Breastfeeding Promotion Tips from a Formula Feeder (Yes, you read that correctly…)

I am writing this post as part of the Milk Mama Diaries Breastfeeding Carnival (July). This month, the National Nutrition Council – Department of Health (The Philippines) celebrates Nutrition Month with the theme “Isulong ang Breastfeeding – Tama, Sapat at Eksklusibo!” (Loosely translated: “Promote Breastfeeding – Correct, Sufficient, Exclusive”.) Participants will share their experiences in promoting breastfeeding or their tips on how breastfeeding should be promoted. Please scroll down to the end of this post and check out the other carnival participants.
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Let’s tackle the elephant in the room first: why the heck is the FFF – an American formula feeding blogger – participating in a blog carnival that focuses on breastfeeding promotion in the Philippines?

To answer honestly, I’m not really sure why I decided to participate. I think partly it was because I really respect the blogger who was encouraging people to participate; partly because one of the most productive exchanges I ever had with a critic was over the promotion of breastfeeding in the Philippines, so it got me interested in that country’s infant feeding history; and partly because I feel like the fallout from misguided breastfeeding advocacy in the US can be a cautionary tale for those trying to find the right approach. Or maybe the word “carnival” made me think of pony rides and cotton candy, and put me in a celebratory mood. Regardless of why I wanted to participate, I hope that I am not offending anybody by doing so. I want to make it clear that the current status of breastfeeding – and thus breastfeeding promotion – is vastly different in the Philippines than it is here in the States, or in most of the countries represented by regular readers of this blog. There, formula feeding is still seen as a symbol of status; pretty much the complete opposite to what is going on in Western cultures, where formula feeding is correlated with lower levels of income or education. (On that note, I urge you to check out the other blog posts from the women participating in this event, because I truly learned a lot from reading their words. Links are at the bottom of the page.)

But for the very reason that breastfeeding promotion is still in its early stages in the Philippines, I hope that my post can help this country do it right, and not make the same mistakes I feel that breastfeeding advocates have made in my part of the world. Because I believe that positive breastfeeding promotion is not only possible, but necessary and beneficial for all women, both formula feeding and breastfeeding. It frustrates me that most of what I see is the reverse – negative breastfeeding promotion – and I feel that this approach is turning women against other women; society against mothers; and setting women up for failure.

Let’s consider my personal dream world. There’s a woman in this world who wants to breastfeed. She thinks it is something beautiful, a powerful connection that can be forged physically between mother and babe, something that only a woman can do. She doesn’t think formula is bad, or that formula feeding would make her any less connected to her child; she just wants to breastfeed because it seems like the natural extension of pregnancy. She has to go back to work after three months, but she isn’t stressing about it, because she figures she’ll see how things are going after those three months and either pump, supplement, or do a little of both. Since she’s not scared of formula, there is no pressure on her; she is only focused on the positives. The people around her have told her that breastfeeding is easier, empowering, and while it can be tough for the first month, they are all there to help her through it in any way they can. What happens to this woman?

a) Most likely, she has a great breastfeeding experience. She has positive, cheerful people around her, not warning her about everything that might ruin her breastfeeding goals, but rather helping her work through challenges as they arise; assuring her that no matter what, she should do what is best for her and her family, and that they are only there to make breastfeeding as easy and successful as it can possibly be. 

b) If she encounters serious problems, these same people will try and find solutions that work for her. Since there is no pressure involved, but rather her own desire and drive to breastfeed, whatever decision she makes will be guilt-free. Since she is stress-free and knows that no one will judge her for her decisions, nothing is complicating the situation. She works through the problem and goes on to nurse for a year, and becomes a inspiring force for every woman who knows her

c) She hits an insurmountable roadblock, and finds herself unable to breastfeed exclusively. But she still does her best, enjoying every minute of her nursing relationship because there is NO PRESSURE to meet some breastfeeding ideal. And if she nurses for a day, or for six months, or combo-feeds, or whatever – she remains a breastfeeding advocate, possibly even more empowered to help other women avoid the roadblock she encountered.

Now, let’s take a woman who lives in another world, where breastfeeding is promoted chiefly by pointing out how it can maximize your child’s potential – make him smarter, healthier, thinner. In this world, women who formula feed are seen as lazy, uninformed, or uncaring, because if breastfeeding is so superior, who in her right mind wouldn’t give her baby the best?

This world isn’t a dream world, it’s the world I live in. Every day I get emails from women who feel angry, isolated, judged and lied to. And these are women who wanted to breastfeed. The disappointment they felt about not getting the nursing relationship they craved was bad enough, but on top of that, because of the way breastfeeding and formula are presented in Western society these days, they also felt like failures.

