At the risk of making a lot of people frustrated with me, I have to talk about something that has been weighing heavily on my mind ever since I found out I was pregnant with my second child: the “breast or bottle” discussion. When a woman is pregnant, whether or not she is going to breastfeed is often brought up between her and her doctors, her spouse or her friends. Now, it’s not the conversation, itself, that bothers me, because frankly I’ve heard both sides of the argument plenty of times to know it forwards, backwards and inside out.
What really bothers me, however, is the reaction a woman gets when she tries to explain that she has decided (for one reason or another) that she isn’t going to breastfeed. There are dirty looks, there are curled up lips and snide, sideways remarks in almost every conversation. And pardon my language, but why the hell is it anyone’s business if a woman bottle feeds her child instead of breastfeeds? Is she mistreating or malnourishing her baby? Is she neglecting her child by making the choice (and in most cases it was an incredibly difficult one) to not breastfeed? I would wager the answer to those questions would be “no” almost 100% of the time.
If you haven’t been able to tell by what I’ve said so far, I didn’t breastfeed my daughter and it’s none of your business why. But, she is definitely as healthy and smart as any breastfed kid I’ve ever encountered, so I don’t buy into the theory that “breast is best.” Is it usually? Sure, I suppose, at least that’s what the medical evidence supports. But in my case, it was definitely not the answer for my family. I made a conscious and difficult decision to not breastfeed her and I stand behind that decision, still, today. Formula is engineered to be exactly what the baby needs. It has added vitamins. And, most importantly for me, my husband could feed her just as easily as I could.
So, I guess what I would ask anyone reading this to take away is to never, ever automatically assume a woman has breastfed her child and speak to her in a way that suggests the same. It’s a topic that’s better left alone if you can’t be respectful of her, her body and her family. Coming from a woman that has had her fair share of strange looks on the subway while giving her daughter a bottle instead of pulling out her boob, it would be appreciated.