Sunday, March 25, 2012

A shout out to bottle feeders

As I sat in the (very nice) women's lounge inside the restroom at Nordstrom breast feeding Natalie I had a thought: breast feeding is hard work. I had the same thought many times all last week when Natalie was in the middle of a major growth spurt. As I fed her every hour or hour and a half I figured out creative ways to feed myself sandwich after sandwich as I attempted to keep my stomach from growling. Even constantly feeding myself did little to keep my belly full.

When you are pregnant one topic lots of people like to ask you about is whether you plan to breast feed or bottle feed. I guess this is because this is one of the few times you are actually given a choice in terms of newborn care. It's not like someone can ask you, "Do you plan to let your child sleep?" or "Will you change dirty diapers?" (though I guess the Elimination Communication movement does mean this could, for some people, be a legitimate question...).

And, as you're probably aware, people have some really militant feelings about how other people choose to feed their babies. Before anyone gets their nursing bras in a bunch, let me say that I am still breast feeding happily and plan to continue for some yet-to-be-determined period of time. (I am not about to declare how long I will breast feed because that just seems like a recipe for setting myself up for disappointment.) I don't need to tell you all the benefits of breast feeding because I would be beating a dead horse, but I've been thinking a lot about all the positive aspects of bottle feeding and how they are rarely discussed. So I wanted to give a shout out to all the bottle feeding mommas out there and show support for your choice because, hey, there are a lot of good reasons to choose bottle. Here's how I see it:

Reason #1
Bottle feeding gets more people involved.
This is by far the greatest benefit I see to bottle feeding. Your husband/partner/friend, whoever, can split feeding duties with you 50/50 when you're bottle feeding. Yes, when you're breast feeding you can pump and give bottles, which is something we do occasionally with Natalie, but pure bottle feeding takes the pressure off the mom and evenly distributes feeding responsibilities.

Reason #2
Bottle feeding makes babies more mobile.
Yes, it is legal to breast feed anywhere you'd like, but that doesn't mean it's easy. It's much more convenient (and socially acceptable) to whip out a bottle than whip out a boob. Plus, some outfits (see #5) and situations are just not conducive to feeding.

Reason #3
Bottle feeding is more conducive to the schedules of working moms.
This ties in with point 2 above, but I'll add that pumping at work sounds like one of the most undesirable tasks on the planet.

Reason #4
Bottle feeding makes it clear exactly how much your baby is eating.
A random mom (who also breast feeds, apparently, because she was doing it in front of me) asked me how much my daughter eats in a feeding. She was looking for ounces. The best I could say was, "20 minutes' worth?" I really couldn't tell you. I can't speak to this next one myself, so I won't make it a full-fledged reason, but I have heard that bottle fed babies tend to sleep better than breast fed babies because they stay full longer, likely because they're eating more at a time.

Reason #5
Bottle feeding does not limit the mother's wardrobe choices.
A friend who was breast feeding said to me a couple years ago how much she's seen her wardrobe choices limited by breast feeding. I didn't really understand what she meant at the time, but now I completely get it. You either wear a button-down or a nursing tank under a cardigan or you battle too much clothing in the way (or you just resign yourself to taking your shirt off 8-12 times a day). And then if you choose to wear something else -- something, dare I say, mildly sexy -- your nursing pads and/or nursing bras/tanks will show through your shirt or dress, killing whatever look you were going for.

In the end the nutritional benefits and bonding experiences of breast feeding outweigh for me all the inconvenient elements of it, but I totally get why some moms choose bottle over breast.


  1. I have to disagree with #2. Breastfeeding is WAY mobile. It is always there, it is always warm, and you never have to go out in the middle of the night to get it.

    We BF and FF with #1, and a big giant drawback to FF is the cost. It is REALLY expensive. And we used the generic Target Similac. Hypoallergenic formula would have cost as much as our rent per month (he was very heavily supplemented).

    I agree with your sentiment though, however one chooses to feed their baby is the RIGHT way to feed their baby!

    1. It's definitely true that breast milk is always available and that formula requires preparation. I guess I've just found myself in enough situations, like in the middle of a restaurant, where it's been easier to feed Natalie a bottle. Thankfully I've been able to pump and have bottles on hand whenever we leave the house.

  2. I've done some thinking on this subject many a time and can relate to so much of it. Pumping at work sucks big time. So many clothes are tough when nursing and now that Sam is mr distractable many a time I've thought how much easier life would be to just give him a bottle. However then I realize id have to pump, warm the bottle clean the bottle worry about him swallowing even more air. So whipping out the boob wins

    1. We exclusively feed Audrey formula, and it's been working out wonderfully. Granted, I originally planned to breastfeed (but with my post-partum cardio myopathy that went out the window, since I'm now on heart medication). The thought of breastfeeding stressed me out, so being told by the doctors this wasn't an option for me was almost a relief (I didn't have to deal with the guilt a lot of new moms face).

      The only annoying thing about formula is the cost. It is crazy expensive. With breast milk you can leave it out for 8-10 hours, with formula you have 1 hour. Because of this, you can definitely waste a lot.

    2. Yes, formula is quite expensive, which is a reason I was happy that breastfeeding worked out for me, at least for the time being. Ashley, I didn't realize that information about wasting formula, good to know! I am glad that feeding Audrey is working out well for you, and I hope your health continues to improve. You have such a cute little girl!

  3. I disagree with pretty much everything, except #1.
    #2, I have never NOT fed DD due to where we were. I have fed her while stopping by my office, while at rest stations, in many restaurants, at a bank, etc. I don't understand how bottle feeding (mixing formula, needing water, a measuring device, all bottle parts, etc.) could possibly be easier.
    #3, yeah, it kind of sucks, but there's no reason I should give DD formula simply because I have to work. I'm not sure why this matters to you, given your current extended LOA status.
    #4, The random mom can kiss off and you should have told her to do so. You've been tracking everything on your app, right? A quick glance at the tally of wet and poopy diapers should tell you that your DD is getting enough to eat, along with a growing baby. And, the "Formula fed babies sleep longer," is because formula is not natural and takes much longer to digest. Breastmilk is made especially for humans and is processed easily and quickly by the baby's body. FTR, don't listed to the people who will say your baby will sleep better once you start cereal and/or solids.
    #5, Special clothes? What? The only special breast feeding clothes I have bought were a few nursing bras. I wore my normal clothes while on maternity leave and I am still wearing my normal clothes now that I'm back to work. I don't own any button down shirts and I only own one black cardigan. The only clothing items that "got in the way" were sweatshirts. I don't ever take my whole shirt off to breast feed, unless I've just come back from a run and am trying to cool off while holding a hot baby against me.

    I fear you may frighten some potential breast feeders off with this post.

    1. Thanks for your perspective Jen! I think you've proven my point that people have strong opinions about this topic. Yes, you are right that I am taking a leave of absence and do not have to worry about pumping at work, but I was not referring to my own situation here, simply pointing out for others a fact of life for many breast feeding mothers. My intention is not to scare off breast feeders or encourage it for that matter because my point is to bring up some ideas that were never fully articulated to me.