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Is breastfeeding really best?

By April 28, 2008 - 8:47pm
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Do you think that breastfeeding is truly healthier for you and for your baby or do you think it's more of a trend that we're seeing now?

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This combined information would have helped me, because the other "piece of the puzzle" that hasn't been talked about is: breastfeeding and formula-feeding does not need to be mutually exclusive! Just as feeding a baby from a bottle could be pumped breast milk or formula. Are we talking about the WAY the baby is being fed (breast vs. bottle) and/or the substance they are being fed (breast milk vs. formula).

I had a preemie, and my body was not able to "catch up" with my son's feeding demands. Believe me, I tried---I saw at least 5 different lactation consultants, liked 4 of them, and was on a very strict regimen. My son was not born with a strong enough sucking reflex, so we had to feed him whatever breast milk I could pump, and supplement with formula, through a syringe.

I struggled with trying to breastfeed, then bottle feed my baby (with pumped breastmilk or formula), then pump to be able to store more breastmilk...even though I wasn't making enough to even feed my baby during breastfeeding.

What I needed was information on how to breastfeed, pump and supplement with formula. Can you imagine---a book with ALL THREE scenarios?! Books either tell you one way or the other, and there are so, so many variations of feeding styles out there! What about women who work outside the home? Women who have preemies? Women who have multiples? Women who have preexisting conditions of the breast? Women who can produce enough milk, but who's baby has latching issues...how to stay motivated to connect yourself to a noisy pump every 2 hours?

The breastfeeding books suggest that if you are not producing enough milk, that you are stressed and need to relax. They then tell you that breastmilk is the only real food to give your baby...like that isn't going to "stress" a non-milk-producer more?!

And, what about the working moms who have to go back to work after only 6 weeks of maternity leave, and don't have a private office, or privileges to leave the work space, in order to pump every 2-3 hours? Why not provide these women with some helpful information about how to nourish your baby with formula AND as much breastmilk as you can pump during the day, with breastfeeding (or bottle feeding) at night.

Plus, I hate to say this, but there were many nights that I was happy that my hubby could assist in the feeding of our baby with a bottle, whether it be breastmilk or formula. (The breastfeeding books make you feel guilty if you bottle feed your baby with any substance, and so it is all left up to mom...no stress, of course).

The breastfeeding books only tell us "pumpers" that you can't pump forever, and ANY supplementing you do with formula will ruin your chances of breastfeeding for long-term. Yet, I know many working women who were successful at this. Can we get off our soap boxes and provide women with this information? The La Leche League was the worst for providing non-judgmental information; I am really disappointed in them and their short-sided literature.

I do believe science has given us a lot of clinical research with results, beyond a benefit-of-the-doubt, that breast milk is better for the baby than formula. This does not mean that formula is harmful; it is also good for the baby. Breastmilk has antibodies in it for the baby that is not included in formula; my nurse told me if I could even pump enough for a few days, that would help give my baby enough antibodies for months! (not sure if this is correct, but sure made me feel hopeful!).

May 20, 2008 - 1:12pm

I think that everyone is different. I breastfed three of my four babies. The first baby did not get breastfed and cried for three months. My other babies were happy and content and so was I. It was easier for me to get up and put that precious child to my breast rather than getting up, going to the kitchen, making a bottle, heating it up, and finally feeding an already screaming baby. It is just up to you. I will say one more thing to you--if you are going to breast feed, please, please, please, get a breast feeding book called "Breast Feeding & You" and read it. You must prepare your nipples as babies suck harder than you think. You don't want a crying baby and a crying mommy. It really helps to "tuffin up."

Hope this helps someone out there.

May 20, 2008 - 6:57am

Just finished up two presentations last night and again this morning for parents. And in each case the discussion turned from my agenda to theirs. One woman broke down and cried saying that more workshops than just mine should address the whole family and not just the children alone. And the debate over breastfeeding, working at or away from home, and all the rest are not centered around the children or the family at all. But our right to choose as the woman in charge.

