Clearing things up: Breastfeeding and Formula feeding

Ramona - posted on 03/19/2011 ( 3 moms have responded )




I know a lot has been said here recently about connections between a mother and child formula feeding during breastfeeding. I am hoping that I can offer some insight and maybe help women on both sides to understand the other side.

Breastmilk is undoubtedly the "ideal" infant food, since human milk is specially made for one particular human baby and their needs, but formula has improved in strides in recent years and a mother who is unable to nurse, or who chooses not to should not be made to feel like they are "poisoning" their baby. It's hardly poison. In other mammalian species, we give formula to orphans. Those orphans are usually perfectly productive adults. Sometimes it doesn't work, and trying is more stressful than enjoyable. I know a woman who just dried up after her milk came in and she was depressed about it, which makes taking care of a newborn difficult. For her next one, she decided to nurse for the colostrum then switch to formula so she wouldn't set herself up for disappointment and would be emotionally and mentally available to her children. That was best for her family. For mine, nursing has been best all around. Lucky me!

Formula feeding mothers: The reason why people believe breastfeeding mothers have a "better" bond with their young is because of the release of oxytocin, which is released in higher quantities during the skin to skin contact that happens during nursing.

I found this study:

It suggests that much of the oxytocin is released in response to the baby's crying for hunger. More is released as the skin to skin contact of the suckling commences, and the hormonal reactions between their bodies take place, but much of it happens as a response to your hungry baby.

Anyway, my point is this: the above is the background reasoning behind the argument that nursing mothers are "better bonded" to their babies. However, MY personal opinion is that a formula feeding mother can be equally as well bonded, in the same way that the father of a breastfeeding infant who never once feeds their infant can be bonded to their child. A lot of this additional oxytocin release after responding to a hungry baby can happen during skin to skin contact with the child and through reading (and cuddling, otherwise spending quality time with), changing diapers, etc. It also happens when the baby cries for food and the mother rushes to provide nourishment for her baby, whether it be from the breast or bottle.

From BabyCenter:

Can I still bond with my baby if I don't breastfeed?

Absolutely. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to strengthen your connection with your child, but it isn't the only way. At feeding time, hold your infant close to you and make eye contact. One client of Barger's who couldn't breastfeed ended up bottle-feeding her child as if she were nursing him. She held him in a breastfeeding position and had lots of skin-to-skin contact. Remember that your relationship with your child won't be based solely on your ability to nurse her. How you respond when she cries, how often you hold and play with her, and how you are as a parent matters more than how you feed her

Let's move on. Both methods of feeding are fine.


Rosie - posted on 03/19/2011




i would also argue that breastfeeding caused me to NOT bond with my child, and formula feeding did. :) i agree, lets move on, both methods of feeding are wonderful. :)


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Jenny - posted on 03/20/2011




I agree to let it rest too :) There's much more going on between mother & baby interactions than just feeding milk. Both formula and breast milk are nourishment to a baby and therefore are equally as important :)

Ramona, I love that you're a breastfeeding mumma and feel okay to say "both methods of feeding are fine".
That attitude from a BF mum in its self is a soothing balm to mothers who felt they had no choice but to move to formula feeding :) God Bless your Heart.

Minnie - posted on 03/19/2011




Except that I will argue that the suckling stimulation on the actual nipple and areola releases MUCH more oxytocin than regular skin-to-skin contact. Which is why simple skin to skin contact does not cause the uterus to contract to initiate birthing contractions or post-labor contractions. But nipple stimulation does.

That being said, parents who formula-feed their babies definitely can bond perfectly well. I believe that it probably depends on the mother/infant dyad itself- some mothers possibly DO need breastfeeding in order to bond better. Others don't.

Quite similar to how some mothers have extreme difficulty bonding after a medicalized birth, whereas others who birthed with interventions have no problem.

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