At times this can be quite a polarising subject. So I want to take a non-biased view of both options and focus on what is sometimes not discussed: stress and pressure on mothers.
In the days before formula milk was invented which was towards the end of the 1800s, some women still struggled to breast feed. Depending on culture class or choice, women had the option of employing or using a wet nurse. In some monarchies women often chose to employ a wet nurse as lactation often serves as a natural birth control suppressing ovulation. Thus in the event of wanting to have children quickly, a wet nurse was employed. Some women chose a wet nurse because of social reasons, others because they just couldnít breast feed.
Towards the end of the 1800s and early 1900s, formula milk or food (other formulas with not as much success pre-dated these) was invented to serve as a substitute for mothers who were unable to breast feed. One of the main reasons for the formulas was the steady increase in infant mortality rates in some cultures. With the arrival of formulas these rates began to decline.
If we now look at todayís culture with the vast improvements in formulas and the ease in which they can be quickly made up and the baby fed by both mother and father I often wonder why there is pressure to breast feed. Most mothers Iíve met, seen or spoken to say that their first choice would be to breastfeed. It serves as a great bonding time for mother and baby and of course economically itís cheaper. A lot of women find breast feeding completely natural and normal and of course with the arrival of pumps they can now plan ahead for the night or have a babysitter so the parents can head out for a few hours for a much needed break.
However there is a reality that some women just cannot breast feed. For whatever reason, the lactation process isnít enough for some babies, milk doesnít come down enough or the baby just doesnít latch on correctly to the nipple. This leaves the mother with no real option other than to bottle feed.
I have been witness to the struggle that my own wife went through with breast feeding. There was just not enough milk coming through for baby, thus the baby would be constantly hungry and cry. This in turn would upset my wife adding stress and pressure to the home. After two weeks of trying, she decided that it would be best for everyone if we use a bottle.
The one great advantage of bottle feeding is that now both parents are able to feed the baby, this is great for night time feeding as it gives both parents an opportunity to have a good night sleep and get some needed rest. I would at times get frustrated listening to midwives or nurses or Ďexpertsí insist that my wife should persevere with breastfeeding as it's better, when from my point of view looking at the stress it was causing wouldnít it be easier for everyone to just use a bottle?. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
At the end of the day I believe a mother should be able to freely choose how she feeds her baby without any external pressures or stigma attached. No one is able to look at another adult and tell if they were breast of bottle fed. A mother goes through enough at childbirth without having to go through the added stress of a crying baby because it canít get enough milk through breast feeding.
There is so much freedom in our culture and choice is prevalent, so why not in the home when it comes to our infants?
really nicely written. I was able to breastfeed, but this was not without it's issues. With my first son, I definitely felt the pressure to make it work, and when you are a new mum this is very stressful. I was one of the lucky ones, in that it did eventually come right, but I have friends who were pretty much bullied by the people who were meant to be helping them (nurses/midwives/lactation consultants). It's sad that when you become a parent that every choice you make becomes a matter of public opinon and judgement. It's definitely the time to grow a thicker skin.