News: The Unapologetic Case for Formula-Feeding

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Registered: 05-20-2008
News: The Unapologetic Case for Formula-Feeding
3
Tue, 08-07-2012 - 4:45pm
The Unapologetic Case for Formula-Feeding
  • Amy Sullivan
  • August 1, 2012 | 1:17 pm

I formula-fed my daughter, starting from the first hour of her life. I loved it. And I would do it again. Do you hear me, Mayor Bloomberg?

New York City already has an aggressive program to promote breastfeeding called Latch On NYC, and the city’s health department has convinced most hospitals to stop distributing free formula samples to new parents. But that apparently still made it possible for some mothers to bottle-feed their newborns. So starting September 3, the city will urge hospitals to put formula under lock-and-key. Parents who want to bottle-feed their infants will have to convince a nurse to sign out formula for them by giving a medical reason for every bottle. They’ll also have to endure a lecture about why they really should be breastfeeding instead.

This breastfeeding madness has gone far enough. Not just because holding it up as a universal ideal shames those mothers who physically can’t nurse their infants. And not just because the expectation adds further stress to the lives of women who have jobs that aren’t compatible with pumping. But because it is pure and simple snobbery.

What about the studies proving that breastfed children are smarter and healthier, you say? Doesn’t everyone know that “breast is best”? The only disagreement is over how long to breastfeed, right? The U.S. Surgeon General, the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics all agree that breastfeeding is the ideal choice. So many experts can’t be wrong, can they?

That’s what my husband wondered as well when he realized that I was serious about formula-feeding. He is, to put it mildly, neurotic. Once we knew I was pregnant, he had our house tested three times for radon—and we don’t even have a basement. He made me leave the kitchen whenever the microwave was in use. If I let him, he would still leave the windows open to air out paint fumes from two years ago. So to get him on board with formula-feeding, you better believe he checked out all the relevant research findings.

What he found is that nearly every study that purported to prove breastfeeding led to more positive outcomes for children relied on flawed methodology—there was no control group. Two neuroscientists writing for Bloomberg View a few weeks ago explained the problem in the case of studies about breastfeeding and IQ:

“Although it is true that children who were breast-fed as babies have higher intelligence than bottle-fed children, the reason for the correlation is in the mother’s brain, not her breast. A U.S. mother whose IQ is 15 points higher than her neighbor’s is more than twice as likely to breast-feed. Women who breast-feed are also more educated and less likely to smoke. Intelligent parents pass along their genes and also create a more stimulating environment, two advantages for the baby’s development. In short, smart mothers have smart babies.”

If breastfeeding doesn’t automatically provide extra advantages and it does require women to go weeks without getting more than two hours of sleep at a time, why is it the undisputed standard for loving, responsible parenthood? So far as I can tell, people need to believe that breastfeeding is better precisely because it’s harder. The rules of modern parenting say that whatever requires the most sacrifice from us must be best for our children. This belief also allows us to look down on selfish previous generations that turned to formula as the answer. And what better way to validate our own decisions than by requiring that others follow in suit?

To get a sense of how blinkered the conversation about breastfeeding has become, consider those few brave thinkers who do take on the breastfeeding purists, most recently Alissa Quart, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, and the wonderful Hanna Rosin. Even their arguments are reluctant. They point out the economic factors that make breastfeeding incompatible with the lives of many working women. They reassure women who have physical problems nursing that formula won’t harm their babies. But they all breastfed their own children and assert that of course any woman who could make that choice would.

Breast-feeding is a perfectly valid choice, and I would never stand in the way of any woman who wanted to nurse. But it is not the only or even the ideal option available for new parents, despite what advocates claim. Which is why I want to present the full-throated case for formula-feeding and its unacknowledged benefits.

I made the decision to formula-feed for one reason: I wanted to have a fighting chance of setting up an equitable parenting arrangement. I was already alarmed by the fact that every parenting resource was addressed just to mothers. “A strong, lasting bond grows through regular day-to-day interactions,” read one helpful update from BabyCenter.com. “So encourage Dad or your partner to get involved in even the most basic baby care tasks, like changing diapers, bathing, and feeding.” Encourage him to get involved in changing diapers? Oh, hell no.

