Before the days of baby formula breast feeding was a big deal for mothers, and both parents really, because it potentially meant the life or death of their newborn baby. In those days, it must have been awful when a mother couldn't produce enough milk for her baby (for whatever reason) and I can't even imagine how terrible it would have been to watch your baby slowly die from malnutrition!
In Australia today, babies cannot die from malnutrition due to their mother's inability to produce milk because mothers and newborns have access to professional medical intervention, infant milk formula, and indeed state run breast milk donor clinics. There are also a growing number of unofficial breast milk sharing/donating avenues but more about that later in this article.
So with all the modern ways, alternate feed, techniques, and access to medical help/advice mothers have today you'd think women would be happy and relieved by the knowledge if something goes wrong with breast feeding there's a safety net - but they're not. Well, I guess the majority are happy and relieved, in my opinion and experience; however, there is a boisterous minority of women who have turned the subject of breast feeding into an ideological war and this is really hurting and confusing their own sisterhood.
Over the past several years (perhaps decade) there has been a huge push by certain women's groups to make all women accept the only milk a baby should consume is natural breast milk. The biggest argument for only using breast milk to feed baby is how the child's immune system apparently benefits from the mother's own immune system qualities being passed on through the milk.
Whilst the passing of immune antibodies from mother to baby may be true and no doubt optimal the conjecture is what happens when a mother can't breast feed her own baby for whatever reason? The pro breast milk movement believe mothers who are having trouble feeding their otherwise normal healthy baby should use donor milk from another mother and not use formula.
However, there's one big flaw in that argument being how does a mother know if the donor breast milk is safe for her baby? Bottom line - she doesn't know and really has to rely on trust that the donor mother is taking care of her own body and not consuming anything harmful which can be passed onto the baby through her milk.
State run breast milk clinics have better quality control over the milk they supply; though, milk from these organisations are not routinely available to the general public and are more for use within the medical system for premature births etc.
Therefore, with the aid of social media and the internet breast milk donors are popping up (or out) everywhere to "assist" all needy babies and mothers who can't produce or deliver their own breast milk naturally. In spite of my obvious prejudice, I concede most of the breast milk donor mothers would probably have the best intentions at heart. Nevertheless, I believe it's a matter of time before we start to hear stories about mothers who used donor milk for their baby only to find out later it was the cause of a medical issue or disease.
My wife had a terrible time trying to breast feed our first child. We were new parents and like most new parents we lacked experience but only wanted the best for our child so on the run we devoured as much information as we could about breast feeding. Unfortunately, just like today the overwhelming recommendation was to breast feed our baby but no one told my wife (or me) at what cost she should continue or when/if it would be OK to switch to formula.
Consequently, after several agonising weeks of breast feeding our baby literally to tears, my wife was diagnosed with mastitis and her doctor recommended she switch to formula full time. The move to formula delivered immediate results with my wife's health improving rapidly and our infant started putting on weight and growing normally.
Still, my wife had to endure the guilt heaped onto her by mother's groups and the like for not breast feeding. But we talked about it and inevitably got over what other people (mostly women) thought about her/our choice to feed our son formula instead of my wife's own breast milk. To be honest, we never even considered using donated breast milk.
There may be some women who can produce milk but choose to feed their baby formula for other reasons not medically related. I don't see the big crime in a women exercising her right to choose formula over breast feeding. Also, there have been no major studies which have concluded formula is bad for an infant. From a personal perspective, both of our children are in perfect health and both my wife and I were formula babies too (same with my mother actually) and we're all fine. Even though I do think breast milk is best, I just don't believe the hype that formula is bad.
The biggest obstacle to women's health and well-being is other women in regards to breast feeding. The pressure some women's groups and individuals place on other women to conform to their point of view can be immense, unrelenting, and powerful. Instead of abiding by their own spoken values of women's choice many women push their own values and force new mothers along an ideological path without giving them an opportunity to properly explore other options.
The media doesn't help the situation either by giving minority groups plenty of air-time to publicly promote their view about breast feeding often unchallenged even if it seems totally irrational. It almost seems like a deliberate tactic media outlets employ these days to shock the public simply to generate interest at the expense of education.
What is the motivation for women and women groups to grab hold of breast feeding and turn it into a battleground? Those women who find breast feeding easy and produce like a Jersey cow - good for them but it shouldn't mean they have the right to make those who can't breast feed feel inadequate.
The choice of breast milk or formula is easy because whatever you choose it's your choice and that's the right choice for your baby (and you).
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Parenting Let Women Make an Informed Choice Between Breast Milk or Formula
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