Editor's note: From lactivists to attachment moms to women who refuse to breastfeed, many of us moms know it’s not that simple. That’s why we’re partnering with Babble.com to tackle all sides of this hotly-debated issue. Click on the video to watch the conversation.
To breastfeed or NOT to breastfeed? That is the question many women are faced with upon entering motherhood. For some mothers, the answer is quite simple, especially when medical professionals commonly tell moms "breast is best" when it comes to feeding their infants. However, for other moms, the situation may be more complicated and stressful. Some women are physically unable to nurse their children, while others may simply prefer to bottle-feed their babies from the start. Whatever the reason, these women can be criticized and labeled by other moms as "selfish," "lazy," or even "bad moms."
"For many women, the inability to breast-feed...makes them feel guilty, that they're somehow less than a woman, a wimp even, who is depriving their child of nutrients, vitamins, the IQ they'll need to get them into Harvard," Kristen Chase, a blogger for Motherhood Uncensored, wrote.
Chase attributed the emotional struggle she faced while trying to nurse her children to a condition known as Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex. According to the website D-mer.org, this is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes. For this reason, Chase is particularly sympathetic to the mothers who are unable to breast-feed for physical or emotional reasons.
"Regardless of what the studies say about immunities and health benefits and intelligence, if you're not able to functionally care for your children, it doesn't matter. You and your child will be much better off with you feeding them from a bottle with a smile than breast-feeding through agony and tears," she said.
Some members of society seem to perceive mothers who choose bottle-feeding over breast-feeding in a negative way. Casey Mullins, who blogs for mooshinindy.com, shared her views about that perception. She wrote, "The assumption of a bottle-feeding mother is hardly ever a good one. Generally the assumption that tops the list is that she gave up. Or that she’s selfish. Or lazy. I can assure you that bottle-feeding does not a lazy/selfish life enable. I have to be twice as prepared when I leave the house because I do not make milk on demand."
Mullins is a mom of two who is physically unable to produce breast milk. She addressed her frustration with those who judge women suffering from the same inability that she has, writing, "Many bodies out there don’t produce what comes naturally to so many others. Some bodies don’t produce enough tears, some bodies don’t produce enough insulin, some bodies don’t produce enough estrogen, some bodies don’t produce sweat, some bodies don’t produce sperm and some bodies don’t produce babies. But a body that doesn’t produce breastmilk is the only one that is judged both openly and silently on a fairly regular basis."
Still, there are women who have chosen to bottle feed their babies instead of nursing them, simply due to their personal preference. For this, they are often criticized and judged by breast-feeding moms. Casi Densomre-Koon, a writer for the pregnancy blog on Babble.com, defends a mother's right to choose when it comes to breast-feeding.
"Breast-feeding your child should not be an obligation, but a mother’s choice", she wrote. "Yes, I understand breast milk is the best choice when it comes to feeding your baby; however, I don’t think it is right at all for a mother to feel pressure to breast-feed."
"You aren’t wrong for not breast-feeding. You aren’t wrong if you didn’t even try and you just went straight to the bottle. Whatever your decision is, it’s your decision and that is all that matters," she added.
Some breast-feeding activists are so opposed to the idea of bottle feeding their babies that they view baby formula as a harmful alternative. Catherine Connors is a mother and Editor in Chief for the parenting blog Babble.com. She discussed this topic in her blog, writing, "They believe that the choice to use formula is problematic enough that women should be prevented from seeing images or text that suggest that it is anything other than fully ill-advised...The message at the core of the ‘ban all formula advertising’ platform is simple: formula is bad."
Connors strongly rejects this view, adding, "This is nonsense...It is harmful, because it shames mothers. It shames working mothers who have to bottle feed because they can’t be with their babies all day and it shames mothers who are unable to breast-feed..."
Despite the strong views and opinions of the breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding debate, there seems to be one common thread. A mother has her baby's best interest at heart, and she strives to do what she feels is best for her child. That ideal is what makes her a good mom, no matter what.
Do you think a woman's decision or ability to breast-feed her child determines whether or not she is a good mother? Tweet @KyraHLN with the #RaisingAmerica hashtag or leave your thoughts on Facebook.com. And don't forget to join our Twitter chat at 1:30 p.m. ET on Friday!
For more on this topic, check out Babble's eBook, "Parenting, Uncensored: Straight Talk from Real Moms and Dads on Breastfeeding."