Dot writes: there’s an interesting post on PhD in Parenting that argues Medela are violating the WHO code on breastfeeding by actively promoting their bottles as well as their breast-pumps, for example by creating a group called “Medela Mom Mavens” (ugh) and having bottle giveaways.

My first reaction to this was to think it was all a bit hysterical. Lots of breast-feeding mothers also use bottles to some extent, for example if they have to go back to work (not something we all have a choice about, incidentally), and I object to the fanatical end of breast-feeding promotion that piles guilt on mothers who for whatever reason have had difficulty breastfeeding. Breast may be best, but plenty of perfectly healthy, happy, well-loved babies have been and are bottle-fed.

On the other hand, there were a couple of points in the post that I’d never really thought of. For example, I can’t remember anyone ever saying to me that a mostly breastfed baby should have smaller bottle-feeds than those expected for a formula-fed baby of the same age. When I started leaving pumped feeds for Hugh I remember being surprised by how little I seemed to be able to pump each time, given how big the bottles were and, when I started to buy formula, how big the guideline amounts were that were written on the side of the tin. At first I used to combine milk from different pumpings, and then I started to leave formula as well. After a bit I found that on the days I was at home with Hugh I had to supplement his breastfeeds with formula (he was on solids too by this time). At the time I concluded this was because pumping didn’t stimulate my supply as much as feeding (especially given Hugh’s penchant for hour-long sleepy milk binges – no time for that in a lunchbreak) but perhaps if I hadn’t worried about the quantities at the start the problem would have taken longer to appear. Another example: a breastfed baby should have a slow-flow teat. I did know this one, if only because it said so on the packet the teats came in. I thought it was to do with the danger of gagging. PhD in Parenting, however, says there’s a risk the baby will prefer the instant gratification of the faster flow and give up on the breast. I know a couple of babies who decided they preferred the bottle around the five-month mark, and I wonder now if that was why.

The conclusion I come to is not that there should be no active promotion of bottles or feeding products. Rather, there should be more information for breastfeeding mothers about the ins and outs of introducing bottles. Not just the stuff about sterilizing, but information about how pumping affects your supply, the difference between how breastfed babies and bottle-fed babies typically feed, and what to look for in a bottle for your breastfed baby. There’s too much tribalism around feeding. The worst of it is the way people pigeonhole themselves as bottle-feeders and never give themselves a chance to breastfeed, but breastfeeders need to know about the other side too.


3 thoughts on “Bottle/breast

  1. Lily Roth

    My dear Dot,

    Hear, hear! I heartily agree with everything you said in this post. As I had lots of weary time to while away during my malaise-filled pregnancy, I did copious amounts of internet research on breastfeeding. And yes, I was prepared for some difficulty. However, it turned out to be more frustrating and challenging than I had imagined and there is a lot of hysteria (and “tribalism” as you aptly describe it) and it isn’t helpful to a new mother who is already questioning herself.

    As it happens, Owen is nearly 2 months and I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding him, but using a bottle with pumped milk too since about week 3 or 4. In my case, in addition to being able to leave the house without him briefly, I also find it very difficult to breastfeed him in public (he squirms) and the bottle is indispensible. I too wish I’d known intitially how much less milk I’d be able to pump, etc.

    Most of the midwives I’ve encountered have been very helpful re: breastfeeding, but I do wish that we could get more information with less judgement and propaganda so that people could just make informed decisions based on their individual circumstances. Incidentally, your initial advice was very useful to me!

    Mrs. Lily Roth

    1. Dot

      Glad we’ve been sending some readers your way! Things are fine, thanks – wishing I didn’t have to go back to work in March, though.

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