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    BESTfeeding (and your right to choose)

    Written by: Alexandra Lotzgeselle

    I consider myself both intelligent enough and educated enough to know two things: first, that breastfeeding is certainly the best option, and second, that breastfeeding will not be the difference in my child leading a happy, healthy and successful life over one of obesity, dismay and failure. I am prepared for the proverbial dirty looks and sense of shame often associated with this sort of, “announcement”, if you will, however I am going to say it anyway…I will NOT be breastfeeding my children. Cue shock and disgust.

    This is not necessarily something I needed to mull over, as I always knew I would formula feed my children. I feel very confident about this decision. Women always just assume I am breastfeeding, but that doesn’t bother me. Women always mention statements about breastfeeding where they assume it’s what I am doing because they don’t seem to think you would formula feed unless you have to, but it has never bothered me because I understand that breastfeeding is the norm. I’m never offended by that assumption, nor do I voluntarily correct someone if they are making a presumptive statement (“Well you’ll have to be up every 2 hours to breast feed”, “You can get a free breast pump from insurance”, etc.). My maternal grandmother was a nurse and due to her own education and experience, she decided to bottle feed her 4 children, who in turn all bottle-fed their children- 6 of us grandchildren in all. We’ve all read the news stories, seen the statistics, and, if you’ve ever been pregnant, gotten the harshly worded and somewhat frightening literature on how bottle-fed babies are destined to be overweight, permanently ill, and uneducated failures. While I sit in my doctor’s office surrounded by posters and pamphlets titled “Breast is Best” I cannot help but laugh at the fact that the nurse who just left scolded me for choosing not to get a flu shot while pregnant (a vaccine that changes every year to treat the prior year’s virus and which has never been tested on pregnant women in a clinical study) and told me I should get prepared because if I go anywhere in public I’m certain to get sick and yet she is the person I am now supposed to trust about every baby related matter under the sun. Apparently when you get pregnant, you have no right to your own opinions or choice. People in the medical field and anyone who ever had a child instantly knows better than you, and there for you must follow all their directions and advice.

    Every single member of my bottle-fed family is healthy- I am the heaviest person in my family but am not considered medically overweight, nor had I ever had weight issues as a child, teen or young adult. I’ve never even had the flu (knock on wood), nor has my sister or mother. All of us went to college. My cousins and I all either hold 4-year university degrees, or are currently in college or working on graduate degrees. Not that I in anyways assume that college equals intelligence, but one of the reasons forced down my throat to breastfeed was because my child is more likely to be college educated. Again, I am not saying that bottle-feeding is better, I am just saying that it is a viable, and perfectly respectable option, and that breastfeeding will not be the saving grace that prevents any of those fears from happening to your child.

    My primary argument would be this: how do you really know breastfeeding is the difference, unless you do a true study in which a set of twins, having the same genetic makeup, family situations, socioeconomic background, intangibles such as determination and drive, etc. are involved and one of them is breastfed and one is bottle-fed? There are WAY too many other factors that come into play to truly be able to contribute a child’s weight, overall health, and educational success on whether they were breastfed or bottle-fed. We always see studies and reports saying that breastfed babies are more likely to be all these positive things. If that is the case, if that is the difference, then why not just breast feed your children and then your own education levels, food choices, disciplinary styles, ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic status don’t matter at all, right? And what about the mothers that supplement their milk- are their children then slightly more likely to be a healthy weight and satisfactory education level than if they had not breastfed at all? What is the percentile difference? You see, I am simply saying that all the factors, everything that goes into our development cannot always be quantified into one simple variable.

    Let’s face it- there are a lot of things that we know are better for our children, that we don’t necessarily prescribe to or follow, so why is it that the issue of breastfeeding is such a hot-button issue that leads women to villainize and criticize other mothers? Children should never be allowed to play contact sports due to concussions, ride in cars due to accidents, or eat any sort of processed foods because, duh. If you really want to do everything in your power to make sure your child has the greatest health success, you should move to the mountains away from all levels of pollution and smog, eat a very strict sugar-free, soy-free, organic, non-GMO, home-grown diet, and hope that you’re picking all the right fruits and nuts to not get your children sick in a way that would force you to introduce chemically abundant modern medicines into their bodies. Why is it that so many other things are just seen as weird or an alternative choice, but when it comes to formula feeding, women feel the need to always question and grill me on what should be my own choice? No other topic has garnished any real reaction from other mothers, but when me not breastfeeding comes up, the sense of disapproving judgement is palpable.

