June 27, 2013

breastfeeding vs. bottle (formula) feeding

Ah yes.  A sometimes controversial highly debated topic.  Which is better?  Breast or bottle?  And yes, I'm talking formula.  Not exclusively pumping.  I have no experience with that.  But I've raised one child who was completely formula fed (aside from a 6 day attempt at breastfeeding that left my blood pressure through the roof and my kid down more than 10% of her body weight.  you can read more about that here).  And now I am exclusively breastfeeding Elsie.  So I thought I'd share a little about what I thought the pros and cons to each were.

For me, the biggest pro for bottle feeding was that feedings didn't really dictate my day.  If I needed to be away from Ryann it didn't matter, there was always food on hand and I didn't have to stress about whether or not she would take the bottle from someone.  And I didn't really have to worry about being in public when she needed to eat.  I'm not opposed to nursing in public, I've done it numerous times, but I'd definitely prefer not to.  And yes I could use pumped milk in a bottle when we're out, but I mean if I'm right there...

It was also really nice that someone else could easily help with feedings.  If I really needed a little bit more sleep Chris could get up with Ryann.  It didn't happen often (because honestly I'd wake up anyway, and no offesne to him, but Christopher is pretty much useless in the middle of the night), but he COULD help.  Those first few weeks that I was feeding Elsie, even if I wanted a little extra sleep and he was willing to help, I was concerned about my milk supply and didn't really want to deal with having to pump when someone else was feeding here.  Again, if I am there, I might as well do it myself.

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Personally the thing I hated most about formula feeding was washing the damn bottles (hence the reason I don't often pump or give her pumped milk, I hate washing bottles and pump parts with a passion).  I'll admit I can be a pretty lazy person about some things, and those stupid freaking bottles.  I just hated washing them all the time.  There is nothing to clean when you're exclusively breastfeeding.  Ok, well that might not be entirely true, there could be a little more laundry thanks to leakage and what not, but I'd rather change my shirt than clean a bottle.

Another major downside to formula feeding is making sure you're prepared with bottles and formula and such whenever you leave the house.  I don't have to remember to take my boobs anywhere.  And if we decide to stay somewhere longer than I expected I've got plenty of food along.  Nor do I have to worry about running out at home.  Because we all know I'm notorious for running out of stuff (such as diapers, whoops).  Also I remember whenever Ryann wouldn't finish a bottle I'd see dollar signs going down the drain.  And I was much more reluctant to try feeding her when she was fussy, because if that wasn't the reason she was upset I didn't want to taste a bottle.  My milk is (more or less) free, and if I can't figure out what the heck is wrong with Elsie I can just stick a boob in her mouth.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but I don't stress about wasting anything.

Some make the argument that nursing allows for a better connection or bond with the baby.  I can't say that I agree.  I don't feel any more connected to Elsie than I did with Ryann.  But as I've said before, I'm thankful that nursing has forced me to sit down and spend time with E.  Because it would have been incredibly easy for me to pass her off for feedings while I did something else.

Honestly, when it comes down to it, I can't tell you which method of feeding I prefer.  I lucked out.  For the most part nursing has been so easy this time around.  Had I gone through a similar experience that I had with Ryann, I would have given up on nursing quickly.  It was still hard, but not physically excruciating like it was with Ryann.  I think that is one of the biggest downsides to nursing, how terribly hard it can be in the beginning.  The other big downside being how reliant the baby is on you.  You are the only one making food for the baby.  You are the one who has to watch your diet.  Worry that something you're eating might be making your baby cranky.  You worry that you might not provide enough milk.  Your day is constantly interrupted with the need to feed the baby or pump (not that it is always a bad thing, but it is true).  And sometimes nursing sessions can take SO LONG.  I've been late many times because I didn't anticipate how long it would take to nurse correctly.

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But there is something pretty damn rewarding about watching your baby grow and gain weight, and knowing that YOU did that.  You protected and nourished that baby in your womb for nine months, and still you are the sole reason he or she is growing.  I definitely patted myself on the back when Elsie gained 2.5 pounds in three weeks (seriously, why did I think I needed to wake her to eat?  she did just fine.  psh.).  It is strange, even after spending an entire year giving Ryann formula, and truly not thinking anything bad about women who chose to formula feed, the thought of giving Elsie any formula makes me cringe.  We'll see how long that mentality sticks around.  At this point I plan to continue nursing her until at least six months (hold me, that is barely more than a month away!), and then I'll go from there.

I'm sure you've heard all of those pros and cons before.  But if there is anyone out there on the fence about which feeding method to try, I thought hearing it from a mama who has done both could be helpful.  If you think you might want to nurse, try it.  Maybe it works out great for you.  I definitely believe breast is best as far as nutrition goes.  BUT, ultimately?  A happy, sane, not too stressed out mama is the most important.  So if that means you need to do formula, so be it.  Your baby will be fed, and I guess really, THAT is the most important thing. 

13 comments:

Cari Mooneyham said...

Thanks for this post, Ashley! I have exclusively breastfed both my kids, but I really appreciate you sharing your opinions since you have done both. I'm sure this post will be really helpful to new mamas who are unsure! Your journey has helped me to not be judgmental of those moms who do bottle feed. "A happy, sane, not too stressed out mama is the most important." Agreed.

Leslie said...

This is such am awesome post! As an EBF mama to my little girl for the last 3 months I totally agree that it is one of the biggest challenges I have ever gone through. At the same time I don't think the satisfaction and joy of watching my baby grow and thrive will ever be beat! I so wish I was brave enough to take pictures of me nursing her! I think I may now that I have seen yours. I think one day I will be sad I don't have it as a reminder of the incredible bond and journey it has been so far. I too am hoping to EBF for 6 months but in my heart I don't think I really want to stop until a year! Thank you so much for you post...I love hearing other moms perspective on breast feeding! I need more help nursing in public as I am PETRIFIED!!! Would love to hear your thoughts on that one!!!

maria said...

