Breastfeeding…It Does a Body Good
For some reason, despite the fact that my youngest child was weaned 8 months ago, breastfeeding has been on my radar the last couple of days.
It started with this post by Kelly the Kitchen Kop. It was an interesting post with good links, a beautiful picture, and a post that Gregg felt compelled to respond to. Then a friend of mine has been struggling with the discomforts of weaning and has had a few Facebook updates about it. My awesome friend Ann Marie at Household 6 Diva posted a (brave) set of pictures, one of them describing how she had been breastfeeding for 36 months and counting that really got me thinking. It culminated in me reading a debate message board thread about breastfeeding, and in the long discussion with a few dozen replies, I read the standard politically correct tip-toeing around breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Reading this message board in the wake of reading Kelly’s post really got me thinking.
There is this whole school of thought out there in the world that formula is as good as, or at least a good substitute for, mother’s milk. And in all reality, comparing apples to apples, it’s simply…not. It’s not possible to say that milk taken from another mammal that was created for that specific mammal’s offspring that is then processed, chemically “enhanced,” artificially preserved, sweetened, powdered and/or condensed, then mega-packaged in plastic loaded with PCVs and shipped from warehouse to store to sit on a shelf and then reincarnated with water could possibly be as good as milk from a mother’s body straight to an infant’s mouth.
All political correctness aside, it’s simply not.
Or worse — much worse — instead of actual milk, which at least has some basic nutritional benefits, choosing industrial soy based infant formula made from unfermented sprule leftover from the industrial soy oil manufacturing process and marketed as the “healthier” alternative… oh, don’t get me started.
I feel like I’m someone who can speak to this issue because I fed Kaylee formula exclusively. I purposefully, with intent, chose formula instead of breastfeeding her. I felt it was the best choice I could make at the time. Granted, I did not have the benefit of knowledge and wisdom that I have now and — reflecting upon my life at that time and the constraints and daily pressures I dealt with — it is not a decision that I regret making, and I’ll make no excuses for it.
Of course there is a biologically driven emotional factor as well. When mothers breastfeed, the moment we get a good “latch” our bodies release oxytocin, the so-called “bonding” hormone. We experience the emotional sense of peace and feeling of completness that all nursing mothers have felt.
There is also a spiritual aspect to breastfeeding. We can appreciate the absolute perfection God’s amazing design by considering breastfeeding. When infants breastfeed, enzymes in the saliva at the “latch” send signals to the mother, in summary issuing a list of the specific nutrients the baby requires. Have you ever heard of nursing mothers having strange cravings for unusually bitter or unusually fatty foods? Sure enough, the next time the infant nurses, all those needed nutrients end up in the milk. God’s design is completely amazing and worthy of all praise and admiration.
Mothers who choose to formula feed over breast feeding, as I did with my first child, can claim it’s just as healthy and there is no difference between them until the sun goes down, but that doesn’t make it accurate or true. I’m not saying that infant formula doesn’t provide calories, vitamins, and minerals. I am saying that it simply isn’t as good or complete as breast milk on any reasonable scale.
When I was pregnant with Scott, I knew that I wanted to breast feed. When he was born 10 weeks early, the hospital didn’t even ask me what my feeding preference was. They just wheeled a breast pump into the room and asked if I needed someone to show me how to use it. That is when my education began about how amazing and nutritious breast milk truly is.
When Johnathan was born and put into the NICU, I started pumping as soon as they released me from the ICU. I was surprised because my milk came in very quickly, but the first day pumping, I barely got a tablespoon out. The NICU nurses chided me for discarding that little tiny bit of milk. They said that the breast milk is so vital to the babies’ health in the NICU that they would have used a syringe to get up every single drop so that Johnathan would benefit as much as possible.
The nurses were desperate for me not to discard even a single, tiny drop of breast milk.
It isn’t my business if a mother chooses to feed her baby processed formula over breast milk anymore than it’s my business if a mother chooses to feed her child a hot ham and cheese sandwich. It’s not my business. I don’t judge. Whether a mother breastfeeds or bottle feeds doesn’t affect my opinion of the mother, anymore than whether a mother chooses cloth or disposable diapers for example. I have many friends and family members whom I adore who chose to formula feed.
But all judgments aside, choosing formula over breastfeeding isn’t the most nutritious choice and may not be the best choice.
I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your feed reader or subscribed via email.
You can also become a fan on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. I would love to see more of you!
This post was linked to:
Definitely breastfeeding has a more nutritional value. There will never be any match in the stores that can compare but I am glad companies keep trying for those of us moms who can’t breastfeed. I tried really hard with my daughter but milk never came in and than again it didn’t with my son. I had to really pray that it was okay. There was so much push from the hospital etc to do this that I felt guilty and less than because I couldn’t. I had major mom guilt. Thank you for being neutral. I don’t understand why people get so passionate in a negative way about this issue. I wish everyone could just be supportive. Just like you said……….some people chose breastfeeding, some chose cloth diapers……make your pick, keep your judgement to yourself, and support each other as moms!
