Yet another breastfeeding v. formula-feeding post!

bottle feeding

The fact that I’m writing a post which adds to the breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding debate may show that, despite that time being a thing of the past for me, and truly feeling that the decision I made to formula-feed my second child early on was the right one, I guess I do still have some defensiveness to express over the choice. This probably stems from having started up a parenting blog and consequently finding myself reading a wide-variety of other similar blogs which are written by (mostly) mothers who are bringing up children, in part, younger than mine and for whom this debate is still especially raw.

Pros of formula feeding over breast feeding for me: freedom; sleep; sociability (because I never felt comfortable about breast-feeding in public and my first baby was a fussy and frequent feeder); lack of pain; lack of the possibility of pain (through developing mastitis/blocked ducts etc); with sleep comes sanity – the ability to avoid depression; the ability for other family members to share the lovely close feeding experience; time for my elder child; the possibility of introducing routine into all our lives at an early stage; happiness and enjoyment of my first few months with a new baby; a happier, more chilled out baby due to a happier, more chilled out me.

The cons: the cost of formula (which does of course fall quite quickly after 6 months when the introduction of solids means the milk intake reduces); the faff of sterilising and having to carry lots of equipment to do so if I was staying overnight at my parents (although in reality the ‘faff’ that breastfeeders might imagine they are avoiding is little more than hardship of washing a plate or putting a ready meal in the microwave); the thought that my baby might be less robust not having taken in all those good antibodies (although he did get a week of colostrum and, at 13 months seems incredibly robust compared to my eldest who breastfed exclusively for the first 20 weeks – I also know that formula will have given him some vitamins like D that breast-fed babies don’t get); the fact that I will not have the same protection from breast cancer as studies have shown prolonged breastfeeders benefit from.

I do not believe that my formula-fed baby will suffer from lower IQ than a breast-fed baby. I lost my baby weight as quickly with my formula-fed baby as I did with my breast-fed baby so I don’t think the weight loss thing is relevant. I have a fantastic bond with my formula-fed baby and did so from a much earlier point than I did with my breastfed baby due to the whole more chilled out nature of our feeding experience.

The fact that breastmilk is such an amazing part of what our bodies do – changing over time to provide just the right amount of nutrients to meet the needs of the growing child – is awesome. However, the fact remains that formula is sold to the market as a safe and healthy alternative to breastmilk (it wouldn’t be let anywhere near the public if there were the slightest real concern about any kind of prevalent detrimental effects) shows that formula-fed children will grow up with very few (if any) significant disadvantages compared to their breast-fed peers. Environment, class, money and parental age are all likely to affect the outcomes for each and every child (which is not to generalise that children from lower class, more economically deprived backgrounds will always do worse educationally but just to say that there is certainly more liklihood of a difference for these reasons that there is because of the ways in which each was fed as a baby).

I was wondering what arguments other formula-feeding parents put forward for their own choices and came across this article called The Unapologetic Case for Formula-Feeding, which was written by an American journalist in response to the call for formula to be kept under lock and key in hospitals in New York last year.

Personally, I feel that some of her arguments are somewhat wishy-washy and easily shot down (I don’t believe that fathers have less of a bond with their breast-fed children just because they were unable to join in the feeding process for example). The point she seems to be missing is that the style of feeding should be an informed choice for each parent based on their own circumstances and nature. Am I a bad mother because I actively chose to stop breastfeeding my second child after five days (not frivolously and with absolutely the maximum information available)? Is it worth anyone criticising me for making this choice because some of my reasons were for my benefit (and only secondarily for the benefit of the baby)? Am I a pariah for choosing to stop breastfeeding more for psychological reasons than physical ones (I was perfectly capable of breastfeeding physically)? Will my much-loved baby, who will be provided with the best of everything we can afford and given all the time and intellectual input we can muster be living a doomed life because his chances of contracting two of the most common forms of inflammatory bowel diseases will be slighly higher?

Only time will tell.