When I was a Pediatric Health Educator during one class a group of expectant parents asked me what was best to feed their newborns. Innocently I told them breastmilk. The room lit up and wouldn't you know the local news cameras happened to be filming me that day. They took turns one after the other telling me that their doctors had already told them that formula was best. I even got written up by my supervisor for saying that, when the formula companies were supplying "every" new mom with their free samples and video and so much more stuff for years. I felt like I had been set up.

Our culture is hostile toward a lot of family strengthening practices. Children are put into incubators at birth, strollers as newborns, doglike collars as toddlers, daycare and behavioral meds in preschool, and on it goes. We rarely consider our choice to foster independence from us as early as possible if not sooner. My own mother always said that she "couldn't" breastfeed. But when I had my youngest she and mother-in-law told me that neither of them did that and joined forces on a family vacation that WE paid for to discourage me from continuing. Even watching my daughter expressing her joy and in such a state of piece seemed to make them resentful. I just stopped nursing her in February when she turned 3. And their arguments would have held water had my husband and I not chosen for ourselves how we would parent our daughter. I've never experienced that level of intimacy in parenting as I have with her. I can't even explain the emotional connection that is still strong because of letting her have a healthy childhood in the best way we know how. Because she volunteers at a local farm, she has grown up watching mothers and their children in harmony as we are.

I haven't heard of a farmer willing to do this with formula, but knowing that pasturized milk would kill a calf in under 8 weeks, and how animals are given gobs more supplements not to mention real food to keep them standing upright, compared to our addiction to frankin-science instead of whole food for our children, is it any wonder that you would get attacked on this forum for speaking up for our most vulnerable? I wasn't about to be the first one in on this debate: if there really is one going on here. But I'll stand with you now so you know that compared to her peers, nearly everywhere we go folks talk about how my child stands out from the crowd starting with her facial structure. She is made of mother's milk and a ton of Mommy and Daddy love and it shows. But I'll admit that having my breast to myself again is a rush for me. I never knew I could miss my two buddies quite this much! LOL!

There's a fearless parent in all of us. Seen yours lately?

Adelaide Zindler, FP (Fearless Parent)

May 1, 2008 - 4:39pm
EmpowHER Guest

that breastfeeding is better. Why would formula companies research and advertise new innovations that make their formula closer to breastmilk if it wasn't?

Not only are there clear benefits to the babies, but a woman stands a decreased risk of breast cancer and other health issues if she nurses.

These things are not intended to offend anyone. They are facts. We can choose to be offended by them, but it doesn't change them.

All that said, I did not breastfeed my first, I stopped at about 5 months with my second and I pumped for about two months with my 3rd. I am not an avid breastfeeder myself. Do I feel guilty or horrible? Of course not. I made what I believed were the best choices for me and my family, even in light of the statistical truths. No one is saying anyone must breastfeed, but it IS the healthier choice for both mothers and babies.

April 30, 2008 - 4:26pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I think that to move away from mudslinging (milk slinging??), it would be helpful not to judge either option. Both breastfeeding and formula feeding is the "best" choice for each mom. I personally believe that formula has a lot of nutrients that may not be in breast milk, depending on how health a mom's diet is.

By the way, I don't think it's the breastfeeding itself that reduces a woman's risk of breast and ovarian cancer. I've read that it is the fact that you don't have periods when you breastfeed that contribute to decreasing these cancer risks.

May 2, 2008 - 2:45pm
HERWriter Guide

instances that counter what studies are showing. Like non-smokers can get lung cancer, etc.

SIDS is terrible and is nobody's fault. I have never said that anyone must nurse. I have always believed in choice. I am just stating the statistics and every pediatrician I know has given me the stats on SIDS. The University of Michigan can help with questions regarding these studies.

Debates over breastfeeding are usually pointless because people get upset. A question was posted and I gave my opinion. I was simply answering a question.