I am winding down my breastfeeding experience. My youngest just turned 2 and I nurse her before bed and naptime. I have been nursing straight for the last 4.5 years. I think I am ready for it to be over, but when the time comes I know it will be bittersweet. I will treasure those moments with my girls forever. It wasn’t easy at first. I was ready to quit on day 2 with my first born, but I stuck it out and by the time she was 2 weeks old, we were pros.
Every mom needs to make their own choices and I will never judge another mother for not choosing breastfeeding and I understand some women have complications that prohibit it. But I wish more women would consider it or even try it before making the decision not to.
Wow Hallee — you constantly amaze me with your elegance with prose. Breastfeeding has been a wonderful choice for our family. I am honored you mentioned my post!
This third time around it has been both easy, because I can pull from experiences,
and difficult, because it’s very hard to parent two very energetic preschoolers from the couch!!
I agree too that different people are in different circumstances — sometimes breast is not always best for the situations where there is history of physical abuse or severe illness.
I wanted to breast feed in the worst way. Yet each child I was unable to. I also had no nurses helping me no one to show me what to do the right way. But I knew that they were not getting enough from me. I could never get above that tablespoon of first milk. I formula fed and my boys are ok but I sure would have loved to breast feed only.. sadly it just wasn’t a possibility for me.
This is such an emotional subject for me. I have had 4 children and out of that 4…I have only breastfed 1. Only 1. I am a firm believer in breastfeeding and having only given that gift to ONE child tears me up inside. Everyday when my 7 month old has her bottle…I look at the ingrediants (AGAIN) on the formula and I wince because I HATE giving it to her.
My first daughter was born 8 weeks early at 3lbs and couldn’t (and never did) master the latch, despite trying to for 12 weeks. I have a horrible guilty feeling because after 3 months of futile attempts and constant pumping, I couldn’t handle the stress any more. My second daughter (born 9 weeks early at 2lbs 12oz) also couldn’t master the latch and after 12 weeks, I AGAIN gave up. :( My 3rd child (a 38 week boy) was able to latch right after birth (and my GOSH did he latch!!!) And I was thrilled…THRILLED to be able to breastfeed him for 14 months. I felt so proud. SO proud since it had been such a huge goal of mine. With Carsym (38 weeks, daughter)…we were a great team. She was an excellent latcher and we worked super well together but I had to quit at 8 weeks because I started chemotherapy for my surprise cancer diagnosis. I felt so cheated and like life was so unfair to rip this away from me AND from her. I don’t know that I will ever get over it. But I try to make the best of it and now that she is eating solid foods, I try to make up for it by feeding her (and the other kiddos) the most nutrition, homemade, natural foods I can. I am so proud to say that in the 2 months she has been eating babyfood…it has been 100% homemade.
I couldn’t agree more. The debate between FF & BF is a silly one. BM is obviously the BEST choice for a baby.
That being said, my first was FF by choice. My last was FF by necessity. The four in between were BF for at least a period of time with the number 5 child almost exclusively BF (he hated formula so usually had a mixture of F & BM in a bottle if I wasn’t around). Do I feel badly that my kiddos had formula? Not really. I will say that I hated FF with the last because my “choice” would have been VERY different, but it was what it was.
Our choices are just that. Facts are facts. It is when we confuse the two that the trouble begins. ;)
this was a hot topic on our board this week…i attempted bfing my oldest but after numerous attempts we went to formula. we did try and were successful with our youngest and i don’t lie its a lot of work, but i know it was best and by the time 6 weeks were over it was a piece of cake. i lasted to 10 months when I got sick and my milk dried up, but he NEVER got sick like the rest of us did. I know that bfing him helped in that. I was sad for it to end, but I know he got the benefits of it for 10 months.
and also since you made that post about the soy, we don’t eat it. Q seems to have a lactose intolerance and my mom is like just use soy and I won’t. my dr even agreed with me!! so i thank you for that!
You are very welcome!
What are you using? Rice or almond or something else?
I have some almond milk in my cupboard that I keep on hand for when we travel and I don’t want to bring a cooler for milk. The boys seem to enjoy it.
