Baby Whisperer: Nursing vs. Bottlefeeding

Baby Whisperer: Nursing vs. Bottlefeeding. Thoughts on the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer on the topic of breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding.

Baby wearing a costume

This is a chapter that really irritated me in the book Secrets of a Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg. In this chapter (chapter four), Hogg really down-plays the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. She seems to be advocating bottle feeding over breastfeeding. She lists pros and cons of each, and really seems to favor the bottlefeeding over breastfeeding. I am undecided if this is what she really intended or if she figured people know the benefits of breastfeeding and wanted to point out good things about bottlefeeding for those who want to do it.

I am absolutely a breastfeeding advocate. I think in our modern day, you can’t possibly argue that breastfeeding is not the best thing for your baby. I do know there are moms out there who physically cannot breastfeed, or can only breastfeed for so long. I know there are moms who feed formula for whatever reason. That is fine; that is each mom’s decision. The problem I have with this chapter is that it is offered as a resource to women to decide how to feed their babies, and it really downplays the benefits of breastfeeding. Here are some of her points and my thoughts.

  • Bonding. She says that there is a special bonding with breastfeeding, but there can also be bonding with bottlefeeding. I agree with this. While I have breastfed both of my children, I don’t think I have any bonding advantage over those who bottlefed.
  • Health. I realize this book was written in 2001. Perhaps the health benefits of breastfeeding over bottlefeeding were not as well known then as they are now, or as well supported through studies. I know formula is better than it has ever been, but it absolutely does not compare to breastmilk. An RN I worked with at the hospital told me she had a representative from Enfamil come talk to her about their formula. He conceded to her that it cannot compare to breastmilk. Formula manufactures know that. Will you baby be fine on formula? Yes. But milk made especially for your baby is of course the better option. This is just something you can’t debate. I am sure there are few circumstances where mom has some medical thing that makes her milk not as good, or baby for some reason cannot drink breastmilk, but the vast majority will have better milk than formula.
  • Mother’s post-partum recovery. Here Hogg talks about weight loss and what you lose/don’t lose/keep on if you are breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. In my observations, this is hard to judge from person to person. After I have a baby, I lose all of the baby weight I put on plus an additional 20 pounds in the first couple of weeks. It isn’t for a lack of eating or any effort on my part, it is just what happens (and I do gain that weight back over time–unfortunately 😉 ). I have good friend who doesn’t lose her extra weight until after she stops breastfeeding. I have a cousin who has tried both ways and just plain has a hard time getting the weight off.
  • Mother’s cancer fighting. Here she says studies suggest but don’t prove that breastfeeding prevents cancer. Since then, studies have proven it, though they are still figuring out how long breastfeeding needs to happen and how long the benefits are. It seems it fights against breast cancer for sure at least the length of time breastfeeding is going on.
  • Body image. Here she talks about the irreversible changes that will happen to your breasts if you breastfeed. I have actually read that this is not due to breastfeeding, but just what happens to women in general as they age. I will say I am thrilled to have my breasts return to normal (which takes a few months after I finish breastfeeding), but that doesn’t prevent me from breastfeeding. It is just like I am thrilled to no longer be pregnant, but that doesn’t prevent me from having more children.
  • Difficulty. It is harder to breastfeed than bottlefeed. True. It takes time and patience–that is likely why some give it up. I remember when Brayden was a few weeks old I secretly hoped he would decide to refuse to breastfeed because it was so much work. But I am stubborn and refused to give up because I knew it was better for him; he stuck with it and so did I.
  • Convenience. She refutes the convenience of breastfeeding by saying most women also pump which just takes time and effort. It can also be hard to do at work. She also says that while breastmilk is always the right temperature it doesn’t mean you have to warm formula. It can be served cold. That isn’t going to be true for all babies. Brayden would have his any temperature after 3 months of age, but Kaitlyn is 15 months old and still doesn’t like her milk cold. I feel like she is grasping at straws here. I did pump sometimes, but not often–it was a rare occasion. I think any woman who is pumping regularly is doing so because she believes breastmilk is what is best for her baby, is working or away from her baby, and finds the extra effort is worth it. Also, when I weaned Kaitlyn and fed her formula, it took me some time to prepare and warm the formula to her liking, whereas with breastfeeding it was ready when she was.
  • Cost: She does agree breastfeeding is cheaper.

I find breastfeeding to be well worth the effort. I nursed Brayden through much pain as my nipples toughened up. He also had a poor latch at first and caused me to bleed and scab over. Painful. I also nursed Kaitlyn through a yeast infection in by breasts. It took me a while to figure out this was the problem since I had bled with Brayden. I thought it was odd because I was fine for 6 weeks and she had been such a perfect nurser to that point. I had gaping wounds. She had reflux and would spit up my blood (gross, I know). I finally figured it out and was able to quickly heal with tips from my lactation consultant friend. But this went on for a couple of weeks before things started to improve. It was very painful. I stuck it out and don’t regret it. I would do it again.

