Breastfeeding Vs Formula-Feeding

This is an over-done debate but I thought I would weigh in on the subject. It is an emotionally heavy subject. Some would think that I must think “breastfeeding is the best and only way!” given that I chose to relactate when Cameron was 4 weeks old.

Although I cannot dispute the well-known facts surrounding the benefits of breastmilk… Life is not black and white like that. In particular, motherhood is not that simple.

I’m sure that most mothers want to provide this for their babies but (as I know all too well) really complex and difficult things happen post-birth… mentally, physically, hormonally, emotionally and in your living environment. These things can alter what you intended on doing and can make some things difficult.

At the height of my battle with anxiety attacks I was sent to the hospital in an ambulance because I was suicidal and delusional from sleep deprivation. I was given sedatives which meant I could not breastfeed (I was already on anti-depressants since the day before after attempting to get help which I could breastfeed with).

I remember screaming through the heavy sedatives and having to be held down to the bed while I begged for my mind to shut down and let me sleep. It doesn’t even feel like it was me. I didn’t sleep… not until a few hours later where I drifted off for 1 hour and 40 mins before waking up in a panic with excrutiatingly painfully engorged breasts that were leaking down to the knees in my nightgown.

Cameron was fed formula that entire time and I outwardly acted as though this wasn’t an issue to me when, at the time, it most certainly was (even though I suggested it). I felt like a failure. I felt like less of a person – less of a mother. I imagined Cameron felt like I was punishing him and like he wished he had a different Mum. Admittedly, I was dealing with postnatal depression and anxiety which really over-dramatised what I was feeling but it still was my reality at the time.

I chose to relactate because I had guilt associated with formula feeding… this is true. But I’ve since grown from that experience. I am very thankful that I did relactate because it is much easier (no sterilising, getting up at night, cost of formula, measuring it out, warming bottles, burping him as frequently as I did have to)…

But also because I love it. However, I was blessed with that choice, the support required (from my husband and family), a baby that slept well, the ability to relactate fully and the resources I needed. Not many people have those things.

Ultimately I am pro-feeding-your-baby. I think that if you can breastfeed (meaning you have the support necessary, the physical means and do not have emotional difficulties surrouding it – such as in some cases with sexual abuse survivors) that it is a good idea to try it.

People will tell you it is natural but it really is a learned skill – both by yourself and your baby. It can be painful, confusing and unexpectedly difficult for some. And that is valid… so valid.

What truly matters is that your baby is fed and you are functioning. Although I am happy that I relactated I still think back to how I desperately pumped on a schedule – even waking at night to pump while Cameron slept peacefully. How I recorded the amount of combined mLs from each breast and willed there to be enough… How I went out of my way time and time again to buy different products, conduct research or see different people so that I could get to where I am.

I don’t regret it but I can only imagine what would have happened if I didn’t succeed… and I do wish I could go back and tell myself that it isn’t the be all and end all.

I mean, look around you… can you tell who was breastfed? Are they walking around more successful and happy? Many breastfed babies are going to grow up to consume less than desirable things. I know that it is ‘ideal’ to do all we can as parents to optimise their health but at what cost?

All the guilt and shame that is placed on mothers who formula feed is so unneccessary. I don’t think it will ever go away and while I agree with those who say breastfeeding is ‘ideal’ – that is only if you have the means, the support, the cooperative baby, etc.

Many things that are ‘ideal’ are not always possible… or optimal for individual situations… Otherwise we would all be doing the same thing. There is so much more to life then belittling others for doing something differently.

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6 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Vs Formula-Feeding

  1. what annoys me about this topic is that people act as if formula is bad and its not. Look at all the children in the world who are now adults who were formula feed, hang on there’s no way you could cause there’s no difference between them and the breastfeed adults. Its food and one way or another if your baby gets it and thrives then that’s the end of the story. I feel sad for anyone who cannot bond with there child without having it sick on there boob. I formula feed my twins and breastfeed my latest bubs and the bonding was noooo difference at all. In fact I felt very out of control with the breastfeeding and felt anxious every time I had to do it for the first few weeks. I now formula feed and Bf as I work from home hairdressing and I need someone to feed him while Im doing that. I dont have the time with three kids 4 and under to pump that much now. I dont care weather someone cloth diapers or doesn’t use diapers at all or goes through ten disposable nappies a day. Who cares. Are we not busy enough with life and kids to worry about how someone deals with there babies poo. Arghhhh maybe as a mother of three I’m just happy to have three beautiful boys that I never thought id have and just love being there mum in the best way I know how.

    • Exactly. I was formula fed. It doesn’t matter what you chose (like I said in my last post). It is what works for you and you only. Each mother is the expert of their own child/ren 🙂

      I’ve been thinking of you lately hun.

      • Thanx luv. Doing great luv this baby to death. Hes just a dream sleeps 12 hrs straight min. Thats one great benefit to formula bf bed lol. No anxiety for 11 weeks been off the Antidepressants for 9 weeks and feeling great. Wish i could have another now sighs if only money grew on trees.

  2. I would have to say I disagree that that formula feeding is “more work” with sterilizing, mixing, etc. I think formula feeding would be waaay more convenient and easy–in the beginning, instead of washing and sterilizing bottles and nipples, I was washing and sterilizing pump parts, storage bottles, caps. I was measuring, labeling, freezing, all that. Not to mention, I could not rest, because I was the ONLY one who could feed my baby until about 6 weeks. Then when I introduced breastfmilk in bottles I added bottles and nipples to all the other stuff I was washing and sterilizing. Now, 9 months later, still giving breastmilk, I spend more time pumping than quality time with my husband. I spend on average a hour a day nursing, and 1.5 hours a day with my pump–not including all the washing crap. I think the books are wrong–the books give you the idea that formula feeding is more work than breastfeeding—that formula feeding takes so much time, so why not just breastfeed?—the books should say “hey woman, prepare yourself for a lot of time and energy to keep up your supply, prepare yourself for 12 more months (or more) of watching EVERYTHING you put into your body–prepare yourself…..” Then maybe woman wouldn’t feel bad if/when complications arise, it is important that woman like you share their stories so that woman aren’t under the impression that their babies will come out and be expert breastfeeders and that everything just clicks naturally. I did not have any issues with feeding, except for some sore nipples and biting later one, but I think that I was just lucky.

    • Most certainly. I’ve breastfed, pumped and given breastmilk by bottle and formula fed. I think pumping is double the work and so hard – I admire anyone who does it! I was merely saying that in my experience I’ve found breastfeeding by the breast the easiest of options. But – like I said – that isn’t always possible or ideal for an individuals situation 🙂

  3. Very true post.

    I had a very difficult experience with breastfeeding my first baby (I think I wrote about it on my blog). Postnatal depression and new Mum anxiety made it a miserable chore that I began to resent my baby for. In that situation, moving to formula was entirely the right thing to do. It didn’t stop me feeling incredibly guilty though.

    With my second and third (and hopefully soon FOURTH) children, I was very determined to get myself in a good place prior to their births where I was educated and prepared for all that breastfeeding entails. I knew it would be hard and I knew there would be times that ultimately I would want to give up, but it was all about perseverance.

    There are so many benefits to breastfeeding that I believe it certainly warrants new Mama’s to at least TRY. I don’t believe however that breast is best if it is at the expense of the psychological health of the Mother or child.

    It sounds like you’ve been on quite a journey! Well done Mama!!
    x

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