Advocates have told me that accentuating the positives of breastfeeding hasn’t worked, which is why there has been a push towards focusing on the risks of formula. Essentially, though, this leads to women being “scared” or “guilted” into nursing. I suppose that if you feel strongly about breastfeeding, then the ends could justify these means – but I suspect that these tactics won’t lead to very productive ends, in the long run. Women who want to breastfeed don’t need to be convinced. And those who do need convincing? Fear tactics are not the way to go. A woman who feels coerced into breastfeeding is not going to go into the process with a positive attitude. And what happens to that woman? 

a) She breastfeeds because she feels she “has to”, but ends up loving it in the long run. 

b) She breastfeeds because she feels she “has to”, and is miserable because of it, and tells her friends how miserable she is, which isn’t great public relations for the practice – breastfeeding becomes seen as a “chore” or something to grit your teeth through, like birth.

c) She stops breastfeeding by choice, but then feel like she has to blame it on the infamous “booby traps” (ie, bad hospital practices, formula companies and their insidious marketing, unsupportive community, etc.) in order to save face, even though the biggest booby trap was the fact that she never wanted to nurse in the first place. She should be able to admit that and not be judged, but she knows she will be. 

d) She stops breastfeeding, tells the truth about why she stopped, and is made to feel like a terrible mom. 

e) She hits an insurmountable roadblock, and has to give up breastfeeding, and feels like she is torturing her child and is unfit to be a mom. A few years down the line, she is still hurting from that experience; meanwhile, she’s seen her child grow to be smart, healthy, and slender. So she starts to think that all the breastfeeding benefits were overblown. Which makes her resent the people who told her that formula feeding would ruin her child. Can you blame her for not being supportive of lactivism? 

I want breastfeeding to be promoted and protected. But I believe the way we are currently doing it is wrong.

Expectant friends have asked me if they should try breastfeeding. Now, if someone is asking the Fearless Formula Feeder this question, chances are she wants someone to talk her out of nursing, that she is a bit skittish about the whole thing. But that is not something I will do. That’s not something I want to do. Rather, I want to encourage her to try it, as long as she doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other. So here is my approach: I always start off by saying that first and foremost, it is her choice. That no matter what, her baby will be fed; her baby will be loved; their bond will still be as strong. I tell her I am happy to discuss the relative risks of formula feeding with her, and ways she can counteract those risks (for example, one study suggested that formula fed kids who start solids too early have a higher risk of obesity, yet if they start solids at the recommended 4-6 months, this risk is no higher than that of breastfed kids; on the other hand, it doesn’t seem to matter when breastfed kids start solids. So if she chooses to formula feed, this might be helpful information). 

Then, I tell her that if breastfeeding hadn’t been so complicated for me – if it hadn’t been so intricately tied up with my postpartum depression and some other more personal issues – I would have chosen breastfeeding, hands down. For most women, once you get past the initial learning curve of breastfeeding, it is easier than formula feeding. It is free. You can never forget to pack your breasts in your diaper bag. You have an instant way to soothe tears or help your baby sleep (bottles can do the same thing, but this can lead to overfeeding, whereas breastfeeding has the advantage of non-nutritive sucking). You burn like 500 extra calories a day, so you can keep on eating for two (the one thing I miss about pregnancy…!). Many of my friends also found it a bonding experience with other women, not just their babies – some of the best friendships they forged with other moms were in breastfeeding support groups. You will have a new appreciation for what your body is capable of – what a cool sense of pride, knowing you can single-handedly nourish your baby. My nursing friends also tell me that nursing sessions are incredibly relaxing, a way to step out of the rush of the day and just be.

I tell them that she could (not should, but could) at least try breastfeeding, because she may discover that it comes easy to her, and that she really enjoys it.

Does this approach work? I have no idea. But I can tell you that 5 out of 6 friends who I’ve had this conversation with have ended up primarily breastfeeding their children for the better part of a year. The other combo-fed and is still a huge supporter of breastfeeding. A small sample to be sure, but 5 out of 6 ain’t bad. And 5 out of 6 women feeling this positive about breastfeeding, on a national scale…? That could create the breastfeeding-friendly dream world we discussed earlier… and not harm the sisterhood of women while doing it.

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Take a minute and visit/comment on these other posts by Carnival participants:


The Low-Milk-Supply Mommy Did It! by The Odyssey of Dinna



About the Author:

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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40 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Promotion Tips from a Formula Feeder (Yes, you read that correctly…)

  1. I like all your points here but am puzzled sometimes at the focus on health issues or personal problems as a reason not to breastfeed when work and time management can be just as important. I personally wanted to and did bf for about 5 months, not exclusively because the doctor suggested supplementing since baby lost weight at first, but about 80%-20% for the first three months and then a bit more formula thereafter. The main reason for not exclusively bf-ing other than the weight loss at first was that I had to go back to work at 7 weeks (no maternity leave as it was my first year on the job and I was actually still grading papers one week out of the hospital) and I needed to sleep at night to work in the morning while my husband was home with the baby. And he nursed 12 times a day for 40 mins each! While I had plenty of milk supply for nursing, pumping did not give me enough to tide over baby while I was at work. Gradually baby got super distracted after about 3 months and went on two nursing strikes and it was just so much work to get him back on the breast that after the last serious nursing strike at about 5.5 months I just let him wean.

