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.
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.
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.