Why Breast is Best, But Formula is Okay Too

Okay, so we’ll just start this conversation by saying that “Breast is Best” sounds very gimmicky. Probably because it is a slogan and it is. But it is also true. Breastmilk has things that breastmilk replacement (aka formula) is never going to have. There are no antibodies, no stem cells, so special sugars that were once thought as useless, but now are known to feed certain gut flora and promote a healthy digestive tract. These are just a few of the numerous benefits of breastmilk for the baby. It doesn’t even include the benefits to the mother.
But there are times where formula can have a benefit. Sometimes it saves a mother’s sanity because she lacks proper support from those around here, which is a huge societal issue in the US best left for a discussion another day. Sometimes the mother is sick or the baby is sick and things don’t work out. Sometimes a mother doesn’t actually make enough milk. Sometimes donor milk is not available or is too expensive. There can be lots of reasons.
So while I am in full support of breastfeeding and encourage everyone I know to at least try it, I won’t criminalize formula. Each of my children has used it at some point or another. In fact, my third kidlet was the first where I actually felt like our breastfeeding attempts were a success. At least until I returned to work. Then no amount of Mother’s Milk tea and pumping seemed to net me enough milk to keep him fed while I was away. So after a month of my best efforts, I introduced formula for him to use while I was at work. And sometimes at home. We still did a lot of night nursing, but formula filled the gap.
My second child I utterly failed breastfeeding trying to take care of the baby and the three year old with no support and no car because it was rolled down an embankment when my husband had an accident driving to work. The no support part was because of the unsafe weather as well. I failed at taking care of myself and therefore my supply suffered. My first child spent days in the NICU and I think that messed us up quite a bit. That and me not knowing a thing about what I was doing.
Those experiences are part of what leads me to believe that it takes a village to successfully breastfeed sometimes. If it’s not the norm for your family and you don’t have relatives to turn to for advice, ladies in the community can be so helpful. This thought was one of the reasons I took the Neighbor to Neighbor Breastfeeding Information class from one of the hospitals. The goal is provide tools for sharing resources and education to mothers in the community so that they can go out and help other mothers.
It takes all of us working together to provide the community support mothers need to breastfeed. I am all for compassion and helpfulness in our communities. The trend toward ignoring what goes on around you and not offering assistance to others has been detrimental to our society, in my opinion.

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2 thoughts on “Why Breast is Best, But Formula is Okay Too

  1. Thanks for that. I’m one of the very few who didn’t produce enough and I was embarassed giving bottles to both my kids. (At home, I would tape a supplemental nursing system to my nipple so that the boys would get some milk and we could bond and all that.)

    My oldest went five days with no food as I was adament that I wouldn’t supplement with a bottle. The pictures kill me. His eyes are sunken and his backbone is visable and I would sit there and nurse him for 12 hours a day, reassured constantly by Le Leche League that he WAS getting milk. He wasn’t.

    Anyway, this isn’t about my baggage. Just wanted to say thanks!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s one of those things that bugs me. And I think the over zealous breastfeeding proponents do more harm than good sometimes.

    All baggage is welcome here. 🙂

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