Breastfeeding or formula? It’s never right to judge a mother’s choice

No matter her choice, I believe mama knows best.

Breastfeeding or formula? It’s never right to judge a mother’s choice

As new mothers, we are told time and again, in hospital classes and from friends that “breast is best,” even as many of our mothers and grandmothers raise an eyebrow and remind that plenty of kids from our generation were bottle-fed, and “turned out just fine.”

When my grandmother saw my registry, filled with every breastfeeding accessory known to humanity, she remarked that she had six children and her mother had 10, and said that what enabled them to be such happy, attentive mothers was the advent of formula feeding.

There are different ways of looking at the same thing.

At the time, I thought how my poor grandmother just didn’t understand how much better breastfeeding was than formula, and I moved ahead with my plan.

But I have come to be very open-minded on the subject.

Breastfeeding and pumping can be very fulfilling for some women, and it can be very challenging and even painful for some women.

One of my friends could not produce any milk at all, and she faced derision and shame from her family.

Have you ever noticed how passionate women are on one side or the other, at times even proselytizing that you are a failed mother if you don’t approach feeding a certain way?

I once heard a mother berate another mom for not supplementing her breast milk with formula because formula was the “only thing” that would help ensure her baby gained healthy weight.


And I have heard holier-than-thou breastfeeding advocates make moms who admitted to any formula feeding (even as a supplement) feel that they were somehow inferior.


In a 2015 New York Times article entitled “Overselling Breast-Feeding,” Courtney Jung reports some of the changing data in the continuing breastfeeding conversation.

It is worth reading the article closely as it shows that this issue is not black-or-white but more of a gray area than many of us might have realized.

Jung’s article reveals that the studies concluding “breast is best” are funded by breastfeeding accessory companies.

It reveals that recent, thorough medical research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds the effects of breastfeeding “modest,” and that a trial conducted by Dr. Michael Kramer studying 14,000 mother-baby pairs over 16 years has indeed found cognitive development benefits, but concluded that breastfeeding “did not reduce the risk of obesity, asthma, allergies, dental cavities, or ADHD.”

The article continues, “Just last month, a British study found that breast-feeding has no effect on I.Q.”

What conclusion may we draw? Breastfeeding has its benefits, not the least of which is the feeling of closeness enjoyed by those who swear by it.

But, it is not a magic elixir the way it is often presented, and it is not the only way to ensure a healthy, thriving baby.

I have come to the realization that every generation has its truths.

Breastfeeding is popular and in style now, but my grandmother and many of her friends considered formula superior when they were young moms.

My grandmother points out that her mother and the generations before were all breastfed, and they had high mortality rates and got sick often.

She was bottle fed and is approaching her 100th birthday, still mentally sharp and healthy.

Breastfeeding can be so rewarding, as mother and baby share the bond of closeness.

At the same time, many bottle feeders proclaim that they enjoy great closeness with their baby since they can just enjoy a warm cuddle and forget about the details of proper latching, pumping and the risk of mastitis.

Breastmilk is an amazing thing, but formula has come a long way, and can be vitamin-packed and healthy.

There are organic versions available, and some is even designed for babies with lactose intolerance or other sensitivities.

Whatever way you fall on the issue, please let’s all have tolerance for the views of other moms.

The fact is, there are emotional and physical benefits to both types of feeding and the studies are evolving and continuing as the conversation continues and new data comes forth.

If a mom wants to breastfeed for a long time, she feels it is best for her and her baby. If a mom pumps and supplements with formula, she feels it is best for her and her baby. If a mom finds breastfeeding painful and difficult and chooses to feed exclusively from a bottle, she feels she is doing what is best for her and her baby.

After all, a baby needs a mama who is not in too much pain, or so plagued by guilt or feelings of unworthiness that she can’t give the one thing we all agree newborns need: loving attention.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.


Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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