I recently came across a great article in Canadian Family magazine entitled “Bottle Battle” by Sydney Loney. It struck a chord with me, because my breastfeeding experience with Frannie was a complete disaster. I don’t know you all well enough yet to feel comfortable discussing my sore, cracked, bloody, nipples…well, I guess we’re closer than I thought because I just said it. I truly don’t believe that I bonded with my daughter until I switched to formula, and believe me, I tried to avoid it. A nurse from the Health Unit even came to my home to check on things, and informed me that Frannie’s latch was fine. My belief now is that in fact it was not, but hindsight’s 20/20.

I’m not sure if you’ve heard that research shows breast milk is best…if only someone had told me. Ha. I can remember waking up one morning with the desperate hope that I could begin pumping my milk and feeding by bottle to relieve my pain. (The fact that the pediatrician had already informed me that my milk supply was insufficient did not deter me. We are supposed to breastfeed!) I made a panicked drive to the only local store selling a breastpump, and prayed that poor little Frannie could survive long enough to wait for me to pump for the first time. For some reason, the ounce that I produced did not seem to stave her hunger.

Long story short, I began to supplement with formula, and by the time she was three months old, I gave her one last breastfeed for posterity and that was it.
However, Maggie was a different story. I was determined to try again because yes, I did hear somewhere that breastmilk is better for the baby. From the first day in the hospital, she latched on pain-free. My husband is sure that my own comfort level as a mom made a big difference, and he could very well be right. This time, I started to see how words like “natural” and “beautiful” could be appropriate descriptors. Although it was a much better experience and I was able to produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed, I still stopped at the three month mark.

I felt a lot of breastfeeding pressure from “society” — don’t you love that overused scapegoat — but it was mostly self-imposed. I also wanted to give it my best shot because my husband’s sisters and sisters-in-law (big family) almost all breastfed, and I thought there was something wrong with me as a mother if I didn’t. Not that any of them ever made any judgments.

The funny thing is, I wonder if it’s almost like the working mom/stay-at-home mom debate…it’s made to be such a big deal, but really, does that tension exist anymore? How could it, when those categories have certainly evolved and subdivided…and we’re definitely all working. Do you think women are really still judging each other, or is someone, somewhere making that up to drum up a good story? Are there truly women who would think I was terrible for ceasing my breastfeeding efforts? I mean, hey, I am impressed by women who choose to, and are able to, breastfeed exclusively for a long period of time (and I think they still enjoy the moral highgound), but I certainly don’t judge those who make other choices. My brother’s wife seems (correct me if I’m wrong, A) quite secure in her choice to start her kids on formula right from birth, and that’s terrific.

I think we judge ourselves much more harshly than anyone else. What are your thoughts? How did you feed your children? For my friends and readers who are “expecting” (or hoping to be), what is your plan? Have any of you felt pressured to make a certain decision, or do any moms out there regret the choice they made? I’d love to know.

17 comments on “Bottle Battle: Have You Heard That Breast Is Best?”

  1. Well written post Kate. I think that most of the pressure stems from our own insecurities in the decision we make {bottle or breast} However, I think society still has a powerful hold on the decisions we make. I believe mom's are notorious for judging one another. Some mom's like to call it "comparing" but truth be told it's really just weighing their decisions against others.
    As a nurse, I am well aware of the health benefits that come along with nursing. However, I CHOSE to breastfeed Katie for 6 months, Neil 4 months and Jillian for 3. As I got more comfortable with my parenting I realized that breastfeeding wasn't for me {not to mention repeat bouts of mastitits, thrush, cranky babies, getting kicked out of Lindsay Zellers restaurant for nursing}
    I also want to point out that not only bottle feeding moms get judged. I have a good friend who choose to nurse her baby past 1 year and she received a lot of negative comments(whispers) about her decision even though the new recommendation is nurse until 2.
    Mom's need to support each other more in the decisions they make instead of judging.
    At the end of the day we are all trying cope, get through and manage the craziness of raising kids the best way we know how.

  2. Your brothers wife here….., you are correct in that I was quite secure in my choice to start my children on formula right from birth.

