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.
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