Again, I know not all women can nurse for whatever reasons. I am not going to judge a woman who doesn’t. I am not going to decide she didn’t try hard enough or doesn’t care enough. It is her decision and really none of my business. I think the vast majority of parents do what they feel is best for their children. My problem with this chapter in the Baby Whisperer is I don’t think Hogg accurately portrayed breastfeeding benefits for what they are. This is a chapter aimed at helping women decide which method of feeding to use. I don’t agree with many of her points on this and wanted to refute some of her reasons for not breastfeeding.

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Reader Comments/Thank Yous:

Baby Whisperer: Nursing vs. Bottlefeeding. Thoughts on the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer on the topic of breastfeeding versus bottlefeeding.
  • Micah, Amy & Nicolae said…
    adding to your difficulty section to defend the breastfeeding women- washing bottles and of course, storing them, always carrying them with you and filled with water for mixing…a huge pain, not to mention inconvenient. Thanks for this post :)-Amy
    August 16, 2008 9:23 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Amy, That is true. Hogg discounts that argument, stating that moms who BF also pump and store and own bottles. I myself feed one bottle a week. BUT that is one bottle a week, not several each day.
    August 17, 2008 11:00 PM
  • Rachel Stella said…
    I remember wishing that my baby would, for some reason or another, no longer be able to breastfeed because it was so difficult. Not just difficult for 1-2 weeks, but for 3.5 months! I would often tell myself that today was the last day I was breastfeeding. A bottle sure did seem so much easier and convenient at that time. Well, he is now almost 8 months and I am still breastfeeding him and SO glad that I kept it up. Not only do I feel better because it is healthier for him, but I feel a great accomplishment for my perseverance. Also, since my mom died of breast cancer at a young age, I now have less likely hood of breast cancer from breastfeeding. For those of you out there who feel like giving up, take it a day at a time. Obviously, this is not always possible and it may not work out, but if you keep it up, I promise it will be worth it for you, and for your baby! When I read this chapter by Hogg I also noted that she didn’t emphasize the importance of breast feeding. Maybe this is because she was a nanny for so many years and ended up bottle feeding so many of her babies?
    August 16, 2008 9:52 PM
    Micah, Amy & Nicolae said…
    RACHEL STELLA-I’m so proud of you for continuing to nurse even it being so difficult for so long. I know many women (and men) who tried to get me to quit also. I had problems for 3.5 months as well!! It was my first time and I had no idea what it was supposed to feel like so I ignored the pain that turned out to be a yeast infection which turned into mastitis because I ignored it! 🙂 I hope other women will read these and be encouraged that they can get through difficult times also 🙂 Good for you!-Amy
    August 17, 2008 12:13 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Amy, Ugh! The yeast infection. That is the worst.
    August 17, 2008 11:10 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Rachel, I have wondered about her reasons. I wondered if she just didn’t want to make people feel bad who bottle feed, or if the information was not what it is today as to the benefits of BF…I am not sure. Maybe she just isn’t that impressed with BF. I wish she would make her points without downplaying the benefits of BFing.Good points about cancer. I am sorry about your mom!
    August 17, 2008 11:07 PM
  • Abby’s Mom said…
    I wanted to quit breastfeeding so many times during the first 6 weeks. The only reason I didn’t stop within the first month was because I was so worried about how formula would affect her stomach (She had terrible gas and reflux) Then at 5 weeks she started refusing bottles. Up until that point I had been pumping for my husband to give her one bottle every day. When she stopped taking bottles I didn’t have any choice but to keep breastfeeding. I can remember curling my toes, clenching my jaw and just crying during some of her feedings because it hurt so bad. I think it finally got a easier around 3 months. She is now 8 months and still breastfeeding (still won’t take a bottle :)) I like to think that it was God’s plan for me to breastfeed her and that he was going to make it impossible for me to quit! She has been a very healthy baby. Who knows how many times she would have been sick by know if I hadn’t continued breastfeeding.However, for some people breastfeeding isn’t an option or just doesn’t work out. They should not feel guilty. We all do what is best for our babies whether that is breastfeeding or fomula feeding.
    August 18, 2008 12:33 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    thanks Abby’s Mom. good thoughts.
    August 19, 2008 8:57 PM
  • Rachel Stella said…
    I just wanted to add that you need to do what is best for your baby AND for yourself. I had a friend that tried to breastfeed but had a really hard time with it (emotionally and physically) and went to bottle feeding. She said that she finally felt like she was able to have positive feelings toward her child when she started bottle feeding. Obviously, she was able to be a better mom for her baby when she was breastfeeding compared to bottle feeding. I think that as long as the decision to bottle feed instead of breastfeed is not simply a selfish decision then it’s fine.
    August 18, 2008 7:52 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    I agree Rachel–you have to do what is best for everyone.
    August 19, 2008 8:57 PM

