I was going to title this article Breastfeeding: Does it or does it not suck? But since I’ve already used that when talking about pacifiers, I thought I’d just be a grown-up and use a nice title.
Now, this article will not enter into the age-old debate on breast vs. bottle. Breastmilk is natural and therefore free and easy. Formula is a medical miracle that enables mothers to feed their babies if their milk supply is low, if they are working full-time, or if they choose to feed by the bottle for whatever other reason. It is a huge blessing that formula is an option today! For us, I had my first child out of my home country and she was born in Scotland, a country with a renown midwifery program and with heavy emphasis on breastfeeding. So that’s why I took the plunge. Additionally, we were stone cold broke so it wasn’t even a choice.
However, I remember having numerous conversations back in the States about breastfeeding and the general consensus was that it was just kind of, well, not weird, but, yeah, sort of weird. Women who, prior to getting pregnant, don’t feel particularly maternal and think that bottle feeding is just easier and less personally invasive.
Even today, as any mother can probably agree, 75% of my Facebook feed are friends who are mothers. And, the majority of my friends from the States are bottle feeders and the majority of my friends from elsewhere are breastfeeders. It makes me think. Perhaps, if most people around you bottle feed and most babies you’ve ever been around (if you’ve been around many) were bottled fed, then many women don’t even consider breastfeeding.
Whether you breast or bottle feed is not an indication of how great of a mother you are and I am in no way trying to make bottle feeders feel bad or breast feeding mothers feel better. I just want to share some reflections and hopefully give a little more information and debunk a few myths on breastfeeding. I am eternally grateful I took the plunge to breastfeed. I don’t regret it for a second and would recommend it to anyone. It wasn’t all googley eyes at first, however.
Here are some thoughts.
1) Though it is natural, it may not feel natural at first.
Animals do it and mothers have done it for centuries. In fact, our bodies are made to produce milk for our young. Therefore, it’s the most natural thing in the world. But, it doesn’t always feel that way. It can feel awkward at first and perhaps you second guess yourself. Rest assured, this phase will pass. It’s the first time you’ve ever nourished a human being from your body (aside from when you nourished them for the previous nine months) and there’s bound to be an adjustment period.
The milk supply needs to get regulated, the baby needs to get used to it, you need to get used to it. When that’s all said and done you just slip into a rhythm and routine that feels like the most normal thing around. Don’t decide not to breastfeed simply because it seems weird or invasive at first. Soon, you’ll come to think of it as a privilege.
2) People say breastfeeding is more convenient, but it all depends on your personality.
I remember reading how convenient breastfeeding would be, but with my first child I found it horribly inconvenient. Now, I never wanted to stop, but what I wanted to do was pump and bottle feed when we were in public. If we went out for the day or to the mall our whole schedule revolved around when we’d have to feed the baby. Oh, wow, the bird show at the zoo is really good, wait, I have to leave early so I can feed for 45 minutes.
I’ll just go lock myself in the bathroom now. Okay, it isn’t really like that, but it does tie you to your child physically unless you pump and introduce the bottle early. With my second child I pumped from the beginning so that I’d always have a bottle to feed him with in public and I loved it. And, if you can believe it, I’d even feel a twinge of jealousy that he’d take the bottle without a fuss! Here’s how to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle.
3) Is breastfeeding in public rude or offensive or is it normal and natural?
Well, this depends on the culture I suppose. Before going to Scotland, if you told me that I’d ever breastfeed in public I’d think you were from the funny farm. I don’t think I even remembered ever seeing anyone and if I would have, I probably would have stared like at her like a big ugly mole, and found it hard to tear my eyes away. It just wasn’t normal scenery in the South when I was growing up.
However, in Scotland, you can’t walk 25 steps without seeing a mother breastfeeding. In fact, it is so common you barely notice it. I, however, am still not adept at this. I can’t manage to sort myself out and get the baby in the right position without baring half the goods to everyone with mediocre eyesight. So, I tend to go to the bathroom or bring out the bottle. Not because I think it’s rude, but simply because I am not into Public Displays of my Chest.
4) Just because you breastfeed your newborn doesn’t mean you must breastfeed your 2 year old.
You may have recently seen the Time magazine cover with the boy who looks like he’s in the third grade still breastfeeding on the cover. You can form your own opinion, but I think that is a little excessive. Most research that I’ve read (and, of course, I haven’t read all of it) seems to say that after the first year the benefits of breast milk are negligible. So, even if you only breast feed for three months that still offers immunities and still gives you time to bond with your baby. Of course I’m not saying bottle fed babies don’t bond with their mothers.
But, breastfeeding is a strong bonding activity and that cannot be denied. Even if you pump until you have to go back to work or you determine a set time period in which you’ll breastfeed and then when you’ll stop, like I do, it can still be done. Just know that you can always stop breastfeeding after you start. You can never start breastfeeding a month after birth.