My husband fed our daughter her first bottle in the delivery room. And he gave her the next three or four as well before showing me how to feed her. That didn’t stop him from directing baby questions to me: “Should I give her a bath?” “I don’t know. I’ve never had a baby before. Does she need a bath?” But it did start us out on something close to equal footing.

The choice to formula-feed also gave us a precious gift in those first few exhausting months: sleep. We were fortunate to have my mom stay with us in the beginning. Bottle-feeding gave us a three-man rotation during the night. That meant it was sometimes possible to manage a glorious eight hours of sleep before I was on-duty again. Eight hours, people. (I bet the La Leche women don’t mention that!) To have a happy baby, you need a happy mama. And a rested mama is a very happy mama.

More importantly, bottle-feeding allowed both me and my husband to bond with our new daughter. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that breastfeeding creates an amazing bond between mother and child. And while I’m sure it does, it also guarantees that fathers have that much less time to develop a bond. I may have initially been a formula-feeding proponent because I bristled at becoming the Parent-In-Charge. But once I saw how my husband adored our daughter and loved their ritual of nightly bottles and stories, I could not imagine denying him that special time with her.

My bond with our daughter did not suffer as a result of formula-feeding. Now almost two-years-old, she spends hours wrapped around me like a baby koala. It would frankly be frightening if she were any more bonded to me—she’d have to be surgically attached. I love her madly. And I was surprised and thrilled to find I enjoyed middle-of-the-night feedings, both because we were the only ones awake but also because I was rested enough to relish that time. Parenting a newborn was both much less exhausting and far more fun than I ever expected.

As for that shameless promise that breastfeeding will help women lose weight faster after giving birth, I am sorry to report that’s not true either. Yes, women burn a lot of calories breastfeeding. But they have to consume a lot of calories as well. My appetite diminished once our daughter arrived, while my activity level rose. Because I was relatively well-rested, we could walk for miles around the city in gorgeous autumn weather. It didn’t take long to walk my way back into old clothes.

Six weeks after our daughter’s birth, we went to lunch with some other moms and infants after a baby yoga class. I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation because it was entirely about the woes of breastfeeding. One woman was worried about her son, who had been projectile-vomiting because he was apparently allergic to something she had been eating. Another made trips every other day to the pediatrician to weigh her daughter, who hadn’t been gaining enough weight. The woman next to me was close to tears: “I had no idea it would be this hard.”

I looked down at my sleeping daughter, her belly full of formula. I knew from the experience of friends that breast-feeding would get easier for these women. But I was so grateful not to share their complaints during these blissful early weeks with my little girl. I grinned at the realization: I had become a smug formula-feeding mama.

Source: http://www.tnr.com/blog/plank/105638/the-unapologetic-case-formula-feeding

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006

why is it the undisputed standard for loving, responsible parenthood?

I guess the bottom line here is: She doesn't get it. Ignorance is bliss, shrug.

I would never stand in the way of any woman who wanted to nurse.

Except of course to deny them accurate information and freedom from formula propaganda....Oh, maybe she meant she literally would not stand on two feed in front a a woman who is breastfeeding. Whatever.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006

consider those few brave thinkers who do take on the breastfeeding purists, most recently Alissa Quart, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, and the wonderful Hanna Rosin.

Eyes of the beholder? Some see "brave", some see "tawdry". Just sayin'

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008

What he found is that nearly every study that purported to prove breastfeeding led to more positive outcomes for children relied on flawed methodology—there was no control group. Two neuroscientists writing for Bloomberg View a few weeks ago explained the problem in the case of studies about breastfeeding and IQ:

