Why I don’t think breast is always best.

Sun 25 Sep 16 | Mummy Stuff | 8 comments

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Right, I’m ready for a controversial one.

Mums and mums-to-be – don’t feel you have to breastfeed! And stop beating yourself up about it if you don’t.

Let me put this into context. I breastfed M for about four months, and Little P for 2 and a half. I was thrilled to be able to do it, and I guess I kind of enjoyed it. I never really loved it though – not like some of my friends who adored it and just fed seemingly effortlessly and non-stop for a year or more. To be honest, by the time I was ready to stop I’d got a little bit ‘mehh’ about it, and even slightly grossed out. With M it came quite easily in the first place, but despite happily feeding him for 3 months, just a few bad latches caused me a lot of pain and I was suddenly desperate to stop. I remember a moment where I sat on the stairs outside M’s room and pictured a world where other people could help feed him…  It was like a huge weight was lifted. My husband could help with late or night feeds! My parents could enjoy feeding time with him too. They would love it. It would be a relief to share the responsibility and I realised I’d actually felt pretty claustrophobic in a way. Being the sole person who can provide food to your baby every couple of hours is a huge pressure, so I felt a pre-emptive surge of relief.

However. Plan scuppered. We were blissfully unaware he’d be a bugger to get onto a bottle. And after about 2 weeks of breastfeeding through the pain, many tears (his and mine) and trying every different bottle and teat under the sun (thanks Amazon Prime), I really regretted not giving him a bottle sooner. I don’t regret breastfeeding – I was really lucky to be able to do it and of course there are many benefits – but I felt trapped and miserable and resentful of all those other Mums who could waltz out the door for longer than an hour knowing bubba was happily drinking a bottle with Daddy.

Second time round with Little P, we tackled things differently. On friends’ advice we gave her a bottle a day from about 3 days old. It worked really well for us. I didn’t even beat myself up about not expressing – it was formula. I just thought with a 3 year old to look after too I wasn’t going to pretend I’d have time to pump as well as feed, burp, change a baby and simultaneously cook toddler tea, play the pull back car game 17 times and wash-up. And when it turned out she had tongue-tie and wasn’t feeding too well by 10 weeks, I was all set to call time at the milk bar and hand her to Daddy for elevenses.

Anyway, the point is, I’m fed up of mums and mums-to-be feeling pressure to breastfeed exclusively. Every day I hear stories of pushy midwives, tutty health visitors or even outspoken strangers in coffee-shops making exhausted Mums feel guilty. Luckily I was never on the receiving end – they would have got an earful back to be honest – and actually I think sometimes it’s Mums themselves who are too quick to justify why they’re not breastfeeding when no one’s actually asked (the ‘Hurrah for Gin’ Guilt Fairy is hovering again).

Yes, breastfeeding is excellent for baby. Yes it has advantages for Mum too. Yes I am proud to have done it for both my babies for some time at least. But when a new Mum is getting upset because baby isn’t latching on, or sobbing with exhaustion because baby is eating every hour day and night, or has blistered boobs from trying so hard not to give up, surely it’s time to remind her that breast is not best for everyone…

It’s not like you walk down the High Street and there’s a neon flashing sign above each person’s head is it? ‘Breastfed 40 years ago whoooo-hoo I’m awesome’ vs ‘formula-fed waahhh poor me’. Ridiculous.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did you, or are you going through a tricky time with feeding? Were you lucky enough to breastfeed easily for a long time? Or did you decide to use bottles from day one?

Sparkles & Stretchmarks Sunday Best

8 Comments

  1. ABlondeAndABaby

    I definitly agree that “fed is best” and although I did breastfeed myself I think breast or bottle as long as mum and baby are happy that’s the most important thing. #SundayBest

    Reply
  2. Sarah Howe

    I’m currently breastfeeding my second and it’s fine but my midwife (who I loved), as me “what was the point?” when I said I was going to express and bottle feed her sometimes. The point was I can go to the gym, have a glass of wine and see fireworks (on sat!!) without being attached to my daughter. I think there can be so much judgement whatever you do and you have to do what’s right. Great post xx #sundaybest

    Reply
    • kimberly

      Exactly! I have found there’s an underlying ‘hmmmm really’ tone about bottles with my midwives. Even though I’ve been lucky and had pretty cool ones! Good on you for doing what’s right. Time to yourself is so rare and so important where possible in the early days! Thanks for the comment x

      Reply
  3. Emma Niblett

    This is a great article and so true. I am passionate about support for bottle feeders, I stopped BF for my own mental health and I have never regretted it.
    Emma @ day48.com (#sundaybest)

    Reply
  4. Helena

    In the UK we are lucky to be offered both options. #SundayBest

    Reply
  5. Liz May

    Choice is often used in the them versus us “mommy wars” conversation, but is it really a true “choice” about how we feed our babies in the western world. Not really, because either we feed into the notion that “breastisbest” and anything less is below perfection or we believe the marketing lies that formula is “close to breastmilk” so is doesnt matter. It does matter because between these two extremes of the voice of big business (formula market is worth billions) and the voice of public health (800,000 babies could be saved per year globally if they were all optimally breastfed) we loose the voice of mothers and carers who are just trying to do cope and keep their kids alive. The Fedisbest campaign is dangerous because it comes from a place of fear and tries to scare women out of trusting their bodies to nourish their babies with the right support and correct information. Babies need to be fed but give a new mother the option if giving baby her expressed breastmilk by showing her how to hand express first if she wants. Breastisbest is also a position of inflexibility and is closed to listening to the real life experiences of women.
    #Informedisbest might be the middle ground where mothers (in countries with easy access to clean water and modern kitchen equipment) get non judgemental information and support of the pros and cons of both methods of feeding so they can fully make an informed choice. Approx 70_80% of women in the uk want to breastfeed and its society’s job not to sabotage their efforts with aggressive marketing which saps their resolve when things get though nor sabotage their efforts by having doctors, nurses, midwives and heath visitors who have very minimal breastfeeding training giving out of date, wrong or dogmatic advice alongside quick/ timely access to lactation consultants and tongue tie specialists. We have a long way to go in this country before we can get to the standards of Scandinavian countries whose maternity system seems more supportive postnatally. Fed is not best because its too simplistic, we all know giving our kids an apple is healthier than a McD’s so what we feed babies is important too. (However, stage 1 Formula is less risky than carnation milk that the Health Visitors recommended my mother in law give my husband back in 1969!) Sometimes mixed feeding might be the right choice for some babies, but in the west we’ve invented the notion of the perfect parent so we have an “all or nothing attitude” which only serves to increase mother guilt. I believe that women deserve impartial information and skilled experienced infant feeding support so that they trully can make an informed decision about how they feed their babies, what works for their circumstances and their particular family. #informedisbest

    Reply
    • kimberly

      Wow thank you for all the information, people should certainly understand better what all the options are ??

      Reply

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