I have always heard people talk about how breastfeeding is hard (yes, it can be) and bottle feeding is so easy, and my mind would boggle. Okay, bottle feeding never once gave a woman sore nipples, but once you get past that initial learning curve with breast feeding, it doesn’t give you sore nipples either. And other than the whole sore nipple issue, let’s examine the steps for bottle feeding, shall we?
1. Recognize that baby is hungry
2. Put baby in safe place
3. Walk to kitchen
4. Procure a clean bottle. If you haven’t been super dish washing mom, wash a dirty bottle so that it is now clean.
5. Measure formula.
6. Get water temperature just right.
7. Mix formula and water.
8. Walk back to baby.
9. Get into a comfortable position while holding baby.
10. Hold bottle in babies mouth paying close attention to baby’s reaction to make sure it’s not choking or that you don’t have to adjust bottle temperature.
11. Troubleshoot as needed (if bottle temperature or mix needs to be adjusted, repeat steps 1-10 as needed).
12. Finish feeding, burp and clean baby as needed.
13. At some point after feeding, wash bottle and put away
Let’s compare that to the steps of breast feeding.
1. Recognize baby is hungry.
2. Get into comfortable position with baby.
3. Pull breast out of shirt.
4. Put nipple in baby’s mouth.
5. Feed baby (breastmilk is already perfectly blended and the perfect temperature, so no trouble shooting is necessary, and because for the most part milk flow is regulated, less watching for choking needs to be done, although in the learning period and for women with strong performs they may need to do more).
6. Put breast back in your shirt.
7. Burp and clean baby as needed.
So how in Gods name is bottle feeding easy?!? I just don’t get it. Okay, you have to breast feed more frequently than formula feeding. I get that. But given all the extra work that goes into each bottle feeding, I think that breast feeding takes less time in the long run, even with more feedings. Also, I don’t have to carry all that shit around with me. It was bad enough to carry around diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes, I don’t want to add formula and bottles to that too! I barely carry a purse! And I’m already lugging around these massive jugs (my breasts) too! If I have to carry these suckers around, you better believe I’m going to put them to good use. I don’t have to worry about which formula has the most sugar, the least BPA, the most whatever wonder ingredient they’re putting in formula now trying like mad to make it as close to the liquid I’ve got gushing out of my boobs for free. It just seems insane to me! I mean, I totally get that there’s a place for formula, I had to supplement too, but as a mother who did both for two years (okay, Elijah wasn’t on formula for two years, but he did nurse for two), breastfeeding is leaps and bounds easier. The extra dishes alone was reason enough for me to choose breast over bottle. I don’t like doing dishes!
But I’ve come to realize that a huge part of the reason why people think bottle feeding is easier is because they are bottle propping. Bottle propping is where you leave baby alone next to a pillow, crib bumper (which are not safe to be kept in cribs), or something, stick a bottle in the kids mouth and prop it up against the pillow or whatever so you can go about your business without stopping to feed your baby. I’m sure this feels really convenient for parents. Except it’s incredibly dangerous!
Babies have died from bottle propping. Bottles have no flow regulation, like breasts do, baby can’t change the flow of a bottle by changing it’s sucking pattern, the milk or formula comes out at one speed and one speed only, and the only way to change that speed is to change the angle at which you’re holding the bottle. In case you weren’t aware, pillows are not sentient beings who can A) recognize when baby is getting too much milk and needs the flow slowed down, and B) change the angle at which you propped the bottle accordingly. If the baby is getting more in it’s mouth than it can swallow it can end up aspirating the liquid which can lead to pneumonia and drowning.
Babies have died under propped bottles. Babies have drowned under propped bottles. Babies have contracted pneumonia under propped bottles and later died from the illness. And many, many more have simply been injured or become very sick because of propped bottles. This shit happens. The ease that comes with bottle propping comes with a cost, and that cost is your baby’s health, possibly it’s life.
I am flabbergasted at how common this practice is, and how many women seem to be completely unaware of how dangerous this practice is. I can’t even tell you how I learned it wasn’t safe, it seems like it’s been one of those constant public service announcements, like “Never Shake A Baby” and “Back To Sleep”. Plus it’s just common sense. Babies need to be supervised while they’re eating. They can’t move away from food if they need to, you need to be there to move it away for them. If you stick a hose in a baby’s mouth and walk away, that’s just dumb. Whether that hose is filled with breastmilk or formula, it’s equally dumb.
It brings up another issue I never quite got in the breast vs bottle debate, the idea that breastfeeding moms get more bonding with their babies. I am 100% pro breastfeeding, so please, all my fellow lactivists out there, don’t get upset with me, but I call bull. If you are formula feeding baby safely you hold the baby for each and every feeding session. You carefully watch baby and pay attention to it’s feeding cues, maybe even more carefully than a breastfeeding mom, because you have to, for safety’s sake. The only difference is that you formula feed less often than breastfeeding, but since safe formula feeding requires more attention paid to baby, I think it probably evens out. Breast feeding is the way to go, 100%, but honestly I don’t think bonding is a major reason why if you are formula feeding safely.
However, if you are bottle propping, not only are you putting your baby at amazing health risk each time, but you are missing out on a bonding experience. So yeah, if you bottle prop, I think the whole “breast feeding moms bond better with their babies” thing is totally valid.
I know this blog may come across as harsh, so I want to make it clear that I’m not blaming women who don’t know about this for not knowing about it. Apparently there aren’t enough public service announcements about it afterall. Your doctors and community have totally failed you if you haven’t gotten the message that bottle propping is dangerous. You didn’t fail, they did. Now that you know, you can stop doing it. It’s real simple. I didn’t know that feeding my baby solids too early can lead to food allergies, but when I found out I stopped. It’s not a big deal. But it is a big deal that this message hadn’t been made more clear by the medical community, and I think we need to ask why. Why, when they’re so good about telling us not to shake babies, what position to have them sleep in, and how to safely transport them in a car, have they not made everyone aware of how not to let your baby drown while feeding it? I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that if women found out that the one thing they think is easier about formula feeding is actually dangerous, fewer women would formula feed. Because formula feeding is not easier. It’s just not. It’s a lot of work. It has it’s place, and sometimes is a lifesaver, but it’s not easier. Not when done safely.