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Bottle feeding - root of all evil?

Updated on March 9, 2012

Or is it only the Dads who bottle feed that are evil?

Look at the picture in the link below. Go on, look. What do you think about it? What's the first thing that pops into your head?

The bottle probably had booze in it, too. Obviously.

For those of you too lazy to click on the link, the photo is of New Zealand All-Black Rugby star Piri Weepu feeding his newborn son a bottle while kissing the boy on the head. You really should look at the picture - it is very sweet. Dad looks so happy and proud, and son looks safe and content. What could be wrong with that, right?

Well, a whole heap could be wrong with that, if you are New Zealand's La Leche League. They raised such a fuss over the nerve of this guy, trying to feed his baby a bottle, that the New Zealand government was forced to edit the image out of the larger anti-smoking ad that Weepu and his two young children were filming. I mean, obviously. What a bad man, feeding and loving his baby and all. How dare he understand that 'parent' is a verb as well as a noun. How dare he want to participate in a positive manner in his children's lives. He probably pokes the kid when it's trying to sleep, too.

After I read this article, it was a 'take a deep breath' kind of moment. Chris wasn't in the mood to be ranted at, and the girls wouldn't care. But still. Still. There was some piss-offedness on my part.

Let me preface this by saying that I am all for breastfeeding. I think women should be able to breastfeed in public if they so choose, and if you don't like it, don't look. It's not like they're wearing their pants down around their knees so that I have to look at their nasty underwear. Just sayin'. But the key thing here is the phrase 'if they so choose.'

I was a milk-making machine with our first daughter. I probably could have fed a village. As a result, we were able to package up and freeze servings of breast milk. This meant that occasionally, we would thaw some of this milk and put it in a - brace yourself - bottleand Chris could feed her. This served two purposes - one, he could get take a middle of the night feeding so that I could get more sleep, and two, he got to bond with his daughter in a way that shouldn't be exclusively for mothers alone. We were also able to let Maeve's grandparents and, most importantly for me, her great-grandmothers, my grandmas, have that bonding experience with her as well. This option worked well for us on so many levels, and brought happiness and peace to so many people. And sleep to me. Let's not forget about that. And Maeve was still getting the nutrients in the breast milk.

It wasn't always easy. I had to radically change my diet so that Maeve wasn't getting an upset stomach from what I ate. And the post-partum blues were always worst when the milk was coming down. Its like a floodgate opened that released milk, hormones and tears. But we stuck with it for as long as we could, and when I had to go back to school and my milk wasn't coming in as heavily but Maeve still needed to eat, we supplemented with formula. And you know what? Nobody died.

Things weren't as easy with the youngest, Marin, and we ended up putting her on a soy formula quite early on. Part of me feels guilty about this, because groups like The La Leche League tell me that I should feel guilty about it. They hint that you are somewhat less of a mother if you do not breastfeed your baby. And yes, there are health benefits, and yes, it is far more cost effective, and yes, it should be encouraged when possible. But you know what? Sometimes it isn't possible. And even sometimes when it is possible, it is not the best option. And in all cases, do you know whose business it is? The parents. And whose business isn't it? Anyone else's. Yes, La Leche League and other similar organizations, I'm looking at you.

But I'm looking at you, too, public health nurses. And some of you I am looking at with appreciation, because you are practical and believe a happy, healthy mother equals a happy, healthy baby. But the rest of you? A little bit of stink-eye, to be honest.

My sister had problem with her milk coming in. It only trickled in in small amounts, which meant that her daughter always wanted to eat. Always. This meant that my sister got chafed nipples and very little, if any, sleep. She was always feeding her girl. Always. And she was beyond exhausted and at the end of her rope. "Get a bottle and some formula and some sleep," I said. "Get a bottle and some formula and some sleep," our mother said. "I can't," Jen said. "The public health nurses say I have to keep trying." And keep trying she did, until she was beyond exhausted, stressed and at the end of her rope, which naturally meant that so was her baby. But she lived in such fear of disappointing the public health nurses in her area that she just kept pushing herself. Kept pushing herself, that is, until her doctor was finally all like "Dude! Get. Some. Formula." And while the conversation maybe didn't go exactly like that, you get the meaning. When Jen tried to say to the doctor "But the public health nurses...", he cut her off. Apparently, she wasn't contractually obligated to follow their orders, only to do the best that she could. Who knew? But still, she had guilt.

