Thursday, October 6, 2011
Choosing to Bottle-feed Does NOT Make You Evil
This is another one that I published first at Technorati
In the 1950s, bottle-feeding was very common. Lactation consultants didn’t exist and women didn't read dozens of books about lactation. Nipple shields weren’t invented yet and they certainly didn’t have high-powered breast pumps. Neither doctors nor Moms knew what we know now: that breastfeeding prevents illness and allergies and even boosts intelligence.
Breastfeeding has really taken off since the 50s and now it is far more common for women to breastfeed, at least for the first few months. The unfortunate side effect of this breastfeeding craze is that now it is almost taboo to bottle-feed. I literally heard a nurse gasp at the hospital when a woman told her she did not want to even try to breast-feed. Women today are judged harshly for making the choice to feed formula instead of breast milk.
Although I chose to breastfeed for the first 6 months, I eventually switched to bottles. My daughter had terrible acid reflux and she wasn't gaining weight and I never knew how much milk she was actually getting. I was also working and the pumping situation was creating an enormous amount of stress. My daughter was only sleeping a few hours at a time, even at six months and I felt like I was teetering on the edge of a breakdown. Something needed to give and I chose breastfeeding. Once I switched to bottles, I felt like a new woman and like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. This may sound dramatic but it’s true. I blame the hormones.
Instead of sharing my joy with the world, I hid these feelings of relief because I felt guilty about it. Everyone from the doctor’s office to strangers I met on the street made me feel like I had given up. Like I had let my baby down by feeding her bottles. Almost like I was a bad mother because I wasn’t pumping anymore. Today, I think that a woman who chooses to feed formula, especially for the first few months, is seen by society as someone who doesn’t love their baby enough.
A study was released this week regarding the long-term effects of bottle-feeding on Reuters. The study followed kids born in Germany from 1995 to 1998. At age 10, the children were reevaluated. The study found that it didn’t make any difference to their long-term weight whether they were fed formula or breast milk. The choices their mothers made for them as infants didn’t affect their weight one way or the other.
Now that we have this new evidence that bottle-feeding might not be as bad as we think, I say we make a decision as women and as a society to stop judging others for their choices. Some women have a hard enough time transitioning to new mother-hood. New moms should spend their days watching the baby, cuddling the baby, encouraging the baby to sleep instead of worrying about what people will think of them. Some moms have easy babies who never cry, but others spend 6-8 hours a day pacing around the living room trying to get the baby to stop crying. The last thing those Moms need is to worry that their neighbor will make a snide comment when they feed their kid a bottle of formula.
Now don’t get me wrong. Breastfeeding is great and I don’t dispute any of the scientific evidence regarding the benefits. I just think we need to give new Moms a break and support and encourage instead of judge.