I am joining a discussion about breastfeeding. If you have a couple hours to spare reading links...continue on.
SuSu posed some questions to formula feeding mothers (there are numerous links through her site) I am not, nor have I ever been a formula feeding mother. The following is my opinion, and is strictly based on my experiences and observations.
No animals were harmed in the writing of this post.
Breastfeeding is a choice. Hopefully, while a women is pregnant she thinks about whether she will put her baby to the breast, or whether she will opt to formula feed her baby. I think much of her decision is based on what she has been exposed to. My mother breastfed all five of her children. My aunts all breastfed. Most of the women I knew breastfed their children. When I heard horror stories about breastfeeding I was able to easily blow them off. My mother nursed my little sister while I was in labor with my son. Obviously, my exposure to breastfeeding was ample. Not once did I consider doing otherwise.
It's never that simple. It's not just a choice, or a desire to breastfeed that makes it so. Like many things you desire, once you walk into a hospital to deliver a baby, your desires often fall to the bottom of the list...and breastfeeding is easily at the bottom...right before "natural delivery". Your success in breastfeeding can easily be tossed aside due to interventions. It never happens that way of course, and I don't mean to imply that your medical staff is crossing it off while your laboring, but it happens...one supplemental bottle at a time.
I fought to nurse my son. Right after his birth, and for the entire next week. He lost over a pound in 5 days, not because my milk was inadequate, but simply because he wanted to sleep. I spent hours in the mother's lounge across the hall from his NICU room in order to assure that the milk they fed him in that bottle, was mine. I spent hours trying to get him to latch on and eat. I was told by several nurses to just "feed him formula", and had I not been so determined, I might have.
My sister struggled for a week to get my nephew nursing. She had a cesarean with him, and then he got an extended stay in the NICU. I watched my niece struggle with nursing her son, but the staff was stressing about him not gaining enough weight. In both cases I was able to see the frustration with mom, and the ease at which the staff was able to hand them a bottle. I could see how easy it was to throw up the white flag and surrender.
One of the original studies that started this debate (you'd have to follow several other links to get there) cites bottle feeding as a risk factor for PPD. I think it all depends on why the mother is bottle feeding in the first place.
Was it her choice?
Did she decide to feed her baby formula because she will be returning to work? Is her employer supportive of nursing mothers? Does she have access to a place to pump? Or time to do so? For the majority of women, the answers to these questions would be a deciding factor on whether or not they will be breastfeeding.
I think that a general lack of support is the biggest factor behind women ceasing to breastfeed. Support from hospital staff, support from family and friends, and support from the employer. I think poor birth outcomes is a contributing factor to formula feeding, and any resulting PPD. Lets not forget that a history of depression might be a huge factor as well.
What about women who just don't want to breastfeed? I would much rather see a woman happily formula feeding her baby, than grudgingly breastfeeding. For whatever reasons, I believe a woman has the right to choose how she feeds her child. A woman shouldn't feel obligated to breastfeed, anymore than she should be encouraged to formula feed. She should be given the support to do whatever it is that she desires. I only ask that they own up to it, whatever it is.
While there are genuine medical reasons to stop breastfeeding, I think that they are in the minority. There may be no studies to conclusively prove that medications in your milk don't harm your baby, just as there are no studies that prove immunizations do no harm...but folks keep shooting up their kids anyway. It's all in your perspective.
Were women given better care in the hospital, and more respect were shown for their choices, I think that there would be a smaller incidence of default formula feeding and PPD. I think that many women subconsciously come out of their deliveries feeling like they can't do anything right. Modern obstetrics care contributes to PPD. From the time you enter the hospital you are given doubt in your body to labor, push, and then breastfeed. No wonder women go home depressed!
How on earth are we supposed to feel confident in our ability to care for a child when we couldn't even get the delivery right?