Breast milk v. formula

Nearly 17 years ago, I endured the disapproval of doctors and lactation consultants when my first child was born [“Why I don’t breast-feed, if you must know,” Oct. 14]. Prior to getting pregnant, I had been taking medication that suppressed prolactin, a hormone necessary to make breast milk. I had an easy pregnancy and delivery, but I didn’t produce any milk. Those lactation torturers made me feel like a failure despite my giving birth to a gorgeous, healthy 81 / 2-pound baby. They told me to try harder. I will forever be grateful to my mother and sister, who finally said, “What the hell is the matter with you? Just feed the baby formula when she’s hungry.’ ”

I fed her formula and she gulped it down. She didn’t care whether it was warm or fresh from the fridge. She just wanted to eat. My daughter is a thriving, super-smart, strong and happy high school junior.

Keep shrugging off the insanity and don’t let anyone make you feel less than amazing about your baby. Moms and dads, especially first-timers, need to know that the “preferred” method is whatever nutrition source works.

Tara Blanchard, Bethesda

Our son turned 1 month old yesterday. My wife initially struggled with breast-feeding: She wasn’t producing a high volume of milk and the need to supplement with formula was initially very emotional. Everyone we talked to had challenges with breast-feeding, but I was surprised that very strong, confident women seemed either reluctant or relieved to admit to their struggles.

During a visit with a lactation consultant — who didn’t look at me but instead looked directly at my wife even when answering questions I had asked — I started thinking that there should be an online community dedicated specifically to women sharing the trials, tribulations and joys of breast-feeding.

Dan Cohen, Washington

You are an educated, older (by baby standards) white woman who had the background and knowledge to stand up to incorrect information. I am proud that you did. But there is another group of suffering mothers out there.

As a physician assistant, I take care of chronic kidney disease patients. These women are typically poor, minorities who receive Medicaid or Medicare — a forgotten and marginalized population — and who may have had to move heaven and earth to have a child. These babies are almost always premature, and the moms are often left alone to raise the infants.

Patients may be transplant recipients taking medications that help the mom’s kidneys and heart but are toxic to infants and unsafe for breast-feeding. My patients have come to me sobbing after nurses in the hospital lectured them about breast-feeding. Barely functional dialysis patients are badgered to breast-feed.

Thank you for speaking up for them, too.

Kim Zuber, Alexandria

Your article was personal, revealing, insightful, sensitive, helpful in the ongoing discussion about breast-feeding and supportive of other mothers’ needs, choices and decisions.

As the father of a couple of young adults, including a daughter in her late 20s, I am always looking for information that may make me a better parent. Your words may help me provide the right kind of support to my kids.

Steven H. Ratti,Southport, N.C.

I want to apologize for all the rude, insensitive people you have encountered in the past few months. Your article made me realize that people shouldn’t have to defend their parenting decisions to anyone, especially strangers.

It’s like the people who feel they have the right to touch your stomach when you’re pregnant. I was a receptionist for a dentist and had to hide behind the door as patients passed to keep them from rubbing or patting my stomach. I was shocked by the intrusion.

I gave birth to my son in 1978, and I remember those who thought I was nuts for wanting to breast-feed. After three months, I folded under pressure and I have regretted it every day. When my daughter was born three years later, I was determined. I enjoyed breast-feeding her.

I applaud your courage and the skillful way you wrote about the subject. I will never ask the mother or father of a newborn if the little one is breast-fed. It’s not my business. I will instead wish them great memory-making moments with their new family.

Cindy Purvis Boccucci, Silver Spring

I, too, have been subjected to the well-meaning lactation activists. I couldn’t breast-feed because when I was in the Army, I had elective breast reduction surgery because of back pain. When I asked my Army surgeon if I would be able to breast-feed, he told me yes, but I found out years later that wasn’t true.

My milk never came in, and the nurses at the Army hospital threatened to give my son an IV if I didn’t agree to give him formula. After the ease of the bottle, my son had no interest in breast-feeding, though I continued to try. It was too painful for a milliliter or two of milk. So, I soon gave up. My children are 14 and 11 now, but every time I saw someone else breast-feeding their baby, I felt guilty. Thank you — from those of us who weren’t able to breast-feed.

Rebecah Degnan, Sierra Vista, Ariz.