Reader Questions:

  • Emily said…
    I was wondering if you know the benefits of BR past 9 months onto 1year. I know they recommend goint onto 1 year but I may need to wean her from nursing around 9 months. Of course I want to do what’s best and the dr. also says “whatever works for you” but if there is a major benefit of going those extra 3 months I’ll find a way to do it.Thanks
    August 16, 2008 3:58 PM
    Mockabee News said…
    The extra benefit I think is just the health factor! I breastfed my first until 1 yr old. He got sick for the first time at 13 months. Coincidence? I thought so. 🙂 But if you have to wean, you have to wean… I know he didn’t take much milk between 9 mos and a year anyway, his solids were so established.I am a huge Baby Whisperer/ Baby Wise fan. Read both books time and time again. I agree with a lot of Hogg’s stuff, but I also have to agree with her downplaying breastfeeding. Doctor’s too. It’s so crucial for our little one’s–it’s the only time in their life that they can get “perfect” nutrition–not fortified! Just my humble opinion. 🙂
    August 16, 2008 9:49 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Thanks Mockabee! Great points.
    August 17, 2008 11:04 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Emily, your milk provides antibodies. It is also perfectly made for your baby, giving the right balance. But if you need to wean, I would just be happy with doing it as long as you did. A growing trend is to BF past one year. Do what you can, it is all you can do 🙂 If you do need to wean, don’t feel guilty about it.
    August 17, 2008 11:04 PM
  • meano23 said…
    I have a 3 month old little boy who has up until a couple weeks ago, had no problems breast feeding. He was quick too, 5-8 minutes per side. However, these days, I’m lucky if I get him to take 1 side for even 5 minutes. We also have been bottle feeding him more (with pumped breastmilk) to get him used to the bottle for when I go back to work next month. He’s not so crazy about the bottle either so now, he’s just not eating as much. Any thoughts? Advice?
    August 17, 2008 8:45 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    meano23, could be teething pains. I would also make sure milk supply is okay. I would also consider that he might just be eating faster now. My DD got down to a few minutes per side. They get really efficient.
    August 17, 2008 11:09 PM
  • Laura said…
    I have breastfed my now 7 month old very successfully until now. It has always (except the first two weeks) been very easy for both of us. However, the last week he has refused the breast a few times. I didn’t change my diet, so I don’t think it’s anything I ate. I offered formula and he did take that. Is it typical for babies to be less interested in the breast around this time? Any suggestions on what to do to be able to continue breastfeeding him? I would like to at least go another two to three months… thanks!
    August 19, 2008 1:31 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    Laura, I am glad you are paying attention to your diet. I would consider teething. Teething pain can prevent them from nursing. Also, be sure of your supply. If he refuses certain times of day, you might have a low supply or a slow letdown (though he can also have painful teething pains at certain times of day). Also, be sure you aren’t excercising close to feeding time. Lactic acid builds up.
    August 19, 2008 9:00 PM
    Laura said…
    Thanks much! He actually got his two bottom teeth a few days ago, so it could likely be related to that. I didn’t even think of that possibility since he only refuses it on occasion. The low supply may also be the case. The times that he did refuse it was in the evening, when my supply is lowest. Great points. Is there anything that will help my milk supply in the evening? I have more than enough in the morning, but it seems to be less in the evening. Or should I offer a bottle of formula after nursing if he still seems hungry? Or maybe see if he will eat more solids for dinner before nursing? He is only slowly increasing his solids and still isn’t taking much…
    August 20, 2008 5:18 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    I hear fungreek works really well. Another thing you can do if you have time is pump in the morning when you have extra and feed that to him in a bottle in the evening after you have nursed him.I would hold off on formula. It can cause supply problems. I would pump and continue to try to get him to take more solids. He will get it with time 🙂
    August 20, 2008 10:48 AM
  • The Himmer Family said…
    I have a one month old baby girl that I have been struggling with breast feeding. She had a growth spurt at about 10 days at the same time the my milk supply dropped off significantly and I had to supplement with a little bit of formula and had to pump to get my milk supply where it needed to be. After a few days of the bottle, she wouldn’t go back to the breast so I continued pumping for about 2 weeks. I realized I really didn’t want to have to pump for the next year and took another attempt at the breast, and she did GREAT. Now, five days later, my milk supply is dropping again. I started pumping again and have had to give her a bottle again. I can’t figure out why my milk supply drops when she seems to be feeding well and getting plenty to eat. Any suggestions? I want her to have breast milk, but I’d really rather not have to pump for the next year 🙂
    August 22, 2008 4:09 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Oh yes, pumping for a year would not be fun. I know a mom who did it for 10 months for her twins, and had enough milk to make it to 12 when she stopped. Amazing. There are herbs you can take (fungreek?) to increase supply and I hear that really helps. I would also contact a lactation consultant about other ideas. Make sure you have a diet of good calories and lots of water and you are getting plenty of rest.
    August 28, 2008 10:11 AM
  • Doodiebug said…
    I need your help. I have looked and looked for answers elsewhere and am not finding them.I started weaning my 3 month old daughter to a bottle this week. I have offered her 2 oz of formula at each feeding, followed by breastfeeding. This has gone well for both if us. I have also eliminated the early afternoon feeding. As of tonight, we are also eliminating the middle of the night one, as we will be attempting STTN!! I have health issues that are pushing me to wean earlier than I had intended. My real questions are concerning the new schedule. Since formula lasts longer, she doesn’t want to eat at her usual 3-3.5 hour schedule, but now is on mostly a 4 hr. one. But, she often wakes up before it is “time” to eat. Do I consider that time as part of the ending cycle? Or the beginning of the next one? She won’t eat then, but waits till right around 4 hours to be hungry. With the new 4 hour cycle, I have tried extending her awake time by a few minutes each day to see if that helps, but so far it hasn’t. She has done well with accepting the bottle, as she has had supplements of formula for awhile now. I don’t find much help in the BW books for formula fed babies and their schedule.
    August 29, 2008 11:07 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    See these posts:Eat/Wake/Sleep Cycle, Waketime When Baby Wakes Early, Waketime When They Wake Early
    September 4, 2008 11:12 AM
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6 thoughts on “Baby Whisperer: Nursing vs. Bottlefeeding”

