Can breastfeeding and formula-feeding moms remain friends?

The following is a contributed article…
Since my friends and I have become parents, I’ve noticed significant differences in the ways we have chosen to raise our children. In the early months of my pregnancy, I didn’t it would have much of an impact on us because we had all been friends for many years. However, I soon realized that being the first breast feeder (amongst other parenting firsts) would introduce some new qualms within my group of friends.
The biggest challenge for me has been to find a way to explain why I chose to breastfeed, co-sleep with, etc. my daughter without my friends feeling as if I am implying that I’m a better mother or criticizing their parenting choices. Throughout my first year of motherhood, I found myself in this situation quite often.

So how to you defend your parenting choices without offending your friends? I set a few guidelines for myself, which have helped me get through a few sticky situations.
1. Use the word I when explaining your choice. For instance, instead of saying “Breastfeeding is the best food for newborns” I would say, “Based on the research that I did, breastfeeding is the best option for my daughter and I.”
2. Make it a point to never say anything negative about the alternative to your choice (which may very well be her choice). It can be hard to defend your reasoning without occasionally using the negative aspects of the converse choice, but if you value your friendship it is better to say, “My breastmilk is designed to meet the specific needs of my child” rather than “Infant formula is a poor imitation of breastmilk.”
3. Be sure to give your friends the opportunity to explain their parenting choices as well. I’ve always found that when my friends and I discussed a certain parenting situation everyone seemed to be more engaged and interested rather than overly defensive. This was especially true when my friend Anna asked where she could find the best crib and I brought up the idea of co-sleeping.
4. Remember to be supportive. Parenthood comes with several challenges and although you may not agree with all of their choices, giving a little support can make a big difference.
I do believe that breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers can remain friends (and possibly even become friends) as long as everyone can agree to disagree and remain non-judgmental.

This article was contributed by Elizabeth from Breast Pumps Direct. As a nursing mother to her 1 year old daughter and a breastfeeding counselor, she spends a great deal of time everyday thinking, talking and writing about breastfeeding and breastmilk.

12 comments on “Can breastfeeding and formula-feeding moms remain friends?

  1. I find fewer problems relating to “formula feeding by choice” friends (hmmm… I’m not sure I know any) than those who choose only to breast feed for a few weeks or a few months. Since I went three years with my DS, I was the only one in my crowd still “whipping it out” at the playground. Now, that I am past breastfeeding with my DS, I just keep my mouth shut when around anyone who nurses for more or less close to the recommended year.
    The topic of co-sleeping is one that has recently been under fire in part of the world, after a few damaging articles in the past weeks. I did quite a bit of research on the topic and am, as usual not impressed with the mainstream media’s reporting (sigh, what else is new?) The research though, has given me lots of ammunition and information with which to counter arguments against it.

  2. I’ve encountered a similar situation recently. Like my husband and I, good friends of ours underwent fertility treatments to conceive their child. Their baby is due soon, and our daughter is about to turn 1. I am a stay-at-home, breastfeeding mom. I work part time–most from home, some outside of the home when my husband or mom can watch our daughter. Although I don’t affix the label “attachment parenting” to how we raise our child, I would say that’s what we do.
    In our friends’ case, the mom-to-be is planning to return to work after about 10 weeks or so and already has business trips planned for the spring. When they talk about their baby, it seems like that she’s just a project or something that will prevent them from living the kind of life they had before. They talk about putting her in day care at an early age like it’s not a big deal at all.
    I stepped over the line, I think, in a negative comment that I made to my friend about day care. I subsequently apologized for it–it’s not my business how they manage their family; just like it’s not their business how we manage ours.
    In terms of breastfeeding: I was very committed to nursing for at least a year. Now that I am at that point, I am open-ended as to when to wean. My friend cannot imagine nursing after her maternity leave. She wonders how I can nurse throughout the day without feeling like a cow. Guess what? I’ve never, ever resented nursing. I’ve actually had the opposite feeling–total happiness at the ability to provide the best nourishment for my child.
    I am surprised how “militant” I feel abot nursing. I knew that it would be the best choice for my daughter, and even though I was sore for the first two weeks or so, I worked through it with my LC, and have had an extremely positive breastfeeding experience. I am sure that some moms give up too early. I might’ve had I not had excellent advice.
    It is surprising to me how many seemingly well-educated people disregard research about breastfeeding, day care and other issues. I think it makes me even more protective of my own family and confident in the choices that we are making.
    I do not view my job as a parent as being a burden for me. We tried for over five years to have a child, and we are so thankful to have her with us. Now that she is here, we know that we owe it to her to give her the best start in life.
    I was glad to see this article because I am sure that it’s difficult to present your opinion to a friend without coming off as self-important. Doesn’t it make you feel sad, though, to see a newborn getting formula? What about a tiny baby being left in day care all day?
    I want to thank all of the AP folks out there–you’re all doing the best for your children every day!

