FFF Brooke recently wrote an amazing blog post on her breastfeeding/formula feeding experiences. She says some extremely profound things, like this:
We have become a Breast is Best society without realizing that we are causing a backlash of incredible mommy guilt when the breast doesn’t work out. And for some families it doesn’t work out because of nonmedical reasons. If I was working full-time, I wouldn’t pump. In my opinion, one of the benefits of breastfeeding is that bonding time, and excuse me if I don’t feel the same way toward the plastic parts suctioning my breast. (And for what it’s worth, I think it’s possible to have the same bonding time when bottle-feeding.)
Formula did for moms what the pill did for those not wanting to become moms (at that moment). It gave them a choice. I think it’s time we stop judging others for those choices and making them feel like formula is a punishable mommy offense. I shouldn’t have to defend my choices the same way you shouldn’t have to defend your right to nurse in public.
I stood up and applauded after reading this (and by the way, Brooke’s blog is always great, so check it out if you have a chance). Unfortunately, an anonymous commenter had to weigh in, completely missing Brooke’s point and putting a damper on the beautiful mood this post put me in.
“The thing is FF shouldn’t (be) a choice. What I mean by that is if a medical condition or a true supply issue comes up in your Breastfeeding relationship that isn’t a choice “you” made. You HAD to give formula for the health and well-being of your child. That to me wasn’t a choice it was a matter of life or death really. But people who chose to give formula from day one…those people know they are giving their children second best(actually 4th best). It is to me like saying well I am going to chose to buy my child a second rate car seat because well I can it is my choice after all.”
Oy vey, Anonymous. Seriously? As I said in my response to Brooke’s post, this “4th best” rhetoric is utter crap. According to this theory, the order of preference for infant feeding substances is as follows:
1. Breastmilk (fed directly from the breast)
2. Pumped breastmilk
3. Donated breastmilk (from some other woman or a milk bank)
(Oh, and just to add insult to injury… Jack Newman likes to talk about how formula may not even BE the fourth choice over cow’s milk; that it is only “theoretically” superior to cow’s milk for an infant. Are you KIDDING me? Cow’s milk can cause kidney failure in babies. Formula can’t. What is theoretical about that?)
There are a few things that strike me as idiotic about the order of these substances. First, the fact that breastmilk and pumped breastmilk take up two different slots. Considering there are very few stay-at-home moms in this day and age, this is basically saying that the efforts of millions of working moms are only somewhat valiant. How would it make you feel to read that you are giving your baby the “second” best while hooked up to a pump for the 3rd time that day?
As for the third option… when I responded to Brooke’s anonymous commenter that using banked milk is cost prohibitive for most women (this will run you around $100/day, which makes my kid’s hypoallergenic formula look downright cheap), she directed me to Milkshare.org, a site that encourages random women to donate milk to each other.
The ethical, legal and medical repercussions from this boggle my mind. I personally cannot fathom giving my child milk from some woman I do not know, without some sort of advanced screening process involved. But I digress. If you feel comfortable doing so, that is absolutely your choice, and more power to ya. However, this site contains a plethora of terrible, inaccurate propaganda that I (of course) can’t ignore. Like this lovely nugget of wisdom:
Formula is static, is often not tolerated well, and does not contain live white cells and antibodies to fight diseases like breast milk does. In contrast, breast milk is species-specific for humans and changes according to the infant’s needs!
That may be true, Milkshare. But considering you are telling women this information in order to encourage them to use donated breastmilk rather than formula, don’t you think it would be nice to explain that the milk they will be feeding their babies from another woman, which has been stored, frozen, etc, probably doesn’t have many “live” cells left, if any at all?
According to a 2004 study from the Fetal and Neonatal Edition of the Archives of Disease in Childhood that examined stored breastmilk, antioxidant levels are severely impacted by the storage process:
But while antioxidant levels of formula milk remained stable whether refrigerated or frozen, levels in fresh human milk fell the longer it was stored and the colder the temperature at which it was stored….Compared with fresh milk, human milk frozen for seven days had the lowest antioxidant levels. And refrigeration for seven days was equivalent to freezing for 48 hours in terms of the effects on antioxidant levels.
They conclude that in order to preserve its antioxidant content, expressed breast milk should be stored no longer than 48 hours at refrigerator temperature, and that it should not be frozen.
Now, this study concerns antioxidants, not live blood cells. But here’s another excerpt from a 2004 study on the composition of breastmilk after storage:
To conclude, our study has shown that storage of expressed breast milk caused a decline in vitamins A and C concentrations after 24 hours in a refrigerator (4 °C) and a decline in vitamins A, E and C after 1 week in a freezer (–4 to –8 °C)….Further studies are needed to understand the effect of different temperatures and durations of storage on different constituents of expressed breast milk.
My point is simply that before stating that donated breastmilk (oh, and the above study also explains that milk varies from woman to woman and day to day – kind of negates the whole “breastmilk adjusts to meet the needs of the baby” thing if you aren’t using your own milk) is a vastly superior choice to formula, making women feel that they need to take financial or liability risks to get this “liquid gold”, we might want to do a wee bit more research.