    It doesn't have to be a serious health or latch problem that makes you wean or not BF, sometimes it's just a combination of life factors, and decisions that lead to other decisions and cut off options – I'm sure my supply went down when I went back to work and so on, and supplementing with the bottle from the beginning probably made baby a bit lazy too. I felt ambivalent about BFing, much as I loved the feeling and experience (and really missed it when baby weaned), mainly because of what I had to give up to do it – I was chained to the boppy for months and the default baby-caregiver despite holding a job because of the BFing. And I could not hold down two full time jobs if one of those jobs was BFing. The “breastfeeding is free” argument in this post is puzzling because I thought this blog generally recognized the trade-offs for those of us who don't have the luxury of being financially cared for while we make decisions purely on the basis of what we feel is best for us.

  2. I 100% agree…interestingly the only time my daughter was given a propped bottle was by my sitter, who was breastfeeding her 4th child, and had to feed her son and my daughter at the same time.
    She is an amazing caretaker who enriches my girls' lives in many ways, but I had to comment to her that I wasn't happy about it and I didn't want it to become a habit. I was so glad I called her out on it because I don't think she thought it was a big deal…daycare one of those “confounding factors” that gets forgotten about.

  3. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be argumentative or insulting or anything but this:

    “I suppose if a FF mom is fully informed about that and bottle feeds as she would nurses – holding the bottle like a breast, feeding the baby/child small meals so that the child is thus held more frequently – it could approximate.”

    is one of those stereotypes that drives me positively nuts. Why do people think that formula feeders are all bottle proppers who don't know how to hold their babies?! My daughter is 9.5 months old and has been bottle-fed since 2 weeks. I have never, ever propped a bottle. Every single feed – EVERY ONE – has been in my arms (or in a loving family member's), cradled and held closely. I really, honestly, truly just do NOT understand this stereotype.

  4. I think it's a good idea to just suggest to women that given certain circumstances, these are the choices that are good for their babies – breastfeeding better, formula properly made perfectly OK (if they can trust the person mixing it up to wash their hands, store at correct temp, have a way of cleaning bottles and so on), orange soda and coke lousy. Then let them decide what they will do based on their circumstances.

    What I liked about the information I received mainly in the Mayo book on having a baby was that it laid out the costs and benefits of breast vs bottle very neutrally and offered anecdotes and quotes from women and their partners on both sides. I agree that it's important to offer health information to counter disinformation from companies, e.g. my mother had the idea that mother's milk is less “thick” and “rich” and formula is more nourishing, and you get all kinds of nonsense from old-school nurses about how babies need to be fed less often with formula (not true, breastmilk is actually 10% more caloric and my baby and others who were b-fed were often pretty big).

    About work and leave and such policies, Bfing advocates cannot of course change such things easily but they can certainly acknowledge them – e.g. “bfing will take so many hours a day and being up with baby at night is tiring so it is something best done when you have some support” or “bear in mind that if you supplement with a bottle your supply may go down and the body doesn't always produce on demand and then shut off for the 8 hours you're in the office” and so on.

    I realize that one of the reasons BFing is so emotionally charged and cannot just be about laying out the facts and letting women decide is that it IS hard and requires a lot of personal sacrifice and persistence and so to some extent you do need to believe it's better for baby or even crucial for baby to work through some of those challenges. But we can certainly take a step towards de-infantilizing women by trying just for once to lay out the facts rather than thinking about what social pressure and other means we can make them feel better or worse about themselves for BFing or not.

  5. I don't mean to be argumentative, but there are plenty of cases in which breastmilk is NOT the best for babies. Poke through FFF and you will see examples of women whose milk was not the complete and safe nutritional solution trumpeted by lactivists because of their IGT, PCOS, or medications. The milk of an HIV+ mother is not best for babies (whether it's better than the water/formula available in the area should be determined on a case-by-case basis). Look around and you will find examples of children so allergic to foods that an elimination diet means malnutrition for the mother–and ask yourself if the nutritional quality of that milk will be adequate for the baby.

    Instead of making blanket medical generalizations that are not always true, I'd love to see women get together to promote better health care for women and babies–the kind of health care men get, where medical decisions are based on what's best for each individual patient, and not the result of some kind of social agenda or engineering.

    Breastmilk is not the best for babies. Period. What is best for babies is whatever is determined best by a medical analysis weighing the pros and cons for both mother and baby. This is the gold standard of medicine, and yet we have entire organizations and leagues of women trying to deny that standard to women the world over. Who needs men when we women can be our own worst enemies?

    In many cases, yes, breastmilk will come out on top. But saying that is true across the board for all women and children promotes one-size-fits-all medicine that ignores all the medical standards we promote elsewhere in medicine. You wouldn't plaster “Chemo is best” posters all over an oncology ward, or tell men with prostate cancer that one solution is best for all men, would you? You wouldn't chant “natural is best” slogans at a fertility clinic around a bunch of couples trying IVF, would you? You wouldn't champion “Mediterranean diets are best” and imply all other foods are inferior at a grade school where there are children with peanut/tree nut allergies, would you?

    One-size-fits-all medicine is dangerous and sub-par, and it's time women start insisting on proper medical care instead of useless, untrue platitudes.

  6. Honestly, I had to take a second look because of the name. But who am I to judge? I'm just glad that more and more mothers are working for an informed feeding choice. Truly, modern mothers are smart. In due time, I know we would be able to achieve the “ideal” environment and the appropriate mother-baby support that everyone deserves.

