Breastfeeding Versus Bottle Feeding - Why All The Hate?

Written by jenstate

Breastfeeding | Bottle Feeding | BabymindingOne of the greenest things we can do as new mothers is breastfeed our infant. After all, it seems everyone agrees that breast milk is best and of course it requires no possibly BPA-laden bottles (unless you need to pump of course) and no manufacturing facility. I am a big supporter of breastfeeding for the first year when possible. From antibodies to perfect nutrition, it really is the best and greenest option for our children. I nursed both of mine for a year and am glad that I did. It wasn’t easy. I very much disliked it but I did it anyway. From mastitis, to clogged ducts, to bleeding nipples, sometimes breastfeeding feels anything but natural. The pain was worth it, and I am proud of the accomplishment. Having said that, though, I hate the way mothers are attacking each other over the issue, and when we aren’t attacking, we are wearing our choices on our sleeve like some sort of badge. Sorry, but there are no purple hearts for breastfeeding.

What got me thinking about the breastfeeding versus bottle feeding debate are the forums on the iVillage website where not only is there a debate forum on the subject, but women have badges that appear on the signature of any post or reply they make in the forums. These blinking, obnoxious badges proudly show the mother’s stance on many subjects related to parenting, not the least of which is their own accomplishments feeding their children. Some of them say things like “Not one drop of formula” or “Nursing my toddler two years and still going” or even “I have a super power – I make milk.” Umm, it’s not a super power if every mammal on earth can do it. Bottle feeding moms have resorted to combating this in-their-face assault with badges that say “It’s formula, not rat poison” or “Breastfed or bottle fed, my child is still as loved and nurtured as yours”.

Not only do I feel this type of division among mothers is unnecessary and petty, I can’t help but wonder what some of these judgmental breastfeeding mothers are feeding their toddlers. I know what it’s like to have a baby and a toddler, nursing one while trying to feed the older child healthy, homemade meals. It’s not easy. Breastfeeding usually lasts the first year, and while I agree that it’s best, we are required to feed our children in most cases until they are 18 years old. We must concentrate on the nutrition of our children well beyond the first year. It does a child no good to have a year of breast milk and 17 more years of processed junk food or fast food. So as mothers, let’s stop being so judgmental and start sharing our ideas. How did you juggle breastfeeding your second or third child with the needs of your older children? What are your quick, healthy meal ideas? Let’s stop judging and start sharing!

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  1. I laughed out loud about the super power thing. SO true! All female mammals can make milk. What’s the big deal?

    It really is hard to feed healthy food all the time. Meal planning really helps me. That way we only eat the healthy meals/snacks I have planned. I only have one child though, so I’m not much in the area of experience. We do have our occasional treats just like everyone else. A couple of our guilty pleasures are fruit snacks and boxed mac and cheese. hehe

    Yep, looking down on others is not good for them or for you. That type of pride can ruin a person. It’s so sad.

    I personally used to be quite an angry person and still sometimes struggle with anger. I used to think ill of others who thought differently than me (geesh heaven forbid! LOL) even though I never expressed it or stood up to them. But I came to realize that anger and bitterness hurts no one except me. It’s so nice not to being angry anymore! As a mom that is a very important lesson to learn. I pray the same for all other moms!


  2. This seems to be the latest in a string of charges levied against “judgemental breastfeeding moms” (not that I’d deny that there are some!).

    Honestly, I suspect mothers who feel strongly enough about breastfeeding that they are “judging others” are quite likely to be putting quite an emphasis on good eating beyond the first year. This doesn’t mean that they should be judging. But in my experience, the judging extends to other things than just breastfeeding 😉

    FTR, I haven’t really found a problem breastfeeding my second and feeding my first properly. Not a drop of formula and not a bite of fast food! That doesn’t make me “better”, though. It’s just… what we do. We put an emphasis on food as an important part of our lives – and both parents do this. Would be much harder if it was all on me.

  3. Thank you, Katy and Juliette for sharing your points of view. I think my issue with the “Not One Drop Of Formula” moms is that most canNOT say they’ve never given their toddler an oreo or a happy meal. My children each had a couple of formula bottles (seriously maybe two) from my husband. Does that somehow negate nursing my daughter for 14 months and my son for 12? It just seems silly that some of these moms, particularly the ones from certain forums, act like never using formula (or whatever their hot button is) gives them a leg up on parenting.

