According to an article out of The Atlantic, breastfeeding may not be more beneficial than formula use, contrary to popular belief.
Women have been breastfeeding their children since the beginning of time, and I’m certain that the practice won’t ever be out of fashion. However, what I’d like to talk about today is the effects of formula feeding versus breastfeeding and the stigma most recently attached to women who opt not to breastfeed.
According to previous and current belief, breastfeeding promotes healthy braincell growth and “proves” that children who are exclusively breastfed score seven to ten points higher on IQ tests than that of children who use Similac, or the like. More potential benefits of breastfeeding include lowered risk of food allergy (which is probably unarguable, being that whatever the mother happens to consume while breastfeeding is passed through, however insignificantly, to the child), a better complexion in adolescent years, lower rates of obesity and adult diabetes and fewer stomach ailments.
My problem with a good portion of the argument is this: What if the mother isn’t exactly the best eater to begin with? When you breastfeed, you have to be extremely careful as to what you do eat, being that it is being transferred to the child via the milk supply. I breastfed for two weeks after the birth of my child, and I had to be very cognizant of what I was eating so as to not upset the poor baby’s delicate stomach. Not that it mattered to me, but regardless. You could eat something that you wouldn’t feel would trigger an allergic reaction, but that’s the lovely thing about these reactions; there’s never a history of something adverse happening until it actually happens. What if the mother has an allergy to fruits or vegetables? The child is going to be deprived of the necessary nutrients required to flourish.
It’s proven that baby formula is enriched with many vitamins and minerals that women’s bodies just can’t sufficiently produce the week after giving birth. Giving birth takes a lot out of the female’s body, and even more when a child is sucking their own personal lifeblood out of these women. Why deprive the child the necessary nutrients he or she needs just because formula use is now considered “taboo”? These new formulas on the market now are so fortified with imperative nutritional value that it almost seems silly, in my humble opinion, not to take advantage of the benefits of exclusive formula use.
Another stigma attached to breastfeeding is the woman who simply chooses not to breastfeed. Going back to a previous statement, I said that I breastfed for two weeks. I did that for two reasons. At the time, I felt it best for my child, as I was a relatively good eater and felt that I could sufficiently provide enough minerals, nutrients and vitamins to sustain us both. The latter was because my midwives, OB and family-in-law practically forced my hand in doing so. I’m not an easily-swayed woman, by any far cry, but when you have fourteen dozen people breathing down your neck about what is best for the baby, being that it was a new experience for me, it’s kind of hard to reject the advice. It’s also kind of hard to accept the fact that I would have been a social pariah if I declined to breastfeed. When I was in the hospital, an hour after giving birth and still kind of out of it, the nurses came in, whipped out my tit and just short of forced me to breastfeed. Granted, I had made the conscious decision to breastfeed prior to this incident, but still. I felt kind of alienated, at the risk of sounding stupid or selfish.
After I went home, I made my best efforts to continue breastfeeding. I won’t lie; I had a horrible time of it. It was not the “nirvana-inducing” experience that some women had spoken of. It wasn’t even, for me, the “bonding” experience that some women had enjoyed. For me, it was overly-hard work, pain and frustration at myself for not being able to produce the milk supply needed to satisfy my child. In the first two weeks, my child had nothing but problems passing stool and seemed very unhappy with my boob performance. She simply wasn’t getting what she needed from me. My nipples were irritated and sore all of the time and my breasts were so engorged with milk because instead of my baby sucking it all out of me (for whatever reason), it was backing up and plugging my ducts. There were several nights that I had to sleep with my arms above my head, so as not to “crunch” the sensitive breast tissue in my armpits that had become swollen and inflamed. Also, on a completely selfish note, my boobs have never been the same. Regardless. It’s livable. That’s why God invented silicone implants. Or at least created the scientists that designed them.
Needless to say, I gave up after two weeks and switched my infant strictly to formula. From that point on, she never had any other stomach issues. She began, right off the bat, drinking four ounces of formula at a time and eating regularly, which influenced her happiness, unquestionably. Other than this past week (which was a nightmare), she’s never been ill or suffered any major sickness.
I’m not coming down on breastfeeding. I believe it does have a lot of benefits. I’m also not coming down on the women who choose to breastfeed rather than bottlefeed. I am, however, coming down on the women and physicians who forcibly bestow their advice to women who find it to just not be right for them.
Becoming a mama has been the single most rewarding experience of my life, and I can only ascertain that it’s going to get better as time goes by. My child and I both will reap the rewards that we’ve thus far received.
My advice to expecting mothers and not-so-expecting mothers? Do what’s right according to your intuition. Everyone’s choices are different and what’s right for one is not necessarily what’s right for another. Motherhood (and fatherhood, of course) is a fly by the seat of your pants type of experience, as it should be. We can only learn by doing it ourselves.