Telling a woman how to mother her child is a social taboo. Whether it’s on the subject of reusable nappies, teething practices, or addressing the age-old question; to swaddle or not to swaddle, moms know their kin and are inherently cognizant of their infant’s needs. So when someone else presumes to tell her how to do her maternal job, they are – essentially – undermining what she is physiologically dispositioned to do.
The same can be said for fathers. What responsible dad would knowingly put their child’s safety at risk? It is fair to assume that they have read the same books and attended all the prospective parenting classes their partners have. How dads choose to raise their offspring is something they’ve given more thought than you might have when you passed a wailing child and decided to share your unsolicited opinion.
I defend parents vehemently because it is incredibly difficult raising children. Barring the physical and financial responsibilities, kids are emotionally demanding as well. Managing the stress of keeping it together for your family is already a challenge without having to worry about the criticism of people who aren’t in your situation. Anyone selfless enough to nurture the upbringing of another should be commended.
Having said that, there are a number of contentious subjects that have the parenting community divided. Feeding time is one of them.
Not too long ago, science and society dictated that a woman’s breast be the primary source of food for a newborn. When baby formula was developed, it presented a user-friendly alternative for the modern family. Bottle feeding, however, is still shrouded in judgment.
This can leave parents who find themselves in unconventional circumstances feeling a little bit stuck as to what to do. After numerous chats with mothers, fathers and a few medical professionals, I’ve generated some information that might help chip away at preconceptions so that prospective parents can make better decisions for their families.
Up until only nine decades ago, this practice had been the only way to ensure our children didn’t go hungry. With the feeding ritual so ingrained in our history, it’s no wonder that when baby formula was introduced, it came under a lot of fire.
There is an undeniable closeness you will feel with your newborn if you are able to breastfeed. Having spent nine months growing the little miracle in your body creates an inexplicable bond that is only deepened when you continue to nourish them with your breast milk.
The health benefits are pretty impressive too. When you breastfeed, you are passing on critical immune factors and white blood cells to your baby. This has proven to supplement the effectiveness of vaccines, as well as protect against infections, diseases and allergies.
Mamas can look forward to healing quicker when they opt for this eco-friendly option, as the oxytocin released when your newborn suckles helps your uterus contract. You’ll be saying bye to the baby weight too; 400 calories from baby feeding daily, in fact.
As beautiful as the experience of connecting with your child through breastfeeding can be, cracked nipples, spontaneous lactation, and even being bitten by your baba can be incredibly frustrating.
Did you know that affluent families were employing wet nurses well into the 20th Century? Proof that unconventional feeding practises were normalised way before baby formula was introduced.
It was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley who wrote, “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” While a group of parents are embracing feeding their babies with breast milk, there is another group that have embraced the bottle.
There’s no denying that single-parent households have existed for as long as sabre-toothed tigers were attacking cavemen out on the hunt. But there are now homes run by two men, couples unable to conceive children and individuals keen to give back by supporting a foster child shouldn’t feel left out. Bottle feeding allows these types of parents to get involved and connect with their child where biology might have hindered such experiences in the past.
When the world was introduced to baby formula, some argued bottle milk was a ploy by pharmaceutical conglomerates to get our children addicted to, and dependant on, Genetically Modified Objects (GMO) straight out the womb. The ingredients and preparation methods have certainly been refined over the years, but the stigma still remains.
Once you’ve made the decision to bottle feed your child, you’re going to have to stick to it too. Switching from breast milk to powdered milk is incredibly unstable for your infant’s digestive system.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are a million and one conscionable reasons a parent might want to breastfeed their child. Equally, there are as many reasons a mother or father would see the need to bottle feed with baby formula. If the caretaker has considered the health and developmental outcomes of their actions, then it really is up to the parent to decide what is best for the child.
While we all might have opinions about how things should be done, I would stress that it is important to respect the choices parents make.