Is breast best?

22 Sept 2015

Is breastfeeding better than bottle feeding?
One of the first questions people asked me when we shared the news that we were expecting, was whether I would breastfeed. It's something I considered long before I even got pregnant and it's a subject I have my own views and opinions on, but I have to admit I was a little surprised by how many people wanted to know what my plans were. I think every women thinks about breastfeeding at some point in their life, whether they are pregnant or not, and over recent years it has become an even hotter public topic.

Personally it never fails to amaze me that something like breastfeeding can be seen as such a taboo subject to talk about publicly. Yes, women's bodies are seen completely different in the media to men and sexualised to the most ridiculous extents, but breastfeeding is not something sexual and it baffles me that the sexualisation of women's bodies means that breastfeeding is often viewed in the way it is.

You'll have people who think breastfeeding is wrong because breasts are there for 'pleasure', or the people who think breastfeeding is wrong because it's 'something women do to make a point in public'. There are public movements to see the breast in it's natural form, from being able to breastfeed in public as a given right to having to use hashtags to make a point to Instagram that women's nipples should not be banned because they are 'sexual'. Nipples and breasts and feeding are definitely a hot topic, and a touchy one at that.

When it comes to breastfeeding or bottle feeding, there seems to be two main thoughts that people generally have; breast is best, and bottle feeding is selfish. These are the two main opinions I have come across both pre-pregnancy and since becoming pregnant, where breastfeeding is seen as the best choice for both mother and baby, whilst bottle feeding is seen as a bad thing, a selfish act on the mother's part, a lazy approach. But is that really the case?

Yes, scientific evidence backs up breastfeeding as the best choice for your baby on a health basis; getting everything they need from your milk which formulas are not able to identically replicate, as well as being an extremely good way to bond between mother and baby. That's backed up by medical professionals, medical studies as well as psychology research and studies (so obviously something as a psych-grad that I'm going to be pretty happy about). Whichever method of feeding you fight the corner for, there is no way to deny the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh bottle feeding. 

Being a more beneficial way of feeding your baby does not necessarily make breastfeeding the best option for you though and I think it's something too many people forget; just like everything in life, breastfeeding is and should always be an individual choice. What works for some will not automatically work for others. What one woman is comfortable with will not automatically be something another woman is equally as comfortable with. What one woman feels inclined to do for her and her baby will not be the same for everyone and so long as that baby is being fed, is healthy, safe and happy, to me, how they are fed should not matter.

I hate the idea that there are two groups of mothers, that it's breastfeeding mothers against bottle feeding mothers. The idea that one is better than the other, superior to the other because of how they feed their baby. The way that breastfeeding is, undeniably, pushed on all pregnant woman to the point where even considering bottle feeding leaves expectant mothers feeling guilt before their baby is even born. By all means provide the correct information for both methods, including the positives and negatives, the benefits for mother and baby, but this information should be presented in an unbiased way that gives the mother the opportunity to make a guilt free choice. 

If bottle feeding was so atrocious, such a terrible choice for babies, formula would not be available, alternatives to breast milk would not be available. It simply would not be an option. There are many, many reasons why women chose to bottle feed over breastfeeding and the notion that it is always down to laziness and the mother being selfish is, at best, idiotic. Some women are incapable of breastfeeding. Some woman simply do not have the ability to produce enough breast milk (in some cases, any at all) to breastfeed. Some women have had serious medical problems in the past which prevent them from breastfeeding. Some women simply do not feel comfortable with breastfeeding and that is just as acceptable of a reason not to breastfeed as a medical reason. 

In a world where we constantly shout for the equal rights of women, for women to be treated with respect and to be seen as individuals who are capable of being independent and responsible with their own minds, we cannot keep beating down women for doing exactly that and making a personal choice.

Will I breastfeed? Yes. If I can, if it is something I can physically do, I will breastfeed. Does that mean I am better than a mother who chooses not to breastfeed? Or a mother who cannot physically breastfeed? Hell no. It means that I have made an individual choice for me and my baby based on what think is best for me and my baby. Only I can make that decision just as each woman has that very same right to make the same decision for her and her baby. Don't you think?

Next week: Our Nursery So Far