There is no more explosive topic among the warring mommy factions than the issue of breast versus bottle. C-sections, circumcision, co-sleeping—those are like your church youth group’s annual talent show, and breastfeeding is the Grammys, complete with a Kanye-West-type character stealing the mic and telling you how you’re doing it all wrong. Breastfeeding proponents will point to various sources of correlational data to support their claim that “Breast is Best,” and they are correct that most health advocates encourage exclusive breastfeeding for as long as possible in the first year. Those same health advocates also assert that a 1200-calorie diet of kale and quinoa is “best” for adults, yet I imagine a few of us supplement with red wine and bacon from time to time.
I breastfed my son for 11 months, and I also supplemented with formula starting around five months, when he began sleeping 10 hours at night and my supply took a dip. I spent a few days wallowing in guilt and frustration, but when the choice came down to supplementing or waking myself up twice a night to pump, I traded in the fenugreek for an evening martini and bought a can of formula.
As someone who both breastfed and formula fed and survived the wrath of La Leche League to tell the tale, below are some of the advantages I found to each method of feeding your child. In the end, if you find yourself despairing over poor supply or bad latch, just remember that our grandparents’ generation fed their babies Coca-cola and rice pudding straight from the bottle, and our parents turned out just fine.*
* Except for the diabetes and heart disease.
Advantages to Breastfeeding:
1) Opportunity to sleep for at least 60 minutes at a time for the first several weeks of your newborn’s life, plus the potential confidence boost if you manage to not murder your spouse when you overhear him telling the neighbors that he’s tired from “taking the night shift” because he got up once around midnight to see if you needed an extra pillow under your Boppy.
2) Ability to get your infant to stop crying on an airplane, as long as you’re OK fielding the judgy eyes of the flight attendant when you ask for a double-mimosa to “help with let-down.”
3) Excuse to take two to three breaks from work each day to sit alone in a utility closet attached to your breast pump while playing Candy Crush and trying not to notice how few ounces your left boob is producing.
4) Total and complete de-sexualization of your breasts to the point that soon you will no longer require a nursing cover in public nor will you let your husband put his mouth anywhere near them ever again.
5) Moderate sense of superiority because you secretly believe you’re a more selfless mother than your friends who don’t breastfeed, even though you also secretly envy them because they can enjoy a date night with their husband without fourteen days of advanced planning to ensure they have pumped enough milk for the baby’s normal bottles and the extra bottles your mother gives him every time she baby-sits because she secretly thinks you’re starving your baby by not giving him formula.
Advantages to Formula Feeding:
1) Experience getting scolded by up to three different lactation consultants before you’ve even left the hospital, causing you to both weep uncontrollably and throw a bottle of Similac in the night nurse’s face.
2) Ability to feed your infant in public anytime, anywhere, without having to wear a special bra or fumble with a blanket, as long as the public place sells distilled water and has an accessible outlet for your portable bottle warmer because Junior will only take his formula if it’s been heated to a perfect 92.6 degrees.
3) Advanced discovery that your baby is allergic to both cow’s milk and soy and thus can only ingest a special kind of formula made from rose petals and bluebird tears that costs $450 a can and is not eligible for Amazon Prime.
4) Opportunity to share feedings with your spouse, thereby giving you some much needed alone time to cry in the shower while questioning your femininity and your value as a mother.
5) Sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are providing your child with nutritious sustenance in the manner that works best for your body, your baby, and your family, while also secretly relishing the fact that chances are good your baby will sleep through the night a full six weeks before those bionic breastfed babies do.
Written by: Kathleen