I think it is the guilt that pisses me off the most. Yes, I know that breastfeeding is fighting to be mainstream, and so it should - for those for whom it is a good option. More power to these women. I totally support their right to make that choice. But at the same time, when you don't respect that other women need or choose to do things differently, you are putting out the message that they are less than as mothers, that they are failing their babies in some way. I don't think it is asking too much for them to support any other woman's right to choose something different. Something that works for her. Because sometimes - and I know this may come as a shock to some of you - what works well for one woman/baby/family does not work well for another woman/baby/family. And with all due respect, stranger down the street who belongs happily to The La Leche League - and who I am happy for that things are working for them - it is none of your frigging business how I choose to feed my baby. It is none of your frigging business if I want my husband - or if Piri Weepu's partner wants him to - to have that special moment that comes with feeding your child too. Should he be denied that moment simply because he has a penis? I don't think so. I think letting fathers interact in this way gives them more of a feeling of being part of the new life and new family that is taking shape, as opposed to being an outsider. I think a lot of fathers feel that when their partners are so focussed on the baby. At least this way, Dad gets to focus, too, and gets to understand why that bond is so all consuming. And the idea that a Dad feeding his baby a bottle and having that moment is wrong offends me. I am offended for Dads who are trying their best and being shot down. I am offended for my husband who tried his best and is a wonderful father. I am offended for my daughters who do have that bond with their Dad, and who had those quiet feeding moments with him, staring into one another's eyes. And I am offended for me, who did the best I could with what I had, and don't appreciate being told it isn't good enough by people who have no clue as to my circumstances.

I will end this off by saying that my big, tough, army man husband tells everyone we know who have a baby one thing right off the bat "Get a breast pump," he says. "That way, the mom can get more sleep, and Dad can feed the baby too." Obviously, the time spent feeding his daughters has meant something to him. He wants his friends and family to have that special time, too. And really, why should they be denied it? Because someone down the street doesn't like it? I don't think so.

Enjoy your moments with your babies, Dads. Your partner will thank you for it - and so will your kids.


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    • profile image

      dsnygl 5 years ago

      I am HORRIFIED that anyone makes a new mommy feel guilty for choosing to bottle feed. Or a daddy; my husband was beyond thrilled when he could finally help with our daughter's feeding. And it's such a hot topic right now that I too was in tears when my daughter started sleeping through the night and my supply dropped. This milestone should have been cause for celebration and instead was marked by guilt that I was a deplorable mother for not being able to keep up with my daughter's needs. Yes, 'breast is best,' however, we can only do the best we can do, and it's no one's business. I couldn't agree more with everything you said-I too needed a "take a deep breath" moment after seeing that sweet picture and reading the ridiculous reaction to it.

    • pennystarfish profile image

      pennystarfish 6 years ago from Minnesota

      Love love loved your article... I was all for breastfeeding before my son was born however I didn't count on the crippling postpartum depression or the occurrence of my colitis.. I struggled for over a week with bleeding nipples, crying constantly and overwhelming guilt that I might have to stop this "beautiful" activity.

      What I found was I was able to medicate and have a healthy mommy and healthy happy son! And yes his daddy helped with feeding and nurturing..and my son is brilliant! Thank you for your honesty..

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 years ago from America

      In my day the doctors wanted babies on the bottle and were not pushing breast feeding. Some women try very hard to breast feed and it just doesn't work. No one should feel guilty no matter which way they decide to feed their baby. Good Hub.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 6 years ago from United States

      Interesting hub! I too am all for breastfeeding, even though both of my kids ended up on formula since it just didn't work out. It's terrible that La Leche is trying to make women feel guilty if they are unable to or don't want to breastfeed. Also, letting a dad take part in a child's feeding schedule: how could that be wrong? I was thrilled when my husband was able to help me with the feedings, and he really enjoyed it as well.

      Thanks for sharing this!

    • profile image

      Karla F 6 years ago

      and add on top of all this, the pressure you put on yourself to breastfeed. most people I know would assume that's the way they would go, and haven't considered any alternatives. it was only a week into Mabel's life before we got breastfeeding support and other options presented to us, but it seemed like the longest week of my life. I thought she would starve without my nourishment. but you're right - although it wasn't an easy decision, she started taking a bottle part time at one week old and formula full time after 2 months - and well, you've seen the pictures, she's doing just fine.

    • Peter Leeper profile image

      Peter Leeper 6 years ago from Londonderry, New Hampshire

      wow, really? I loved having the opportunity to bottle feed my child, even when my wife was still breast feeding...I hate that these things are controversial...

    • profile image

      jono 6 years ago

      Get a GOOD breast pump. The cheap ones will just make you mad.

      I'm with you on this. We were really lucky to have Nik able to breastfeed all of our kidlets. Really lucky. Or I may have killed them. But that's another story.

      I do wonder about societal obligation though. I see so many parents cramming their kids full of pop or juice and thinking that is ok, where is the pressure for that?

      I guess what I wonder (and I do wonder, not just pretend to wonder so I can be judgy) is where the line is between infringing on others rights and helping our society raise healthier kids?

      While I agree the line isn't breast feeding I also think that saying that parents get carte blanche to raise their kids leads to abuse in families and the continuation of brutally unhealthy habits.

      There needs to be societal accountability, but somehow we need to distinguish between accountability and judgement.