April 30, 2008 - 3:07pm
(reply to Susan Cody)

But if we're given all these stats from our doctors, do we just accept them without knowing what studies they came from, (and if there ever were studies)?

I think we need to dig deeper and find the facts before we say one option is better than another.

May 2, 2008 - 3:02pm
HERWriter Guide

Breastmilk is better than formula. Always has been, always will be.

The facts-

There are more than 100 ingredients in breastmilk that are not found in formula and cannot be replicated.

Breastfed babies are far less likely to die of SIDS. - Out of every 87 SIDS deaths - only 3 are of breastfed babies. If that's not a reason....

The average IQ of a breastfed baby is slightly higher than that of a non breastfed baby.

Breastfed babies have better immune systems, and have fewer instances of ear infections, childhood diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and that list goes on forever.

Breastfed babies are hospitalized 10 times less than formula fed infants in the first year of life.

Mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of certain cancers.

Breastfeeding is free.

None of this is opinion - it is simple, scientific (and financial!) fact.

I breastfed all my children, and after breastfeeding them exclusively for many months, I continued to breastfeed but supplemented with a little formula daily. I don't feel remotely guilty about this.

It is a choice whether to nurse or not and it's the mother's choice. Formula isn't some evil substance you are feeding a child but is it as good as breastmilk? No, and never will be. Again, these are plain old scientific and nutritional facts. Whether we chose to accept them is another story! So let's accept the facts and just be happy with our choices. We're lucky to have them.

As far as breastfeeding being a trend?

Human beings have been breastfed for over 160,000 years. Probably longer, we are finding evidence of human remains up to 200,000 years. Formula was introduced less than 120 years ago and really only became commonly used about 50-60 years ago.

So - 160,000 years of breastfeeding and 100 years of formula and we're asking if BREASTFEEDING is the trend?


April 30, 2008 - 12:21pm
(reply to Susan Cody)

OMG -- where's the proof behind your statements??? These are the kinds of myths that the current breast-is-best campaign is shoving down every new mom's throat.

For one thing, show me the scientific study that WITHOUT A DOUBT shows that intelligence comes from eating or drinking a certain type of food/drink.

The study that you're referring to, that has long been touted by the American Academy of Pediatrics, was done in the 1970's, and as the study authors noted when describing the study participants, "mothers who elected to breastfeed tended to be older, better educated, from upper-income backgrounds, in a two-parent family, not to smoke during pregnancy, and had attained above-average income and living standards." Gee, wouldn't you think that some of these other factors actually contributed to the children's intelligence rather than what they'd eaten??

To actually state that breastfed babies aren't as likely to die of SIDS is not only ignorant, it's incredibly hurtful to moms who experience losing a baby to SIDS. As if they don't feel guilty enough....

In 1998, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study that showed inconclusive results when testing any kind of correlation between bottle feeding and SIDS. Some groups insist on saying that there "is evidence" that breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, but there is absolutely no proof of this. Again, show me the study!

As far as immunity goes, one of my three kids who was not breastfed hardly ever gets sick. She has the absolute strongest immune system -- even her pediatrician comments on how healthy she is. One of my kids who was breastfed catches anything and everything. If someone in the next state sneezes, he'll catch the cold. He's also my only child with cavities. So the increased immunity statement doesn't fly with me. (Got a study?)

There are formulas out there that are filled with good stuff -- calcium, iron, etc. -- that a breastfeeding mom may not be getting enough of in her diet and subsequently depriving her baby of these essential nutrients.

I believe that rather than saying that one is better than the other, and criticizing each other's choices, we should simply be thankful that we have the option of feeding our babies formula, which can be a really great thing for some.

April 30, 2008 - 2:42pm

There's a new article out today saying that breastfeeding is at an all-time high.

Three-quarters of new moms nursing their infants, according to a government report released Wednesday.

For more, visit npr.org

April 30, 2008 - 9:06am
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