Monday, 29 June 2015

Breastfeeding bullies Vs Formula feeding resitance

 *NB* I know the topic of feeding can be a sensitive one. My intention is not to offend or to argue for a particular 'side' but to put forward my opinion and experience with this subject. 

Only when my daughter was 5 months old could I honestly and confidently say that choosing not to breastfeed was the best decision I could have made. For a long time I let  breastfeeding torment me and make me feel like a failure as a mother. I would tell people that I ‘couldn’t breastfeed’ or that ‘Alice wasn’t having any of it’ when perhaps even then deep down I knew this wasn’t entirely true. I could have continued to try and feed her despite the pain, I could have felt miserable and anxious and perhaps ruined my marriage but I chose to do something else instead. I chose to be happy. I have discovered that motherhood is nothing like you plan, there will be lots of things you want to do or insist you won’t do as a mother and you will end up hurting yourself because you will break these promises to yourself. It is inevitable, I didn’t think I placed any expectations on myself but I did subconsciously. You cannot plan a life for three people when the third person isn’t here yet to have their say. Motherhood is hard enough without weighing yourself down with unmet expectations that are either out of your control or are unmet because of decisions you made yourself.

Those women that love to breastfeed and feel incredibly bonded with their children are lucky, they share an intimate relationship with their children as being the sole food provider. However, just because I am not the sole food provider for my daughter does this mean I share any less of a bond? Of course not! And when midwifes and other people say that a wonderful bond is created when breastfeeding a child I say I too have a wonderful bond with my child by feeding her with a bottle. What about the beautiful bond my husband has with his daughter because he feeds her with a bottle? I say that argument is invalid. I do not dismiss how wonderful breastfeeding can be, I am merely saying it was not for me or my family and I should not and will not be made to feel I have failed in some way or like I could have done better because of this. 

 Motherhood is something you learn on the job so your opinions and ‘methods’ are always changing, always evolving. It took me around 5 months to feel confident about my decision to not breastfeed and although I liked to think at the time that I was ‘pro mum’ and against all the stigma against feeding on reflection some of my views could have been considered ‘anti breastfeeding’ which was not my intention at all.

I would talk about how difficult it is for mums who bottle feed be it formula or expressed breast milk. It never occurred to me that it might be just as difficult for mums who breastfeed. Who is to say that that breast feeding mum staring at you bottle feeding your baby isn’t thinking ‘bloody hell that looks more comfortable than this, bet she doesn’t have sore nips’ or ‘is anyone going to judge me if I breast feed here?’ I’m sure mums who breastfeed have to justify the choices they've made to strangers, family and friends sometimes.

With the breastfeeding Vs formula feeding ‘debate’ images are conjured up of ‘breast feeding bullies’ and a ‘formula feeding resistance’ and although I am embarrassed to admit it I think this is how I saw it too (for a while at least).
The truth is there are no bullies or resistance, we are all just mums and dads trying to make the right choices for our families and what is right differs from person to person. It is wholly unhelpful to take sides in this ‘debate’. Instead we should be encouraging and supporting one and another to make the right choices for us and our babies or to stand by the decisions we've made.

Happy mummy is a happy baby; happy baby is a happy mummy. It should be that simple but it isn't. If you are someone who is desperate to breastfeed but you can’t for whatever reason and you talk to a mum who stopped because they don’t want to do night feeds it can be hard to not feel like ripping her face off or feel that she is selfish and lazy because you would kill to find it as easy as her. We cannot always control how we feel but judging someone is not going to change what you do in terms of feeding your baby. Judging someone is not going make breastfeeding easier for you. Judging a formula feeding mum as lazy isn't going to make her breastfeed or make your child healthier because they are having breast milk.

9 months after my little girl was born and I can say without guilt that I chose to bottle feed. I chose to give both formula and breast milk and whilst I felt so proud when I could give my daughter my milk I did not feel worried when I gave her formula. Both me and my husband wanted him to be able to feed her and I know it helped him greatly with bonding with her. This is what was right for our family and I am pleased with our decision.

Alice less then 2 weeks old. Me looking about 100! That's mum glamour,

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