By Denise Punger MD IBCLC
This is about my trip to a department store to find the perfect baby shower gift. The mom has one each, a
boy and girl, and a nursery set up. She has
most of her layette. Everyone loves baby stuff. It should be easy to find
something nice. As a lactation consultant and a caring friend, my gift should not undermine her decision to breastfeed.
The first thing that catches my eye as I approach the baby section is a decorated table set up with piggy-banks
shaped like a large bottle. They are stuffed with smaller bottles and other trinkets that every baby needs. So I
on to the next table with diaper bags. This particular day I could not find a bag that came without a bottle or rubber teet.
Then I looked over at the bibs. The first one I notice says, "I love a full tummy." Bottle icons
were quilted to this
bib. I looked but could not find one that said "Got Breastmilk." I settled on the bib that said, "I love mommy." Then I found
coordinating onesies and an outfit to match. And I was done with my selections.
I am ready to pay for my items. The clerk
says "Thank you for shopping with us today. For spending $30 you get a free bottle and warmer." I told her "No thanks," and
explained that the baby will be breastfed. She asks, "What about dad? What about when Mom wants to get away?" I explained
to the clerk that dad knows that breastfed babies have all the advantages of bonding,
protection against infection, higher
IQ. He is willing to wait until the baby is ready for solids at 6 months to feed the baby. In the meantime he will be bathe
and cuddle the baby so he can bond and give mom a little rest.
Mom knows that their baby wants her breastmilk. She knows
there are risks that come from introducing bottles early (even when expressed milk is in it.) She knows that every baby has
a different temperament. She will wait
until her baby is born and is very comfortable with nursing before deciding to
separate herself from her baby." It certainly is not my place to give her a gift that encourages weaning.
Babies have survived thousands of years without modern gadgets. Just to be perfectly clear, it is not the
bottle itself that is the problem. It is the symbolization that "bottle equals baby."
The stunned, but innocent clerk asked, "Would you like to get a gift bag for the items. " Glancing up at
the rack of bags, I noticed the design on them: cartoon babies with bottles. I am not at all surprised that if bottles seem
to be good enough for the most famous toddler dinosaur and baby mouse than it must be acceptable behavior to give them to
No wonder breastfeeding rates are dismal. Not even intending to buy bottles, I could have gotten a few of
them (or images of) if I was not vigilant.
I finished my purchase and headed to the stationery store, wondering if I can
find a card of a loving mom cradling her baby or would the cards there also down play the importance of breastfeeding
I have come to the conclusion, the best baby shower gift is not a tangible one. It is not one that you can
wrap in a box or hold. The best gift I can give is helping moms prepare for a safe birth, and arming them with accurate breastfeeding
information and support. Much support is needed in our bottle-feeding culture. Your newborn won't care about the colors of
the wall, the ruffles, the pattern on the bottle, or even the crib. The baby will not care how big the menagerie of stuffed
toys is, or that everything matches. The best gift the mother can give her child is the nurturing, warmth, and better health
that breastfeeding brings.
Denise Punger MD, IBCLC, is a Family Physician in Hobe Sound, FL, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant,
and Chairman of the Treasure Coast Breastfeeding Task Force. (
Written for Mother to Mother, July 2002