This mom tells Moneyish why breast isn’t best for her.
When I left my most recent pregnancy checkup, my doctor handed me a prescription that I hadn’t asked for. I read it and looked at her, horrified. A breast pump? No thanks!
“Your insurance covers a pump,” she said. I still tried sending it back like a bad meal at a restaurant. “I won’t be breastfeeding,” I explained.
What I love about most doctors is that they’ve seen it all. So she didn’t judge, and instead suggested that I either pass it along to someone who needs it, or just put the prescription away somewhere “just in case.”
But there is no “just in case” in this case. The thing is, at 42, and 37 weeks pregnant with my first (and last) kid, I do know. I know myself, and I know what I need. Recent stats from the CDC show that nearly 80% of women in the U.S. at least attempt to breastfeed, but as for exclusively breastfeeding for six months, that number drops to 19%. So while I’m among the minority of moms bottle feeding to begin with, I am not alone — especially as time goes by.
Still, nearly every woman I’ve told that “I’m straight formula from day one” has weighed in with an opinion. And every “You may find yourself dying to,” or, “Give it a try or you’ll regret it,” and “It’s your choice…” is said with such disdain; they hiss like snakes and practically spit at me through their gritted teeth.
I’ve been warned that the nurses at the hospital will push breastfeeding on me, and people will glare at my formula mixing. I’ve read hundreds of studies on breast versus bottle — and I believe my daughter will still be smart without my boobs in her mouth. I believe she will still be happy and healthy just like most kids I see running around. And hey, if this is the thing that messes her up for life — well, then. I was warned.
It’ll cost me, too.
When people ask what I really need for my baby, I blurt out “formula!” True, breastfeeding is less expensive in the long run. A pump is a one-time investment at around $200 without a prescription, and various supplies such as breast milk bags, nursing bras, pads and creams can run you hundreds of dollars.
Compare that to bottle feeding with, let’s say, one small bucket of Enfamil (21.5 ounce) powder formula, which lasts roughly a week for a newborn. At $26.99 plus tax for one, you’re looking at more than $112 a month, and the amount they need increases as they grow. Over a year, it can reach into the low thousands, depending on how much your kid eats.
But you have to remain steadfast in your decision, because there’s not much support out there if you resist “breast is best.” A simple breastfeeding Google search brings up countless support groups (pro-breast) in every area of the country, along with lactation experts who will take your call 24 hours a day if you run into problems.
Registered nurse Diane Erdmann, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working in Omaha, Nebraska hospitals, is one of them. She advises me to give breastfeeding a go, citing less illness for both mom and baby. Erdmann says that before choosing the bottle exclusively, you must educate yourself. (Assuming that women who choose the bottle haven’t is another issue.)
“Before mom makes an educated decision on how to feed her baby, I always suggest a breastfeeding class,” Erdmann says, adding, “Babies have a higher IQ, and less allergies with breastfeeding. They never get constipated, and there’s a lower chance of SIDS.”
And then, the ultimate shame: “Breastmilk is live with live cells,” she says. “Formula is dead …it’s made for a baby calf, not a baby.”
Even the government makes us bottle monsters feel bad. Pediatrics found that if 90% of mothers exclusively breastfed their babies for the first six months, that would save the U.S. $13 billion in reduced costs of treating infant illnesses.
Guilt trip much?
Thankfully, some celebrities have been open about their choice to bottle feed from birth. Take Jennifer Lopez, who told People magazine after she had twins Max and Emme that, “My mom didn’t breastfeed, and I think that was the thing for me. You read and figure out what’s the best thing for them.” And after struggling with crippling postpartum depression, Brooke Shields became a spokesperson for Bright Beginnings Formula, which she credits with helping her through that dark time.
I finally found one doctor out there who bottle-fed her babies: Dr. Nicole M. Avena, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who wrote “What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler.” She says it is important to remember that breastfeeding isn’t for every woman. Some have difficulty doing it, or simply choose not to for various reasons.
“The most important thing is that a baby is fed and loved, period. It doesn’t matter if it is breastmilk or formula,” she says. “I was confident in my decision, and didn’t have any guilt. Both of my children are happy and healthy, and I don’t regret any of the choices that I made. I think it is important that we support all women and their choices surrounding whether or not they breastfeed.”
I’ve read the studies, and I’ve heard the nightmare stories. Formula is the devil’s cocktail. Geniuses are breastfed. But guess what? Kids are resilient. My daughter will live to annoy me with her smarts, I guarantee you, even if I don’t breastfeed her.
But the thing that excites me most about bottle feeding is that everyone can participate. My husband can feed our baby while I indulge in a few moments of freedom each day, which will ultimately make me a better mom. My family, my friends, the next door neighbor, the doorman, the delivery guy — whoever has a hand that can make a gripping motion can give her a bottle. We can all keep her alive together, while mommy gets some mom-me time.
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