General practitioners, midwives and early childhood centre advisors encouraged us at every turn to put the baby back on the breast, to seek therapy and counselling to put the baby back on the breast, at times even trying to scare and intimidate us into putting our baby back on the breast with stories about stunted mental and physical development.
Little to no effort was made to discuss how best to manage the bottle-feeding process. Those who eventually did offered advice that was inconsistent and largely illogical.
Beyond medical practice, I have also learned that women have openly ridiculed, bullied and otherwise judged my wife in public, as though our decision was made on a whim. This kind of schoolyard behaviour frankly beggars belief.
My experiences have me convinced that, whether deliberate or not, there is a culture in Australia and its medical profession that is specifically geared against bottle-feeding. I am heartened to know that my suspicions are resonated in a study published in the July 2009 edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood from the British Medical Journal, which found that:
“While mothers recognise the benefits of breastfeeding, those who bottle-feed with infant formula do not receive adequate information and support from their healthcare providers and, thus, ultimately put their baby’s health at risk.”
It goes further to quote a pediatrician of 30 years’ experience: "While breastfeeding should be encouraged, it is not the only safe and nutritious infant feeding option available. Healthcare providers should counsel new moms with information on all infant feeding options in order to ensure the health of their babies as well as support mothers in their decision."
Most poignantly, it notes: “mothers who bottle-fed their infants were riddled with negative feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and failure.” Based on my experiences, I can assure you this is through no doing of their own.
In the months that have passed since switching to the bottle, we have done extensive reading and research of our own; we have fortified our resolve and our baby has thrived. I hope the people who’ve seen fit to pass judgement on us fare as well when their time arrives. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” – Matthew 7.
Kevin Cheung, Editor
Popular Science Magazine