Thanks to the NY Times, here we go again. The latest medical wisdom is that breast-feeing is so important that one legislator wanted it printed on formula bottles that not breast-feeding represented a medical and developmental risk for your baby. Aiya!
What I find really astounding in much of the literature on the issue - including in this article itself - is that no one mentions something pretty simple...that being: of course breast-feeding is ideal. Very ideal. You should, if you can at all do it, breast-feed. Ok, we can agree on that principle. But if you have to resort to formula, especially in those early days where breast milk production is potentially low (not all women lactate like Holsteins, particularly in the first few days following giving birth), it's perfectly ok to supplement with formula. The pediatric practice our daughter goes to pretty much says the same thing.
Yet this debate always seems to take on an all-or-nothing quality and I find that rather odd. Is it that people are so afraid that formula use is a slippery slope that they won't even acknowledge times where formula use would be acceptable (such as, y'know, when the baby is starving?) I really don't get it.
Like I said, I'm a big advocate of breast-feeding - and it should be noted, so is my wife since she's actually the one who's done it. L was exclusively raised on breast milk for her first six months and continued to nurse through her first year and I think this was good for her health and development. But I'd seriously want to spare any parent the nightmare of avoiding formula 100% simply out of fear or guilt.
The other issue too - and this is something that the NYT piece acknowledges is that most American businesses are limited in the kind of support they lend to breast-feeding women:
- "urging women to breast-feed exclusively is a tall order in a country where more than 60 percent of mothers of very young children work, federal law requires large companies to provide only 12 weeks' unpaid maternity leave and lactation leave is unheard of. Only a third of large companies provide a private, secure area where women can express breast milk during the workday, and only 7 percent offer on-site or near-site child care, according to a 2005 national study of employers by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute.