“There is no reason to offer bottles on a daily basis if you are not routinely separated from baby just so that he will continue to accept one. Doing so may also compromise your milk supply and make it more likely that your baby may begin to prefer the ease of the bottle.” (1)
A common issue with bottles and the breastfed baby is that a lot of breastfed babies will refuse a bottle when mom is present or simply won’t take one at all. Moms know that a hungry baby can mean an angry baby. Fighting to give a baby a bottle he/she doesn’t want isn’t something anyone wants to do, and as someone who may be in a restaurant with a mom in this situation I can say I’d MUCH rather see a mom nurse her baby than hear a hungry baby refuse a bottle.
A video from my friend, her son was born prematurely and had to have bottles in the NICU, she successfully got him to the breast and he has no problem telling you he’d rather have that:
On the opposite side of bottle refusal is nipple confusion. This can be a huge issue, particularly early in a breastfeeding relationship and it’s a problem that sabotages a lot of mom and baby pairs.
This problem can occur with just one bottle or many and although it is of utmost concern when baby is just learning to nurse, the risk remains as they grow as well. The differences in the nipple and the flow can create confusion or preference in the child that can lead to him/her refusing the breast.
“During breastfeeding a baby's tongue, jaw, and mouth work together in a coordinated rhythm. This unique sucking action is one reason why breastfed babies overall have better oral development than bottle-fed babies. Once the baby latches on, the tongue comes down and out as it cups the breast. The lips must be flanged out resembling a rose petal or a fish's lips. Letdown can sometimes takes several seconds to perhaps more than a minute to occur. The baby learns that he does not get an instant reward; he must "work" for mother's milk.
With bottle-feeding, the baby is instantly met with a flood of milk as a bottle will allow milk flow without active sucking. This sudden gush forces the baby to flip his tongue upward to help regulate the flow and prevent him from choking. His lips are pursed tightly around the firmer artificial nipple and no work is required of his jaws.
One study found that 95% of babies will become confused if given a bottle during the first 3-4 weeks of life. For some babies it may take many bottles before they show any nipple confusion; for others it can take only one or two. For this reason it is best to avoid offering your baby a bottle before he is 4 weeks of age.” (2)
A bottle can become contaminated in a number of ways and once milk is expressed it is no longer guaranteed to remain sterile. Milk from the breast is naturally sterile as is the nipple which delivers it. "Within the areola there are sebaceous glands (which secrete oil to soften and protect the skin), sweat glands, and Montgomery's glands, which are believed to produce a substance that lubricates the nipple and protects it from germs.” The breast has its own system of cleaning, meaning the nipple remains clean for baby to nurse from (to a certain extent of course, hygiene also plays its role). Nursing a baby therefore is a guaranteed way of delivering uncontaminated milk whereas the risk is always there that a pumped bottle can contain bacteria either to poor sterilization, improper milk storage or exposure to contaminants.
Bottle feeding increases a mother’s risk of contracting thrush. Thrush is a yeast infection found either in a baby’s mouth or on a mother’s nipple, often times both. Like any yeast infection, moist, sugary environments are possible breeding grounds and a bottle is no exception. Breast milk is high in lactose, a sugar, and a baby’s mouth or a bottle and pump are both places thrush likes to grow, as well as on mom’s nipple. A baby can pass thrush to mom, having picked it up off their bottle. Now thrush is not exclusive to bottles or pumps and a breastfeeding mom is not exempt from catching it if she avoids pumping and bottle feeding (pacifiers also can pass thrush). I’m merely saying that a mom is giving thrush another place to grow if she pumps and bottle-feeds and for moms (or babies) that are on antibiotics this further increases their chances of getting thrush.
Also, as with formula feeding, bottle-feeding (when done incorrectly) breast milk can lead to increased ear infections, dental caries and all of the other bottle-related issues. (3)
In conclusion, nursing really is what is best for a mother and baby and moms shouldn’t have to feel like they need to hide that. While the average person may not see the issue in a mother pumping and bottle-feeding, there is plenty of information that proves that breastfeeding is far easier and preferable to pumping and bottle-feeding. Moms shouldn’t feel pressured into doing something they don’t want to do, and if a mother decides she would rather pump that’s fine too. Moms deserve to go into it knowing the facts on both sides. If a mother prefers to pump because she really doesn’t want to nurse in public, for whatever reason, I’ll support her as well. But no mother should be bullied into hiding or pumping beforehand just because someone else takes offense to her nursing in public and thinks that is the “solution.”
*Note: Please note this is NOT anti-exclusive pumping (EPing), EPing is very hard and takes a great deal of dedication from a mother, I applaud and commend any mother who has EPed for her child and want to state that breast milk in a bottle is far superior to formula. This conversation is solely for the purpose of stating what trouble pumping can entail, and if anything maybe give some insight as to what mothers who EP have had to face in their dedication to giving their child the best they can.
This article is edited from a previous version published at Life's a Salad Bar.
Anna is an army wife, mother to a "spirited" toddler, fitness coach, future lactation consultant and advocate of natural, gentle parenting. She stays busy and occasionally blogs (or rants) about her ideas and interests at Life's A Salad Bar.