  3. This is an excellent article for this time of year (December) when we get together with extended family who may be parenting differently than us. I personally may find it rankles to not say “breast milk is best for every baby,” but parenting is so hard on so many fronts we will appreciate not building any walls that we will have to live with in the years to come. When our children are grown and having their own families, we will still have plenty in common with our cousins and sisters-in-law who made a few different choices. I will be featuring a link to this article in my Breastfeeding Daily Tip and News RSS feed.

  4. I strongly disagree with the premise of this article and think that you most definitely can’t ever be friends with anyone with whom you disagree.
    I have been taking lessons from our exceptional President, and like to follow his exemplary lead in all matters of tolerance. I therefore unequivocally brand myself as tolerant, but will not ever change my mind or lower myself to enter dialogue with anyone with whom I disagree. In fact, I would probably go a step further here and brand formula feeders as terrorists.
    About the only disagreement I have with George would be on the bombing of these terrorists. I respect George’s brave showing of equality when he chooses to bomb women and children, however, when it comes to formula feeders, I think it is best to not add fuel to their insane rhetoric.
    -GWB III

  5. This seems like an easy one to me. Yes.
    But then, I’m a long way into the parenting process. Early on, as I struggled mightily to overcome breast feeding problems largely brought on by a hospital system which, typical of the time, was far too quick to bring bottles to newborns who didn’t seem to be getting enough breast milk while nursing, my friends no doubt thought I was nuts to persist to the extremes that were necessary to establish my milk supply in the face of a system which seemed bound to “sabotage”. At the time it appeared to me that their dim view of my efforts was in part due to feelings of guilt over their own quick switches to the bottle. Sensitive to their feelings, unless they specifically asked, I never discussed the difference in our approaches, I just persisted, and did it differently. Who was I to make unwanted intrusions on them with my opinion of what was right for them, in their very different circumstances. I felt that we must all must grow, and learn, in our own way.
    Over the years, I have had the opportunities to watch many of my friends adopt very different parenting approaches and philosophies from myself. I have also had the opportunity to watch them experience the negative fall-out of persuing paths, which, in the case of many of them, amounted to what I think of as “unconscious parenting”. Only rarely did I speak about parenting practices that I did not agree with with friends, and even more rarely did I speak to them about problems I saw in their own practives. I offered unsolicited advice only when I thought that their child might be close to a life-altering crisis, the negative effects of which could be prevented by my contribution but which would undoubtedly occur without it.
    Strangely enough, these same friends now look to me as a model, for my very different path turned out to lead to rather extraordinary parenting success by anyone’s measure, and even in the face of unusual adversity. There is no question, that when it comes to child-rearing practices, “the proof is in the pudding”. And, given the nature of adolescence, one has to have raised children beyond adolescence before one can really know for sure whether one’s parenting philosophy is a good one for the times, or even, perhaps, regardless of the times.
    Now, these same friends approach me from time to time for parenting advice. If they make it clear they want my help, I do my best to assist.
    So, despite a long history of very different views on parenting, and despite the rough spots that developed between us at times along the way simply because we had such different world views, at this stage of life we are still friends, secure in the knowledge that in very different ways, we have learned from each other. And we learn from each other, still.

