This one will be in essay format. No one makes this decision lightly. Any woman feeding her baby is making some kind of sacrifice. Breastfeeding is a sacrifice of time, body, energy, sometimes careers/jobs and she does this because she believes that it is in her babies' best interest. Support her. If she is bottle feeding breastmilk to her baby, she is possibly working and pumping her milk because she feels that both are important to the well being of her family, she may also be fostering or adopting and is purchasing breastmilk and/or supplementing while actively working on creating her own breastmilk supply, you don't have to give birth to make some milk, although it's a considerable amount of effort and expense. She could also be a Nanny or Babysitter. No matter which, support her. If she is bottle feeding formula, she is probably working, and in doing so is sacrificing time with her family, and she is making a financial sacrifice too, formula is very expensive. There could be extremely personal reasons why she can not or chooses to not breastfeed. It's not impossible that it may have been a superficial decision, but it is equally (probably far more) more) likely that she may have tried like hell to breastfeed and external judgement may be very painful. She may also be told that breastfeeding isn't an option due to some medications, some surgeries, some developemental anomalies, etc. I know I have not hit on all the various possible reasons why a woman may choose the way she feeds her baby, there are too many to list them all. My goal is simply to shift the way we think when we see someone feeding her baby, and move toward understanding and compassion first, WAY before judgement. Remember that just because you believe something, doesn't make it true. Certainly not for another person, with a whole other set of life circumstances than you. It may be true for you, that doesn't make it universally true.
No woman who is feeding a child should be put in a position where she has to defend herself AT ALL. She's feeding her child. That is absolutely good enough 99.999999% of the time. People need to calm down about this. Breasts are meant to feed babies, and bottles take care of the job when the breast is not available for whatever reason. LET IT GO. Why do people act like they get a vote about how someone feeds their baby? Look the other way if it bothers you. Carry on. But really, we should be standing in support of one another, mothering is hard enough; this idea that there is one right way to do it is absurd. If a woman wants information about how she chooses to feed her baby, she will seek it out. We live in the information age, we have: doctors, midwives, birth educators, doula's, lactation consultants, La Leche League, parenting classes, support groups, our own mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, nurse hotlines, websites, blogs, etc. Offering someone your opinion/judgement under the guise of "education" is not often received well anyway, so even if you are well meaning, you may very well be having the opposite effect. If someone told me not to breastfeed in public, for example, I would have been much more likely to be LESS discreet than to accommodate the a-hole that tried to shame me. I'm scrappy like that. Conversely, if someone judged me for bottle feeding, I would tell that person to shove it up their ass, you don't know me or why I'm making the decision I'm making. Can we PLEASE...in the year 2016...accept that breasts are pretty, and sexual at times, AND MADE TO FEED BABIES, and in the absence of breasts that have milk, SO ARE BOTTLES, AND CUPS, AND SPOONS. If you are friendly and open to conversation, who knows...another mother may ask you about how you choose to feed your baby, and then feel free to share without being self righteous or climbing up on a soap box. Answer questions sincerely and succinctly, and see if there is more interest. Otherwise, lets all agree to offer a loving and knowing smile to a mother trying to take care of her baby the best way she can, believe me, she really needs it.
Please take a moment and watch this short vimeo: Sistering