When Your Formula Kid Is The Healthier One It’s Hard To Believe In Breastfeeding
There have been a number of studies done on the benefits of breastfeeding and Lord knows there are many people in a new mother’s life that will extol said benefits ad nauseum in an effort to promote the “breast is best” bandwagon that all the hip kids are jumping on these days. As a new mom, I mostly believed it because this notion is so wide-spread. OF COURSE I would breastfeed because it would make my baby a magical, healthy unicorn that never got sick. It practically sounded like a guarantee according to all the breastfeeding propaganda I eagerly absorbed in my excited, expectant mother haze. I totally bought it and figured my babies would be the healthiest babies to ever baby. Imagine my surprise when taking stock a few years later and realizing that my formula kid has always been the healthier one.
I got to work on nursing immediately with my first child but she was born a few weeks early and just never got the hang of it- she was very sleepy and the boob seemed to make her nod off instantly. And of course, she was tiny from being early so we wanted her to gain weight. I wasn’t willing to keep it up without knowing actual ounces were getting into her so I started pumping. I lasted almost four months before giving up (because anyone who’s done it knows exclusive pumping is the absolute worst) and began feeding her formula. So for those of you doing the math, that means she was primarily formula-fed for her first year.
My first child got sick just once by her third birthday. I would attribute this to the fact that she started pre-school around that time if it were not for her baby brother. I was able to breastfeed him from the start and he was almost too good at it- we went for 17 months and he never had any formula, as he refused any and all bottles. However, he was sick for the first time at only six months old. Like, very sick- a terrible cold and a case of croup that convinced me he was dying at 1 am on a terrifying December night. This illness was the first of many in his first three years, mostly having to do with his sensitive airways, but he also seemed to catch every available virus well before starting daycare at 18 months old.
This drove me absolutely nuts. I kept telling myself during all those miserable, sleepless nights of him constantly nursing that it would be worth it in the end. He would have an immune system of steel and I could pat myself on the back knowing it was all from the miracle of breastfeeding. To see all that work and sacrifice (because sorry, not being able to pass off a single night feeding for an entire year IS a sacrifice of epic proportion) not mean anything in regard to his ability to ward off childhood illness was an incredible punch to my inner tube of a gut.
Meanwhile, my daughter hardly ever got sick, even after entering daycare. Or if she did, she would fight it off in a flash. To this day, we jokingly call her Wolverine for her ability to regenerate and recoup so quickly no matter the illness or injury. I am thrilled she’s healthy but it is funny to me that hers is the Body Built By Target-Brand Formula and my son was the one exclusively breastfed his first year. Yet, he gets viruses that cling for 10 days when she’s back to normal after two or three and that’s if she even gets sick at all.
Of course, I realize my sample size in this little experiment is small and that every child is different and so is every immune system. One could argue that had I not nursed my son, he may have been sick even more often (although I can’t imagine him being sick any more than he was- when he was two, he only made it to daycare three days in the month of December). However, I saw for myself that a formula-fed child is still every bit as likely to never get sick and that perhaps, the benefits of breastfeeding are a tad over-stated by it’s proponents. That said, on the -2% chance that I have another baby, I would plan to nurse them but I would not worry too hard if it didn’t work out. I’ve seen for myself that it obviously has more to do with genetics, your child’s environment and sheer luck.