  1. I totally agree that breastfeeding is the way to go. However, I will have to return to work, which means pumping is a must. Do you have any recommendations for pumping? When should I start? Will it mess up at all with the feeds? I know it will increase the supply, which could be a bonus, but I heard it wasn’t completely good to start too early. Any recommendations? Thanks.

  2. Hmmm…I am unsure what you mean by “start too early.” I need more info, like how old your baby is, how many feeds he/she has a day, how many feeds you will be gone for, how many days a week, etc. Thanks 🙂

  3. I’m due within the next few weeks. Some people have told me that pumping too early (meaning within the first month) can affect your milk supply in a bad way. I guess I’m confused on when I should start pumping and how that will affect breastfeeding and scheduling for my baby.Most likely it won’t be until weeks 8-10 when I may have to utilize pumped milk. Eventually, with going back to work, I will be gone for up to 4 feeds (depending on the schedule) for about 3 days a week.

  4. I haven’t ever heard that starting early can be bad, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.I pumped in the hospital with both of my children. After they fed, I pumped for about 15-20 minutes using an electric pump. My milk supply was great. I could see pumping hurting supply if you did that instead of having baby nurse. Baby is much more efficient, so more milk will be produced if baby does the stimulating. If you are going to be pumping a lot, I definitely recommend a really good electric pump. One thing to keep in mind is that your milk changes as baby gest older, so if you won’t be using pumped milk until 8-10 weeks, you might not want to pump at first with the idea of storing it for 8-10 weeks later. Baby’s needs will be a lot different then. I haven’t ever pumped long term, so I don’t have excellent advice for you there. You might want to check out and try the Babywise group for ideas. The breastfeeding support group might be good. They might even have a pumping group. In the Babywise group, there is a mom of twins who pumped for almost the first year. She would be a great resource.

  5. HELP! I am a first time mom, 22 y.o. I am trying to get the hang BW, My problem is that I want to breastfeed but she just has not got the hang of latching on. She gets SO frustrated and then is overly tired and hungry. If she does latch on, she still does not eat for a consistant amount of time, therefor she doesnt get a full feeding. Everyone says it gets easier, but she is not getting the hang of the breast. I'm afraid if i go to a bottle, shell never go back to my breast.Now she is in a vicious cycle of not eating well, then awake to long and then not sleeping long. So shes over tired and hungry.

  6. Hi there,I am wondering if you have any advice to offer me on formula feeding and still doing the BW method. I nursed my first child and babywise worked wonderfully for us but now with our second child I am unable to breastfeed. He is 4 weeks old and we have been trying to stick to the 3 hour schedule during the day, but now I have noticed for some feedings he just doesn't seem hungry or he will take the bottle but ends up with signs that he has had too much to eat like spitting up most of what he ate. I am wondering if letting him go 4 hours between feedings will mess up the EWS/BW schedule? I can't seem to find an answer in the book since its mainly focused on breast feeding. I'm wondering if you have any advice for what I should do?? He also does still have day/night confusion so we are trying to work through that as well and I just really would like to follow the BW method as we really love what a great sleeper and happy toddler our first child is!


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