Monday, October 03, 2005

Don't Panic About Bottle-Feeding

In this time of motherhood martyrdom, many a mom is made to feel badly if she does not breastfeed her child. This trauma feels even worse for mom who wanted to breastfeed but could not for various medical reasons. There are few reasons to beat yourself up over it, though, so listen up.

What about the IQ boost? The latest study about breastfeeding and your baby's intelligence quotient (IQ) came out of the University of Kentucky. The researchers there found that the average boost is only seven points, not the 12-15 previously reported. Further, these researchers argue that much of this boost is from the extra bonding between Mom and baby, not the breast milk itself. Bottle-feeding with skin-to-skin contact and eye contact yields the same results.

What about my baby's immunity? Breastfeeding does give those babies an immunity advantage, but all is not lost for bottle-fed babies. Infant formulas are becoming increasingly similar to Mom's milk, so there is less benefit medically for breastfed babies. Also, there are plenty of ways to boost your baby's immune system through other nutritional needs and general baby care practices that you should be able to keep baby safe. Not only that, but consider that this benefit lasts only while Mom is breastfeeding, and much of the talk about breastfeeding is by moms who only do it for a few months, thereby ending the immunity benefit.

What about bonding? There is no reason to believe that breastfeeding is the only way to bond. Moms of multiple children will tell you that they got time with their new baby through breastfeeding, but that is only because of the way they set their priorities. Those moms could make it a mandatory part of their day that they spend some time alone with the baby. Fix your schedule, and you and baby can bond like any other.

What about convenience? Okay, many a breastfeeding mom talks about her own benefits from plopping the breast in baby's mouth. Yes, it is convenient that you do not have to wash bottles - until you start giving baby bottles of breast milk, but breastfeeding has its disadvantages, too. First, Mom is tied to the baby unless you resort to expressed breast milk, in which case you have negated the whole "no bottles" argument. Not only that, but legal issues aside, many moms are uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. That means they have to find a place to feed baby and cover up at the same time, making breastfeeding when you are out not all that convenient.

And let's talk about Dad. He gets little bonding time with the baby under this system, but you will hear many extreme breastfeeding advocates talking about how little men have to do with their children. It is no wonder that men in these families want little to do with their children if Mom has told him - directly or indirectly - that the only way to bond with baby is through breastfeeding.

While breastfeeding has its advantages, no mom should be made to feel guilty about her feeding decision. In the grand scheme of baby's life, breastfeeding is only a small part. It is all of those other decisions that help baby grow to be an amazing adult.

By Julia Mercer

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