Breastfeeding and Bottle feeding: the eternal war with no winners only hurt feelings on both sides. As a society we have become obsessed with the way mothers feed their babies when all that should really concern us is that those babies are actually fed. We all know most mothers are doing their best; the best for their babies, the best for themselves and the best thing for their families. If you ignore any part of that equation baby won’t be happy either.
But I’m not here today to rehash all the old arguments or judge anybody except those who place unnecessary burdens on new mothers by sticking to a dogma that doesn’t always work for everybody. Yes breast is best. No-one, I imagine, would argue with that. However, and here’s the kicker, it’s only right when it works for all involved. Mother and baby must feel happy and comfortable in this relationship. This is not always the case. Some babies can’t breastfeed but thrive on bottles. Some mothers just don’t feel comfortable doing it. These are the mothers I am speaking to today.
Before I got pregnant I wouldn’t even wear a bikini when going to the local swimming pool, I abhorred shared changing rooms and don’t even get me started on cleavage revealing outfits… oh no I would have been much too embarrassed. I think this mortification started during my teenage years; I wasn’t too happy with my budding chest and would have done anything to hide it! This feeling still lingers so when baby was due I felt so stressed at the thought of breastfeeding. Having my boob on show around the clock? Oh dear God no! But I told myself it’s the best thing for your baby so suck it up. I tortured myself for a full four months (stress, anxiety, fake smiles hiding a growing discontent) before confiding in my own mother. She shrugged and said just bottle feed then. A weight was lifted. Hurrah I could look forward to my baby coming again! The only judgement I met with was a rotund nurse in my consultant’s office who tried to bully me into attending a breastfeeding class. She was met with a stern no. She later tried to convince me to just give the colostrum (liquid gold in her words) but this was met with a frosty silence. No my downstairs area might be about to become public property but my chest was staying under wraps thank you very much!!
So my tiny lady was born and thrived on her bottles. But still I felt guilty. I knew I’d put my own mental block about breastfeeding before (potentially) her health. I was wracked with guilt. Still to this day I regret not feeding her myself but I also don’t regret it all if you see my meaning. I know it was something I just couldn’t do. I am proud that I knew myself well enough to realise that and didn’t put my family though days or weeks of misery to confirm what I knew all along. My daughter is still healthy with only the odd cough or cold and as smart as she is healthy. I can take my head off the metaphorical chopping board. Now all that worries me is her ‘passionate’ (read stubborn, headstrong etc.) nature. But I still feel saddened by all the negative rhethoric that surrounds mothers who choose to bottle feed for whatever reason. I have no problem with people who do breastfeed – in fact I’m slightly envious of their confidence and determination – I applaud their ability to do this. I just wish myself and the Bottle Brigade could be left to quietly get on with our own way of feeding.
Of course not all women who breast-feed are out to judge. This is very far from true. They are more worried about a society that can be strangely out-dated when it comes to breastfeeding. More needs to be done to make it a normal part of our day-to-day lives. However, I don’t think that bullying women to do something they are not comfortable with is the way to do this. It will just make both mother and baby miserable. I’ve read numerous posts on the Fearless Formula Feeder’s website and the things those women put themselves through would shock you. They were told ‘breast is best’ so they went through agonies to feed their child that way. This is not acceptable. Women should never feel pressure like this. Encouragement yes, support yes, bullying no. Allow women, who have all the facts and figures, to make their own choice.
So I refer to my original question; why can’t we all just get along? Perhaps the way we can change is just by accepting each other. I think it’s lovely when I see a mother and baby sharing that special bonding moment during those early newborn feeds whether the feed is given by bottle or breast. It’s all beautiful. If we can just accept that it’s a mother’s right to feed her child as she sees fit than perhaps the world will be a better place for our children to grow up in.
For anyone struggling with guilt surrounding bottle feeding don’t feel you are alone. The Fearless Formula Feeder’s website is a resource I would highly recommend. Let the guilt go. You are a wonderful mother.