Why Do Mothers Choose to Formula-Feed?

During my maternity leave, I went back to an old hobby of mine – reading about baby feeding, health, and development.  Probably, all of you know on which side of the breastfeeding – formula feeding divide I very firmly stand.  That said, it irks me a lot when people say, “The most important thing is a happy mother; if breastfeeding is too hard for you, it’s better to just give your baby formula and quit nursing, as long as you’re not stressed out.”  Which, by the way, is bunk.  Then there are those who say that mothers who choose, from the outset, to add formula, care just as much about their babies, and do not do it for convenience but for the baby’s sake.

I’ll let Alpha Parent say it; here’s a quote from her post comparing past and present in baby feeding:

Self-interest is still quoted as the prime reason for not breastfeeding. From the UK Department of Health Infant Feeding survey (which involves around 8000 mothers and is done every 5 years): “The most common reason for choosing to breastfeed was that breastfeeding was best for the baby’s health, followed by convenience. The most common reason for choosing to bottle-feed was that it allowed others to feed the baby, followed by a dislike of the “idea” of breastfeeding.”

And here’s some more, for those who claim that breastfeeding doesn’t allow you to sleep at night:

Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep and their sleep is of higher quality. A breastfed baby can eat as soon as he is hungry. If co sleeping, that means before the baby even starts to cry. A formula-fed baby has to wait for formula to be prepared and warmed, in the meantime getting more and more distressed and agitated as well as waking others in the household. When breastfeeding, even the mother does not need to wake up fully to nurse her baby. Furthermore, the hormones produced during nursing have a relaxing effect, and the mother is likely to sleep even better when she nurses her baby. Studies have shown that parents of infants who were breastfed in the evening and/or at night slept an average of 40-45 minutes more than parents of infants given formula (Doan et al). Parents of infants given formula at night had more sleep disturbance than parents of infants who were exclusively breast-fed at night.

And for those who think that Dad can feed the baby at night if you formula feed:

I’m sorry to burst SMA’s bubble but as Gabrielle Palmer (The Politics of Breastfeeding, 2009) has pointed out, “The reality is that few fathers actually do take the whole responsibility of infant care and most artificial feeding is still done by mothers”. Pauline Lim, author of the very useful book Teach Yourself Successful Breastfeeding, concurs that:

“In reality few partners actually share the night feeds, so don’t be tempted to stop breastfeeding for this reason. There might be an odd occasion when this happens but the novelty wears off very quickly, leaving you firmly back in charge of the night-feed. This is particularly true when your partner has to get up for work.”

Remember when we were dealing with tongue-tie?  I pumped and went to sleep, and Yitzchak fed her the pumped milk.  Or, sometimes, I just pumped while he fed Tova the previously pumped bottle.  However, this was for a very limited time, until Tova finally learned how to nurse while lying beside me in bed, and Yitzchak did it not because he ideologically believed it was better for him to share the nighttime burden (because there is no question that nursing is better than getting a bottle of pumped milk, no matter how fresh), but because I was so weak, out of it, and barely functioning that he basically had no choice.  It wasn’t easy for Yitzchak and I don’t think we would have been able to keep it up long-term.  Especially since I would wake up when Tova cried and then have to fall back asleep. During those early weeks, however, it was a lifesaver (and you know something is wrong when it’s easier to pump than it is to nurse).

Here’s a study that compares the health of formula fed, or mixed formula and breastmilk fed, babies with those exclusively breastfed for the first six months.  Obviously, any breastfeeding is better than none, but that does not mean that supplementing a breastfed baby with formula does not have any undesirable side effects.  Another thing that should be mentioned is that breastfed babies are not healthier than formula fed babies; rather, formula fed babies are sicker than breastfed babies.

Don’t worry, give me a few days and we will get back to the elections.  We are still waiting on the final 1% of votes to come in, and until they do, nothing is official and the only thing we can do is speculate.

 

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2 thoughts on “Why Do Mothers Choose to Formula-Feed?

  1. There are several reasons why mothers formula feed and you’ve clearly not considered medical reasons in your post. I breast fed my baby for a week but unfortunately suffered a haemorridge due to breast feeding whilst on blood thinners because of the blood clot I developed when pregnant. After being admitted to hospital I was advised I couldn’t carry on breastfeeding – to my disappointment and had to switch to formula. Maybe you should consider there are reasons which might not be the mothers choice before you try and make mothers feel bad for feeding their baby the only way they can. Jen XOXO http://www.highheelsandbabywheels.com

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    • Thank you, I just realized that the title is misleading (and changed it). In this post I wasn’t talking about medical reasons, as is obvious from the first paragraph. Formula *exists* for those medical reasons. I am glad that we have formula available, and I am glad that you and your baby had the option of using it.

      If you take a look at the first quote that I brought from Alpha Parent, you will see that it does not condemn you. The most common reasons are simply not medical reasons – because medical reasons, although not rare, are not that common.

      G-d forbid I should condemn mothers who don’t have a choice, whether because of their health or their babies’. And you shouldn’t feel bad, either; just like you don’t feel bad for giving your kid antibiotics for an ear infection. Formula is a wonderful thing, and it exists for a reason. We just have to be very careful not to abuse it.

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