I have both breastfed and formula fed my babies. I have been a stay at home, exclusively breastfeeding mom, and I have been a full-time, work outside the home pumping, breastfeeding mom. And now I have been a full time, working, formula feeding mom for the last six months. This variety means that I have a lot of real-word experience to draw on in sharing what I've liked and disliked about each type of baby feeding. But again, nothing in the list of my "pros and cons" of each feeding method that I am about to offer up should IN ANY WAY suggest that I don't continue to believe that breastfeeding matters a great deal to babies' health and women's health, and that breastfeeding support and promotion should be a public health priority. That is a given, and represents the context for my thoughts on OTHER, more logistical aspects of the breastfeeding vs. formula feeding experience.
Okay, lengthy prologue over. Without further ado, I give you my super honest, highly personal comparison of what the experience of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding has been like for me as a mother.
Remember: your mileage may vary.
BREASTFEEDING PROS-Breastfeeding was pretty much completely free. The only money I ever spent on breastfeeding was a few hundred bucks for a breastpump (this was for child #4. Until that, I never used one ) and some $$ to buy antibiotics for the occasional case of mastitis I got while breastfeeding. The few times that I needed outside help or support, I went with a La Leche League Leader rather than a Lactation Consultant. LLL Leaders are volunteers, so their consultation and advice is - you guessed it - free.
-Breastfeeding was incredibly easy. After the first week or two of engorgement, baby learning to nurse, etc, I found breastfeeding to be super easy and low stress. No bottles to wash, formula to prepare, stuff to pack when you were going somewhere with the baby. Easy peasy. I'm lazy and can't cook, so that worked for me.
-Breastfeeding was the simplest, no-fail way to soothe my babies/toddlers, or get them to sleep. If I needed my nursing child to fall asleep, whether it was in a movie theater or at bedtime, I just offered my breast. If I needed her to stop crying, whether from a toddler meltdown or a skinned knee, I just nursed her, and she suddenly felt that all was right with the world.
To read more pros of breastfeeding, visit Baby's First Year.
BREASTFEEDING CONS (remember, I am describing ONLY MY OWN EXPERIENCE. You might not have had any of these logistical bothers or frustrations with nursing, but I did.)
- I would rather chew and swallow broken glass, chased down with a cup of motor oil mixed with pureed fishsticks than pump my breasts. Okay, there I go with my natural tendency to go all hyperbolic on y'all, but seriously, I am not exaggerating to say that I hated pumping my breasts about as much as any other physical experience of my life. Yes, I had a high quality pump. Yes, I knew how to do it. Yes, I looked at photos of my baby, etc, etc. None of that ameliorated the hatred I had for affixing a breastpump to my breasts. While I pumped, I felt like clawing my eyes out. It felt a little like having a low grade anxiety attack, so unnatural did the pump flange feel pulling on my boobs. The whole thing was very puzzling; how could I love nursing my baby so much, and find it relaxing and pleasant, but find the mechanical version of the same activity so appallingly distasteful?
-Unless you do want to use the dreaded breastpump (and remember, you may not mind using it at all. But I do. And this is my blog, so we're talking about MEE, MEE, MEE), it's very difficult to schedule more than 30-60 minutes away from an exclusively breastfed baby, whether that's to get your legs waxed, take your older child out for ice cream, or see a movie with your significant other. I never wanted to spend large amounts of time away from my breastfed babies, but in retrospect, I would have been healthier mentally and physically during the first years of my exclusively breastfed babies' lives if I had indeed gotten the occasional leg wax.
-Dressing to accommodate breastfeeding is somewhat limiting. Let me be clear that I am one of those super indiscreet, public breastfeeders of the type people complain about on the interwebz, meaning that when I was nursing, I never used drapes, or hid myself away in other rooms (unless my baby seemed to want some quiet in order to eat). But even though I was bold, I still had to choose my clothing more carefully any time I left the house, not to cover anything up, but simply so that I could get to my breasts at all.
To read more cons of breastfeeding, visit Baby's First Year
MORE ON BABY'S FIRST YEAR:
How Do We Switch Infant Formulas?
Do Formula-Fed Babies Sometimes Act Like Breastfed Babies?
Is Bottle Feeding Keeping Me Fat?
Stay connected. Follow Baby's First Year on Facebook and Twitter.