    I have two children, one and two years old. I did not breast feed either of them. If someone had asked me if I was breastfeeding my children, I did not have a well prepared speech as to why I chose not to breastfeed. I do have to say that when I went to the hospital to give birth to my first child, I had already made up my mind that I was not going to breastfeed (well from the first pregnancy test I had made up my mind). Despite my grandmothers best efforts (God Bless her), nothing was going to change my mind.

    There are many social pressures facing new mothers (or any mothers for that matter) for them to breastfeed their children. I was a little concerned with the social stigma that goes a long with choosing not breastfeeding although I knew that it wasn’t for me.

    Many of my friends chose to breastfeed their children. They suffered from cracked nipples, infections, pain and resentments towards their baby. I didn’t want that. I chose not to breastfeed.

    Call me selfish although I had been pregnant for 41 long weeks. It was my choice and it worked for me. I wanted my body back, I didn’t want to be restrictive in what I ate or drank and I also wanted my husband to share the responsibility in raising this newborn (and to share the 2am feedings, I mean come on!). I was content to make 24 bottles of formula every two days and to warm bottles in the middle of the night. You can call me selfish for my decision although I am happy with my choice. I have two perfectly healthy children who believe it or not, have not suffer from any negative effects of not being breastfed.

  3. I was very fortunate in that breastfeeding came easy for me, my son latched properly right away and it works for us. My son is 14 months and I am still nursing, it's that time of the day when we cuddle and snuggle and I'm grateful. However, that's my decision and unfortunately too many people pass judgment either way. Everyone's experience is different and I'm glad I choose to breastfeed, I enjoy it more than I would have ever imagined.

  4. It was a very stressful experience for me with my first born, she never wanted to latch on or wake up to feed(or so it seemed) and it was quite the ordeal. With a baby stripped down to her diaper in the middle of winter,in the middle of the night and she still chose to sleep! I finally had enough and sent my husband to get formula and my darling little girl drank down 2 oz. of formula in no time. Feeding times became a wonderful bonding experience and very relaxing! My son was a trooper with breastfeeding to start and I thought fantastic this is going to work! BUT then he started the same tricks and I could feel my stress level going up again. I switched him to formula and again it was a wonderful experience! As far as their health,my formula fed children haven't been sick anymore than a breastfed baby. Of course I had great expectations of breastfeeding them but I do not regret the decision I made!

  5. I am all for breast feeding, or not breast feeding, whatever is right for that Mother and Child. My son was a premie and couldn't latch onto the breast. Each feeding I would try to breastfeed 20 minutes, then I'd follow up with bottle feeding expressed milk, then I'd pump. Every 3 hours for 3 straight weeks. The process took an hour. This meant I had 2 hrs in between to do everything else, including sleeping from time to time! After 3 very long and sleep deprived weeks of breast feeding just not working, I threw in the towel and began "artificially feeding my baby" as described by a popular parenting resource manual.
    I was very disappointed that it didn't work out long term. But my almost 6 yr old boy is a brilliant, beautiful boy if I do say so myself! 🙂

  6. Well I have breastfed all seven of my children and plan on breastfeeding any future children I may be blessed with.
    With my first child I was blessed with her latching perfectly BUT I did have extremely cracked, bleeding nipples and engorgement. It was so uncomfortable. It seemed to last for what seemed forever. Also I noticed that when I was under a lot of stress that got passed on to my baby which made it all the more difficult. Once the stress was gone we were fine and all my first ever wanted to do was breastfeed. With all the rest if came very natural for me because I was more at ease. I felt comfortable with what I was doing. I have never had sore breasts past the 2nd child which was GREAT.
    With each child I've had I have nursed them until they are 6 1/2 months of age and then I start one formula bottle a day. At 7 1/2 months it started to two bottles and by the time 9 1/2 months comes along they were weened off and my breasts are finally back to normal. I must say that I started to feel more like myself too. My hormones were finally getting in check 🙂
    I felt a bit of pressure because my sister in law always nurses her children to almost 2 years of age. So because she had children before me I almost felt like "well why are you doing that?"
    All in all breastfeeding has been a wonderful experience for me.

  7. It's amazing that in just one day, such a range of perspectives has been offered here. Thank you so much to those of you who have shared so far. I truly appreciate it, and I hope this information is helpful to others: those who feel angst over the past, and those who are facing feeding decisions in the present.

