Scientifically, breast milk is best. There are nutrients in breast milk that help your child’s brain develop, and try as they might, formula makers cannot replicate these nutrients. Breastfeeding protects your child from illnesses because, as long as he or she is nursing, they are protected by your immune system, which is much more developed than theirs. Breast milk is very well tolerated by babies, and hardly ever causes gastric problems, and breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight.
But, realistically, the scientific facts are not the only things to be considered. Women who simply don’t want to breastfeed will probably not be very successful. Even some women who want to breastfeed will find it so difficult, that they are miserable trying to make it work. Some women will have difficulty making enough milk to satisfy their baby’s hunger, and some women will suffer more pain with breastfeeding than they can endure. If you fall into one of those categories, don’t beat yourself up. Your baby can do quite nicely on formula, too.
When my daughter was born, I was anxious to breastfeed. I had two boys, but one is my husband’s by a previous marriage, and the other was adopted at ten months, so this was my only chance to be pregnant and breastfeed. I read all the books I could get my hands on, and like a fool, spent a bunch of money on a breast pump.
Well, it turns out that my nipples are not exactly a matched set, so my daughter completely rejected one nipple. So, I nursed on the side she would take until my nipples looked like ground beef. Plus, she was an eight pound eating machine at birth, and no matter how long I nursed her, I couldn’t satisfy her appetite. Even with pumping from the breast that she rejected, she was always hungry. I made myself crazy from it, worked with two different lactation consultants and tried every trick in the book, but still every attempt at nursing ended in tears. After two miserable weeks, I gave in and put her on formula. We have never looked back. I was happier because I wasn’t constantly frustrated, and she was happier because her tummy was full and because her Mommy was much more relaxed.
Now that I’ve told you that story, I’ll tell you this. If I ever had another baby, I would try breastfeeding again. Every baby is different, and a Mother’s body is different with each pregnancy. I would try again to give my child the best from a nutritional standpoint. But, I understand now that sometimes it just doesn’t work, or it isn’t right for you, and that doesn’t mean that you’re not a good Mom.
Breast or bottle is a personal choice. Weigh the facts and the preferences, and make the choice that is right for you and your baby. Whatever you decide, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.