Are you ride or die when it comes to the advantages of breast-feeding? Or are you “lactate” intolerant?

Nikki Woods and Mary Boyce – proud members of Mamas Gone Wild – have two differing points of view, and yet, almost perfect children.

I – Nikki Woods – don’t care how many degrees I don’t have, how many studies I haven’t conducted or how many women I haven’t examined – I AM an expert on breast feeding. If you’re a mom, whether you chose to breast feed your child(ren) or not, you’re an expert too. I deem it right here on this blog page. No doctor, scientist, nutritionist – male or female – knows more about this topic than I do. Because no one knows me like I do.

Breast-feeding is a personal choice, and I’ve never regretted my decision not to do it. I love my boys and always have been committed to them and their well-being. They are six and eight, perfectly healthy, smart, happy and well-adjusted. There’s no way you could tell me they’d be better than they already are if they had been breast-fed.

When my first son was born, I was the co-host of a morning radio show in Chicago. I loved and needed my job and knew enough about what was expected of me by my employers and myself that breast-feeding would not be a workable plan. But more importantly, because of injuries from a previous domestic violence incident that occurred years before I met and married my babies’ daddy – my doctor advised me that attempting to breast-feed could cause a serious infection in my milk ducts and may do harm not only to me, but to the baby.

I share this mainly to let those inclined to judge know that every situation is different. There are all kinds of perfectly good reasons that women like me chose – and will continue to choose – not to breast feed.

Too often, women are made to feel that their personal preferences should be put aside or even ignored and find themselves caving under pressure from people who won’t be effected by the decision one way or the other. For me, breast-feeding would have added a layer to my life that I wasn’t willing to take on. My option was to do what millions of women do, which is to feed my babies formula.

I think that bullying women into breast-feeding and vilifying those who don’t places undue pressure on a new mother who already feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. It is wrong to make mothers feel that because they bottle-feed or bottle-fed their babies – from birth, as a supplement or after a return to work — they are unnatural, negligent, selfish idiots.

I don’t think women who can’t or don’t want to comply with the recommendations should feel guilty.

Maybe they’re doing other things that are good for their children, like reading to them, making sure they eat good food and get exercise — things that are as important or maybe more important in the long term. Lifestyle, health and diet are as important as or more important than breast-feeding.

But in recent days, I have found that it is hard to bring this point of view forward without being accused of being anti-breast, anti-child, anti-motherhood, anti-all-that-is-decent-and-good-in-the-world. Pardon the pun, but that sucks.

In a perfect world, maybe I would have breast-fed too, but I also would only feed my children organic food, would never have exposed them to “Spongebob Squarepants,” and the Nintendo DS would have been akin to the devil.

But it’s not a perfect world.

Now, my friend and co-worker, Mary Flowers Boyce, has a different spin on the same situation, but I’ll let her tell you about it.

Thanks, Nikki! LOL.

My parents were part of a “progressive” generation, where most things connected with the “old” ways of doing things were shunned. Forget about what their grandparents did or how well they did it; they were intent on being part of middle-class suburbia and took most of their cues from television ads. My mom didn’t breast-feed any of her children and neither did any of her friends. It was too yesterday. And yes, we formula-fed babies turned out fine – no ear infections, no weight issues, all college-educated.

But, by the time I became pregnant in the ’90s, there was a total shift toward breast-feeding, and if you didn’t do it, you better have a damn good reason. There was no doubt in my mind that I would breast-feed my children, and my husband was on board too. We bought into all of the hype. And I’m not sorry that we did.

Not that it was easy. OMG. The first few days were brutal. I don’t know who was more frustrated – me, my daughter, my husband or my mom. It seems to be one of the most natural things in the world, but for Erin and me, it was a learning process. “Latching on” was something neither of us got the hang of until she was a few days old. It really took lots of patience, determination and coordination … like learning to drive a stick-shift.

Even when we did get on point, I was never sure whether she was getting enough milk. We were both cranky, and neither of us was sleeping very well. My husband, my mom – and later, my mother-in-law – felt helpless. When I needed them most, there was nothing they could do but watch us struggle. Finally, everything came together, but when it came time for me to return to work, I had to use a breast pump – and that was no fun at all.

So, would I do it again? I guess I would because I did. When my son was born 16 months later – there goes the myth that breast-feeding is a birth control method! – I got back on the horse, and I have to admit it was much easier. I was more comfortable and in control, and he (maybe because was a dude! LOL) needed very little direction. Did I mention he was nine pounds, nine ounces at birth?

I salute those soldiers who breast-feed children until their babies are two years old, but my boy needed more than I had to give by the time he was three months old. And, by the way – I don’t care what anyone says – my breasts have never been the same. Instead of all my breast feeding buddies telling me all the good stuff, at least one could have told me that a push-up bra would become my new best friend.

Over the years, I’ve read plenty about breast feeding and have heard enough to last a lifetime. But what has stood out the most – and what I think is often missed – is that the first liquid that’s released from a lactating mother’s breast, colostrum, contains important antibodies and nutrients that are extremely beneficial to babies. It’s even said to aid in healthy brain, heart and central nervous system development. So, essentially, after a few days of breast-feeding, you’ve given your child a great start. For me, that’s the happy medium that is a win-win situation for moms who have other things to do besides feed our children.

I’m not certain that breast-feeding for six months with my first and three months with my second made my kids any better than they would have been or whether it makes me a better mom. I am sure that I exercised my personal right to make the choice that was best for me. And if you’re pregnant, you should too.

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