Thank you for this post! :) I shared an article on a message board a couple of weeks ago and said, just some information, not meant to start any debates. Well, of course the message board was a VERY mainstream board and the majority of the women who post there FF, etc. Not all, but a good majority. So, they went on to attack me saying I was judging them, which I honestly was not. I just know that I used to not truly know and believe the benefits of BF, and wish that someone would have tried to educate me on that and sooo many other things in relationship to pregnancy and parenthood. If someone knows the risks/benefits of something and then make their decision, that is all I ask. I just want them to know the real facts. That said, my daughter is alive because I BF her and I’m so grateful that I did (when I was pregnant, I wasn’t planning on it). She had RSV, pneumonia and SEVERE dehydration several times her first year and her pediatrician told me that if I hadn’t been BF, she may not have made it. He said that since BF is absorbed by the body faster, even though she was throwing up 5-10 minutes after she ate every time, she was still absorbing something, albeit little. Without that very little bit that was absorbing into her system, I just don’t know what would have happened. Will every baby that is FF die, absolutely not. But, there are a small percentage of babies that do pass that my have been saved if they had been BF. That is a proven fact through research studies. Thank you for your article! Oh, and we have lactose intollerance issues too and my kiddos drink rice or almond milk. They like both! :)
Steph, when Jeb was born, he could not latch. He had no sucking reflex at all. I had to pump. The doctor told me that it was due to being born before he was ready and that particular reflex had never developed. He said that if he didn’t suck by his due date, he likely would not ever. I had to try every day, and about 4 weeks later, he latched right on.
I don’t know if I would have had the wherewithal to continue pumping had he not eventually latched on. Sitting here typing this without the hassle of pumping would be easy to say I’d keep doing it. But I bet I would have eventually resorted to formula.
I wonder if your girls’ not latching is related to their being preemies.
right now rice, he has also tried the lactose free milk, but i think he actually prefers the rice. he seems to be drinking it faster! he still has baked goods that are made with milk and seems to be fine(like muffins, pancakes, waffles,etc). I want to try almond with him b/c I had some coupons, but I wasn’t sure on the allergy end seen as its a nut. I may perhaps ask at his next appt.
Thanks for this post. I just weaned Wallace at 14 months and it was bittersweet, especially since I don’t know if he will be my last.
I honestly don’t understand why women won’t at least try breastfeeding. If nothing else, it’s free! If you can’t breastfeed, then by all means, formula feed. I had to supplement Patrick (my oldest) when I went back to work because I could not pump enough for him. I was glad to be able to give him the breastmilk that I could, though. I feel very fortunate that the hospital I delivered at had such a great supportive lactation team. Without them, I may have given up in the beginning due to many issues (poor latch, mastitis, thrush, etc).
Hallee I love this post, thanks. I’m an IBCLC and I agree with what you’ve said but I wish the non nutritive aspects of breastfeeding were more deeply explored and talked about. There are so many important factors not the least of which is the relationship factor. SO many people these days suffer form not being able to form and sustain healthy relationships and I will be so bold as to say I think it very likely stems from that first relationship of mother and baby is in a sense, changed, when breastfeeding isn’t chosen. The problem when we talk about breastfeeding as nutritionally best (which it IS) and not how it’s vital in other ways, we inadvertently make women into living bottles. This is an approach that really demeans the woman and the nursing relationship. Especially when formulas are becoming more and more ‘like breast milk” in adding more and more nutrients, then in comparing the two it’s not so clear what the difference is or why even if formula were to be as nutritious that there are still many benefits from breastfeeding.
Hallee, I usually wind up going to war over this topic because I have a strong aversion to blanket-statements that don’t take into account the women who simply cannot breastfeed (a number hovering around 5% of formula-feeding mothers). That being said, I completely agree with every single thing you wrote. Additionally, I am impressed with the resulting comments (where these things usually go rapidly downhill).
Formula is not even remotely comparable to breastmilk nutritionally. But, in some instances, formula is best.
I have an assignment for a classes to write a persuasive speech, and I chose to do it on the superiority of breast milk to formula. As part of the assignment, I am required to include some sort of narative/ anecdote. I was wondering if I could have your permission to share your story as posted here. I would use only your first names, or I could change all of the names, if you’d be more comfortable that way and, of course, cite your blog as the source.
You absolutely have permission, Elizabeth. Good luck with it! Thank you!
Very well spoken Hallee! I am also an IBCLC, and I work in a large hospital three days a week as a Lactation Consultant. I spend many hours each week trying to convince the new mothers about the benefits of breastmilk. You have done a wonderful job at gracefully speaking about this. I breastfed Carter for a year, and often wish I had continued longer. It was one of the best bonding experiences ever. Thank you!!!!
Beautiful post and I couldn’t agree more. I’m currently breastfeeding our 11 month old daughter and I am thankful every day that I can do it. It is a one of a kind bonding experience, not to mention the incredible health benefits for baby AND mama. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. :)
Thanks for the post, it’s always good to promote breastfeeding. My son was born 5 weeks early and with no suck at all. I pumped for a month and finger fed him with a tube. Around the time of his due date he was then able to latch and breastfeed successfully. He is still an avid nurser at 4 years old (still night nurses) and often in the day. I’m just writing this to give exposure to extended breastfeeding. Often women don’t even think of nursing this long. So many women probably just need more help from GOOD lactation consultants. I wish there was more support out there for new breastfeeding moms.