Let’s Be Honest About Formula vs. Breast Milk

I am concerned about the discussions going on around me. What prompted me to write this blog was one of the discussions in the forums. However, comments about ‘formula being as good as breast milk’, or ‘the breastfeeding Nazis’ aren’t only found there. There seems to be a definite division between the breast milk mamas and the formula mamas.

But let’s be honest–breast milk, is NOT the same as formula. It’s scientifically just not. To be honest, if you look at the data, it’s not even a close second. No matter how much we want to pretend that it is just as good to “justify” using bottles and/or formula. . .breast milk remains much healthier for an infant. Formula, while it tries to mimic properties found in breast milk, will fall short because breast milk is a living tissue. Its properties and nutrients change with your baby–something formula will never be able to do. But now that I’ve gotten that out in the open. . .let’s talk about why there is a division.

Living with Regret

There are some women, who for a medical reason, simply can’t breastfeed. If you talk with many of these women, they feel hurt and regret it deeply. But at the same time they know their choice and couldn’t have done anything about it.

On the other hand, there are a lot of women who could medically breastfeed. However just because breastfeeding is natural, doesn’t mean it comes naturally. They try and try, but lack the proper support either because it’s simply not available or because they didn’t know who to ask. For sure, trying is frustrating and frequently painful. In frustration, and often with a lot of tears they quit and switch to formula. They simply find it impossible to go on.

Some women choose formula over breast milk. Reasons are too varied for me to go into here. They have no regrets over using formula and often view the two substances as equivalent.

In any case, I challenge you to find at the park, the kids who got the breast, vs. the kids who got the bottle, vs. the kids who got a little of both. Some women claim they can tell, and there are tell tale indicators of a breastfed infant vs. a formula fed one BUT I guarantee you that when they’re all entering preschool–no one will be the wiser!

Parenting Nazis, NOT Breastfeeding Nazis

I think the division comes when someone with a particularly strong opinion openly shares. Most who are reading this likely know that I have successfully breastfed all five of my children. In fact, I am still nursing the twins who are about 19 months old. However, my third child was horrible at the breast. If she had been my first, they all would’ve been bottle fed.

But she wasn’t my first and so when trouble crept up I knew what to do. Support was not readily available–I had to seek it extensively. But again this was my third–I knew what I needed to make it work. On the search to the right lactation consultant who could help me, I met a variety of opinions. My favorite was one woman who told me I obviously didn’t know what I was doing and if I did, I wouldn’t be seeking help! Talk about a discouraging comment to a breastfeeding mother who is struggling. Not to mention the fact that with three kids only two years apart–I promise you, I knew what I was doing.

The problem is that everyone has strong opinions about how to raise children. You have them too, as do I. Unfortunately, some people feel too free to share. While the ’bottle moms’ get their share of comments–so do the breastfeeding moms. I have been criticized for not giving some bottles, for slinging babies, for co-sleeping, for not co-sleeping long enough, for breastfeeding twins, for giving the twins bottles while they were in the hospital with jaundice, for potty training late, for home schooling. . .ad nauseum. The comments are not reserved for formula feeding moms. People that feel free to share their criticisms in a particularly harsh manner, are parenting Nazis. In fact, I am willing to bet that people who freely share their criticisms about formula feeding, also freely share their criticisms on all other subject matters too!

Guilt and Perspective

So, to all you moms who say you’ve been made to feel guilty by someone who is very pro-breastfeeding I say this: No one can make you feel guilty without your permission. Even the most harsh criticism, MUST have your permission to seep into your brain.

So don’t give them permission. Make your choice based on the information you have, your particular situation, and your needs. You will not journey through parenthood without having regrets nor will you do it perfectly. But allowing the criticisms of others to make you defensive and frustrated will hinder your parenting effectiveness. So moms, make your decision and hold your head up high. You have more important things to think about than what someone else thinks you should be feeding your baby!

So. . .Let’s Be Honest

You can say breast milk is healthier and you can say that you chose to formula feed–all in the same sentence. You’re not a bad mom. You’re a mom who made the best decision for herself, her child and her family with the resources and support that you had at the time.

Related Articles:

Practices That Promote Breastfeeding

When You Have to Pump

Breastfeeding In Public

Other breastfeeding articles!