Breastmilk vs. Formula

Similac formula cans

Less than a week and I’m posting about controversial subjects already, huh?

Here in Israel, all formula cans bear a warning in both English and Hebrew that “breast is best“, formula should only be used as a last resort, and only with a pediatrician’s consent.  I assume, logically, that this is required – why else would someone undermine the very product they are selling?

Yitzchak has often described his mother as one of those people who can give 3-hour lectures on why formula is bad for your baby.  Knowing her, I believe it.  All she has said to me on the subject is that breastmilk from a bottle isn’t nearly as good as breastmilk during nursing.

This is true.  If you pump your milk and refrigerate it, it has a 24-hour (tops 48 hours, but the recommended is 24) life.  In this case, all the antibodies are present – but usually a 180 ml. bottle will only include foremilk or hindmilk, not both.  Try pumping into a 240 ml. bottle!  It’s kind of depressing, unless you have a really good electric pump that gets every last drop out.  Also, if you only have 10 minutes, you probably won’t get every last drop.

Frozen (and then thawed) milk loses 40% of its antibodies.  That’s still 60% more than formula, but, especially if your baby is less than six months old, it’s not good.  Why?  Because babies less than six months don’t have a good immune system, so a baby who isn’t getting antibodies from Mom, is completely exposed to anything and everything.  Actually, babies don’t have a fully developed immune system for a few years, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment.

Now that I’ve gone off on a tangent, let’s get back to the point.  It really bothers me when mothers decide that pumping takes too much time, or nursing is too hard.  That’s what lactation consultants are for.  That’s what LLL is for.  The most common “excuse” I hear is that a mother doesn’t have milk.  Um, that’s kind of odd.  Because in the olden days, if you didn’t have milk, and you didn’t have enough money to hire a wet nurse (and most people didn’t), your babies died.  So, that horrifically scary gene in which a mother doesn’t have milk probably wasn’t perpetuated enough for it to have such a large influence (think 20%) on today’s mothers.  So no, that’s not an excuse.  But if your baby isn’t latching right, you WILL have milk problems, because your body is not being told to produce milk.  Well, obviously. . .

What I’m trying to say is this: Nursing is important.  It is not something to be thrown out lightly, and it is something that should be required of anyone able to.  Obviously, I am not talking about preemies who can’t suck, mothers whose milk is contaminated by an illness or by medication, or even babies who for some reason or other can’t nurse or need formula supplements.  Those people, and I am going to say this loud and clear, SHOULD NOT be made to feel guilty because they are not breastfeeding.  In these cases, formula is best, and a mother who cannot nurse is not at fault.  I am not talking to, or about, these mothers in this post.  I am talking to and about situations in which neither mother nor baby has any medical contraindications for breastfeeding, and yet the mother chooses for some reason or other not to nurse, or to stop early.  That bugs me.  It really does.  When you have a child, you are taking it upon yourself to care for him or her in the best way possible.  And part of that means nursing him or her until at least one year, if not two.

Oh – and about the pumping?  I told my MIL that I had to finish the semester, so I didn’t have a choice and he needed to be able to take a bottle.  Then she gave him the bottle I had pumped, because, of course, Shlomo had decided to wake up just as I finished pumping.

I know, I know, I’m not allowed to say this.  Go ahead, start the debate. *hides under table for protection*

Thanks to the debate here for giving me the inspiration for this post.


3 thoughts on “Breastmilk vs. Formula

  1. LittleDuckies, I feel honored to have inspired your frst controversial post and I agree holeheartedly with the importance of nursing. I don’t feel compelled, however, to convince the world. Live & let live.


  2. Pingback: A Bone to Pick: More on Nursing vs. Formula | Little Duckies

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