I love that top photo of you and miss E.
Great post too! It's good to hear both sides!

~Stephanie Hurst~ said...

I love the photos thank you so much for sharing. I exclusively breastfed my son for 12 months. And my daughter now who is 7 months has been pretty much exclusively breastfed. I work three and a half days a week on those days she stays with my mil who has extra storage of my breast milk and we have a huge supply as well in our freezer. However I did not want to stress as much as I did with my son so told her if she ever needed formula should the supply be low that it's completely okay. It has worked out so great nobody is stress and it seems like since we let go about worrying about everything we have a huge extra supply! :) so glad to see someone talking about this!

J Young said...

Great post, interesting to see both sides from one person. I've been able to breastfeed both my babies, although both had to have formula also for the first couple weeks due to jaundice. And with my first, I pumped a lot more and he had a lot more bottles then my second. SO it was really hard to leave my daughter because she HATED to take bottles! Definitely pros and cons to both! I always just have the opinion that every woman is different and every baby is different and you have to do what works best for you and your situation. Thanks for sharing!

Beth Franklin said...

What a great post for new AND experienced moms to read! I would have so appreciated this after our son was born. It is refreshing to hear that you don't feel like either way is necessarily "better" overall...its just that formula worked best for Ryann, and breast works best for Elsie. I tried for 6 weeks to exclusively breastfeed our son, he screamed bloody murder every time, but he took pumped breast milk from a bottle like a pro. He LOVED it --- so I exclusively pumped (every three hours, around the clock...ugh). He slept through the night at 6 weeks (interesting how he started sleeping soundly once the boob was no longer forced on him). I pumped non-stop for six months, but after that many months of setting my alarm to wake up every three hours to pump while everyone else in the house was sound asleep, I stopped. I just couldn't do it anymore, and had come to that same conclusion --- "a happy, sane, not too stressed out mama is the most important." He got breast milk for 7.5 months (the extra 1.5 months came from my freezer stash), and he was formula fed after that. My thoughts are right with yours --- do what it takes to have a happy family, and whatever works to get that baby fed. :)

Renata C. said...

It is indeed a highly controversial, highly divisive topic. I too had to supplement with formula with my first, and HATED those bottles. They made my life HELL until I got my supply issues in order and then I exclusively breastfed my first and second, and it has been a breeze. Breastfeeding can be VERY stressful in the first weeks, and if you are not committed enough or don't have the right support, it is difficult to succeed and overcome those first weeks. I would suggest to moms to try and find support BEFORE they have a baby, and not always in the most obvious places : moms, husbands, sisters, friends, are not always like-minded on this topic - you have to find the right support. I also recommend really informing yourself on all benefits of breast milk(besides what is practical)--breastfeeding has WAY more benefits than just the obvious "food". It does way more than that for development of mind and body, it is such a marvel of nature it is not even funny. And although formula offers an alternative for people who otherwise would have no choice (including if you are losing your sanity), Nestle will just never be able to offer what nature designed for babies in perfection. All this just to say, moms should give it some serious shot.

Kristal said...

This is a great post, Ashley! I really appreciate you sharing your real life experience with both ways of feeding.

You know, I think that cringe you get at the thought of giving E a bottle, even though that's how you fed R, is because we are made to breastfeed. It's not because formula is bad, but it's like there is this innate feeling that we are meant to mother our babies at the breast. That, more than anything, is what makes me sad for moms who run into obstacles that don't allow them to breastfeed. It's not because I think formula is evil, it's because I know there is a big emotional tie there, and maybe even an instinctual tie, and I'm sad that the mom has to ignore it. (Does that even make sense?)

Thanks for sharing!

Amber said...

Love this post! I too wish I had a little more freedom and a little more sleep. It would be nice not have be the ONLY ONE to be able to feed Owen, but ultimately it's a little sacrifice for a short period of time.

Kelly said...

I am so happy it worked out for you this time, if only so that you could experience a positive breast feeding relationship and not look back and wonder. Those first few weeks (months) can be torture and sometimes the best thing for a mother's sanity is to just take a step back and not put so much pressure on herself. Thanks for sharing your story! I agree that imagining giving Nolan a formula bottle makes me cringe-- even nearly eight months later and still sleep deprived because I feel like this is my job. This is the part I can do (and thankfully, my body does very well). Deep down I really love that I am his sole source of nutrition and he doesn't need anyone else. Soon enough he won't want me at all so I am trying to savor this special bond we have, even if I want to pull my hair out sometimes ;)

Sarah Bosch said...

Thank you for the post Ashley. I have done both as well. At 2 months Gabriel was totally bottlefed with formula. With Lucas I EBF until 10 months, and now with Liliana I am at 11 months of EBF. So now the big questions is... I've got a month to go... then what? She doesn't like the bottle. I'd kinda like to continue, but Jorge and I are going on a trip for 9 days in September and I'd prefer not to take Lily along. And if I DO go to milk... not sure I want to do cow's milk. Decisions decisions. :)

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Anonymous said...

I highly disagree with everything you said! You, like others, make mom's feel like if they don't breastfeed you are not a good enough mom! Wrong! My mother breast fed me, and I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 3! My son was formula fed, is the perfect weight, and is 6 yrs old going into 2nd grade, not 1st. He is extremely smart! It isn't what you feed your baby, but what kind of parent you are!