  6. Yes people with different views and choices can most certainly be friends.
    I think the most important thing to remember is to respect others freedom choose. The second most important thing is to listen with an open heart. When we listen without judgement it helps us understand others and thus forming or confirming a friendship.
    I speak from my own personal expeience. Before having children I decided that breastfeeding was the best way to go and their are very few good excuses to not breastfeed. I found myself cridisizing my sister after giving up breastfeeding after only 6 weeks. I though of her as weak and just going with the flow instead of sticking it out. When she explained the complications she had I thought she just wasn’t trying hard enough.
    I developed a circle of friends who breastfeed openly and had no doubt that this was what I was going to do.
    Then reality hit. When I gave birth to my son I realized I knew very little about how to breastfeed. I tried very hard but couldn’t seem to get him latched on correctly. I talked with the lactation consultant and a member of the La Leche League plus friends who breastfed but I just couldn’t get it right. After a couple months of excruciating pain or sore and cracked nipples it seemed like I was getting the hang of it, then they cracked again. I tried pumping both with an electronic pump and by hand but could never get enough to feed my child. I was determined to work through it until one day I was looking at my son and realized he looked malnourished. I had two choices keep trying to breastfeed even though it hurt and I couldn’t produce enough or switch to formula. I felt like a failure and a bad mom. How could i give my child formula? I did it because I love my son and wanted him to be well nourished and my body just couldn’t do it anymore.
    My friends that breastfeed still love me and accept me for who I am, including the friend who still breastfeeds her 3 year old. They never once told me I was wrong or a bad parent and wouldn’t have if I had made the choice to use formula from the beginning.
    I intend to breastfeed my next child and hopefully it will go better since I know more this time around but I refuse to feel guilty or that I am a bad mother if I have to switch to formula again.
    As a side note to GWB III. Just because people do things different than you does not make them wrong, just different. I think you would be pleasantly surprised if you opened yourself up to learn about others and why they do what they do.

  7. very good article…I taking some peer negotiation classes back in my high school days and you pointed out some very good tips I picked up from there. Great read 🙂

  8. I personally am very weirded out by parents who breast feed past 6 months/a year. You do realize that if you are still breast feeding at 3, you are hindering their freedom, and independance.

  9. I really enjoyed this article. Yes breastfeeding and formula feeding moms can definitely still be friends. All of my kids have breastfed. Some have been supplemented with formula and some exclusively breastfed. My daughter breastfed until she was 2 and a half and I really never had any problems with my formula feeding friends. I think the trick to staying friends is to not be judgmental and not be pushy about things. I have encouraged more than one pregnant friend to give breastfeeding a try by talking about breastfeeding but not being pushy about it.

  10. I am friends with some foster parents and they have an infant they are formula feeding. If they had known earlier I could have gotten them a supplemental nursing system and she would have induced lactation.
    The thing is, a mother that “chooses” to not breastfeed is not thinking of her child. I see so many people that get pregnant, have the baby and can’t wait to get back to work. I ask, why bother having a child if you choose to not be a mother.

  11. I take offense to the last comment. A mother that ‘chooses’ to not breastfeed is not thinking of her child? C’mon…surely you are joking. If one can breastfeed, that is wonderful. Some who choose not to have varied reasons, but it does not mean they do not care about their child.
    Comments like yours sure make you sound “high and mighty”. My mother did not breastfeed me – most moms did not do that back when I was a baby. I turned out fine and we had am amazing relationship. She cared for me more than anything. I tried desperately to breastfeed my son and it did not work. I felt like a failure. But after we made the switch to formula, we were both much happier. So how does that not make sense?

  12. I have been doing alot of research on formula feeding since I ended up having to formula feed my second child. With both children I tried so very very hard to breastfeed. I know it is the best for them, but both children have had there own set of problems. Now with my second child I basically was starving him. I had to start supplementing, and with what little milk I was producing it went down even more despite my efforts to take herbs and pump. I had both children vaginally and without medication. I am a stay at home mom, and plan to home school my kids. My first daughter is two now, and has never had anything more than a cold, praise God. I am so much less stressed and happy, and can see that my son is thriving and also very happy. Almost all my friends breastfeed, and with the exception of a few they have all been very supportive of all my decisions and we are still great friends. Our friendships are based on so much more than how we decided to feed our children in the first years of their lives. Any friends that can’t continue to be my friend now after having to switch to formula feeding can go there seperate way. I would hope our friendship would be deeper than this. As woman we need to draw strength from each other especially in the very hard decisions in life. I refuse to feel guilty anymore for choosing to feed my son and help him grow and thrive. I know both my children will be healthy and very smart becaused it is based on more than just being feed formula or breastmilk. Thank God for 2 to 3 weeks of the breastmilk they did have, and the love and nourishment they will continue to have for as long as I’m given them in my life.

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