Im going to switch up this post from my normal basic birth topics and dive into my opinions on a more controversial subject: breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Now before you peace out and write me off as an Edmonton doula telling you that you’re feeding your child wrong, know that I am not going to express that one is better than the other! I’ve read countless postings voicing opinions on both sides of the argument, and this is my chance to tell you why I am choosing neither side. That’s right, I plead the fifth! (Ok I’ve been watching too much Law and Order, haha).
So here’s the scoop, in the eyes of this Edmonton doula and Edmonton prenatal class instructor. Both the “Breast is Best” and the “Fed is Best” arguments are not conducive to support for new moms. Why? Because what is THE most important part of feeding our child is not how we feed, but that we do our freaking homework and make our own decision. Following, I’ll go into this a bit more deeper for you!
Breast Milk is pretty incredible
So I’m going to start with what I know a lot about, which is breastfeeding… only because that is the path that I chose to take. When it comes to the composition of nutrients in breast milk and formula, breast milk scientifically takes the cake. You can check out a compilation of the nutrients in both foods here, but breast milk has exactly what your individual baby needs. Right down to the right fat content, water content and even the right antibodies to prevent them from catching whatever flu bug is making its way around your home. You can also add in the benefits that moms who breastfeed have to the list of pros. Things like burning more calories, strong bonding time with baby from that beautiful oxytocin flow, a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, etc. are pretty flippin’ great. They don’t call it liquid gold for no reason – breastmilk is incredible and the whole process of breastfeeding (when it is going well) is so good for mom and baby.
Breastfeeding has it’s challenges
When it comes to breastfeeding, things are not always rainbows and butterflies. I’m not going to lie, for some people, breastfeeding is really freaking hard! Getting the latch down pat is huge and without proper help of a lactation educator or consultant, it will be impossible for some moms and babies to get right. Your boobs hurt often – that first day that baby sleeps a long stretch is hell on your poor tata’s, and if you’re like me, every time your baby cries or starts a feed, you get that pins-and-needles feeling of your let down. Though we have come a long way, there are still tons of public-breastfeeding-shamers that just can’t handle the thought of a boob or nipple being waved right in their faces (note the sarcasm) that comes along with feeding in public. Finally, dare I say, some women just don’t want to! Whether they are stressing from the feeding issues they are facing, or struggling with a postpartum mood disorder in which breastfeeding is a major trigger, or they just want their body back for themselves, forcing this breast-is-best pill down their throats is just hurtful. If a mother is educated, knows exactly what the risks and benefits of both are, than how can I as an Edmonton doula push this on her when I have made a career out of supporting informed choice? I can’t 😊
Breastmilk is fresh food for babies
So to put it in comparison to what we as adults eat, it’s like a diet of strictly fresh foods vs. a diet of canned or packaged foods. Many of us (myself included) live on a lot of canned and packaged foods and are perfectly healthy and thriving. Perhaps a personal trainer or dietician wouldn’t commend what I eat, but the fact of the matter is I don’t suffer from any major health concerns and the minor ones aren’t from simply not eating fresh all the time. That being said, I might feel even better than I do, be a bit more healthy or even be able to combat my minor health concerns better if I ate more fresh foods instead of packaged ones. This is how I view breast milk and formula. In the end, whatever is chosen will not impact whether or not the baby will thrive, and there will always be a chance to introduce a more fresh food diet once solid foods are added to the mix.
But what about #FedisBest?
The Fed-is-Best trend was started when moms who were sick of being shamed for not breastfeeding decided to fight back and stick up for themselves. Makes sense and good for them! However, two concerns have come out of this: 1 – mom’s are focusing more on sticking up for those being attacked than on actually educating themselves and others, and 2 – formula companies are “latching” (pun intended) right on to this and using what is supposed to be about empowering choice to further their sales. They capitalize on women who don’t know as much as they should about breastfeeding, and deliver the message in their marketing of “we are just as good for your baby, and a hell of a lot easier”. The fact of the matter is, as I alluded to earlier, formula is not as healthy as breastmilk. It does not have the same nutrients as breastmilk. It’s not the same, period. Some mom’s are fine with that and are better off sacrificing some of these added nutrients to choose a method of feeding that is better for them and their baby individually. But it should be the mother making this decision without influence of a company trying to profit from their money. Mothers need to focus on informing themselves on both and looking at the consequences that will come out of either route. And so, I stand with those who preach “Informed-is-Best”. Inform yourself, make a decision based on the info out there. Leave the other non-expert opinions out!
Have you chose to breastfeed or formula feed your child(ren)? Have you ever felt shamed for either of your decisions? If so, I feel for you! I hope you’ll fight back and remind those shamers that you have made your decision based on the correct information out there and lifestyle behind both. If you struggle to find information and support with breastfeeding, comment here if you’re in Edmonton and I’ll connect you with some great local resources!