  4. I think you make a very good point Jen and One that I haven’t given too much thought to. I don’t go on the iVillage messageboards but I know what you are talking about. I have seen those obnoxious badges elsewhere. It makes me think of the ones on twitter. I have two of them myself. One is to show I’m a breastfeeding supporter (which might be overkill but I think it helps people find me and know what I am about without reading my profile) and a red ribbon for cesarean awareness. I don’t think these make me better than anyone else but I like that it can serve to have people find like-minded individuals and gather a tribe of supporters. I suppose this can act to segregate women as well, but that is not my intention in using it and I don’t think I would go so far as to remove them based on your post, even though your point has great merit.
    And I agree with your wondering what those women with the slogans on their badges are feeding their kids. I’m going to assume (because I’m optimistic that way) that they are passionate about their kids health and put great effort into it, but yes, you never know. While I serve my kids homemade whole foods 90% of the time I do give them pre-made food once in awhile. Not fast food, but certainly not homemade either.
    One way I was able to do this was make large batches of heathy food ahead of time. Veggie chilis and soups were our favorites.

  5. You use words like “hate” and “assault” and “attacking” to describe breastfeeding mothers who are, like you, proud of their breastfeeding accomplishments. But the examples you use – “Not one drop of formula” and “Nursing my toddler two years and still going” and “I have a super power – I make milk” – don’t sound like attacks to me. They sound like Moms who overcame the challenge of beastfeeding and are proud for doing so. I think what’s often going on in this “debate” is that mothers who chose not to breastfeed, or felt they were incapable of doing it or unable to do it, hate to hear about the benefits of breastfeeding, react by feeling guilty and shameful, and then project those feelings onto the breastfeeding community. This is how a seemingly innocent comment like “not a drop of formula” becomes perceived as an “attack.” I sincerely doubt that mother’s intention was to make formula-feeding mothers feel guilty, and why should the breastfeeding mother have to hide the pride and satisfaction and sense of accomplishment she feels? Isn’t that what all these mommy blogs are about? The breastfeeding advocacy community has had to overcome decades of aggressive marketing by huge pharmaceutical companies spending billions of dollars to push their products onto vulnerable mothers before their babies are even born – just to try to make sure that mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and the shortcomings of formula. Now, they should back off of their message because of the self-imposed guilt of mothers who didn’t breastfeed? Moms who didn’t breastfeed – don’t feel guilty, you’re not a bad person, nobody is “attacking” you. This isn’t Kabul, for godsakes.

  6. Melodie and Marcy, thank you for the comments. Marcy, if you check out the iVillage forums and debate boards, I think you would see that some of these mothers do indeed attack others choices on those boards. I haven’t seen any badges on twitter at this point, but sometimes I believe self-advertising is not about finding like-minded moms but rather about tearing others down to build oneself up. It goes well beyond the breastfeeding debate to car seat installation and how long you keep your child rear-facing, etc.

  7. I think this has become like everything else, no one is allowed a difference of opinion in today’s world which to me makes for some dull conversations etc. Raised my children in the 70’s and either way was fine with the majority. Personally I preferred bottles but that was my choice, there I said it. Choice.

  8. re: tearing other down to build oneself up.”

    I think you hit it on the head here. Unfortunately, it seems like as mothers, we’re so insecure that the only way we can validate our parenting decisions is to tear down anybody who made a different one (to be fair, plenty of fathers do this, too).

    “You don’t homeschool? Do you really want your kid stifled by a soulless institutional ‘government school?'” “You vaccinate — are asking for your kids to be autistic?” “Circumcision — you’re mutilating your son?”

    As someone who breastfed for (what seemed to my mom like) an insanely long time, I was very cautious about how I talked to other moms about breastfeeding. Not everybody had the cirumstances that I did (primarily a fabulous support system in my DH, ped and work situation).

    You can help promote breastfeeding without tearing down other people. For example, to a woman who is struggling with a difficult nursing situation, “Not one drop of formula,” isn’t going to be remotely persuasive. How about “Overcame early feeding problems, mastitis and a dairy aversion — Ask me how”?

    If the goal is persuasion, not treating other moms like the enemy is a good start.

  9. Your view is very refreshing and enlightening……and speaks to a bigger problem with our gender…. the way women cut each other down about EVERYTHING rather than helping and supporting each other.

    “Have you seen so and so? She got FAT!” We’ve all heard that…. and the other countless negative comments that us women use to try and make ourselves feel better.

    Breastfeeding is just another “ace up our sleeve.”

    I, for one, refuse to play. 🙂

    I truly admire your nursing your babes as long as you did. I nursed for 7 weeks and quit since my daughter had a milk allergy. It was one of the hardest decisions I made in my life. I CRIED for weeks afterwards. I am now finally (she is 19 months) letting go of the guilt I’ve been carrying (you know, that she’s going to be “dumb,” sick all the time, her smile will be crooked, etc. 🙂


  10. I know that this is a little old, but I felt it necessary to bring up a point. I am the mother of 4, I successfully breastfed all my children for as long as i wanted. My first 3 children were given formula from about 4 months on. My 4th is 8 months old and never had a drop of formula. I am very proud of that accomplishment. I am not a member of any breastfeeding forums (with 4 kids, who has the time??!!), but if I were, I would proudly wear a badge that said that I had never given my LO formula. Not because I think that formula is poison, nor because I think that if makes anyone less a mother for choosing to formula feed. i have not preconceived ideas about a persons mothering skills based on the method the baby is fed. BUT, does that mean that I can not be proud of the accomplishment I have made on my own? ABSOLUTELY not!! I have been through many trials with my LO and over come many hurdles to reach the milestones that we have, and will continue to have. Why shouldn’t I be proud and share my accomplishment?

