Let’s just stop it.
Let’s stop telling women that breastfeeding promotes bonding. As someone who has nursed two babies—extensively—I’m not negating this truth, but it implies that bottle-fed babies are at a bonding disadvantage. And this is simply not true.
No, I don’t have any fancy medical letters behind my name, nor have I conducted research of any kind about the effects of bottle-feeding on bonding, but I have the best anecdotal evidence going—I was a formula baby.
And I don’t mean my mom supplemented with formula or decided a few weeks after I was born to switch to formula. I mean not a single drop of colostrum passed these luscious lips.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t breastfeed—she didn’t even try. She didn’t want to. She thought it was (and I’m quoting verbatim her here) “gross.”
While I can’t understand that sentiment, especially after being breastfed herself, I respect that it was her decision. After all, she was targeted by the strong pro-formula marketing of the 1970s.
Sure, I had my share of ear infections. I’ve got allergies.
However, neither the bond I have with my mother, much less my intelligence (but that’s a different post altogether), were negatively affected by her choice to nourish me with formula.
In fact, I resent the notion that women who can’t (or won’t) breastfeed aren’t capable of bonding with their babies as well as those of us devoted to nursing. It’s absurd.
One can bottle-feed skin to skin. One can snuggle up in a rocking chair and lovingly caress her newborn’s hair as the sun falls. One can lie next to or sleep alongside her baby during a late-night feeding. One doesn’t need a breast full of milk to do any of this.
The bottle-feeding advantage, of course, is that it can be done by dads, friends, or grandparents—giving other important caregivers opportunities to spend quiet, quality time with children from the time they’re days and weeks old. As long as bottle-feeders are aware of the importance of time spent connecting with their babies during feeding time, rather than simply propping a bottle into Baby’s mouth and walking away, there’s no reason to believe that our little ones have to lose out on precious one-on-one time with caregivers.
Should we continue to talk about the proven health benefits associated with breastfeeding? Absolutely. Should we read with a critical eye any study suggesting that formula might be just as good as what our bodies produce? You bet. But bonding? No. Just no.
Let’s stop shaming women into breastfeeding, and instead create a supportive environment that promotes healthy decision-making and puts the focus where it should be—on our babies.