Breastfeeding also offers what is sometimes described as "a gift of economy, convenience and enjoyment." Breast milk is obviously cheaper than formula and requires no preparation. The enjoyment comes from the unique closeness you and your infant experience, and from the knowledge that you're nourishing your child with the best possible food—produced by your own body. "Besides all the health benefits, there's a special bonding that takes place knowing that no one else can feed that baby but you," says Cathy Messing, a 35 year-old mother of two daughters. "Nursing is so intimate and satisfying. I think all women should have this opportunity because it's like no other."
Interestingly, all the mothers I interviewed—even those who didn't like breastfeeding or were unsuccessful at it—would encourage other mothers to try it. One of the reasons they cite is that once you opt to bottle-feed there's no going back. Adds Messing, "If a woman tries nursing and decides later that it's not for her, she can always go to bottles. But if you've made the choice to bottle-feed right from the start, you've completely done away with the nursing option."
Breastfeeding is on the rise. According to recent statistics released from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which tracks national nursing rates, more women are initiating breastfeeding with their infants, 73.8 percent in 2004 versus just under 71 percent in 2000. But the CDC points out that while many women were trying out breastfeeding, often infants were not nursed exclusively.
Why Moms Choose Bottlefeeding
Many women choose to bottle-feed for a variety of very sound reasons. Some need to go back to work and find bottle-feeding easier. Others feel that after nine months of pregnancy they want, as one mother put it, their "bodies back." "The idea of being tied, 24 hours a day to a baby really bothered me," explained MaryAnn Long* (not her real name), a California mother of two young children. "I needed more space. It was really important to me to be a good mother but to also preserve myself in the process." Other mothers may be squeamish about the idea of nursing, and embarrassed about the prospect of doing something so private, in public. "I knew I wouldn't feel comfortable feeding my baby in front of other people," says Patty Hanchett, 38. "But I also didn't like the idea of leaving the room every time my child wanted to eat." Adds Barbara Eriss, the mother of two, "I liked being able to see how much milk my babies were drinking, and to have their father participate in the feeding process."
Even if a logical explanation is given about why a woman opted to bottle-feed, chances are it makes little difference to some breastfeeding zealots. "When I switched to bottle-feeding, women would often come up to me and ask my why," says Long. "I'd oversimplify the reasons and not try to explain what really happened. That's because I found that people weren't interested in understanding my motives, they were only interested in expressing their own disapproval."