I was surprised, and I couldn't understand why someone would make such a decision. I've always thought of breastfeeding as an all or nothing kind of thing.
It's not that I think that a woman struggling with breastfeeding has to quit and rely completely on artificial milk to feed her baby. I've done research about breastfeeding, and I understand that when an alternative feeding method is introduced it can jeopardize the breastfeeding relationship. Introducing another food, particularly shortly after birth, can cause the woman's body to not produce as much milk as her baby needs. Even if she breastfeeds partially her milk supply may come in later than it would if she were to nurse her baby full time, and it may not be sufficient to meet the demands of her baby.
I've also had experiences with my own babies reacting badly to formula when a well-meaning person tried to feed them. One of my babies had diarrhea and stomach pains for weeks after one small formula feeding. For me the best option was to breastfeed my babies exclusively. It was the easiest and least expensive choice, and it worked well.
I felt that by planning from the get-go to bring formula to the hospital this woman was seting herself up for failure with breastfeeding. I'll make an analogy, if you will.
When I was pregnant with my first baby I wanted a natural birth but I wasn't prepared for it. I told myself that I would try to have a natural labor without medication, but that if it got too hard I might get the epidural. Guess what happened? The circumstances of my labor included Pitocin, and it was the first time I'd ever experienced labor contractions. I didn't have the support I needed or the preparation, and it got too hard for me. I got the epidural. It wasn't what I wanted, but I felt I had no other option at the time.
When I was expecting my second child I was resigned to the idea that I needed medication in order to give birth. I decided to take control of the situation and I went ahead and scheduled an induction and simply planned on getting the epidural. Why try for a natural birth if I was incapable of it?
During my third pregnancy I met my wonderful doula and confided in her about my wishes for a natural birth experience. I realized that with the information, preparation, and support from my doula I felt capable of attaining my goal. I also realized that in order for me to be able to do it, I had to take the option of an epidural completely off the table. That also meant avoiding Pitocin at all costs. I couldn't even give myself a back-up plan that included medication. My birth plan specified that the hospital staff were NOT to offer me any form of medication. It was through these changes that I finally reached my goal, and it was an incredibly empowering and rewarding experience.
I approach breastfeeding in much the same way. I never gave myself the option of giving my baby formula or anything else for that matter. I knew that my body was capable of producing what my baby needed. I'd seen my own mother breastfeed my siblings, and it was the only way I intended to feed my child. Anything short of that would have felt like failure.
This is where that blog post really made me think. I posted a comment to the author expressing my opinion that she was setting herself up for failure, and offering advice on what she could do to better ensure a successful breastfeeding experience with her baby. Her response surprised me. She expressed her opinion that breastfeeding is not something a woman succeeds or fails at, and that a mother should do her best to take care of herself and her baby. In her eyes, formula was an option that gave her some lenience in allowing others to help care for her infant and take some of the pressure off of her. She made it clear that she intended to both breastfeed and supplement with formula on a regular basis, and that she had no intention of trying to breastfeed exclusively. She didn't want her body to have to supply every feeding for her baby, and didn't mind that the formula feedings would keep it from being able to. This is what she wanted and what she felt was best.
How could I argue with that? Honestly, it's her decision and she has the full right to make choices for her child's care and upbringing. I couldn't fault her for doing what she honestly felt was best for her and her baby.
Then I got thinking. Is breastfeeding something that a woman either succeeds or fails at, or can there be a middle road? I've known countless women who have used a combination of nursing and supplementing, and although it's not the choice I would make personally, it's within their right to feed their baby as they see fit.
I can make argument after argument about why formula is not good for babies, and why exclusive breastfeeding is truly what every baby needs, but I can't expect everyone to agree with my point of view. We each have our own journey to travel, and we must make the choices we feel are best.
It took me two failures at natural birth to finally reach my goal. Does that make me a failure at birth? Does it mean I made bad choices?
It only means it was the path I was on. I made the choices I felt were best at the time, and all the knowledge I gained later couldn't change anything about any of it. I had to come to accept my past in order to fully look forward to the future.
Perhaps the particular blogger I spoke of will find “success” with breastfeeding, but who is to measure her success and what does that actually mean? Does a woman have to breastfeed her baby exclusively to be considered successful at feeding her infant? I think that would be placing a heavy burden on women all over the world. I think as long as she and her family are happy and healthy that's what really matters.
What do you think? Do you really succeed or fail at breastfeeding?