The Bottle Versus the Breast -Fear Mongering for New Moms

In all of our readings, the idea I found myself most caught up in was that of symbolic interactionism. Perhaps because I have experienced this so much, I finally had a name to put to it. At its basic level, it says, “this is how I’ve experienced something in the world, therefore this is how I relate to it.”

Being a new mom, I find myself bombarded by other people’s experiences with babies constantly, and overwhelmed by it all. From “when your baby cries like this, it must be hungry”, to “they sleep best if you do X, whatever X happens to be.” However, all these comments are informed by individual experience that those often giving it consider universally applicable. Much like Mead discusses how an audience will adopt an overall attitude that informs individual response. While many are well meaning, there seems to be a fear mongering culture for new moms, particularly on the use of breast milk versus formula feeding.

To be transparent in expressing my comments, I will state that I have used both. I fed my baby just breast milk for the first five months of her life, and they she started getting teeth, so we introduced some formula. I have had to deal with a personal struggle of determining what is best for me and my baby, and reconciling that with what society tells me is appropriate. Again, looking to Mead we see, “and thus it is that social control, as operating in terms of self-criticism, exerts itself so intimately and extensively over individual behavior or conduct, serving to integrate the individual and his actions with reference to the organized social process of experience and behavior in which he is implicated.” (Mead, 1934)

Now my personal experience and that of my daughter have been very positive. She has taken to formula with no problems. Having been a completely formula fed baby myself, as per my mother’s choice, I do not feel I am doing harm by my baby. However, my own opinion and experience is only part of this equation, as we know that communication is participation, but from this course, no doubt from own our lives, and from how we have come to understand symbolic interactionism. Certainly others have had a negative experience with formula, which contributes to the fear mongering sometimes associated with its use.

One of the key challenges or pitfalls I learned, not just from my choice of formula, but from the symbolic interaction theory was the difficult balance between personal response informing, and harming. If balance is possible, then it is to derive your own meaning, while learning from others.

Mead,G.H. (1934). The social foundations and functions of thought and communication. In C.W. Morris (Ed.), Mind, self, and society from the standpoint of a social behaviorist (pp . 253-260; 325-328) . Chicago: University of Chicago Press.