Tuesday, September 26, 2023
Home » Opinion | The Pressure on New Moms to Breastfeed

Opinion | The Pressure on New Moms to Breastfeed

by News Desk

To the Editor:

Re “Baby Formula Saves Lives. Why Are We Shaming Mothers for Using It?,” by Elizabeth Spiers (Opinion guest essay, May 19):

Kudos to Ms. Spiers on her excellent portrayal of the issue of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. I struggled with breastfeeding my first two babies so decided to opt for bottle feeding my third. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was well rested, the baby got to bond with her father during the middle-of-the-night feedings, we knew how much the baby had been fed and everyone got to be part of nourishing her.

It’s tough to confront the breast-is-best crowd. One friend of mine threatened an intervention — but it was my baby, my body, my choice.

Rosemary Keogh O’Neill
West Hartford, Conn.

To the Editor:

Too often the conversation around destigmatizing formula distracts from the fact that many women do not breastfeed as long as they want nor do they receive adequate support. Our culture verbalizes support for breastfeeding, but this is lip service only. Society does very little to alleviate the actual difficulties and demands that come along with it.

If men had to breastfeed then we would have plenty of research to better understand why breastfeeding is so difficult and what to do about it. Insurance would cover regular visits with a lactation consultant, and rooms for pumping and nursing would be plentiful, although we wouldn’t need them because it would be completely normal to pump or nurse in public.

I am currently breastfeeding my 5-month-old, and it has not always been easy. Rather than telling me not to feel shame if I switch to formula, we should be saying “shame on you, society, for not making breastfeeding easier.”

Kathleen Hahn
Milwaukie, Ore.

To the Editor:

Stop. Stop right there. Stop explaining why you couldn’t breastfeed. I did that nonstop for three years. I overexplained myself in every situation. Whenever I encountered another mom, I carried on about how hard I tried. “I gave it my all!”

It wasn’t until my second daughter was born that I finally started admitting that I didn’t want to. I hated breastfeeding. I’m not justifying anything anymore.

I’m a young mom with two healthy daughters. I’m trying to raise two compassionate and caring humans. So what — I didn’t want to breastfeed. With all the hate and other problems in the world today, is that really so bad?

Stephanie Bergman
Medina, Ohio

To the Editor:

How times have changed! In 1964, knowing it was not in vogue, I had told hospital staff in the maternity ward that I intended to breastfeed. Not only did they discourage me, but they also fed the baby formula in the nursery, so he was not hungry when brought to me for breastfeeding. So now the attack on our autonomy pushes the opposite ideal.

This is another blatant effort to control women. Oh, wait a minute: Times have not changed.

Rita Sweet
Melbourne, Fla.

To the Editor:

I wholeheartedly agree with Elizabeth Spiers’s opinions about the baby formula shortage and our society’s unhealthy insistence that formula be a last resort. Permit me to add another item to the list of no-nos according to some modern medical professionals: the pacifier.

From Day 1, my daughter was miserable when not sleeping or breastfeeding. So, during our meeting with a lactation specialist, my husband and I naïvely requested a pacifier, thinking it could alleviate our newborn’s discomfort — and enable us to get a few zzz’s between feedings.

We were unceremoniously chastised for asking, as giving her a pacifier could change the shape of her mouth, create “nipple confusion” and/or prevent her from learning to self-soothe. Horrified, we banished the thought and suffered, ourselves unpacified, for months.

Funny how it worked out, though: My once terrible sleeper is now a well-adjusted 10-year-old and makes it through the night without waking. Me, I’m up several times thinking about her and her own reproductive options in what will soon likely be our dystopian, post-Roe future. In those moments, what I could really use is some self-soothing. Where’s my pacifier?

Caroline Hanna
Amherst, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re “What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine,” by Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Opinion guest essay, June 1):

This is what leadership looks like. In a time of global instability, I’m so grateful that we have a president who values our international community and recognizes the importance of defending democracy both overseas and in our own country.

I will say, however, that the timing of this opinion article feels … peculiar. When I saw a notification that the president had written an opinion essay, I was expecting an article discussing our desperate need for gun control, the threat to the right to an abortion, or the continued rise and danger of white nationalism.

I don’t want to diminish the importance of supporting Ukraine, but I think many Americans want to see our leaders fight the domestic threats to our democracy with the same focus and determination they have shown internationally.

Noah Nichols
Fort Worth

To the Editor:

I was amused — but also rueful — when I encountered extraordinary evidence for your many recent articles about the risks of cellphones and other digital devices.

A student just generously wrote to thank me for a course. After a couple of other reasons for doing so, she added a culminating compliment clearly meant straightforwardly, not ironically.

I cite it verbatim: “And never did I look at my phone once during class.”

Heather Dubrow
New York
The writer is an English professor at Fordham University.

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