We all know the benefits of breastfeeding. There can be little doubt that breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby. I mean our breasts are there for a purpose and unless there is something not working, when we have a baby our breasts will produce breast milk.
That breastfeeding provides the perfect balance of calories, fat, vitamins and other important elements for babies is thoroughly researched and documented.
However, the truth is not every woman can or wants to breast feed and not every baby thrives on breast milk and in the end, it’s the mother’s choice, her gut instinct that she is doing what is best for her baby that must be respected and affirmed and she must be supported in her decision.
The reasons why some mothers choose to give their babies formula are many and no two mothers have the same reason. In the end though, the choice of how to feed a baby is irrelevant. Good mothers are not only those who breast-feed their babies. Being a good mother is about loving and nurturing that little life that has been entrusted to you. If that choice does not include breast feeding your baby, never let anyone make you feel you are not a good mother because of that choice.
I encourage every mother to do all they can to breastfeed and to find the support that may be the difference between being able to feed and not being able to (and you can see breastfeeding tips here too). However, I do want to affirm and offer support to those mothers who choose not to feed, or who have tried to feed but made the decision to switch to formula feeding their baby.
I was fed formula as a baby as was many of the women of my generation, I can remember as a young midwife feeling quite angry at doctors and pro breast feeding midwives who insisted we wake tired mothers up when then their babies wanted to feed. This was a normal reaction in those days when breast-feeding was relatively unknown and feeding according to need was certainly not understood. A few years later, and all of us, together with so many of our generation chose to breast-feed our own children. Now it is our children who are facing the dilemma of whether to breast feed or to bottle feed.
The moral of my little story is that I am a strong healthy (hopefully well-adjusted) middle-aged woman and I was bottle fed like so many of my generation. The quality of milk formula back in those days was good; however no one would deny that today it is far superior. As scientists learned and understood the content and qualities in breast milk, manufacturers of milk formula’s have sought to ensure that formulas for different age groups are nutritionally complete and provide many of the same nutrients and benefits to the baby as breast milk. You will not be denying your baby nutritionally if you choose not to feed your baby.
Whilst it is tempting to think that formula fed babies sleep more than breast-fed babies, this is not true and this should never be a reason to switch from breast milk to formula. There are many ways to get help and support to help your baby settle, however if you find that you are simply not coping with life in general, choosing to share the responsibility of feeding your baby is never going to be a poor choice. If you find yourself having more patience, more energy and being able to meet your other life commitments by not breast- feeding, then be assured the decision is best for everyone in your family, including your baby.
If you tried to breast feed but for medical reasons you have had to stop feeding, please don’t feel guilty. You have given your baby the colostrum and early breast milk with its antibodies and high calorie value and provided an excellent nutritional start for your baby. Enjoy that thought and take time to appreciate that the switch to feeding your baby formula is a continuation of that desire to see your baby thrive and grow into a healthy happy child.
As a nurse/midwife we were taught that to survive all-human beings need to have a number of needs met. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs point out that at base level, all humans need love, food, a sense of safety and interaction with other humans. Research shows that if a baby or toddler is deprived of these basic requirements they won’t survive. Your choice to formula feed your baby is about providing your baby with these needs and following your mothering instinct in how best to do this for your baby within your personal and family dynamics. You are a good mum! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
This article was written by Carol Groves: Carol trained and worked as a nurse and midwife in Australia and overseas, many years ago before having children. Later I trained and worked as a breastfeeding counsellor with Nursing Mothers (now Breastfeeding Australia). Today I am preparing to be a Doula (Childbirth and Peri natal Support Person) and Mother’s Helper. My website is being developed at http://muslimumi.com.