  7. Great point, and I apologize for not addressing the work/financial constraint issue in this post. You are abso-freaking-lutely correct that it takes a degree of privilege to make this type of choice, informed or not. This is not an excuse by any means, because I should have made it more clear, but I chose to focus on the health reasons rather than financial/employment constraints b/c I wasn't familiar enough with the situation in the Philippines to assess whether these issues would be the same, whereas mental/physical health issues affect all of us regardless of class, race or employment status (although the latter certainly have an impact on the former).

    It's also too easy to argue against any mention of financial/job reasons for not bf-ing, by bringing up the lack of maternity benefits in the US. I'm not ever sure how to handle these discussions, as on the one hand I absolutely agree that we need better maternity (and paternity) leave and job security and so forth – but I am uncomfortable using breastfeeding “goals” as the reason to support these measures. I think it essentializes women… so I think on some level, I tend to shy away from emphasizing this particular point. But that's just me being lazy and a chicken. I appreciate your calling me out on this, and if you would ever be interested in doing a guest post about these issues, please email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

  8. I'd just like to make it clear that I am not advocating bullying in whatever form and for whatever cause. I never said that I wish that we have “breastfeeding BULLIES” here in the Philippines. My last sentence clearly states, “But sometimes, I do wish we have ONE. :) ” And to put this into context, it is in relation to the fact that Filipinos are generally non-confrontational and that we do NOT have breastfeeding bullies here.

    It is true that I am “IGNORANT” of what moms in the US are experiencing. And thank you for enlightening me. But please remember that Formula Feeder's post is about breastfeeding promotion in the PHILIPPINES and not the US. And as the Filipino moms here have mentioned, the situation in the Philippines (of which I am not ignorant of) is very different from that in your country.

    I am WITH YOU in your fight against bullies, be they breastfeeding bullies or in OUR part of the world, formula bullies.

  9. This piece is really sensible, I have never viewed formula feeding this way ever since I failed to breastfeed. I am not totally guilt-free but definitely, this makes me revisit my views and refresh my perspectives on the bottle vs breast debate. makes me feel better ultimately.

  10. Yes I see…I would only amend that all babies instinctively want to breastfeed (or get a nipple that dispenses food in their mouths). :)

  11. “What is best for babies is whatever is determined best by a medical analysis weighing the pros and cons for both mother and baby.”

    So true and done very, very infrequently by most medical practitioners in the U.S. wrt infant feeding. Most doctors know very little about breastfeeding or how to help a mother who wants to breastfeed but needs expert assistance. We just don't know what the real rate of lactational failure is because so many women receive extremely poor education and assistance on the topic.

  12. Correlation does not equal causation. Cesarean sections have also increased at an alarming rate and could be a factor in the increase in allergies.

  13. Hi, Teri! Thank you for your thoughts, they are valuable. I'm sorry if you took the statement “breastmilk is best” the wrong way, or saw it as some sort of jab at FF. That wasn't my intention in any way. It is both enlightening and humbling to see the many views on this thread, especially of staunch FF over there in the U.S. :)

    I do, however, stand by my belief that women–instinctively–want to breastfeed. Medical reasons or restrictions aside, it's still the best, and that is all I meant. Of course, when you factor in the INDIVIDUAL woman's concerns, then the choice to BF or FF should indeed be under the supervision and guidance of the woman's physician. I did not say anything to imply that this was wrong or inferior to breastfeeding. Note I mentioned that we cannot judge our fellow mothers for their choices.

    I also believe in empowering our people in the Philippines, especially against misleading information about both breastfeeding and formula milk. This is the case in the Philippines. In the ongoing pro-breastfeeding campaigns in the Philippines, we are not targeting INDIVIDUAL women who formula feed. We are rather targeting the marketing tactics of milk companies who blatantly violate the Milk Code laws in place. I hope that as you read Jenny's blog or Mec's (who are the hosts for this carnival), you'd get a clearer picture of why we're so passionate about this cause here in the Philippines :)

  14. Hi, Amy.

    When I made my statement (first comment ever I made on the thread), I was implying that the female species instinctively wants to breastfeed. That is all I meant.

    So, it's a “yes” to all 3 points you made. I hope that clears things up? :)

  15. 1) Your first question is: “Why aren't those moms breastfeeding?” One reason is lack of information.

    But let me explain that further (and I'll try to correlate this with Formula Feeder's INFORMED CHOICE message).

    You have to understand that breastfeeding promotion in the Philippines is at an infancy stage. Most of the Filipina moms have not been breastfed. Who can we ask about breastfeeding? From whom or where will get the information?

    We have very few doctors and health personnel who are knowledgeable about breastfeeding. While our government has passed the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act in March 2010, up to now, the relevant agency has yet to issue the Implementing Rules and Regulations. Our Department of Health has JUST launched its breastfeeding campaign.

    In other words, most of the Filipino women lack information about breastfeeding.

