Is Breast Best?

One mom shows there really isn't one simple answer

Photograph by Getty Images

I spent the last seven years breast-feeding all four of my children, so you might expect that I’d be in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s Latch On NYC breast-feeding initiative.

But I couldn’t be more against it.

Oh yes, it’s very "1950" to invade the rights of a woman to choose how she wants to feed her baby, a choice that’s already fueled with guilt, shame and judgment.

But that’s not the main reason I think it’s wrong.

What about the other women, the majority of women who want to do “the best” for their children but just cannot?

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was hell-bent and determined to breast-feed her, my belief that "breast was best" passed down from my mother who breast-fed me and my siblings back in the '70s when almost everyone was reaching for the bottle.

I never thought twice about the free formula samples in the ugly black bag, because I knew I wouldn’t need them.

And as it turned out, my life revolved around breast-feeding.

First there were the scabs. Then she wanted to eat all the time. And when she wouldn’t take a bottle, I had to take my daughter to my office with me every day, and hire a student to watch her while I taught my college classes.

She was colicky and often inconsolable, from what I later learned was a combination of silent reflux and a foremilk imbalance, so I did an elimination diet, eating a total of four foods for six months. I rarely slept or put her down. My marriage was suffering.

But breast is best. Formula is failure. And I’m not the only mother who felt this way.

Like many mothers, I nursed my children willingly and without regret for many years, to give them the healthiest start, the higher IQ, the better immune system and all the other things they tell you so that you will breast-feed your kids.

It’s cheaper! And convenient!

And that’s true for moms in specific cultural and socio-economic situations who can make enough milk and can get through weeks—sometimes months—of almost shocking pain; and it's true for those women who can survive on little sleep and can pump if they need to go anywhere for longer than two hours without their baby.

But what about the other women, the majority of women who want to do “the best” for their children but just cannot?

RELATED: What Are the Perks of Breast-Feeding?

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