    It also seems rather hypocritical to me that women are getting incredibly upset about getting odd looks when they whip out their nipples to feed their children in restaurants, stores and other public places, but do not think mothers who choose an alternative feeding method deserve the same respect and acceptance that they themselves are demanding. Personally, I do not understand the need to breastfeed in public without a cover. (Note: I don’t feel that breastfeeding covered really counts as breastfeeding in public- I cannot fathom why anyone would have any sort of issue with a woman feeding her child while covered. For the sake of argument I am strictly speaking about breastfeeding in public places without any sort of cover). To be clear, I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, nor do I think it should be against any sort of rules. I just personally would not feel comfortable breastfeeding without a cover. That is my own personal feeling, not what I believe is right. However, what other moms feel is right is always thrust upon me when the discussion of breastfeeding comes up. Ladies: If you are only going to accept one answer to the “are you breastfeeding” question, do not ask it. If you are going to hear the answer “no” and follow up with an inquisition inferring I am doing something wrong, again, don’t ask the question. I owe you no sort of explanation, I am making a perfectly legitimate and allowable choice, and quite frankly, it’s rude to ask someone personal question just to criticize their response.

    If you want to breastfeed in the middle of a restaurant or another public place without any sort of cover, you should feel comfortable doing that. You should not feel like people are whispering, or judging, or criticizing you for your perfectly fair and legitimate choice. If I choose to feed my child by formula, I should feel safe and comfortable doing so without constantly being interrogated so people that have no impact on my child can determine whether or not they feel my reasoning is good enough. Perhaps it all comes back around to this sense of entitlement I feel from so many mothers who seem to think they deserve an explanation from other woman on their parenting choices. If you choose not to vaccinate, I assume you are educated enough on the topic to have made an informed decision not to. If you want your child to sleep in the same bed with you until they go off to college, go for it; you are a parent and that’s your right to make that choice. If you are choosing to feed your child only organic produce and not allow them any sugar, I don’t think you owe me or anyone else any sort of explanation (and I applaud you). Oh, you’re encapsulating your placenta to ingest it? Go for it! It does not affect me one bit and I am glad you are doing something you believe in.

    Becoming pregnant and entering the world of motherhood should create a bond among women where everyone feels safe. It should be the world’s largest and most diverse club where women of all different backgrounds, belief systems, parenting styles and mantras can feel as though no matter what they choose, as long as they are doing so because they believe it is right for their child (and of course they are doing them no actual physical or emotional harm), they are supported. Regardless of how you feel about my CHOICE, I am not doing anything wrong. I am making an educated and informed decision that I believe will in no ways be the deciding factor in my child either succeeding or failing at anything in life. You are certainly entitled to disagree. I see a lot of mothers doing things that I think are ridiculous or loony but never do I question them or draw my dissatisfaction to their attention. It is not my place nor anyone else to question another parents decisions.

    Regardless of how many children you have, your opinions on child-rearing are no more valid or valuable. The Duggars have more children than I can count on all my fingers and toes but that does not mean they are better parents than my husband and I will be. If you believe you are the end-all-be-all of parenting, then try to at least be respectful of other women and simply refrain from giving them the third degree. If you cannot accept a woman’s right to choose how they are going to be feeding their child, have enough respect and common sense not to ask. If you are genuinely curious and feel you can ask them without being judgmental and rude, then by all means, ask away. My issues with this topic come from years of women attacking and criticizing me if I ever mentioned that I did not plan on breastfeeding. Only on a few occasions (and only by close friends) has a woman even acknowledged my reasoning’s rather than just went on a diatribe about why I was making the wrong decision and why I needed to reconsider. Women have tried to shame me, to make me feel ignorant, and to infer that I was doing something wrong by picking this perfectly viable and respectable option.

    If you have or do choose to breastfeed your children, I commend you. You are doing something I have heard is incredibly difficult (both emotionally and physically) and equally rewarding. However, if you are even considering bottle-feeding, I just urge you to make your own decision on what works best for your family and do not allow people to make you feel inferior or shamed. Either way, whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed know that you’re doing the right thing. Regardless of your own personal choice, your child will be okay. Your child will have all the same advantages (or disadvantages) in life, regardless of the method of feeding they receive as an infant.  If they go on to have an unsuccessful and miserable life, and they believe the one single variable was because you chose to bottle-feed them, I promise you they have a laundry list of other issues way higher up on the list that you need to worry about! As parents can we all just agree to come together as a community? There are so many negative influences and factors in this world that make the hardest job imaginable even more difficult without us judging, criticizing and  degrading one another because of differing beliefs and parenting styles.

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