    Now, contrast this with the barrage of information about formula and its benefits. Multinational companies here have movie and television stars as endorsers. We see very popular celebrities who have just given birth endorsing formula (albeit for toddlers) on tv commercials. These tv commercials emphasize that formula does wonder for the IQ, eyesight, immunity, bones, etc. We have free baby books and free milk samples distributed by formula companies.

    How can there be an informed choice if the only information most Filipino women have access to is about formula and its benefits?

    2) “Could it be that they cannot breastfeed?” Probably. As you've mentioned, there are about 1-5% of women who cannot breastfeed. But how would they know that when there is precisely not much information on breastfeeding. One of the common reasons given by moms HERE on why they do not breastfeed is because they lack milk. How did they arrive at that conclusion? Their babies apparently are constantly feeding, even as frequent as every 30 minutes. And so they reasoned out that their babies are not getting enough milk. Aren't babies supposed to feed every 2 to 3 hours, as stated in formula cans? But if these moms are INFORMED, then they would know that there is such a thing as cluster feeding and that this is not a sign that their babies are not getting enough milk.

    3) Perhaps, “there are women should not breastfeed”. I have no issue here because I was one of these women. My firstborn was formula-fed for health reasons. The doctors advised me that the medication I was then having MAY be harmful to my baby. But precisely, this was an INFORMED choice on my part.

    Besides, given the scenario that I pointed out, should we start our breastfeeding campaign HERE by zeroing in the reasons why moms should not breastfeed? The formula companies have been doing that already. Just look at the free baby books here and they all have detailed enumeration of the reasons why moms cannot and should not breastfeed.

    4) I beg to disagree with your conclusion that “in that case, all the breastfeeding promotion in the universe is not going to change babies drinking “am” or diluted formula.” We may not be able to do anything about those who, for medical reasons, should not breastfeed. But with the right information campaign, we surely can do something about those who THOUGHT that they could not breastfeed. (And again, please relate this to my discussion on the poverty level here.)

    5) Finally, and as pointed out by fellow Filipina mom Jenny, most Filipinos are non-confrontational. It's a cultural thing. Insofar as breastfeeding advocacy in this part of the world is concerned, I have yet to come across with “breastfeeding bullies” and NGOs which “demonize” formula companies. But sometimes, I do wish we have one. :)

  16. I wonder why the rate of food allergies among kids has went up as BF rates has increased? Im curious to see if there could possibly be a correlation between the 2.

  17. Thanks for your joining us on the carnival with this post!

    My two cents about the bonding thing: the breastfeeding advocacy here in the Philippines has miles to go before we even use “bonding” as a topic for argument. There's the stigma that breastfeeding is what you do if you are poor, with no money. Given how aspirational marketing is so effective for our culture here, formula companies milk that and we end up with women feeding their babies with anything else OTHER than breastmilk just to keep up with that mindset. What they feed their children range from “am” as Jenny pointed out in the above comment, to Coca-Cola, toddler formula (way cheaper than infant formula), evaporated milk (sometimes diluted with water) to coffee creamer. One mother who belonged to a group of rural poor I worked with told me they fed their babies Coca-Cola rather than breastmilk is because the babies grew fatter with the soda. That's the kind of thinking we're battling here. We have so many hurdles to get over before we even argue closeness. As a mom, I didn't feel that I was bullied at all by the breastfeeding advocacy. I had to seek them out, actively and consciously. I am also against alienating the mother, and pushing for moms to make the informed choice about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. The ultimate choice is theirs.

  18. Thank you for joining our carnival and I really, really, really appreciate all the inputs and perspective I am getting from your post and the comments here. I am truly still learning and humbled by the amount of learning (and growing up) I still have to do.

  19. So my question is: why aren't those moms breastfeeding? Why bother with something that requires more work or stretching along to make it last longer?

    Could it be that they cannot breastfeed? That the 1-5% number of women worldwide who cannot breastfeed so frequently cited by breastfeeding bullies and NGOs alike is, well, wrong? Perhaps there are women who should not breastfeed, who are taking medication or have medical conditions like HIV that make it a poor choice?

    In that case, all the breastfeeding promotion in the universe is not going to change babies drinking “am” or diluted formula. Perhaps instead of demonizing formula companies, these companies can be invited to become part of the solution. As it is right now, from what I've seen of NGOs, formula companies are personae non grata, even though the inherent bias against formula precludes presenting more medically-sound solutions for women and children for whom breastfeeding is not an option.

  20. Amy- Your follow up comment to your own comment reinforces something I've been thinking about each time I think about the FF versus BF issue. I think what matters is that a mother want what's BEST for her and her child. In some contexts, breastmilk is highly superior to how formula is actually used (as it seems in some cases in developing countries) but here in the US, when used properly, it can be a great source of nutrition. And moreover, what is “BEST”, when nutritional value is somewhat comparable, can be altered by emotional and physical reasons. For example, I am similar to Maryann and Jennifer above in that the bfeeding struggle was so severe that no bonding happened. I pumped for a while because I was very intent on passing my antibodies to my daughter as much as I could, but bottle feeding, since i could prepare it properly and afford good formula, turned out to be best :) So yes, I agree with you, I think it depends on the context, and we all want what is BEST, which sometimes ISN”T breastfeeding depending on the situation :)

