These days, in response to pressure from the World Health Organization, more and more hospitals are promoting breastfeeding as the “norm” for mothers with new babies. In some cases, this promotion has gone to the extreme of keeping baby formula and bottles out of sight unless they are actually in use.
Most of us have heard the breastfeeding instructions so many times they have become somewhat of a mantra: breastfeed your baby to the exclusion of all other food for the first six months, and then continue to breastfeed your baby for at least a year after that as you introduce other foods into her diet. Most of us would agree that breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed our babies.
In addition to the nutritional value of our breast milk (which has never been accurately reproduced in any infant formula), there are a number of reasons why it’s best to breastfeed if you are able to do so. These include:
- Immunization benefits for baby.
- Bonding between baby and mother.
- Savings in cost.
- Extensive health benefits for the mother.
- Weight loss for the mother.
The sad truth, though, is that there are some women who either can’t breastfeed or who choose not to for perfectly legitimate reasons. While we would hope that all mothers and babies would share this wonderful experience, we wonder if pulling all trappings of bottle feeding out of sight in the hospitals is really helpful in promoting breastfeeding.
What we know it does for certain is foster negative feelings amongst those mothers who don’t breast feed. While we don’t recommend making any mother feel like less of a parent (or a person) for her choice to bottle feed, we are especially concerned for those mothers who have a physical or medical reason which prohibits them from breastfeeding.
We’ve all run into those who are militant about breastfeeding. We would agree that it’s something well worth taking a stand and making your voice heard about. We would question, however, whether it does anyone any good to make a mother feel ashamed about her decision to feed her baby formula. We would suggest pointing out the positive aspects of breastfeeding instead, and supporting the mother however you can regardless of her decision.