My latest podcast on breastfeeding is up at http://housecalldoctor.quickanddirtytips.com and in iTunes. My bottom line is that breastfeeding is the best way for babies to be fed. When I was discussing this with Dr. Gwen, we got into an interesting discussion. The dilemma pediatricians face is that if we strongly push nursing, we are criticizing anyone who chooses otherwise. How strongly do we push breastfeeding when a large number of parents in our practice choose to nurse. Beyond that, the advances in the quality of the formulas available have been great. We have lots of bottle-fed babies in our practices and very few of them seem to suffer from it.
Doing the research for this podcast has swayed me back toward pushing breast milk more. The studies I cite are fairly convincing to me that babies who are breastfed are at an advantage over those who are not. At the very least, breastfeeding early in the baby's life is a very good idea.
This underlines one of the basic things I have learned about being a parent: you can't always do what is best. There are lots of choices we make when raising kids: whether they should participate in sports or take music lessons, public or private schools, spending more time working to support them or spending more time at home. It is rarely black and white. Parenthood is full of second-guessing and can be burdened with lots of "if I had only done x" in retrospect. Adding more guilt trips to an already self-conscious group may not be constructive.
I just think that telling parents the facts - in this case that breastfeeding is more advantageous than bottle-feeding - is the best I can do. The choice is not always straightforward, so I won't criticize parents who do otherwise. I do think, however, that some parents don't really know the facts. I didn't even know all of the facts before researching this podcast. As long as we give good information and communicate it clearly, the parents are the one who need to make the decision in the end. I need to state the case for breastfeeding and then back off.