For someone like me, who is lucky enough to have a good knowledge of breastfeeding and to live in a town in which it is very accepted as the norm, it is hard to see the argument. Breast is undoubtedly what is best for babies. However, it seems like a lot of mothers believe that it isn’t what it best for them.
I will always do my very best to refrain from judging anybody who chooses to bottle-feed their babies. People make decisions due to very personal reasons; I shouldn’t have to defend my choice to breastfeed, so why should anybody else be made to feel like they have to ‘explain themselves’ for choosing to formula feed?
What really bothers me is the rift between mothers caused by the way we feel about how we feed our babies. Surely we should all be pulling together, supporting and helping each other through our motherhood journeys? We certainly shouldn’t be picking holes in each other and judging each others’ choices when really, we know very little about why they were made in the first place.
I think, personally, the main problem stems from this — the difference between “I can’t” and “I won’t”. If I hear a woman talking to her friends about how she was forced to stop breastfeeding because of a reason that I know is an overcome-able problem, I have to really fight the urge to jump into the conversation and explain to the woman that, actually, that needn’t have stopped her from breastfeeding. The reason why I don’t jump in (and wait until I can have a chat with the woman privately, if appropriate) is so as not to put the woman in an awkward, and public, position. She may have genuinely believed that she had to stop feeding, and would be heartbroken to discover that wasn’t the case. Or, she may have known full-well that she could have continued but just didn’t want to; that is absolutely her decision and she should be proud of, and stand by it. My concern, along with many other people who are passionate about breastfeeding, is that these kinds of conversations further perpetuate the myths and untruths that so many women believe with regards to nursing. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Is the information important enough to risk upsetting people in the process of sharing it?
It bothers me that breastfeeding isn’t celebrated very much in our culture. Obviously, being mindful of the feelings of others is a very important thing, but are we actually preventing women from successfully nursing their babies by continuing to not make a big deal out of how amazing breastmilk really is? Of course, we are all aware of some of the benefits of breastmilk, but is this standard information enough? I believe that women should have easy access to more in-depth information and research on the risks and dangers of formula feeding, rather than just the benefits of breast milk, which paints breastfeeding as an alternative to formula rather than the natural start that every child deserves.
You may be surprised to hear that my son wasn’t exclusively breastfed. He had one bottle of formula milk each day, at bedtime after a breastfeed, from when he was about 3 months old. I introduced it for a myriad of reasons; the main one being that I was very depressed and hadn’t bonded with him properly, and craved the feeling of being able to escape if needs be. In my very messed-up head, I thought there was a very real chance that I could end up needing to disappear for a while, and I wanted him to be able to take a bottle so that he wouldn’t starve when I was gone. Of course, I didn’t go and had no real intention to, but knowing that I could have done made things easier. I don’t regret giving formula because it’s what I needed to do at the time, but I do regret not making the effort to stop giving him those bottles when things started getting easier emotionally for me.
And for this reason, I strongly believe that we should all make more effort to accept each other’s opinions for what they are. Infant feeding is such an emotive subject; it’s easy to get defensive during these kinds of discussions, but it’s that defensiveness that causes the deep rift between these two perceived groups of parents. We are all in this together, girls. We all want what’s best for our precious little people.
Have you ever felt judged for your choice to breastfeed or bottlefeed your baby? Do you feel that judgement was coming purely from others, or from your own insecurities?