This is misogyny wherever it comes from. No one demands that fathers damage their bodies to show decent parenting.
If we could imagine a world where men had to breastfeed their babies – learning how to do it, enduring the frustration of the baby not attaching and the pain of chapped and inflamed breasts and figuring out how to keep doing it despite long Hours at work, little support, nowhere to pump, and not enough sleep — the formula shortage wouldn’t be so dire there. In that alternate reality, it’s hard to imagine the industry in the United States being dominated by just a few companies. Instead, I expect to see a lot of formula start-ups thrive in Silicon Valley. Formula would not be stigmatized because it is a choice that men would like to have at their disposal.
This is not to say that bottle feeding is better than breastfeeding or that breastfeeding is not the best option for some people. Of course it is. Many mothers have no problem latching on to babies, and depending on how the rest of their lives are structured, breastfeeding may also be the most convenient option. In countries where clean water is difficult to find, breastfeeding may be the safest option.
Many people also find breastfeeding a beautiful experience, and it can have health benefits after delivery for both mothers and babies. Even then, as breastfeeding proponents like to suggest, it’s not free or cheaper than bottle feeding – unless you believe a woman’s time and autonomy are worth nothing.
The advent of modern formulas is truly as revolutionary as the advent of birth control, as it allowed many women to maintain a degree of autonomy over their time and health while feeding their babies. For women dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety, in addition to sleep deprivation, formula can be a godsend, something that allows them to restore some aspects of a normal life. This should be considered important in its own right – and not just when it comes with a qualification that a healthy mother is good for the baby too. Women should be happy and healthy, period.
That awful day in the ER, when I panicked at the thought that my son wouldn’t eat, even though I knew we bottle-fed at home, I tearfully asked if anyone could find me a breast pump, but no one seemed to know where you can get one – in the same hospital where, on a different floor, new mothers were taught the importance of breastfeeding.
In hindsight, this was sheer madness. I was sleep deprived and anxious, and my desire to be a good mother led me—a bottle-fed adoptee—to view feeding my son as a serious personal failure.