It is not uncommon that nursing mothers receive negative comments from their relatives, friends, or even complete strangers about how they feed their baby. Some people (mistakenly) think it is "gross" or that it shouldn't be done in public, etc. Moms hear comments like, "Are you STILL doing that?" or "Didn't you just feed her an hour ago?" or "He's not gaining enough, you better supplement with formula" from people who don't just understand the breastfeeding process.
Then on the other hand, some health care workers and well-meaning but not so tactful breastfeeding activists sometimes condemn formula-feeding mothers and try to "lecture" to them about the better way in a pushy manner. These mothers often end up feeling guilty after such attacks if they couldn't/didn't breastfeed.
The two main choices of baby feeding still divide mothers into two camps and sometimes results in arguments and heated discussions. In 2001, the national magazine Baby Talk did a survey of 36,000 mothers revealing that 33% of breast-feeding mothers think bottle-feeding moms are "selfish and lazy". Of formula-feeding mothers, 63 percent said they have not been criticized by breastfeeding mothers, which would mean that 37 percent have been. Then 83 percent of breastfeeding mothers said they had felt criticized by bottle-feeding moms, the main form being disapproving looks and stares, or downgrading remaks while they are breastfeeding in public. You can also see this debate over breast versus bottle flare up on almost every parenting or breastfeeding message board in the internet from time to time.
After studying the many benefits of breastfeeding and the ugly advertising policies of infant formula companies, it is no wonder many women start feeling very emphatically about breastfeeding, and some even become so-called 'breastfeeding activists' or 'lactivists', trying to promote breastfeeding in various ways.
That is certainly a good thing in itself, because even though there is no doubt that 'breast is best', there is still a lot of misinformation and misconceptions about breastfeeding versus formula-feeding, and a need for more support for women so they wouldn't wean so early. For example, many pregnant women might not know how bottle-fed infants have a greater incidency of SIDS and respiratory infections. But sometimes the enthusiastic lactivists come on too strongly and push their views and thereby may offend someone.
Condemning attitudes never help anyone, whether it is towards a mom nursing in public place or towards a mom who has made a choice to bottle-feed her baby. There are some sound medical reasons for bottle feeding, for example if the mother needs a medication that would be very harmful to the baby (though with many medications you can continue breastfeed normally). Some women also have hypoplastic (underdeveloped) breasts and their breasts don't have enough milk making tissue. In these cases the mother needs support, not condemnation.
And, if a mom is bottle-feeding a baby, you can not know whether the liquid in the bottle might be her own expressed breast milk, or formula! Some women know the importance of breast milk but have no option but to pump their breast milk for the baby (for various reasons; for example if the baby has a problem with sucking or latching), and are actually doing a double-duty that way.
Also, many many mothers do try to breastfeed but quit and wean fairly early because of various problems. Often those problems might have been solvable with the right information or with more support from a lactation consultant, but if weaning is already past, then it is does no good to try to condemn the mother for formula-feeding.
These women who do intend to breastfeed but end up bottle-feeding often also end up feeling very guilty for 'their failure'. They may feel very bad when reading parenting magazines or hearing health-care professionals promote breastfeeding.
Most of us just do our best according to our circumstances and knowledge; so if you bottle feed, and it is the best you could do, there is no reason to feel guilty. The MOST important things children need are LOVE, nurturing, caring, proper discipline, nutrition, education, parents, home. Just think about all the kids who do not receive those basics, and what kind of adults they grow up to be...
We hope bottle-feeding moms understand that breastfeeding isn't promoted to make them feel guilty! Breast-feeding needs to be promoted, because if it wasn't promoted, then the advertising tactics of formula companies would take over and breastfeeding rates would go down.
There is SO very much misinformation and lack of information about breastfeeding! We get comments weekly from people who have learned something from this website. For example, one teen wrote a comment to this site that she had thought breastfeeders did it for lack of money to buy the expensive man-made formula; she was shocked (and happy) to find out breastfeeding was the healthier choice.
We hope people could get more educated on breastfeeding process in general, and in particular on how innocent and pure it is. There is nothing wrong or indecent in exposing breasts even in public while nursing, because that is what breasts were intended for: giving food to babies. Many states even have the law explicitly state and clarify that the woman has a right to breastfeed wherever she might otherwise legally be, regardless of whether the breast is showing or not.
It is so bizarre though I think, each time that I find myself sitting in a small strange stall; having and feeding a child is so universal, ancient and knows no ethnic boundaries, yet I always find myself somehow, hiding. Across the continents from time immemorial, this is how our ancestors have been nurtured, this is how we as a people have largely grown into new generations, yet today we are so ashamed by the breast that we scorn the very act of breastfeeding, banishing mothers to dens and caves of filth.
And yet, women are not encouraged to breastfeed their babies. Women are looked at instead as being sensual and sexual because breastfeeding involves the breast, which our western culture is obsessed with in an unhealthy way and to an unhealthy degree. The breast is beautiful and sensual yes, but it also exists for naturally nourishing a human being in its beginning realm of life; it is not only for sexual and profitable gain.
Francesca Biller-Safran, at "What's a mother to do: Breastfeeding - healthy, not political"
In a summary:
This article is not intended to make anyone feel badly or guilty for their choice of feeding! Thank you for reading.