much in the way that a cat grows attached to the person who feeds him).
In reality, many women “choose” not to breastfeed due to an overwhelming number of obstacles. Some women simply prefer the ease of formula. Anyone can formula feed. They are then not the only person able to meet the child’s overwhelming number of needs. Not to mention that 30 years ago, women were encouraged to formula feed because it was healthier for a child.
One common reason women cite for using formula is that the baby didn’t latch on right. A poor latch, creates cracked, bloody and painful nipples for mom. Furthermore, occasionally, when the baby does not latch on properly the child does not get enough breast milk to satisfy his or her needs, thus loosing weight and being miserable. Sometimes babies have difficulty latching on because they became slightly medicated during labor and delivery (think epidural and c-section, while perfectly safe for baby and often necessary for a healthy delivery) babies become drowsy and need a little extra support in learning how to feed. They are not quite as alert as a child born from a natural delivery. In an effort to meet the child’s immediate needs formula was introduced. Under the circumstances this might be the right choice. If you are committed to breastfeeding and you haven’t had the child yet, ask your obstetrician or midwife if they routinely help mom and baby learn how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is not intuitive. You may need the provider to take your breast and the babies head and push them together to facilitate the process of breastfeeding.
Many women choose to not breastfeed, or wean at an early age due to their work environment. While at work, it is very hard to stop every 2-3 hours and pump, particularly if you don’t have the time to take frequent breaks, let alone your own office equipped with a personal refrigerator.
Mom’s who travel frequently often stop nursing at an early age because traveling with a child in tow is not always a reality.
Sometimes, mom decides to stop breastfeeding, or at least mix formula and breastfeeding because of her discomfort with breast feeding in a public space. Thus, when she is out and about, she opts to bottle feed her child. Often this is formula. Please note, while it is legal to breastfeed anywhere, many breastfeeding mom’s have still been discriminated against and asked to leave stores, restraints and other similar establishments because it has made other people uncomfortable. Breastfeeding in public takes a certain level of comfort, or at least guts to encounter other people’s discomfort.
Other moms need for sleep is more important than exclusively breastfeeding an infant. Feeding an infant 24/7 can be very difficult, particularly for mothers who can not fall back to sleep easily after a 1am, 3am, 4am, 5am and 6am night feeding. To protect mom’s overall health, many families decide that it makes the most sense to have father, or some other caregiver take over at least one nighttime feeding. This allows mom to get a little bit of uninterrupted sleep. The difficulty with sleeping through a feeding is that often mom then begins to produce less milk at night, thus becoming dependent upon formula for night-time feeding, thus creating a cycle of formula dependence. In many circumstances this is the best choice for mom & baby. If mom is not properly rested, then mom is not at her best to meet the overwhelming demands that all newborn babies have.
Lastly, mom has a medical problem and which prevents her from attempting to breastfeed. The medical problem could be that she literally does not produce milk, or she needs to go on medication which is harmful to a child.
Regardless of your reasons for breastfeeding versus formula as nourishment, be proud of your choice. Your child will be well fed! Do not worry about what other people say there will always be someone out there to judge you. Trust yourself to know that you made the right choice for you and your family. Being a “good” parent is not defined by the small details of each and every decision. It is about your overall approach to parenthood. Raising a child is like running across the United States. Success is more easily achieved if you are a) well prepared, b) well supported and c) if you take time to take care of yourself. Doing too much at any one time, will exhaust you. Achieving your goal requires time, patience and pacing. Choose your battles.
Parenthood is not about the ‘right’ choice, it is about helping your child over time to mature into adult human beings who can become an important part of society.
Remember, there is no one right way to parent, just like there is no one right way to earn a living. Some people are business people, doctors, store clerks, waiters, website developers, trash collectors or car mechanics. Everybody has their own path to take. The important thing is to be comfortable with your own decisions.
Lastly, even if you were the ‘best’ parent, who did everything ‘right’, whatever that means, is no insurance that your child will be ‘successful’. Likewise, even if you were the ‘worst’ parent, who did everything ‘wrong’, your child could turn out incredibly ‘well’. At a certain level, each child is an individual and has some control over what happens to them later in life (please exclude the extremes of mental illness, child abuse etc).
Breastfeeding versus formula is a very personal decision. Make the one that is best for the family. Still struggling? Speak to a therapist in Center City Philadelphia, or Richmond, Virginia by calling 215-922-5683 Ext. 100. The Center for Growth also offers telehealth therapy in Georgia and Florida.