I am pro-breastfeeding. I’m also pro-bottle feeding. In actual fact, I’m just pro-feeding full stop. I truly do believe that fed is best – regardless of the method used.
What I am not pro of is of people judging other people for their choices. I have seen so many threads on parenting forums, comments on social media status’ and photos where people have decided that it’s acceptable for them to judge and berate other parents for the way in which they feed their baby.
Frankly, I’m tired of there being so much judgement. And it’s not just about feeding – it really is about EVERYTHING. We mums really should be supporting each other – not bringing each other down.
I wanted to share my experience of both breastfeeding and bottle feeding in the past with my oldest, Lily. The experience I went through with both has made a big impact on how I’ve decided to feed Theo when he arrives.
Why not breastfeed?
There are many reasons as to why a woman does not breastfeed; from personal choice through to medical conditions that limit milk production or mean that she would need to stop taking vital medication in order to breastfeed.
One of the medical conditions that can affect the body’s ability to produce breastmilk is PCOS – a condition that I myself am affected by.
PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) is a hormonal imbalance that is thought to affect as many as 15% of women. It has various symptoms and can affect women in a multitude of different ways.
For me, some of these effects are fertility problems, irregular and painful menstrual cycles and weight problems. I also have a condition called endometriosis.
For many women, including myself, PCOS can cause fertility issues that make it very difficult to conceive naturally. We tried to conceive Theo for 7 long and heartbreaking years filled with loss and pain.
Whilst it was known when I was pregnant with Lily, that I had PCOS, nobody ever mentioned to me that it could cause issues with my ability to breastfeed.
I had simply assumed that breastfeeding was something that everyone could do – and I’d never read anything that told me there could be a link between my syndrome and breastfeeding issues.
My breastfeeding experience
When Lily was born the midwives placed her on my chest and helped her to latch on.
They explained that in the first few days she would only be getting colostrum and that it could take a couple of weeks to my milk supply to come in completely. Unfortunately, my milk supply never did actually come in.
Lily lost weight. We were constantly attached to each other as I tried feeding her. I was overwhelmed and broken, sleepless and struggling. I spent hours just in tears, wondering why my baby ‘hated’ me so much as she wouldn’t stop crying.
Eventually, my midwife came back to visit and we tried pumping – the manual pump didn’t produce anything and so we tried again with an electric one. Again there was nothing coming out.
I cried my eyes out – I couldn’t understand what was wrong with my body – why it was failing at being a mum.
They handed me a bottle of formula and Lily immediately guzzled it down, finishing the entire thing in what seemed like seconds. I’ll never forget that look of instant relief on her face as she was finally satisfied.
I felt awful – I’d been starving my little girl without even realising. What kind of mother was I?
My Formula Feeding Experience
A couple of weeks later and she was a completely different baby – she fed well, slept well, was putting on weight and would fall into a ‘milk sleep’ that always had me laughing at her little pot belly and sleepy smiles. I was so relieved to see the change in her.
Even with that being the case I struggled with the fact that I had failed at breastfeeding. I didn’t feel like a proper mum as my body couldn’t do the main thing it was designed to do.
And I was so jealous of women who could just whip out their boob and have baby latch on and feed.
I really am pro-breastfeeding – I think of it as such a magical experience. I’ve watched my beautiful sister breastfeed my two handsome, strong nephews. Seen them thrive thanks to her dedication and love.
I’ve sat with friends and held their hands as they cried because their boobs were so bloody sore and they were struggling to keep up with the cluster feeds. And then those same friends heartbroken when their breastfeeding journeys finally came to an end. And yet were also relieved when they could get some prosecco in them and not worry about having to pump and dump 😉
Just look at these beautiful photos of some other blogging mums feeding their gorgeous babies!
How can anyone not smile when they see the pure love and bond in these pictures?
And there’s no denying that it’s nutritionally better for baby, I think it’s amazing how a woman’s breastmilk will even change composition when her baby is ill to help them get better!
Honestly, bottle feeding is so much more labour intensive – and there’s so much more ‘stuff’ involved. It’s not exactly budget-friendly either! At the same time it has it’s own pros for many people.
A moment that I’ll never forget was when Lily was a couple of months old and I took out a bottle and prepared a formula feed in a local baby group.
I was the youngest mum there by far and a couple of the other mother’s exchanged looks when they saw me prepping her bottle.
“You do realise that formula fed children are more likely to get life-threatening illnesses don’t you?” one of them asked.
“It’s true – they are much more likely to have asthma as well.” said another.
A third chimed in to let me know about an article she’d read that said breastfed children out-performed formula children academically and were naturally smarter.
I’m sure those women hadn’t been purposefully cruel – those are the messages sent out after all and it’s not like I’ve not read articles saying the same things.
In fact, those were just some of the things I was already worrying about myself.
However, they still felt the need to judge me for my method of feeding my baby – without even knowing me or our situation. I made polite excuses and headed home – and when I got there I cried my eyes out again.
Feeling like a failure…
I already felt like a failure and then there I was being judged by other mums who clearly agreed.
My lovely husband made jokes and as he sat there feeding our baby that night he told me how happy he was that he was able to feed her. How proud he was of me – what a wonderful job I was doing as her mum. How he knew that she was going to be clever and smart because she would be just like me.
And you know what?
That tiny baby is now a sassy and wise 8-year-old. Lily’s a high achiever at school, is always surrounded by friends, has ‘leadership’ skills that will never require her to be reminded to ‘lean in’. She’s funny and clever and rarely ever ill. My girl is living, breathing proof that I am a good mum – regardless of how she was fed as a baby.
I sometimes wish I could go back and change those first few weeks – the benefit of hindsight meaning I would know she wasn’t feeding and could go straight to having that content bottle fed baby who snoozed in my arms after her feeds.
I wish I could go back and let that young and scared first-time mum know that her daughter would be fine – that she would thrive and be strong and healthy. Tell her that she was not a failure at all. And save myself months of heartache and grieving and depression as I struggled with coming to terms with motherhood and my inability to breastfeed.
Unfortunately, nobody has yet to work out how to get a Delorean back to 2010 so instead, I am going to have to use that hindsight to make myself stronger and happier now.
Fed is best
When I found out that we were expecting Theo I was, of course, thrilled but in all honesty, I was also pretty terrified.
I was worried that even after all this time of wishing for a baby I would fall back into that dark place I experienced after having Lily. I worried that I would ‘fail’ him before he was even born. That I would struggle mentally again.
I spoke to my midwife about my fears when it comes to feeding and she reminded me that, whilst breastmilk may be of a better nutritional value, a happy and healthy mum is so much more important.
Which is why I have made the decision to formula feed Theo from birth. I am not going to put myself through the emotional and psychological strain I did when I had Lily.
People have already commented that I ought to ‘at least try’ but I really am making a decision based on what is best for me. I’m not blindly deciding against breastfeeding. I’m making an informed decision.
I have purchased this electric steriliser and the perfect prep machine from Tommee Tippee. I’ve stocked up on bottles and bibs and bottle brushes so that we have everything we need.
My son will be bottle fed. Because fed is best.
And at the end of the day – having a happy mum and a happy baby is what we really need.
That’s what matters.