Why I don’t think breast is always best.
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?