To breastfeed or not to breastfeed?

The sometimes contentious debate usually favours those on the pro-breastfeeding side, but some health providers now say people should be more understanding of all mothers.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists released new guidelines Monday encouraging its members to support mothers whether or not they decide to breastfeed.

One women's health specialist agrees, saying there are many reasons why some mothers give their babies formula instead.

"In the end, yes of course we want people to breastfeed, but the stars have to align for it to be the right decision for the woman," said Dr. Unjali Malhotra, program director of a women's health residency training program at UBC.

Women may be unable to breastfeed due to milk not coming in, baby not latching, medication or other reasons, according to Malhotra.

Health Canada states on its website that breastfeeding is the "normal and unequalled method of feeding infants" and recommends breastfeeding for two years or more. 

Health authorities have emphasized the benefits of breastfeeding for years, but Malhotra points out that as recently as 10 years ago, they were encouraging mothers to give their infants formula.

'It's her body, her baby, her pregnancy'

Public shaming, no matter for which side, is not helpful for a new mother, said Malhotra.

"This time in a woman's life, pregnancy, postpartum, one of the times when I do feel a women is judged more than any other time in her life."

It appears the ACOB agrees, stating in its guidelines:

"She [the mother] is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant."

No matter what the guidelines say in the coming decades, people should keep one thing in mind says Malhotra.

"It's her body, her baby, her pregnancy, and it's none of our business to be honest, as long as everyone's happy and health and there's no real medical indications or issues."

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Breastfeeding versus formula is a personal choice says doctor.