There’s been a lot in the media recently around the topic of breast vs. bottle and, of course, the “Brelfie” has been trending world wide. This has started up a few debates! (Or to put it more accurately dragging up a load of old ones!)
From the bottle feeding mummies, some of who feel like they are being pressurised to breastfeed their beautiful babies and then criticised for deciding to bottle feed, to the breast feeding mummies, some of who think that bottle feeding is “failing” and that everyone woman should breastfeed their child.
I feel propelled to give my personal experience here.
First, let me start by saying that I think bottle feeding and breast feeding are completely personal choices, and that I do not, under any circumstances, condemn any woman for their choice in feeding their child- breast or bottle, what’s best for you will be best for you child.
Within 20 minutes of Connie being born she had latched on and was feeding well. I immediately fell in love with breastfeeding. I cannot explain how empowering and “womanly” it made me feel to feed my own baby. I loved it.
The midwives were very helpful and showed me ways to feed her in the “rugby ball” position on the right, as she struggled to latch the “traditional way” to the right boob, preferring the left. It was difficult at first but we were soon well in the swing of it, a minor hurdle overcome…
Fast forward a week and breast feeding was still going strong-
Did I experience cracked nipples? Yes.
Did I experience leaking boobs? Yes.
Was it uncomfortable? Sometimes yes! Breastfeeding is a learning curve, you aren’t going to latch your baby on correctly first time every time straight away. It takes time and practice.
But was I enjoying breastfeeding overall? Yes!
It was lovely to have 30-60 minutes of time just for us, where we could bond and snuggle up and relax together.
Fast forward another week and we were well away! I was confident to breastfeed in lots of different positions now, and we often fed lying down throughout the night feeds which left me feeling more rested and refreshed than when I was sitting up to feed her before.
Did I have cracked nipples? No.
Did I have leaking boobs? No.
Was it uncomfortable? No.
Was I still enjoying it? Yes!
However, by this point another problem had occurred that had been bubbling under the surface but was beginning to affect me- external pressure. See far from being “praised” for breastfeeding and feeling encouraged by my peers, I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure to put Connie on the bottle.
“Why are you bothering? Bottle feeding is so much easier?”
“Let Andy give her a bottle, I’m sure he wants to.”
“She’ll sleep through if you give her formula!”
“If you put her on the bottle, Andy can help at night and you can get some more rest!”
“You don’t need to breastfeed now a days, formula is just as good.”
“Give her a bottle, then it’s easier for you to get out and about! And if you want a rest, Andy can take her out with a bottle and you can rest at home.”
“Other people want to feed her too so they can bond with her as well!”
“You can’t breastfeed in public!!”
It was true that I didn’t have the confidence to breastfeed in public. Every time I mentioned it, the general consensus was that it would be “uncomfortable” for others in the vicinity. This upset me because personally I couldn’t think of anything more normal, plus you can’t see anything of interest when feeding as the baby’s head blocks it all!
So, I started attempting to pump. This was a mistake. I couldn’t pump.
See, I know now, from speaking to other mums and doing some research, that my milk probably wasn’t “in” in full at that point. It takes around 6 weeks for your milk to come in properly so 2 weeks in, I probably wasn’t going to have much success pumping, a lot of women struggle to pump anyway, let alone in the early days.
What happened at the time was that I got stressed, very stressed. I started worrying that my milk wasn’t enough for her. I started worrying that what I was pumping was the same as what she was getting from me, which is to say, next to nothing.
Little did I know, this was the beginning of the end…
Over the next few weeks I started to crumble. I relented. I allowed people to give Connie bottles of formula. I continued trying (and failing) to pump. I felt like shit if truth be told.
It started off with the breast outweighing the bottle, which, although upsetting for me, wasn’t too bad as I was giving her most feeds.
Family started wanting to give feeds too. It got to the point where she had the same amount of bottle feeds as breast feeds.
Over time, I started to struggle feeding her- my milk started drying up as she wasn’t being fed as much. I got upset, she got upset, I started giving her bottles to stop her crying. I felt more upset.
I hadn’t solely breastfed for long enough for my milk to come in properly before starting to combi feed. No wonder my milk was drying up!
The last time Connie had a breastfeed from me was at 10 weeks old. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I was pretty devastated.
Did I feel that way because she was now being fully formula fed?
No. I’m clever enough to know that formula is plenty nutritious.
Was it because I felt like a “failure” for going onto bottle feeding? No.
It was much more simple than that.
It was because I had allowed myself to be peer pressured into doing something that I didn’t want to do and therefore, ended up stopping something that wasn’t just beneficial for me and my daughter, but that was special to us and that we both enjoyed.
I felt like I was back at school again, in the playground being egged into smoking, encouraged to take the piss out of another student or being shamed into changing my tastes to suit the majority.
I suffered with guilt from that for months and months and, almost a year on, still feel sad that I basically allowed myself to be pressured out of breastfeeding.
I’m older and more knowledgable now and I know I won’t make that mistake again with my next baby (if I have another baby).
Do I think formula feeding for the majority of Connie’s early life has damaged her in any way?
No! She’s a happy, healthy, wonderful child who is excelling in all developmental areas and continues to be an absolute joy to us, day in day out.
Do I think my experience has had a negative effect on ME, the mum?
Yes! I had no idea, all those months ago, the volume and range of “views” that would be forced on me about my choice of feeding technique. It baffles me to this day why anyone else would think it has anything to do with them how another mother chooses to feed her child. Because that’s what we’re doing here, underneath all the drama and opinions, we’re simply feeding our children.
I wanted to share my experience in the hope that it might help some other mums out there.
Please don’t feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do and that goes with everything baby related, not just feeding- co-sleeping, sling wearing, baby led weaning vs puree. Just make sure you do what you want to do because you don’t get the chance to do it again.
It’s not just the bottle feeding mums that feel pressured it’s the breastfeeding mums too, but maybe in a different way to how you thought. I was never castigated for feeding in public- I never had the confidence to feed in public- I was pressured for different reasons.
I’ve also been judged by the breastfeeding mums too, as I stopped the boobie feeds early. I “didn’t try hard enough” as one mum put it to me, without actually knowing the facts- I didn’t think I could possibly feel worse until that comment.
To the pro-boob brigade- please think before you judge, you don’t know individual circumstances, I would have loved nothing more than to carry on feeding my daughter but sadly I made a mistake due to lack of information and peer pressure and unwittingly weaned my daughter off the boob.
To the pro-bottle brigade- please think before you judge, please encourage breastfeeding mums to feed in public, after all, it’s just as normal as bottle feeding. And if a mum deciding to breastfeed her child means you miss out on a few feeds, so be it. You can always change the nappies for her instead! 😉
We need to start supporting each other regardless of whether we feel the other party has made the “right choice” or not.
We need to start understanding that whatever decision is the right decision for that family because it’s the right decision for them.
We need to remember we are all parents that are trying to do our best for our children.
And most important of all, we need to drop “labels” like breast and bottle, stop splitting ourselves into teams and simply see the reality and simplicity of what we’re all doing- FEEDING OUR CHILDREN- in whatever way we deem right.