Breastfeeding has been around for centuries, but so have bottles and so the age old debate of whether mums should breastfeed their children or feed them with bottles goes on. A recent survey by British television program GMTV showed that 70% of new mums breastfeed for less than 6 months, which goes against the World Health Organization’s guidelines. They found that 24% stop after just one week and while their reasons are diverse, many mums think (if it can be helped) it is wrong to give up on breastfeeding so early.
The arguments for feeding via a bottle are that it gives new fathers a better chance to bond with their infant. Feeding is one of the times when caregiver to baby interaction and connection is at its strongest. Some mothers may feel guilty that they already have a strong bond with their baby through pregnancy and that the father feels left out during breastfeeding. Also, for a lot of families nowadays it is the man who stays at home to look after the new baby while the mother goes back to work. While the mother may still be expressing, soon enough her milk flow will cease and the baby will be reliant on formula. Other reasons for using bottle rather than breast include the inconvenience and embarrassment of public breastfeeding (feeling like you must stay indoors), not enjoying the experience because the mother sees their breasts as sexual (for instance when they work as a lingerie model) and also when the baby simply will not latch on.
The arguments for breastfeeding, on the other hand, mainly rest upon the nutrients that breast milk carries, and the lack of nutrients that formula is capable of giving. The colostrum (breast milk produced in late pregnancy ready for the first feed) contains antibodies, immunoglobulins and growth factor hormones which give the baby the best possible start to its life. Breastfeeding is also good for the mother following birth as it causes the production of various hormones to help the mother-baby bond grow and the body to return to its pre-pregnant state quickly.
So is it right that mothers who don’t enjoy breastfeeding should feel the pressure to breastfeed for the sake of their baby? Cognitive research also shows that babies are very highly tuned into their mothers thoughts and feelings and breastfeeding can bring about a strong stress response in women if it doesn’t feel right to them. Is it better to sacrifice the health benefits of breast milk in favor of keeping Mum happy and possibly reducing the risk of post natal depression? The UK GMTV survey also found that 9 out of 10 women intent to breastfeed before their baby is born, but following birth 20% say it wasn’t convenient and 14% say they didn’t like it. Whatever is right and whatever is wrong each nation is divided and it’s impossible to tell where the majority of women will lie in the next ten years. Wherever you stand in the breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding debate, we hope that you stand there firmly and don’t feel pressure from people with differing views.