I keep hearing various formula defenders most of which are not doctors or medical researchers make the above claims but I do not hear trusted experts on BF research agreeing with such concerns about the studies being flawed. Yes, there is concern about the BF and IQ studies being flawed but increased IQ was only one touted benefit of BF'ing. Even if it's true that there is no significant difference between BF and FF babies IQ-wise, there are still tons of other benefits that have strong evidence supporting them. I think she only brings up one of the few claims that a strong case exists for it being unsupported by the evidence because she knows that most readers will assume the what she says about IQ applies to the other claim benefits of BF'ing without actually claiming such. Those that are critical of the BF studies are outliers and not the mainstream research community. Some have no medical or scientific training what-so-ever and others have a medical degree but nothing in their background to indicate they have the skills to properly analyze the studies and draw conclusions that differ from the majority. Even if one of these critics was scientist whom i agreed was capable of drawing sound conclusions, that does not mean there conclusions are automatically valid. There are countless cases of scientists who draw faulty conclusions or who had a hidden agenda and intentionally make false claims about other studies being faulty or faulty studies being sound. When there opinion differs from the majority you have to ask why. Is the majority incompetent or are the perpetrating a fraud or is the real truth the critic is the one who is wrong no the majority of scientists.

If breastfeeding doesn’t automatically provide extra advantages and it does require women to go weeks without getting more than two hours of sleep at a time, why is it the undisputed standard for loving, responsible parenthood? So far as I can tell, people need to believe that breastfeeding is better precisely because it’s harder. The rules of modern parenting say that whatever requires the most sacrifice from us must be best for our children.

First, most BF advocate do not claim BF'ing defines a loving responsible mother. Second, no needs to believe BF is better simply because it's harder. We believe it's better because it is and studies back that up whether she will accept that or not.

To get a sense of how blinkered the conversation about breastfeeding has become, consider those few brave thinkers who do take on the breastfeeding purists, most recently Alissa Quart, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, and the wonderful Hanna Rosin. Even their arguments are reluctant. They point out the economic factors that make breastfeeding incompatible with the lives of many working women. They reassure women who have physical problems nursing that formula won’t harm their babies. But they all breastfed their own children and assert that of course any woman who could make that choice would.

I see it now. Breastfeeding is some horrible thing women are doing for their children only because the been duped into believing it's better for them. The outliers are not deluded individuals going against accepted opinion based on faulty logic but rather brave individuals fighting against a conspiracy in favor of BF'ing. If only they would be brave enough to fully admit BF'ing is horrible and bad for moms.  Wrong! I don't know what brought about this women hatred of BF'ing but the fact is that many moms who do it enjoy and believe it has benefits for their child. Us moms who BF'd our children do not see FF'ing and bottles as some miracle substance and feeding method that frees us from the horrors of having to BF.

Breast-feeding is a perfectly valid choice, and I would never stand in the way of any woman who wanted to nurse. But it is not the only or even the ideal option available for new parents, despite what advocates claim. Which is why I want to present the full-throated case for formula-feeding and its unacknowledged benefits.

She says that she thinks BF'ing is a perfectly valid choice but implies in multiple places in the article she thinks those who do it do it due to misguided belief that breast is best and that it makes you a good mother. She implies that no mom in their right mind would do BF if not for such beliefs. When she says BF'ing is not the ideal option for parents she is saying formula feeding is which in tern implies all moms should FF. She doesn't just say it's ideal for her but rather implies it is for every mom.

I made the decision to formula-feed for one reason: I wanted to have a fighting chance of setting up an equitable parenting arrangement. I was already alarmed by the fact that every parenting resource was addressed just to mothers. “A strong, lasting bond grows through regular day-to-day interactions,” read one helpful update from BabyCenter.com. “So encourage Dad or your partner to get involved in even the most basic baby care tasks, like changing diapers, bathing, and feeding.” Encourage him to get involved in changing diapers? Oh, hell no.

The is a load of bull. As my Dh will attest, he rarely gave bottles but was fully involved in helping care for our DS. He also found ways to develop a strong bond with our DS despite not giving many bottles. He and I imagine many other dads of BF babies find it offensive the implication of her statement regarding bonding and dads. The idea that you can't have a equitable parenting arrangement without FF'ing is bull and me and my DH have proved that. I know many other dads of BF babies who also would agree with that.

