Breast v Bottle…the great debate

Alright, I had a post that I was going to post before this, but this has really gotten me a bit cranky today, so I have decided to kick off the week with a post about the breast v bottle debate instead.

So, apparently there is a formula shortage, which is apparently due to shoppers bulk buying the formula and sending it to China. It’s like black market for formula, it’s actually pretty insane really.

Of course, if you mention the word “formula” in the news, the old “just breastfeed” comments begin to appear. Because, you know, after months of formula feeding a child it is just that easy to whip out a boob and start breastfeeding. That’s how breasts work right? There’s just a constant stream of breastmilk in the breast of a woman lying in wait for the opportunity to feed an infant! Hell, your next door neighbour probably has some breastmilk stored in her breast just waiting for a formula crisis. And while it would be nice to say that these comments are made by men, and we could write it off by saying “oh silly men, they have no breasts, they don’t know. Bless.” Unfortunately most of them are being made by other women. The people who should be supporting other women.

I personally made a comment on a news article regarding the formula shortage in response to a woman saying that some women cannot breastfeed. I commented that I believed that as long as a baby was being fed, that was what really mattered at the end of the day, and that we are lucky that we live in society that formula is a safe alternative for those who couldn’t, or did not want to breast feed. Holy hell, the backlash that came my way! I was told that I was misinformed and that I needed to “get educated” because formula was not a safe alternative, and that “stuff made in a factory with synthetic additives and cows milk is not what you should feed your child!!!!” and “who would give this to their child??” and “smoke another pipe” and that by me not using “evidence based research” I am allowing a mother to put her child at risk, and so on and so forth. And do you know what was the scary part about these comments? That they were being made by people who were health professionals, one was a lactation consultant (according to her facebook profile, which of course I promptly stalked). This is why people feel shame, guilt and judgement when they are unable to breastfeed, or when they simply do not want to breastfeed.

I used to work as a registered nurse in a maternity hospital. I had grand plans to be a midwife one day (it did not happen). And I regularly saw women being shamed for their choices, just like these women did in this online post. Their point, which they got to eventually through all the exclamation marks and excessive use of question marks, was that if a woman could not breastfeed, she should pump. If she could not pump, she should use donated human milk (DHM). If she could not use DHM, she should use a wet nurse. If she could not find a wet nurse (who is basically a person with a good milk supply who could breastfeed your child for you) then formula could be used as a last resort. Assuming that once you had explored all those avenues your child had not been hospitalised from starvation.

I will give a little back story on my own personal breastfeeding and formula feeding experience. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, one thing I knew for certain was that I wanted to breastfeed. That was my goal, to breastfeed. Because that is what I thought my body was designed to do. My first birth, was actually quite traumatic. And afterwards my body basically shut down and there was no milk. There was no colostrum, no beautiful liquid gold falling from my breast to feed my new baby. No hand expressing could bring forth a drop of milk, and my little baby was losing weight. My little darling was put in the special care nursery as she had lost too much weight, and clearly was not getting what she needed from me. I was put on medication to help bring my milk in, and I was pumping like a mad woman.  I was well supported by my baby’s paediatrician and the midwives in the nursery who did so much to easy my worries, and help me breastfeed. In the meantime, my baby was put on formula. That first bottle that she had broke my heart, she was clearly so hungry, I was devastated that my body had failed her. I would pump and pump and I would barely get a drop of milk. I envied the women who were pumping and getting litres of milk. She picked right up and we were sent home, and put on a breastfeeding and pumping schedule where I would breastfeed her, top her up with my own pumped breastmilk (which I was getting maybe 5mls at a time of) and then offer her a bottle of formula. I did this day and night, hoping that my milk would eventually start flowing. I continued with this for around 6 months, every time I took her off the formula, her weight would drop and she would be put back on it. By 6 months she was completely refusing the breast. My body just never got with the program. But I tried, and I am so proud of my efforts and I am so glad that we live in a world that when my breasts just did not do what they were meant to do, there was another option. Formula.

Jump to baby number two, whose birth was so much easier, and calmer and there was no trauma, and she was put to the breast within 15 minutes of her birth. I could hand express colostrum, I could pump milk, and she didn’t lose any weight! And for fifteen months, I breastfed her, exclusively. She never had a bottle, and the reason for that was because the little bugger refused to take one. Everything happened the way I had hoped it would.

Baby number three, has been much the same as baby number two, except that she is happy to drink breastmilk from a bottle (which means that every now and then, my husband can do a night shift!). I am eight months in and she has been feeding well too. I hope to continue to feed her until she is around the same age as baby number two. Maybe a little longer, because she is my last baby.

I have three babies, two exclusively breastfed, one mix fed until six months and then formula fed from six months onwards. But do you know what I have at the end of the day? Three happy, healthy little humans, who are loved, who are fed, who do not care whether they were breast fed, or formula fed for the first year of their lives. I personally do not recall the conversation with my friends about whether I was breastfed or formula fed as a baby…I doubt that as an adult, anyone actually cares.

The moral of the story is, that we should be supporting each other, we should not be shaming each other for making the choice to feed our babies differently. We should not look down on a mother who is breastfeeding in public, we should not look down on a mother who makes up a bottle of formula to feed her child. We should understand that feeding your baby is a bonding experience, gazing into the little eyes of that new person that you just created, it is a bonding experience, whether that be through a bottle or through a breast. We should recognise that perhaps donor milk and wet nursing is not for everyone. We should recognise that donor milk and wet nursing may be an option for others. And we should stop with the debating on what is best for the baby. Because what is best for the baby, is that they are loved.

At the end of the day we are all just doing out very best.

So I applaud all of you ladies out there who tried to breastfeed but couldn’t, who tried to breastfeed and could, who spent nights up, alone, pumping milk trying to bring in a supply, who spent months and months exclusively pumping breastmilk for their babies, because they had the supply, but the baby just wouldn’t cooperate, who pumped because they had to go back to work but wanted to continue to provide breastmilk, who mix fed, who breastfed for a little while but decided to stop, who didn’t actually want to breastfeed so sourced an alternative.

Who fed their baby.

I applaud you all.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Trish says:

    Absolutely. Why do we all have to be so hard on each other.

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