  21. thanks for joining the Carnival Suzanne!! I am interested in your slant on positive breastfeeding promotion v. negative breastfeeding promotion. I also really think it is part of culture. You see, as a people, Filipinos are more “giving and understanding” we have this pakikisama and pakikikapwa system (translated into: dealings/fellowship) and Filipinos hate confrontation. Heck, some Filipinos I know have relatives living with them for years and years just because of this system.. ok so I digress.
    Anyway, what is different about breastfeeding promotion here is that the advocacy is up against a huge (and rich) opponent – the formula milk companies plus their barrage of advertisements. yes, we have a milk code regulating advertisements but the violations are so blatant and remain unreported (we work on a reporting system – no one reports them they don't get sanctioned).
    Legally Mom has already explained the poverty level here plus what the moms do to “meet” the nutritional needs of their babies e.g. diluted formula, inappropriate milk. But what are formula companies doing? they still promote milk (we have formula for kids up to 7 years old) using celebrities idolize by masses!! and do these Filipino masses distinguish whether the milk being promoted is for an infant or a toddler? no they don't! because the milk is promoted by their favorite artista (celebrity) PLUS it is way cheaper than the 0-6 formula milk, then that's their choice of brand.
    if you haven't yet, i would highly recommend that you watch “FORMULA FOR DISASTER” – available in Youtube for a better understanding of how formula marketing works in the Philippines.
    So, in all my posts, comments, etc. my stand is to support the breastfeeding mother BUT crucify those formula milk and milk marketing companies!

  22. Not trying to be snarky here, please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm trying to understand what message you want me to take away.

    Are you saying:
    1)You believe all women instinctively want to breastfeed.
    2)That (some/most depending on socioeconomic status) women have the choice to either BF or FF. (thereby overcoming instinct?)
    3)That women who want to BF very badly will put as much effort as they are able, into doing so.

  23. Hi, Amy!

    About my statement on “all women” wanting to breastfeed: Let me be a bit more specific about the gist of the statement…

    I believe all women inherently want to breastfeed. By this, I'm pertaining to a woman's primal, maternal instincts. Not all will attempt to breastfeed, and those who do but have a hard time will eventually consent with giving formula. There's nothing wrong with that. Some will feel guilty, yes, but most, truth be told, are absolutely comfortable with it. I'm AGAINST judging women who can't breastfeed or have chosen not to, simply because I believe we have the choice, as women.

    However, as mothers, I believe we have to exhaust our efforts and try to breastfeed for as long as we can. I believe a woman who seriously believes breastfeeding is best will, to the best of her abilities, exhaust all efforts to do so. It's just in our nature as women.

  24. Based on legally mom's comments, I should add that “as long as you are providing nutritionally healthy nourishment for your child…” and education about what options are available for that is very important! Diluted powdered orange juice drink is not good! But still, lets not judge those moms, but work on educating them and empowering them to make the best decisions they can within their financial means–which may mean to try your best at giving breastfeeding a shot!

  25. I agree with you that that positive breastfeeding promotion is beneficial for everyone. The last thing breastfeeding advocates need to do is to alienate other women, particularly those who formula-feed for one reason or another.

    You see, I am a “3-in-1″ mom. My firstborn was formula-fed for medical/health reasons. My second daughter was mixed-fed. I exclusively breastfed her for 2 1/2 months but had to resort to mixed feeding when I went back to work. I was able to breastfeed her, albeit not exclusively, for 2 years. My third child, who is now 10 months old, has been exclusively drinking breastmilk since birth.

    So I really don't have anything against formula-feeders. I was one.

    Having said that, let me just point out something that is peculiar to the Philippines and I guess, to other developing countries.

    You mentioned that “it is [the women's] choice. That no matter what, their baby WILL BE FED, they will be loved, the bond will still be as strong.”

    This may be true in a developed country like the US. But in a country where more than a majority of its 100 Million people earn less than US$10 a day, and with most of the families supporting 3 to 6 children, you can just imagine how deplorable the living conditions are. The truth is, the appropriate infant formula (from 0-6 months, 6-12 months and so on) is NOT an AFFORDABLE choice for millions of women here.

    So what do we see? We see babies drinking “am”, the thickened water coming from boiling rice. We see babies drinking “diluted” formula with the wrong water to formula ratio. Why? Because infant formula is expensive and the mothers have to make sure that it will last longer. We see mothers feeding their babies with milk that is not meant as a breastmilk substitute (like filled or skimmed milk). We even see mothers feeding their babies with diluted powdered orange juice drink!

    Bearing that in mind, we have to be more persistent with our breastfeeding promotion here. Or else, millions of babies will be fed with something that is NOT an appropriate breastmilk substitute.

  26. Wanted to add that I was talking about women in the US, and that in the US most women (not all) have access to clean water and can afford formula. If I couldn't afford formula and/or had no access to clean water, sure as shiat I'd be wanting desperately to breastfeed.

  27. I think this campaign for more BFing in the Phillipines is great. I think that coming up with positive ways to get the message out about BFing in the US and any other country is also great.

