Formula Vs Breastfeeding

Formula Vs Breastfeeding

I once read a statement on a newsgroup along the lines of  “I have searched for information on the benefits of formula feeding, but all the information out there is bigoted in favor of breastfeeding”. In response, I decided to assemble a web site to list the reasons I’ve heard and read to suggest that formula feeding is superior to breastfeeding. I will also refute those arguments where I can. I’ve searched the popular press and the scientific literature through Medline; only one has shown any real, verified reasons for choosing not to breastfeed, and the incidence of that is very rare.

None-the-less, I have read reasons stated by women, their families and some mainstream books as a sound justification for this decision who I think, are just saying “yuck” to breastfeeding. I have tried to link as much of this information to other sites on the web. In some cases, the same keyword will be linking to more than one site, such as ‘oxytocin’ and ‘pump’.

1. “I was raised on formula, and I’m fine.”

That may be true, but a lot of evidence has accumulated over the years that indicate you would be more than ‘fine’ if you had been breastfed. People who were breastfed have a significantly better chance of accepting a kidney transplant- if the advantages show up in that one way, how many others do you suppose there are?

Here is a good summary of the Top Ten Reasons to Breastfeed (plus 91 more) with references. Katherine Dettwyler, PhD has compiled a comprehensive list of supporting references.

2.”I want my husband to be able to feed the baby.”

It’s important that dads be involved but there are a lot of ways that dads can get involved other than by feeding. Dads can bathe, diaper, burp, sleep with, play with, snuggle with, and talk to the baby. Dads have a significant role in childrearing that doesn’t need to include bottles. It shouldn’t be too hard to defer the joy of feeding for just 6 months or so until the baby is interested in solids. Time flies with babies, so deferring enjoyment shouldn’t be sufficient reason to deprive a child of the best food possible.

3. “My doctor told me formula is just as good as breastfeeding”

Medical schools teach very little on breastfeeding (or formula use and nutrition, for that matter.) so most doctors know little about it, and even less about how to help a mom through the early difficult days. Many doctors aren’t willing to say that they don’t know how to help; many don’t know that they can refer lactation problems to an IBCLC. Often doctors believe that a woman is looking for ‘permission’ to wean or to bottlefeed, and they don’t want to make her feel guilty by stressing the importance of breastfeeding.

Those formula samples you see in some offices are freebies and one of the small give-aways that formula companies compete to give to doctors and mothers. There are some good doctors; some even have handouts that can educate your physician. The American Academy of Pediatrics now has a statement to actively promote breastfeeding, but their Canadian counterpart has not followed suite.

4.”I need to take a medication or have an illness that would be harmful to the baby”

Very few medications are contra-indicated for breastfeeding mothers, but many obstetricians, family physicians and surgeons know little about breastfeeding, and don’t take the time to do the proper research. In the rare cases that the drug is contraindicated, there is usually an alternative that is safe to use while nursing. If your physician isn’t willing to do the necessary research, contact an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), talk to your pharmacist and read up on the drug in “Medications in Mother’s Milk” >by Thomas Hale, PhD.

5.”I need to return to work, and it’s not worth it to breastfeed for only 6 weeks”.

Many mothers combine breastfeeding and work very successfully. Some mothers use breast pump to pump their milk or hand express while at work to feed the baby while at daycare. Others combine formula feeding and nurse as much as possible when they’re with the baby. Babies know what is best, and will often save up their wakeful and major nursing periods for when they can be with mom.

Many mothers view pumping as a way to stay connected with the baby while they’re at work and nursing as a wonderful reunion. I have talked to many women who are able to secure a private place to pump their milk, even at a hardware store, merely by pointing out to their employer the advantages of providing breastmilk for their babies. It doesn’t hurt to prepare a case and ask- you may be pleasantly surprised by how willing a boss may be to work with you. Even if it is completely impossible to express or continuing nursing after returning to work, the breastmilk that you do provide will go a long way toward ensuring that your baby gets a great start in life.

6.”My mom couldn’t do it” or “I didn’t have enough milk last time I tried”

Great strides have been made in supporting women to breastfeed successfully since I was born. Education of mothers and health care givers makes a huge difference. It doesn’t matter if no one in your family has ever breastfed successfully; if you are properly prepared and avoid medical sabotage, you can most likely feed your baby your milk.

7.”Bottlefeeding protects against contaminants in mother’s milk.”

An argument that just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. There are several parts to my answer to this- we don’t know what cows eat, and to my knowledge there are *no* organic formulas available anywhere. We don’t know what happens in the manufacturing plant, and numerous recalls for contaminated and/or improperly prepared formula, and feeding supplies, keep occurring. Many of these never make it to the public news. Contaminants, when they are found in mother’s milk, are at very, very low levels- never enough to outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding. Milk, Money and Madness goes into greater detail on this.

8.”Bottlefeeding ensures that the mother won’t be tied down.”

Breastfeeding babies are extremely portable- all you need is a diaper and the baby. Breastfeeding can be can be very empowering for women.

9.”I’ll have to bottlefeed in public anyway”

Breastfeeding is not lewd or indecent conduct. It is not illegal anywhere in the United States, nor have I ever heard anyone suggest that it may be questioned elsewhere in the world. The states that have passed laws about breastfeeding have done so only to clarify that it is legal. I nursed my daughters *everywhere* for the two years of their lives, before anyone ever suggested that I shouldn’t. I think it’s great to breastfeed in public because so many people have never seen a breastfeeding baby until they start to breastfeed their own baby. So, don’t hide in the bathroom and don’t feel like you need to pump and bottlefeed to go out. When I was challenged (twice, so far in 8 years of lactating), I informed the person of my rights to feed my children where they needed to be fed. I hope I educated them.

10.”I’m going to have twins, (or more).”

Twins most certainly can be breastfed, and it’s likely that triplets can be as well. In the case of more, the babies can be breastfed at least partly for varying amounts of time. A little breastmilk is better than none. Educated and determined mothers can breastfeed even premature babies. Breastfeeding gets babies out of NICU faster and provides the mother with the knowledge that she is participating in the care of her babies. If it’s good for premmies, it’s great for full-term babies too.

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