Breast IS Best… but a Bottle is Good too
If there is any subject among mothers guarantee to rile, inflame and get mummy knickers in a twist it’s the Breast Vs Bottle argument. Breastfeeders can be understandably indignant and defensive… they have spent (sometimes) painful weeks doing what they feel is the right thing by their baby until they have both got the hang of it and feel that other mothers should try harder; while Bottle Feeders can feel embarrassed and persecuted after having spent (sometimes) painful weeks trying to breastfeed, then battling against societal pressures and the guilt of wanting to ‘give up’ – until they finally reach for a bottle.
Many mothers who are desperate to breastfeed have no choice but to formula feed – maybe their little ones are premature, have had medical difficulties or the mother herself has had a rough start. Which makes it even harder for perfectly healthy mothers, with perfectly healthy babies, to switch from breast to bottle without feeling like failures… guilt and shame and confusion obscuring their own motherly instincts of trying to be the best mother they can .
Well at The Glass House we don’t judge. In fact we have started a #MummyRevolution to say that whichever way you choose to mother is okay. We want your child to be happy and healthy, and we want YOU to be happy and healthy. So, to create a bit of balance and help struggling mums who are feeling the pressure to breastfeed, here are my 12 Reasons Formula’s Just Fine…
1. You tried
The most important part of breastfeeding is the first three days when your baby is receiving colostrum, a thicker yellow/orange substance high in carbohydrates, protein and antibodies to help keep your baby healthy. Government guidelines say it is best to breastfeed up to 6 months minimum, but if you can’t or don’t want to… then every little helps. Do what you can.
2. You want to do both
Confused about nipple confusion? Don’t be. Take it from me, if you give your child breast, bottle and pacifiers from day one they will suck on anything. It’s a lot harder to introduce anything plastic into their mouths once they get used to skin on skin contact only.
3. It’s affecting your baby
Is your baby losing weight because they aren’t latching? Or you don’t have enough milk? In most cases doctors will tell you to give the baby a bottle… your principles are not as important as your baby’s health!
4. It’s affecting your mental state
Motherhood is tough enough as it is without feeling like you have to do something that isn’t working/you aren’t comfortable with. Most women experience Baby Blues (and in some cases, Post Natal Depression) in the first 6 months – so if giving your baby a bottle helps you feel less under pressure and more relaxed, then do it! Your health is just as important as the baby’s.
5. You don’t have the time
They will call you selfish, they will call you a quitter, they will call you self involved – but it’s a fact of life, breastfeeding takes a lot longer, and has to be done a lot more often, than bottle feeding. Maybe you work and you’re struggling to express, or have 5 other children, or just don’t want to sit and feed for long periods of the day. That’s okay… find a solution that suits you (and yes, you CAN breastfeed just in the morning and at night if you want to, there are no laws about picking one over the other). Do what feels right and suits your life best.
6. You don’t like it
How many women have the guts to admit this? How many women just aren’t comfortable having a baby suckling their nipples? We can’t judge what may have happened in a woman’s past, or her reasons for needing an alternative way of feeding in public. Respect her wishes and move on.
7. You are in pain
Yes, it generally feels uncomfortable or can hurt at the beginning while you and baby are getting used to it. Most women can battle on through and get there. But some mothers get mastitis or other infections and it HURTS. And they try nipple shields and creams and it still HURTS. And just as we don’t judge if you want to try every drug under the sun while giving birth, you are also allowed to say ‘well, I did my best’ and give the baby a bottle. Motherhood is not about killing yourself, it’s about doing as much as you can. We all have our limits.
8. You want flexibility
Yes, society needs to be more accepting about breastfeeding in public bla bla… but that isn’t real life. Sometimes you need to hand the baby over to someone else to feed, or you need to go away for a length of time, and it’s not always possible to express breast milk. Do what works for you.
9. You need a break
When your baby is hungry and you breastfeed then you, the mother, are the only one that can come to the rescue. And that alone can send some women over the edge. Yes, you can express so that you can pass the baton to someone else… but that takes nearly as long as feeding the baby. So you may as well feed the baby. Which means it’s you and baby, all the time, every day. Mothers today are under immense pressure from every form of media to feel that it is somehow immoral and unjust to want some time away from your children – it isn’t. And if you feel that swapping from breast to bottle so that getting away as and when you need a break is easier, do it. Your relationship, friendships, mental state and rest of the family need you too.
10. You want to sleep better
Breastfed babies need to be fed more often, even more at night time. Some women choose to co-sleep to make feeding on demand easier (and get berated for that as well) or they get up every few hours, leaving lucky Daddy fast asleep every night. This suits some mothers, but sleep deprivation is no small thing and bottle fed babies have been proven to sleep longer through the night. Maybe you want to breastfeed but give a big formula feed at bedtime? Whatever suits you. Don’t beat yourself up about it and get as much sleep as you can… you will need your energy in the morning!
11. You want your child to have a dummy
Babies cry soooo much, and when you breastfeed it calms them down. But a lot of babies that breastfeed don’t want a rubbery bit of plastic in their mouth after mummy’s soft skin, so mummy becomes the pacifier. Some mums don’t mind that… yet other mothers do want to stick a dummy in their baby’s mouth and have an easier life. And that’s okay too. So if the baby gets used to bottles early on, and dummies, then you aren’t the only thing that can calm your infant. Which is no bad thing.
12. Daddy wants to bond too
Poor Daddy. It’s just you and baby, all the time, day and night. Maybe he wants to feel connected at feeding time? Maybe he wants his son or daughter to stare up at him adoringly as they gulp down their dinner? Maybe you don’t want to get up at 1am, 4am, 6am. Every. Single. Night. Are you really going to express and feed every day so that when Daddy wants to have a go there is some ready? Great, if you want to, or he can give the baby a bottle. He’s happy, you are happy and the baby is completely oblivious.
Yes, breast feeding IS more natural, benefits the mother and child more than formula, it’s easier (once you and baby get the hang of it), free and a beautiful way for mother and child to bond, and yes you CAN overcome all the above reasons with breastfeeding… BUT some women don’t want to. The pressures of motherhood are more than enough without having to battle against something that has a perfectly acceptable solution – so enough of the shaming. There are two options available, allow women to choose.
Fact: No child has ever died from receiving formula milk over breast milk, and they don’t become less intelligent, or more prone to illness, obesity or emotional attachment issues either. In fact most children born between 1950-1980 were predominantly formula fed… they turned out okay too.
At the end of the day, what it all boils down to is making sure your baby has a full tummy and is happy and healthy. And that you are happy, healthy and enjoying being a mum… which sometimes means making a decision that suits your life best. Because a happy mum is the best kind.
Disclaimer: None of this is professional advice. I am not a Doctor or Health Worker.
This article is simply MY opinion as a mother who has both breastfed and bottle fed, and used dummies, and put my kids in their own room at 3 months and also co-slept, and needed a break (sometimes an hour, sometimes a week), and wanted my kids all over me and mainly not wanted my kids all over me. I am a working mother, a doting mother, a loving mother and a fucking try-hard mother. I am not asking you to pick a side… I am simply asking you to be respectful of other mothers’ choices, keep your mind and options open, and relax.
You are a fantastic mother because you love your child and are worrying about how to feed them. And that’s great. So go for what you feel is best. Trust your instincts. Choose love, choose life and choose what works for YOU.
Good luck and remember… there is no right or wrong. Motherhood is not a competition. #MummyRevolution.