    I just wanted to point out your generalization in believing that all mothers want to breastfeed. I don't think that is true. I gave it the old college try with my twins. I wanted to BF then, but not to the point that when it didn't work out, I felt guilty or beat myself up. I don't plan to have any more children, but if I did, knowing what I know now about BFing (and how it was for me), I'd go straight to formula. I do/would not want to BF. I do not believe that I was risking my childrens' lives or health at all by FFing.

    Also there is the logistics factor: more than 60% of mothers work. It is very difficult, sometimes impossible, for them to exclusively BF. Maybe they can during maternity leave, if they get any leave. Maybe they can pump enough to provide a full breastmilk diet. Maybe they nurse when they are home, and the baby gets formula when the mother is at work. I'd be willing to say the vast majority of the working women cannot quit their jobs to stay home and breastfeed. Knowing that in advance, and realizing that baby will need to take a bottle at some point, a working mother may not want to even get started on BFing. I know working mothers who do BF, I'm not saying all working mothers would not want to, but it IS another variable.

    Despite that, women who DO want to BF (possibly the majority), should be able to get positive, unbiased, realistic information about it. And for women who are on the fence, a positive message, not scare tactics or shaming, is what will convince them to BF.

  28. what a beautiful article! I love your vision! I am working with a woman from New Zealand on support for Women when breastfeeding doesn't work out, and I sent her your article. She is a counselor and has started a facebook page called “supportive community for when breastfeeding has not worked” Its a great site that supports women who tried breastfeeding and it didn't work for them (like me!) But I also support women who CHOOSE not to try to breastfeed for a myriad of reasons. As long as you are providing nurishment for your child with love and care, I support you!!

  29. Thank you so much for your input. We are lucky to have you join us in our Milk Mamas Carnival. Looking forward to your other future entries. =)

  30. Katherine- That's a valid point, but I'd argue that this has been YOUR experience, and that every mother-baby dyad is different. In my case, breastfeeding harmed the bond between my children and myself, because it provoked an extreme physical and emotional response that was far from pleasant. That is likely not going to happen for most women, but it happens for some. Again, I think that the point here is that if we share our personal experiences and allow for other people to have their own experiences and opinions, we avoid prescriptive or generalist advice, and rather allow for women to choose a method of feeding free from the constraints that have plagued this choice throughout history. It almost doesn't matter if breastfeeding was 100% guaranteed to offer a better bond with babies – if a mom is miserable doing it, that won't happen. And if someone feel coerced into doing it b/c they are fearful that they won't be as close with their child, then it sets her up for a negative experience from the get-go.

  31. I would generally agree that when breastfeeding goes well, it can lead to a different intensity of connection than bottle feeding does. There is something pretty amazing about knowing that your body is producing nourishment for your child and is a source of comfort in and of itself for your child.

    But when BF goes badly, it is definitely not conducive to bonding, as Maryann and FFF have both aptly described. In my case, the physical pain was so severe that I cried throughout most of my son's nursing sessions. I had intrusive thoughts of chopping my breasts off with a kitchen knife. And I panicked as it got closer and closer to each feeding, just dreading the moment my son would start to fuss with hunger. My son was frustrated because he wasn't getting enough from me and because I would unlatch and relatch him repeatedly to try to get him to latch well enough for it to not hurt.

    I don't think FFF was trying to say that the bond between mother and baby is exactly the same regardless of method of feeding (hopefully I'm not putting words in her mouth). I think she was making the point that the vast majority of bottle fed babies are securely attached to their mothers, just like the vast majority of breastfed babies are securely attached to their mothers. The exact nature of the bond between mother and child may vary because of the feeding method (just as it may vary due to differences in the personalities of mother and child, attachment to fathers and other caregivers, and a gazillion other factors). But from a psychological standpoint, it will be a healthy bond, rather than an unhealthy one.

  32. Excellent viewpoint, Sarah!

    I believe that all mothers want to breastfeed. Especially in recent years, when so much information on breastfeeding has been released and there has been ever-increasing support for it.

    I have nothing against those who formula-feed. I was formula fed from the time I was 3 months old, and I don't judge my mom for that! (My brothers, however, were breastfed beyond 12 months.) As I said in my own blog entry for the carnival, “each to her own,” in effect. We all have our individual issues, be it health concerns, personal convictions, etc.

    As for bonding issues, well, that's subjective. Breastfeeding does create a bond with your child, but this doesn't mean that a mom who formula feeds doesn't have the same kind of closeness with the child. Personally, the initial feeling of bonding came soon after the birth and lasted until the baby started on solids. After that, it seemed as if things changed, like breastfeeding was really more of a routine.

    Yes, there are still days when I do connect with my son in a, shall I say, “spiritual” manner when he nurses, but this isn't to say mothers who bottle-feed with formula experience anything less. Some days, I'm charged up to breastfeed, other days I just wanna pull out my hair in frustration. It's different for every mother.

    I don't think breastfeeding moms on the monopoly on baby bonding. This kind of thinking is divisive, and it pits moms against moms.

    What needs to happen, particularly in the Philippines, is a deliberate campaign to promote breastfeeding as a viable and attractive option for new mothers. It is, and should be, the first option anyway. Whether women choose to join in this kind of crusade is subjective; we can't judge those who would rather formula-feed.