To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? That is every mother’s question! Every mother has her own decisions to make as to what’s best, preferable and what fits in with her lifestyle. I can’t compare the two because I’ve breastfed both babies and loved every minute, but I’m interested to hear why people have chosen which method. Do you think breastfeeding in public is rude? Do you think breastfed mothers are judgmental? Did you start breastfeeding and then switch? What is the “norm” where you’re from?
Love breastfeeding… even though it certainly comes with its own struggles I think it’s something wonderful for mother and child (at least in my case – which, of course – doesn’t mean that it is for everybody)
A Mother Far from Home says
I agree! Totally love it! It easily fits in with our lifestyle and I’ve never had any problems so it was a no brainer. i have friends who have go to work full-time and don’t have enough milk to pump, etc. so it doesn’t make as much sense, but I am so glad I’m able to :)
The norm, I think is bottle feeding, at least after the first three months, and certainly after the first six. I BF’ed for 14 months. I think one year is the minimum, though – anything less and I will hack your head off unless you’ve got a solid reason. And, “people who don’t have milk” are extremely rare – in most cases, a lactation consultant can solve the problem. It bugs me that people are okay with bottle feeding, and act as if it’s just as good. Because it’s not. I think I’ll spare you my rant, though.
I do think mothers who bottle feed and act as if it’s the best thing out there, and devalue breastfeeding, are ignorant, rude, and selfish. Society would be healthier if breastfeeding were the norm everywhere.
A Mother Far from Home says
I think in the US 3 to 6 months is probably the norm, in Australia I believe it is much longer. It all depends on the culture I think. I believe many women simply don’t even consider breastfeeding because it isn’t the norm. That’s sad, huh?
Well, we are in Israel. I’m not sure what the norm is here, only that it seems like everyone around me bottle feeds, and IF they breastfeed, they stop around three months, and sometimes mix formula in earlier.
Yeah, it’s sad that a lot of people don’t consider breastfeeding because it’s not the norm. :( It basically means that most people don’t think – and that’s a really sad, and bad, situation, especially when it comes to health issues.
I often wonder why we don’t breastfeed more in the US. I did it with both children, and although it was painful in the beginning, it is one of the only things I truly miss from my children’s infanthood. I think that “the whole truth” is told in birthing classes. I was told, over and over and over, that if it hurt, I wasn’t doing it correctly. As I have two healthy school-aged children, obviously we did it correctly. It hurt for about 2 weeks with the first one and a few days with the second child…I needed to “toughen up.” I’m SO glad I stuck with it (and saved a TON of money too!). :)
I totally agree!!! People start and then stop so quickly because they think the baby won’t latch well or there’s no milk, etc. etc. It ain’t easy all the time but that doesn’t mean it isn’t working you know? It hurst me the first few weeks and then it evens out. And I have to say it’s SOOOOO much cheaper :)
I am currently breastfeeding my 8 month old and he is SO distracted all the time. Will this ever lessen? He won’t take purees so he gets solids but isn’t a huge eater yet and I worry he isn’t getting enough. Any tips?
I tried to breastfeed my first two (currently pregnant with number 4). It is not a myth that some people don’t make enough milk. Despite lactation consultants, constant feedings (my kids would feed for over an hour at a time, every time, every two hours – from the start of the feed…), they lost tons of weight. They did a measurement before and after feeding and realized that they were simply not getting enough milk from my feeds. My mother struggled to breastfeed me and my siblings, too, so I’m sure it’s genetic. I’m not sure when your post was written, but here in the US, it is almost a religion to breastfeed… everyone pushes it super hard. People are always surprised when I pull out a bottle for my newborn – they assume I’m breastfeeding. I think it is more accepted around 3 or 6 months to bottle feed because so many folks (myself included) have to go back to full-time work. I COMPLETELY agree with your personality comment. Even without my milk issues, I hated breastfeeding (although I was trying hard to make it work). The super long feeds made me restless and frustrated and it was sticky and difficult to do without pulling my shirt off entirely (I have super small breasts and nursing bras and shirts were too much fabric to move away from my nipples – even when I was engorged!). I was trying to make it work, but it ended up making me unhappy and resentful of my baby – which was far less healthy for either of us. With my third, we decided from the start to bottle feed. I stocked up on my preferred brand of formula (ready-to-use for the first few weeks, powder for later) and we had a fantastic newborn and infancy. I found bottle feeding far easier and less stressful, and while my third is STILL low weight (genetics, probably), he eats like a horse and I know he’s fed. He was calmer too, just like my others were when they finally got enough formula to eat. For the moms who choose to BF and it works, hats off to you! But there is nothing wrong, and often much right, with choosing formula.