Breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. This seems to be an endless and ongoing debate on the internet among moms. Every time it seems to die down, it starts up again. It is like a revolving door in how-other-people-feed-their-baby-is-none-of-your-business purgatory.
*Disclaimer: This blog is intended for informational purposes only. The information on this blog should not be used as a substitute to medical advice or medical treatment. As always, your Primary Care Provider, a doctor, or another health professional is your best resource for specific questions and medical advice. If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing a medical emergency, please contact 911.*
No one is arguing against the idea that breast milk is an excellent source of nutrition for a baby – or at least I have never seen a formula feeding parent argue this. Most people are well aware that it is the ‘original’ source of nutrition for a newborn (meaning that it has existed since we have existed) and that there are many benefits to it.
However, this does not change the fact that breastfeeding is not or may not be for everyone. There are many reasons why a woman may not opt to breastfeed such as lifestyle, preference, or a medical condition. Formula is a safe and excellent alternative. You know what else is safe and excellent? Not passing judgment on something that literally does not affect you at all.
HOW someone feeds their baby shouldn’t matter to you. WHY someone chooses to feed their baby a certain why also should not be any of your business, unless that person wants to share that information with you.
You having had a baby and breastfed does not make you the queen of breastfeeding. You can advocate for breastfeeding without passing judgment on formula feeding. You can be aware of the benefits of breast milk and do you own health research on it without having to let everyone know you are aware and have done your research. I 100% support people who do their own research and are knowledgable about their health decisions – that is literally one of the reasons I take the time to write in this blog. However, your research is for you and sure, you can share some nuggets with other moms if they ask. But I swear some moms on twitter just search “formula” and quote reply to all the tweets they find attacking other moms for the way they feed their baby.
When moms post about their struggles with breastfeeding or formula feeding online, they usually are just looking for support, not a scolding. Support can be educational, but it is likely that they are already aware of the benefits of breastfeeding because they’ve probably discussed this with their HCP or done their very own research on the topic. They probably don’t want a random person from the internet telling them that breast is best. That’s great – but breast isn’t best for everyone and each and every mom (or parental unit – because there are so many different types of parents/guardians too!) gets to make that decision for themselves. They get to make a decision to feed their baby the way that is going to best support that baby’s growth and nutrition, while also feeding a way that works with their lifestyle and schedule – or what they have or do not have available to them. They will make their decision based on what supports their mental health and well-being too – because parents can’t parent properly if they’re struggling internally, and each feeding method comes with its own challenges.
Breastfeeding is hardwork. Honestly though, so is formula feeding. Feeding a baby is hard! I am a breastfeeding mom, but we had to supplement with formula in the early days because Maggie lost a bit too much weight since my milk didn’t come in until day 5. Supplementing was a pain for me! I hadn’t even got used to breastfeeding and suddenly they wanted me to also prepare formula in between? I had chosen to try breastfeeding because I felt like with my lifestyle and the type of person I am, it would work better for me. I was happy when my milk came in and Maggie had gained enough for us to stop the formula – only because I preferred the way breastfeeding worked with my schedule, not because I had any problem giving her formula. It helped her put the weight back on so I was happy with our experience. I love breastfeeding though – but it is time consuming, can be exhausting, is uncomfortable in the early days and periodically again due to complications like clogged ducts or mastitis. You can lose your libido because of it. Feel touched out. Sore nipples. Teething baby on your nipples. Oh there are so many things that people may not like and THAT’S OK. You’re allowed to look at the data, look at breastfeeding and say you know what? No thanks. I’m good, I think formula will work better for us. That is OK. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make your own decisions for your own friggen child because you can.
You can also look at breastfeeding and see the positive experiences – I love that Maggie and I get to spend so much time close to each other. I love when her little hand touches my chest. I love when she falls asleep in my arms. I can pump so that my husband also gets to feed her by bottle, allowing them to also have a bonding experience. I love the ease of nighttime feedings or feedings when we’re out and about. But many of these experiences can be attained with formula feeding – and there are also many positives that are unique to formula feeding that breastfeeding doesn’t have. Also – what I see as a positive may be a negative for you – we are all different. Our lifestyles are different, our preferences are different. The way we feed our babies might be different.
It will certainly be different in a few years when they’re well established on a solid food diet. Do you know of any friends that eat exactly the same as you? Probably not. But we don’t seem to be as judgmental about that.
Feeding a baby is not black and white – it is incredibly complex and like so many things in life, your choice of method should be an informed decision. You should be provided with the health data by your HCP, but you ultimately make the decision yourself and it’s not easy. It’s complex and based on many factors and you should take the time to consider them all. In some cases, you may not get to make a decision between the two – you may have to do one or the other due to financial reasons, medical conditions, or various other obstacles. That’s okay too. You can still be provided with information and there are often still options available to be considered – something you can ask your HCP about if you’re concerned.
You can advocate for breastfeeding and its many benefits without passing judgment on formula feeding. When it comes down to it, it is a very personal decision and frankly, it has nothing to do with you, random mom on the internet.
Thank you for coming to my FED talk. Hehe.