    The truth is: Breastmilk IS the best for babies. Period. But if a woman chooses to formula feed, then at least pro-breastfeeders would have done their part in getting the benefits out. In the end, the choice is ultimately the woman's.

  33. Interesting comments on bonding. Every mom and baby are unique and react to BFing differently. BFing often helps with bonding. There are situations, however, when doing so can actually hurt the mom-and-baby relationship.

    FFF, you made a good point about scaring moms into BFing by implying it's necessary for bonding. Bonding has become a big, scary word for new parents. There are things you can do that are conducive to closeness with your child. You cannot– in my unprofessional opinion– “make it happen”. Bonding is a natural process, not something to be forced or rushed. There isn't a magic formula for bonding, either. There are different ways of doing it. Pressure to BF and/or bond often just creates a stressful, counterproductive situation. So, don't worry, moms. Everything's gonna be fine :-)

  34. Your blog post, together with Dainty Mom's, actually gave me an idea to write about my breastfeeding journey.

    I'm a “3-in-1″ mom. I formula-fed my firstborn due to medical/health reasons. And since I was not an “informed” mom, I didn't know then that relactation was possible. My second daughter was mixed-fed. I exclusively brestfed her for 2 1/2 months but had to mix feed when I went back to work. I was able to breastfeed her, albeit not exclusively, for 2 years. My 3rd child, who is now 10 months old, hasn't drank any formula since birth.

    So yes, I do know how it felt like to be “judged” by well-meaning breastfeeding moms. Being judgmental is certainly not a good way to promote breastfeeding.

    As you have aptly said, “the point here is that if we share our personal experiences and allow for other people to have their own experiences and opinions, we avoid prescriptive or generalist advice.”

    Having said that, I'd like to point out something that is peculiar to the Philippines and I guess, the other developing countries.

    You mentioned that “first and foremost, it is [the women's] choice. That no matter what, their baby will be fed, they will be loved, the bond will still be as strong.”

    Unfortunately, majority of the people in our country live on a daily wage of less than US$10. And with 3-6 children to support, you can just imagine the living conditions.

    Breastfeeding has to be actively promoted here because the “choice” or the alternative that is true in a rich country like the US (formula that is suitable for 0-6 months, 6-12 months and so on) is not an AFFORDABLE choice for most of the Filipino women.

    So what do we have here? We see women feeding their babies with “am”, the thick liquid from boiling rice. We see women diluting the prescribed water to formula ratio so that the formula will last longer. We see women giving milk that is not suitable for babies (sterilized milk, full-cream, skimmed milk). We even see women giving diluted powdered orange juice to babies below 6 months.

    And so for millions of women in our country, there is not much choice. If they choose not to breastfeed, their babies will most likely be fed with something that is NOT suitable for babies.

  35. That's a very individual experience. I've been breastfeeding my baby for more than 9 months, and combo feeding for about half that time, and I feel NOTHING. When she's eating (from breast or bottle) she has absolutely no interest in me. I could be a warm pillow for all she knows or cares. Sometimes I nurse her to sleep. Sometimes her father bottle-feeds her to sleep. Sometimes I do. There is NO appreciable difference.

    However, when she snuggles with me, or falls asleep when I've put her in her carrier against my chest — THAT'S a bond. THAT'S a connection, and I love it. Her father loves it too, when she does it to him.

    This has been our experience. Is it great when nursing time = bonding time for mother and child? Sure. But it isn't necessarily the case that there isn't bonding without it OR that there IS bonding with nursing.

  36. I found it to be quite the opposite in our situation. During my attempts at nursing my daughter, there was so much “stuff” going on (we had such a hard time with it, which is a long story for a different time), there wasn't as much bonding going on. We seemed to bond more when I was simply holding her and when she started bottle feeding. The sense of failure hanging over my head each time I tried to feed her was gone, and she was actually receiving nourishment and feeling satisfied. That seemed to clear the way for deeper bonding. That was just my experience, and like anything, things play out differently depending on the situation and the people involved.

  37. I am really interested in reading more of your blog when I have time (ah, but my 9 mo has other ideas!!) But I did want to mention something. I disagree that you can have the same bond FF as BF. I BF and part time FF my first child. I stopped BF at 6 mo. Once I stopped BF, it seemed like much of the connection I had with her was lost. I BF my 2nd until she was 3. Once BF was done, the connection was different. Not as intense. I have thought a lot about it and I think that it comes down to the amount of actual physical touch and contact that comes from BF. Once you stop BF, the touch is reduced significantly, and thus that bond/connection feels less intense. I suppose if a FF mom is fully informed about that and bottle feeds as she would nurses – holding the bottle like a breast, feeding the baby/child small meals so that the child is thus held more frequently – it could approximate. But even then, there is an intimacy and connection that comes from the actual sucking mouth to breast – I just think it makes a bond that cannot be approximated by a bottle.

  38. Makes a lot of sense to me. It's true that sometimes you get the feeling of people shoving it down your throat. It really has to be made because the chose to breastfeed and not because they were forced to do it. Is your approach effective? I'm pretty sure it is! :)

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