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  • Writer's pictureAlesha Lawrence

End the Debate: Breastfeeding vs Formula


Tubarones Photography


Why is it that the determination of a “good” mother depends upon how a woman chooses to feed her infant? We applaud women for standing by “Breast is Best” as a natural nutritional feeding method, but scorn them for not breastfeeding out of sight because the human female breast is too obscene? Or if she is a working woman who has to buy formula for a babysitter to feed their child, they are scorned even more like they do not love their child enough?

I am not a doctor or a mother, in which case I have never breastfed nor shopped through the aisles to buy multiple cans of formula. I am, however, a feminist, child of a daycare owner, and the youngest daughter of five children; I believe those facts about myself gives me enough leverage to have an experienced opinion on babies and motherhood, which is that both debates regarding one goal are exclusively divisive, economical insensitive, and psychologically damaging to the hardest job in the world.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding an infant for at least the first six months of their life as it reduces respiratory risks, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), allergies, and other infections newborns are susceptible of. Plus, it is imperative for mother-child bonding at the early stages of life.

Breast milk is uniquely designed for human babies as it directly tailors to their development, but is it accustomed for all new mothers? The answer is no as all new mothers have different walks of life (obviously). Breastfeeding has its setbacks as far as difficulties of first latching, clogged ducts, nipple tearing, the shape of breasts can alter…do I need to go on? In which case when women vent about their difficulties breastfeeding and pumping with motivations to stop for formula, society shames them for “giving up”. Of course, they are not giving up feeding their child, it is switching to a just as good alternative.

Who on earth would tell a new mother that they are already failing at motherhood for switching their feeding methods? Who thinks they are smarter than an experienced mother to tell them what they can and cannot do to feed their child? If you are not the doctor, respectfully mind your business. There are disparities between who can “comfortably” breastfeed long term and who cannot. Let us remember that it is the 21st century where the phrase “double income household” is pretty common, but what is not common is “paid maternity leave” (queue Ali Wong’s “Hard Knock Wife” rant). Working mothers, single or not, usually breastfeed lightly for a month so the transition to formula feeding will be easier, or they choose to not breastfeed at all to avoid that dependency for their child so they can be fed by a child care provider. Before we think about pumping like it is easier, it is not. I could not imagine my mother, a child care provider, keeping an intensive schedule and stocking one or more of her clients' breast milk while looking after other children.

The formula allows more convenience in feedings, a mommy helper if you will, and allows multiple people to assist in feeding the baby to give mommy a break as she deserves. This makes life in a co-parenting household easier as well, yes the father may help. The arguments against breastfeeding usually regard customizing the right formula and nipple for their child as one size does not fit all, unlike breastfeeding. That takes time, patience, and more finances to find the right combination for their child, especially if they already have certain limitations to their health. For instance, out of five children, my mother only breastfed my younger brother who was the youngest out of our bunch. I and my older siblings had formula due to her being not only a working woman, but we also had ailments such as colds and stomach issues when we were babies where she could have become sick if she had breastfed us.


Any other argument against formula for newborns is the reverse of what breastfeeding prevents if a baby possesses certain developmental issues. All the while, new mothers want to avoid judgment from the likes of others within and outside their daily lives for choosing formula over bottle-feeding over the “Breast is best” phrase. Where I am getting at is though once a child is brought into the world, sacrifices are made in regards to free time and finances, that does not mean the mother is forgotten or cast aside as if she did not play a large role in giving their life. Without a mother, there is no baby, so if a mother chooses to think for herself physically and mentally while still going above and beyond to continue caring for her baby, shame should not become her.


Regardless of what method a mother chooses to feed her child, both methods are medically approved which is all that should matter. Instead of asking about Breastfeeding vs. Formula, I prefer wording it as Bonding vs. Self-Sufficiency because both are needed. Let’s maybe instead agree that one way a mother can be encouraged to do both without worrying about social pressures or finances is… paid maternity leave, simply and respectfully.


Resources:

Sacks, A., MD. (2018, August 15). Breastfeeding vs Formula. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://medium.com/@alexandrasacks/breastfeeding-vs-formula-6b4f09652488

McCarthy, C., MD. (2020, November 11). Why we shouldn’t demonize formula feeding. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-we-shouldnt-demonize-formula-feeding-2018040313557

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