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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Feeding Baby - Breast Vs. Bottle

Is Breast Best?

Warning: This is a tough topic for me, as I will explain later, so I may be a bit jaded on this one.

Most people I have met are quite passionate about their choice to use the breast or the bottle. Others didn't have a choice. Since the general consensus is that "breast is best". I am going to focus on the cases when that may not be true for everyone.

My Story
When I found out I was pregnant, I was very set on breastfeeding. I posted all of my formula samples on freecycle and gave them away since I would not be feeding my baby any of that. I felt that those who formula fed must be either selfish or lazy. Why wouldn't you breastfeed?

At my sons two week appointment, he had not yet reached his birth weight and the pediatrician referred us to the breastfeeding clinic for advice. After he still was not gaining weight, we started adding some formula to his diet (which caused its own problem in that he was full when I should have been feeding him (stimulating more supply)). We also had a fun case of thrush when I was taking anti-biotics to treat the infection I had after giving birth. Over the next 9 months we fought a hard battle with the breast and tried pretty much everything to build my supply:
  • Pumping -  For awhile I was getting up at 2am to pump to make sure I was constantly trying to build supply.
  • Using a lactation aid (our breastfeeding center made me one for free from a syringe and feeding tube) so that I would get stimulation and he would get nutrition at the same time.
  • Using reglan (prescribed by the breastfeeding center) for off label use to increase milk supply
  • Using the herbs turmeric, blessed thistle and fenugreek.
From about 3-6 months old I was (barely) able to keep him off formula. However, the rest of the time we breastfed, he was getting formula as well.  At 9 months, after I was pumping for 3 hours a day and was only getting 4oz. Many times I would have to throw the milk away because I bleed in it, he was biting me and not interested, so we decided it was time to call it quits.

I still don't know why I couldn't fully breastfeed, but theories that were presented to me was what my pituitary gland was damaged after childbirth because I left the hospital with a hemoglobin of 6. However, I have not had any other symptoms of this. Some say that woman with C-sections or other "traumatic" births have more trouble breastfeeding. I also wonder if was a combination of the blood loss and then the infection I fought for a month after his birth....

I can say that I found http://www.noteveryonecanbreastfeed.com/ to be a great resource as well as the yahoo group http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/mobi/.

Reasons why people don't breastfeed:
As I had many friends who were having babies just before me and then after my own experiences, I learned many reasons WHY you would not breast feed.
  • Adoption - This is an obvious reason why a mom would not breastfeed. There are still however critics that feel that an adoptive mother should induce lactation. If this is something that you are passionate about, I say go for it! However, I do not think that a mother should be judged for choosing not to do this! I had to do many of the things that woman do to induce lactation to build my supply and it is hard work even if there were not a newborn to care for!
  • They can't - Rarely, woman won't even produce a drop of milk after they have a baby. Others, like me can't produce enough and going back and forth between the bottle and the breast is hard work! I think formula is a much better option than starvation.
  • They think its gross - I read a blog of someone who I know is a great mom, but she tried to breastfeed and hated it. Making milk grossed her out. I think that a baby would benefit much more by spending time with a happy mom feeding him/her a bottle than a mom that was uncomfortable for 10 feedings a day.
  • They need to work can can't pump - I work for a super supportive group and it was awkward for me, a pretty open and semi-outspoken person, to inform my boss of my intentions to pump and a need for a place to do it. I think it could be hard for many women to negotiate for pumping space and time, even though it is the law.
  • They are busy or "need a life" -  However, there are others out there that are quite the opposite. You hear all the time on commercials that "breast is best", babies who are held more are smarter, babies need nurturing. However, I think babies mostly need you to be YOU (as long as you have you babies best interests in mind). I think some woman would be miserable at home all day and need to work to be good parents when they are home. I think a baby sees right through it if you are pretending to be affectionate when you are not an affectionate person. As, stated in my disclaimer, I am not a child psychologist, but I think being "fake" would cause a whole new set of problems. Now, I am not suggesting that if you child comes running to you for a hug that you turn them away because you don't like hugs. In the same spirit, you shouldn't work all day because that's "who you are". After all you did bring a child into the world and you need to make adjustments for that, but life needs balance. If breastfeeding is the one thing keeping you from being a good parent, I think formula would be good option.
  • They are not educated about the benefits of breastfeeding - There are some cultures and families where breastfeeding just isn't done. Grandma didn't do it, mom didn't do it, my friends don't do it. Why should I? I think part of the reason I choose to breastfeed was because my mom did. I also relied on the breastfeeding clinic and friends a lot for advice and to ask "is this normal"?
  • They are lazy or selfish - Of course some Moms out there do fall into the category, but far fewer than I originally thought.
Other people that are annoying:
One weird thing about feeding choices was that people (even in their 80's) seemed to have a strong opinion on what was best for my baby and my family.  When I was fighting hard to keep breastfeeding, I offended people that quit breastfeeding before I did or didn't try. When I was considering quitting breastfeeding people would suggest I try harder (yes, even after I told them everything I just told you). It's a touchy subject!

Did you choose breast or bottle? Why? Did you intend to do one thing while you were pregnant and change your mind (or were forced) to choose the other option?

1 comment:

  1. I think your post is a brave thing to bring up and to challenge the perceptions, bring to light the various circumstances mothers and parents find themselves in. The only thing I might argue is semantics. Breastmilk is always the best thing for a baby to be drinking. Breastfeeding is not always the best thing for a mom to be putting energy into doing. I actually wrote a similar guest blog post here: http://bringbirthhome.com/guest-writers/mother-is-best/

    In no way did I choose to bottlefeed and I think the only time a mother should give a bottle is when circumstances force her to, whether that be working, too much emotional or physical pain, no milk to give or issues with the baby.