** As a progressive Dad, I am a breastfeeding advocate. I also believe in education and informed choices, however, and the opinions expressed here may differ greatly from the experiences of others. This is not an attempt to “mansplain” anything either, my opinion is get the information and choose for yourself. My wife and I parent together. 🙂 **
Like many expectant parents, my wife and I attended prenatal classes in hopes that we would be as prepared as possible for baby’s arrival. At the time, we thought the classes were quite good. Informative, thorough, interactive, and the instructor was very personable. One thing that struck us was the emphasis on breastfeeding. It was explained that information about formula would not be discussed, as breastfeeding was the only method deemed suitable by the majority of the medical profession, at least in our area. This seemed fine, we had every intention of exclusively feeding our baby breastmilk anyway. My wife would feed him, and I would participate all hours of the day and night by bringing her water, cleaning up, whatever had to be done during feedings … then baby was born, and so began my gripe with the “breastfeeding is the only way” approach.
We all get it. Breastfeeding is ideal. I would be surprised if anybody tried to dispute that, but many healthy adults were formula fed. The nutrients and vitamins that a baby needs to grow and be healthy are also in formula, and although it may not be the best option, mothers who choose to not or simply can’t breastfeed should not be demonized. When our baby was just a day old, his bilirubin levels were high and he had to go under fluorescent lights for 24 hours. We had to wake him up every couple of hours to feed him a combination of breastmilk and formula. This got him accustomed to a free flow bottle nipple, and as a result my wife had tremendous difficulty getting him to latch. The stress of this can, and sometimes does, lead to obsessive behaviours around pumping schedules, and can have devastating effects on a new mother’s mental state. And even though pumping is still giving your baby breastmilk, other circumstances can put a stop to that. I will write about what happened to us in another post.
I think it’s important that parents learn everything they can about feeding their baby, and it’s unfortunate when we can’t rely on our local healthcare authority to give us all the information available. Healthcare providers are responsible for providing research-backed advice, and an outright refusal to entertain anything that goes against their narrative is a failure to do so. The fear mongering has to stop also. For example, we were told that formula-fed babies are at a greater risk of SIDS, but I can’t find substantial peer reviewed evidence for this. What SIDS means is “we have no idea what happened.” How callous is it to tell new parents that if they don’t breastfeed they might be responsible for killing their child?
Dear parents who don’t breastfeed: You are not a bad parent. Whether you decided to formula feed or you have to formula feed, it’s okay. Your baby will still grow healthy and strong. Do what works best for you, baby, and family; and try to take what you are told with a grain of salt. Breastmilk vs formula is not the determining factor in what makes you a good parent. In addition, try to remember that the nurses and doctors you meet are beholden to their employer. Whoever makes the decisions on what information is pushed is to blame, not the professionals who work with you in public hospitals and clinics.