  8. Whether the topic is breast vs. bottle or something else I do think that moms judge each other so harshly. I'm not a psychologist, I don't know why. But I really believe we need to support each other more. Why doesn't the stay at home mom send half the stew they were able to simmer all day over to the mom next door who was at the office all day? Then then the happy recipient of that stew may say send your kids over to play in my yard after dinner, you haven't had a quiet moment all day.

    A good read: Not Guilty by Debbie Travis (yes, the decorating lady!). It's about her experience as a working mom and ways she thinks moms of all kinds can better support each other.

  9. This is a topic that i have been pondering a lot lately as i will be having my first baby in a few months. I am preparing to breast feed (by talking to people and gettng tips from experts on the 'best' ways to get the baby to latch). If it happens that i am able to breast feed for the first six months that will be great – and it i'm not able to, that will be okay too.

  10. I had my first baby 11 weeks ago. The first 2 weeks I breastfed only and it was absolute hell for me. One of my nipples is inverted so I had to use a shield because she WAS getting nipple confusion. We both cried through feedings, she wasn't getting enough because I wasn't producing enough. The process of feeding her took 1 hour..leaving a whole 2 hours in between. I dreaded having to feed her again. My husband was getting frustrated because he couldn't help and he really wanted to feed her too. So..I started supplementing with formula and I started using a double pump to express breastmilk so she could still get at least some breastmilk. Having her attached to my boobs was making me miserable and I'm still feeling guilty about not LOVING that experience.

    I really didn't feel like I was bonding with my daughter until I gave her a bottle. When I finally caved and gave her that first bottle she happily ate a full meal and was no longer starving. She was happy, I was happy, my husband was happy! It's definitely been a tough thing to deal with the guilt but I'm getting there. It's nice to know I'm not the only one!

  11. I have 3 children and have breastfed them all for a long time. I think it was my second son who finally suggested it was going on a bit long. I think I was just really lucky with breastfeeding…it seemed to come easily to all 4 of us. If it didn't go well, I would have used formula. It just so happened that I didn't need to, and they all went from breast to cup, drinking homogenized milk at about 2 years. What this post made me think of was not just my breastfeeding experiences, but my birthing experiences. I was unable to actually 'give birth', and all 3 children were born via c-section. The first was an emergency, the second two were elective, because I NEVER wanted to go through that situation again. I think it's interesting that some women feel insecure about not breastfeeding(or guilty, or whatever), but were able to give birth vaginally. I felt insecure about not giving birth the way I was 'supposed' to…to the point that I actually considered not having more children because I felt inadequate. Mind you, I got over it quickly, but I knew that I would never put myself through that again. Hence the 2 elective c-sections. Long story short, everybody's different, and what works for some may not for others.

  12. That's a fantastic point about delivery. I'm sure someday I will do a post about my experiences, but both times I was able to do it "naturally" (a judgmental word indicating that c-sections are therefore "unnatural") and I know I have a couple of friends who really felt like they missed out on a womanly experience because of c-sections. Thanks for the comment!

  13. Well from the moment I found out I was pregnant with twins I was pretty convinced that I wanted to give them breast milk but I was sure I was going to pump to give it to them. Over the course of 34 weeks somehow my attitude changed and it just seemed easier to nurse them myself. Well as twins go, they arrived early and that changed my feeding plans. For the first 3 months I nursed them for 15 minutes, then topped them up with pumped breast milk and then pumped myself in preparation for the next feeding. Each feeding took 1.5 hours but I was determined to give them breast milk. I look back on those first 3 months and wonder why I didn't just stop nursing and switch to formula…maybe my fruggle side 🙂 Now the twins are 8.5 months and I am still nursing them and plan to up until 1 year. When someone asked me in the first 4 months how I liked nursing I said that I didn't enjoy it. Now that they are older I love the cuddling time with them and the bonding that occurs between the 2 of them. Whatever your choice, embrace it!