Bit late but I’m linking this post to the #bloggirls linky:


13 thoughts on “Yet another breastfeeding v. formula-feeding post!

  1. I loved breastfeeding and did it for, er, years! But… definitely every woman’s right to choose breast or bottle.

    Also with the time will tell thing – when you have (very nearly) two teenagers in the house, you realise how many many other factors there are involved apart from what your baby was fed in the first six months.

    • I guess people saying “I loved the breastfeeding experience” makes me feel like I missed something because formula feeding is just a day to day task – the closeness and lovely cuddle is still there but its not the feeding itself that you look back on and say “I enjoyed that”. I definitely didn’t enjoy breastfeeding with my eldest. On the other hand I had a colicky baby and didn’t enjoy much of the first six months with him one way or the other. Other people had lovely ‘good’ calm ‘easy’ babies and no-one can second guess what will work for one person or be enjoyable for one person will be enjoyable for everyone because everyone (and every baby) is different. My sister has two teenage girls too (13 & 14) and I can see that there are a lot more things to think and worry about later on down the line!

      • Oh I didn’t mean to make you feel bad!

        I thought your article was very well balanced – I think it’s not a question of one is better than the other, but you just make your own choice. I am very pro people being given information and help BUT no-one should feel they are being lectured or their pressured or judged because at the end of the day, whichever choice someone makes, it’s the quality of upbringing that is going to play a significantly bigger part in how Baby turns out.

  2. Psychological health is just as important as physical health. I wish mothers would unite over this issue. We all do our best and need support for feeding our babies however we choose to do so.

    • Thanks Stephanie – I just started feeling like everything I read that was written by people who had issues with the fact that they ended up formula feeding cited one horrendous physical reason after another (bleeding nipples where the baby was vomiting up blood they had taken in; awful post-birth trauma; premature babies who were unable to latch on etc, etc.) but I guess the difference for me is that I don’t really have the same kind of issues with not breast-feeding – I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t look forward to doing it again and it was horrendously painful. The main issues for me though were sleep-deprivation, the chaotic nature of it and the isolation. But it was a choice, and I just don’t like the implication that making this choice was ill-informed and negative. Yes ‘Breast is Best’ but formula is a pretty close second and becomes ‘best’ for me by dint of the fact that breastfeeding made my life (and by extension my baby’s life) worse. I wish there were more people out there for me to identify with on this matter.

  3. This is a great post, and thanks for linking. You’re right – your children are completely healthy and robust. I like your point that formula feeding for you provided the ability to avoid depression – I really feel that was a key point for me, too. It’s not the same for everyone, of course, but I felt sooooooo awful that FF was the right choice for both of us, it seems.
    I’d not read the ‘unapologetic’ article either – i agree with what you say about that although it’s an interesting read.
    I love reading all your posts!

  4. Blimming heck, I LOVE this post. In discussing the emotional/pyschological you manage to remain objective and write so well. As you know, I have my own BF vs FF story 😉 but this is brilliant because you actually counter so many more things in the debate. Thank you, really, a massive thank you.

    • Thanks Lucy! I’d read other posts doing the defensive formula-feeder thing and then so many critical comments to follow so I wanted to really address everything that could possibly be levelled against any given argument and just give a ‘bigger picture’ perspective along the lines of your comments on your realisation that, at school age, they are all the same! No one really has any advantage over anyone else. I actually think that a lot of prolonged breastfeeders do it more because they love it than because they are that bothered about what their children are getting from it. Of course the kids will be attached to the experience but I don’t necessarily think that attachment parenting is going to make for a more well-rounded, self-sufficient child.

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  6. Hi Sam, I can completely relate to you in this post, as you know from reading my blog 😉 I think it’s great to read other mum’s experiences with this, as there is so much pressure as a parent to do the “right” thing, that I feel sometimes the parent’s emotional health isn’t considered enough if at all! I strongly believe that a healthy mum is a happy mum 🙂 I look forward to reading your other posts!

    Fiona x

  7. Pingback: Attachment parenting…with detachment | And then the fun began...

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