  11. Your post is refreshing. While I do often identify with attachment parenting ideals, I’ve found myself disgusted with the community because of the judgments. I breastfed exclusively until I went back to work and then I had to supplement with *gasp* formula. And when we had breastfeeding issues at nine months that we couldn’t remedy, he became a formula baby. Formula exists for a reason. I can’t imagine that many moms would chose formula over breastfeeding unless it was necessary. We all know breast is best, and formula is inconvenient and EXPENSIVE. All in all, we try to do what is best for our families and I wish more moms would band together with that thought instead of finding petty divisive issues.

  12. I am always amazed at the one sided information coming out of “so called ” experts on the issue of breastfeeding. My wife is petite, with pumping we have sort of found she produces 1/3 to 1/2 of what our baby needs. It was hard to figure this out. Took several months. If we had followed the breast milk only, fed from the breast only regime that many lactation consultants preach (I believe the word preach is the best word) our baby would be starving and been under nourished. At 9 months he is very healthy and feeds 65% formula, 35% breast. I believe that the breast milk has helped make him almost disease free and happy. Parents must have a balanced source of information and make their own decision. I like to follow experts but some of the statements made even by the American Academy of Pediatrics are diabolical. breast feed 10-12 times a day, at 12 times a day a mother can only sleep maybe 2 hours all at once. This will make most people crazy, its a medical fact. A child with a crazy mom is bad news.

    I guess it is good that people see this discourse and follow their instincts and hope they have good instincts. We need a health resource that is more reasoned and less preachy. The present system is not good. If we had a “breast feed only” pediatrician our baby would have starved!

  13. I post on the debate board you’re discussing, and my baby gets just a few ounces of formula a day. While my supply is great if I exclusively breastfeed, it tanks when I work. I don’t respond well to the pump.

    While the women you speak of have helped me trouble-shoot and try to boost my pumping capabilities, none have lamblasted me for using formula. I do that enough on my own. And while I am 100% in the “breastfeeeding is biologically normal” camp, I’m glad formula existed for when DS literally quit gaining weight. Donor milk wasn’t an option for DH, so formula was it. I’m not ready to give up on breastfeeding. I do consider it a superpower that I make milk, just like I consider it a superpower that my mom’s dog made milk for all her puppies. And just because I can’t wear a blinkie stating I’ve never used formula, I look forward to wearing one that states that I’m still breastfeeding a toddler.

    As for the comment that addresses the fact that mom’s don’t sleep if they breastfeed often, I do. I co-sleep. DS can latch himself on and I don’t even have to wake up. I like to imagine myself as an all-you-can-eat buffet. He has access whenever he wants it!

  14. People are extremely sensitive about how they feed/fed their kids. I learned not to bring up issues of breastfeeding vs. formula with my parents generation, nor the issue of solids before 6 months or processed baby food with my own mom friends and relatives. No one wants to be told what they are doing might not be the best for their child. Better to learn everything you can, do things your own way, and only give advice when asked.
    I feel great about my own feeding strategy. Breastfeeding is a great way to give your baby a great nutritional start, but so are things like waiting on solids, avoiding processed baby food, introducing textures and variety early etc, etc. I know moms who can’t breast feed, but do make their own baby foods from organic fruits and veggies, which I think also helps children developed healthy tastes and habits, and avoid problems later in life. The main thing to remember is that what you eat when you are pregnant, and what you feed your baby/toddler/child is very important to their development, and to be a good parent, you need to be informed about your choices.

  15. I’m nursing my toddler, right now. I’m giving her the antibodies she needs to fight off her cold. I know from experience, I will probably get the cold worse, but at least I don’t have to worry so much about my baby. We have gotten a couple of viruses that put her non-breastfed toddler cousins into the hospital.

    Since everything seems to come down to the bottom $$$ here in the states, you all can figure the health care cost differences yourself. No? Well compare $0 to $10K+. Those other toddlers are on public assistance, too, so it isn’t baby-mommy or baby-daddy paying for their hospital stays.

    I’m sure most of the hate between women is there before the breastfeeding issue. I garner hate from my fellow women simply because I’m not fat and I’m not ugly. That hasn’t changed since we all became moms, either. In the US culture, women aren’t raised to work together, and having children changes most people not one wit.

  16. Women have a right to choose what is best for them. Some mothers can breastfeed, others cannot. Some shoose to and others choose not to. Nobody has a right to dictate to a mom not knowing the mom’s circumstances. If you can breastfeed and you decide to, good for you, Another mother who can but decides not to, it is her choice and has to be respected and supported in whatever decision she makes.

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