  14. I loved this post. It is amazing how different we all are. I did both brest and bottle with my three. I came from a family where no one brestfed but I wanted to try it. With my first I only made it till he was 3 months before I gave up and just gave him bottles. He was a very hungry boy. With my second I did both from day 1 till he was 6 months and with my third I only brestfed her for the first 5 months because she would not take a bottle. Once I got her to take one I wasn't going to stop so I used both till she was 8 months then I went to just the bottle. I did not find feeding times any less special with the bottle, in fact I loved the freedom. It was nice to be able to pass the kids to Dad or Grandma and watch them bond with baby. The only thing I can say is that out of my 3 kids only my daughter has never had an ear infection. Both of the boys have had tubes. Is it a boy girl thing or a bottle vs brest?

  15. Frannie (the four-year old who received little breast milk) has never had an ear infection, and has only been to the doctor once aside from checkups. Well, and when she knocked out her front teeth, but that's another story. Maggie (the two-year old who was breastfed exclusively for three months) had double ear infections and double eye infections this winter, but has otherwise been perfectly healthy. For my girls, I don't think the type of milk they received has made a difference yet.

  16. LOVE this topic: both feeding methods and childbirth methods!
    First, feeding. I had a singleton, then I had twins. I was very lucky that breastfeeding came easily to me. I also had a wonderful support with family on both sides: lots of breastfeeding, lots of babies around. I remember asking one of my sisters what to do when my first child was a day old: she was crying and I didn't know how to put her mouth onto my breast! It certainly was helpful to have the expertise available. I also accessed the health nurses for both my singleton and twins. They all clicked, and were gassy babies. We never came up with a solution, but I never had pain and was able to produce enough milk to feed a small village! My twins were a challenge but I do not feel that it was the feeding method that made it so. One of my sons was too tired to nurse for the first two weeks so we pumped/bottle fed him my milk. Again I had enough milk (my husband called me Beckers for a few weeks)! I was so relieved when my family doc said "Sally, just put him on your boob!" OH, how much easier it was to NOT have to sterilize bottles/pumps etc. How great it was to not measure what he was drinking, to not worry about that exact amount of ml (we were not into ounces yet). It was so great to tandemly feed my twins. I mean, obviously I spent 85% of my time breastfeeding/burping but I just think that is the way with twins. My husband had to work, he also took over care for our toddler while I 'sat in' and did the babies. Middle of the night feeds were not really an option for him. Again, I would pump periodically and my twins took the odd bottle but I was never really convinced it was worth the work involved. By the time they were 4 months old I could not keep up with their demands anymore and started adding one bottle feed/day, then two and by 9 months they weaned themselves. My daughter did this at 10 months. They were done. With my twins I was just happy to be giving them bottles, craving a bit of MYSELF in my body. You really do give your whole body over to your children! Both times post-nursing I had about 2 weeks of feeling blue, almost mourning the loss of the physical bond. You see my babies were active and we really didn't get the same physical touch after finishing breastfeeding.

  17. Continued from above…
    All that being said (so basically my experience was very positive), I have met a few women who just can't make it work for them. Whether they just feel uncomforable, can't produce the milk, want to drink beer, don't feel comfortable nursing in a room full of friends and don't want to spend 6 months in a closet, or plain just don't like it…all the power to them for not doing it. I often feel sad that so many women want to do it and can't; then there is this big guilt-laden explanation about their reason for quitting. See…I am doing it too! Quitting! It was one of the most wonderful things I have ever done with my body and I am so excited to nurse my fourth baby in a few months. It is probably what I am looking forward to most with another baby. However, I trust that other Mamas find an equal physical bond with their babies with a virtually equal method of nutrition.
    Also if interest, after you've had children you understand so much better the decisions others make. My opinion BEFORE I had children was very biased and obviously naive.
    NOW regarding childbirth options! I am one of those women who feel that having a c-section did not allow me a right-of-passage into womanhood which I so rightfully deserved. I was able to labour a bit with my twins before they were cut from my body. I have a very negative view of the c-sections and my recover afterwards (my sisters take advil for a few days and sit on ice packs. I vomit, take tylenol #3, get gassy and constipated, can't roll over in bed, can't sit up on my own). You see…
    However, I still try hard to remember the positive parts of my deliveries. I was awake, I remember my babies crying, I remember anxiously watching the doctor listen to the heart beat, lungs, do the Apgar test. In the end we all survived. I am hoping to have a vaginal delivery for my next (and final) baby, but I have to be realistic and again consider that perhaps my view of vaginal as better might just be naive also.

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