Breast vs bottle

As I’m sure you’re aware, there is massive worldwide debate over what type of infant feeding is best for babies. All you have to do is search the web and you’ll come up with a plethora of information on both breastfeeding and formula feeding. The topic draws such intense scrutiny that parents often feel bombarded with ideas and personal preferences, opinions and agendas.

I believe there is huge pressure to do the “right” thing for your baby. But what is the “right” thing? And why just for the baby? Why not for you too?

Being a midwife, it is entrenched in our training and engraved on our souls, the benefits of breastfeeding. We examine copious research and statistics on the health outcomes of breastfed babies vs formula fed babies. The numbers don’t lie. Breastfeeding is most definitely best, both for mum and baby.

Click here to see what the World Health Organization (WHO) has to say about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding benefits for mum include increased uterine contractions to reduce post partum bleeding, faster weight loss, reduced incidence of breast cancer, increased bonding with baby and it’s cheaper. Benefits for baby include reduced incidence of infection (such as ear and throat infections), reduced asthma, allergies, obesity and diabetes in childhood, not to mention the greater ability of the gut to digest human milk rather than cow or soy milk. I am not able to highlight all the benefits, but the list does go on.

Even though I am very pro breastfeeding, I would prefer to call myself more of a “tit fairy” than a “nipple Nazi”. I first heard these titles when I was a student nurse and they have stuck with me. I like the idea of being a “tit fairy”. I like helping women who WANT to breastfeed and are COMMITTED to breastfeeding. It’s much more rewarding helping someone learn how to breastfeed, especially in the hard times (which may even include occasionally needing some formula), when you know they are passionate about it too.

A “nipple Nazi” may push breastfeeding, to the point where mother feels inadequate if they are unable to do it, or guilty if they choose not to. A “tit fairy” will not force anyone to breastfeed who does not want to. We state the facts but then support and respect mothers and families regardless of their decision. After all, breastfeeding is not always smooth sailing. It is also not worth a midwives time to push and push, and put in so much backbreaking effort to help someone breastfeed, when the woman knows she will start formula feeding as soon as she gets home. It’s best to foster an environment of openness and honesty so everyone can be happy and satisfied with the outcome.

Breastfeeding can be very challenging for a number of reasons; firstly, even if you have done it before, your baby has not. The baby may have a poor suck reflex, a small mouth, a tongue tie or medications in their system that interfere with their consciousness and desire to breastfeed (especially during the initial breastfeed after birth, where epidural or narcotics may be present). The mother may have difficult anatomy ie. large pendulous breasts, flat or inverted nipples (which can lead to cracks and infection or mastitis) or a history of breast enlargement or reduction surgery. She also may have psychological barriers to breastfeeding, such as a history of sexual abuse or trauma. There is no wonder some people decide to formula feed.

I have had many friends (some of them midwives) who have had very difficult baby feeding journeys. I was lucky enough to experience and enjoy relatively hassle free breastfeeding with my first son (besides the initial week-long nipple soreness and biting stages). But this time round I have not been enjoying breastfeeding as much due to having a hungrier, fussier baby, and almost getting mastitis. I understand and respect the choices mothers make, whether that be persevering through extraordinarily hard times such as mastitis, low supply, poor attachment (and the list goes on) or choosing to keep their sanity and their baby well fed by formula feeding.

Parenthood is hard no matter what type of feeding is chosen. So parents much choose what is best, not ONLY for the baby, but also for them to be the best parent they can be.

Click here for a good article on breastfeeding.

These are some good breastfeeding and family care resources:

Australian Breastfeeding Association



Levi 4 weeks old breastfeeding

5 thoughts on “Breast vs bottle

  1. Rachel mac

    Well researched and informative like the tit fairy a lot may have to use that one as have the exact same views

  2. Bec

    Well put Naomi. It’s lovely to hear a good honerst opinion that has research and experiance to back it up.
    When I had my first hospital appointment I was asked if I planned to breastfeed and answered something along the lines of “all going well!” This illicited some questioning from the midwife and by the end of the conversation I think she was rather convinced that I was very keen to breastfeed and had support around me to do so, but I need to be realistic about that for my sake. I’ve heard stories of the good and bad of it, and for me I believe in the benifits enough that I think I’ll perserve through quite a lot… but who knows what’s going to happen when it comes to it.
    One thing that bothers me about nipple nazi’s is, knowing a bit about attachment and development I feel like pushing a new mum to the point that she’s stressed and feeling completely inadequate surely will adversely effect the baby too… not just the mum.

    1. Naomi Post author

      I agree, the mum’s confidence and wellbeing definitely affect the baby. Attachment, as in, bonding, is very important for the development of the baby. Attachment, as in, putting the baby’s mouth around the nipple correctly, is similarly important for successful breastfeeding. Just to clarify xx

  3. Kim

    I think midwives need to be more supportive, as it sounds like you are trying to be. I’ve found them to be quite unsupportive about breastfeeding, both in Australia and South Africa. I’ve been told by about 5 different midwives that breastfeeding doesn’t hurt if you’re doing it properly. I think that’s untrue, (though I’m not a midwife myself). Surely at the beginning it will always hurt? And for some people continue to hurt or hurt at different times even if the rest of feeding is fine. I would have appreciated midwives being a bit more realistic, or telling me it would get better and easier and quicker. Persistence is the most helpful piece of advice I was given about breastfeeding.

    1. Naomi Post author

      I agree that midwives need to be realistic. I think breastfeeding does hurt most people at some time but like you said, it gets better. It’s also not all roses and daffodils when it comes to breastfeeding. I’m not particularly enjoying it with number 2 cos he thrashed around, drinks for 2 mins and is generally fussy at the breast (which is uncomfortable for me and sometimes painful). I find it interesting that midwives have been unsupportive of you Kim – did you have babies at hospitals that had “baby friendly” hospital accreditation? If so you could complain and it will be given more weight, as this WHO accreditation is important and mum’s need to be satisfied! It can be hard in hospital if the ward is full and the staff are run off their feet, to give mum’s the help and encouragement they need because good support takes time (hard to spend sufficient time with ALL the women you look after so you kind of count on a few getting the hang of it quickly and needing minimal help). I hope your future experiences can be more positive.


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