By Elyssa Toomey, RD, RYT
The aftermath of International Women’s Day has me reflecting about the way women often and sadly judge, rather than encourage one another. Every personal decision a woman makes somehow feels like it is open for comment and criticism. My oldest child is 12, yet to this day, I distinctly remember sitting in a Starbucks twelve years ago after a mommy and me class desperately trying to make connections. I had just left the city for the peace of suburbia, yet I found myself embroiled in a battle about bottle vs. breast-feeding. All I wanted was a pleasant conversation and a joyful caffeine buzz and instead I found myself in the midst of a debate among moms about what was best for our children.
For the sake of disclosure, I choose to breastfeed my children, the majority of the time. I was fortunate enough to have been able to stay home during their first months and I was also fortunate that breast-feeding came easily for my boys and me. However, as the months went on I willingly supplemented my children’s nutrition with formula. I am grateful for the option to choose both breast and bottle. I am grateful just to have the choice. Both breast milk and FORMULA helped them to grow healthy and strong while it allowed me the opportunity to return to work, my mat and the world. These choices made me healthy and happy, and allowing me to be a better mother to my boys.
Women are told by our society “breast is best”, yet that statement does not consider the medical status, nutritional state and / or mental health of the mother. If a mom is deficient in micronutrients, deficient in essentially fatty acids, malnourished, or has had multiple births in a short period of time, than she may not be able to provide her child with optimal nutrition. Equally important is if the mom is stressed, experiencing post-partum depression or just wanting to make the choice to bottle feed, than the choice to use formula is what is best for the child.
When it comes to the best formula for babies there are so many choices available to parents. Choose your top three picks and bring them to your pediatrician or your registered dietitian to determine the best formula for your baby. In addition to a standard cow’s milk based formula, there are many formulas to help meet the individual needs of your child. For babies who have difficulty digesting lactose, the natural carbohydrate sugar found in milk, there are lactose-free and lactose-reduced options. Additionally, there are specialized formulas available for babies with milk protein allergies, as well as many claiming to reduce gas, bloating and colic. Sometimes a bit of trial and error is necessary to find the formula that works best.
Our job as parents is to provide our children with nutrition and love. Whether through the breast or bottle we can equally bond with and ensure our kids get the foundation of healthy nutrition. No doubt the first months are important, but providing good nutrition extends to helping our children develop a healthy, neutral relationship to food and their body, which will serve them through their entire life.
I believe the key is to have choice and without judgment from other moms would be even better. Women choose what is best for you and your families and support, not judge those around you. Let’s face it raising children today is hard. If choosing to bottle feed is the right choice for you, then I say do it without hesitation and without guilt.
What unites us is far greater than what divides us. So in celebration of International Women’s Day, and everyday, let’s offer support and kindness, rather than blame and shame. Together we can model health and happiness, and that is what is best for our children.
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