The choice to formula-feed also gave us a precious gift in those first few exhausting months: sleep. We were fortunate to have my mom stay with us in the beginning. Bottle-feeding gave us a three-man rotation during the night. That meant it was sometimes possible to manage a glorious eight hours of sleep before I was on-duty again. Eight hours, people. (I bet the La Leche women don’t mention that!) To have a happy baby, you need a happy mama. And a rested mama is a very happy mama.

Again more bull. I found ways to get enough sleep in the early months and I know many other BF moms who did too. I also know their are FF moms out there who lost lots of sleep in the early months so I don't buy FF'ing as the key to getting enough sleep. Even if that where the case, this argument only makes sense if their is no risks to formula use, which is not the case.

More importantly, bottle-feeding allowed both me and my husband to bond with our new daughter. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that breastfeeding creates an amazing bond between mother and child. And while I’m sure it does, it also guarantees that fathers have that much less time to develop a bond.

Like I said before, it's bull that father of BF babies can't bond with their baby or do so to a lesser degree. MY DH made it work through means other then BF'ing and I know other dads of BF babies who did so too. She really overestimates the time needed for a dad to bond with a baby. I think she overestimates the time spent at the breast by the baby. There is plenty of bonding time to go around between a BF mom and dad and their baby.

My bond with our daughter did not suffer as a result of formula-feeding. Now almost two-years-old, she spends hours wrapped around me like a baby koala.

Few BF advocates claim that FF moms aren't capable of bonding well enough with their babies so I consider that a straw man argument. Some BF advocates do argue that bonding is easier with BF'ing though most will generally agree that with some extra effort FF moms can bond just as well in general. But I find it interesting has she disputes the notion that how you feed your baby determines how strong a bond you'll have with your baby but previously she implied that dads of BF babies don't have as strong a bond.  

As for that shameless promise that breastfeeding will help women lose weight faster after giving birth, I am sorry to report that’s not true either. Yes, women burn a lot of calories breastfeeding. But they have to consume a lot of calories as well. My appetite diminished once our daughter arrived, while my activity level rose. Because I was relatively well-rested, we could walk for miles around the city in gorgeous autumn weather. It didn’t take long to walk my way back into old clothes.

This may or may not be true but even if BF'ing does indeed not help moms loose weight, it's not the main reason I think moms should BF for. There are plenty of much better benefits of BF'ing that benefit the baby not just the mom. I generally don't disabuse moms who BF because of this belief because I think even if they don't loose weight due to BF'ing they will give their baby many other benefits and that is a good thing. But the notion that BF moms can't go for walks or exercise because they all are too tired due to BF'ing is more bologny. It may be true for some BF moms but not all. Anyways, I think there is an unhealthy obsession over loosing your pregnancy weight very quickly after birth.

Six weeks after our daughter’s birth, we went to lunch with some other moms and infants after a baby yoga class. I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation because it was entirely about the woes of breastfeeding. One woman was worried about her son, who had been projectile-vomiting because he was apparently allergic to something she had been eating. Another made trips every other day to the pediatrician to weigh her daughter, who hadn’t been gaining enough weight. The woman next to me was close to tears: “I had no idea it would be this hard.”

She makes it out as if this is BF'ing being extremely hard norm for moms regardless of the level of support, preparation, etc. and that it's just not worth it. I believe the benefits of formula are worth it even if it ends up being harder then the mom anticipated. But the reality is that for far too many moms, it's a lack of good BF support, bad BF advice, hospital BF policies that make it harder then it needs to be, etc. that at fault her and not BF'ing in and of itself. I can attest that BF'ing is not extremely hard for all moms, especially if your well prepared and have good BF support like I did.

I grinned at the realization: I had become a smug formula-feeding mama.

Isn't that nice. We hear about all the formula defenders complaining about smug BF advocates and BF moms while acting like she is proud of being so smug. It reminds me of all the critics who complain about BF moms and advocates judging FF moms while they then proceed ti just moms who nurse in public or nurse longer then they formula defender feels is acceptable.

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