Breast is Best???

Shouldn’t a healthy fed baby be more important than the method in which they’re fed?

Although, scientifically speaking, breast milk is the “best” or most recommended type of milk to be consumed as a baby. For reasons such as:

  • Nutrition being passed naturally from mother to baby
  • Milk is still beneficial after 12 months
  • Reduced risks of allergies in later life
  • Reduced risk of obesity in childhood
  • Reduces likelihood of infections in baby

the list is infinite.

There are also loads of support groups, breastfeeding cafes and a wide range of accessible information on breastfeeding and all its glorious goodness.

Now, for our alternatives such as Cow & Gate, Aptimel, SMA and many others, I personally have not seen much accessible information, support groups or any kind of support for bottle feeding mothers. I could be wrong *shrugs* but there seems to be more support towards women who are breastfeeding, which is absolutely fine. But what about the women who have learned that they are unable to breastfeed, or have simply chosen not to? Where is the guidance and help towards those mothers?

I know this topic itself is very broad, however I feel as though I can speak on this particular part because I bottle fed my son and I am currently breastfeeding my daughter. I personally experienced a difference in the attitudes of others once learning my choice on how I would feed my child.

My Experience

My son was born five weeks early, it was a quick labour although I was over the moon, I was simply in shock by everything. The whole day went by way too quickly. The nurse on the ward hardly stayed five minutes to help me establish a latch and was very quick to make me feel as though it was time for formula. At this point, new mum, new born, the size of a large cabbage and he is screaming. My first reaction was, well let’s get formula then the boy is hungry. The next day, I was ready to try again, I was told to watch a video and within an hour my son was put into an incubator and taken to the neonatal ward for two days. I was told to express colostrum into tubes but no support no help. So when it came to feeds and not having expressed a substantial amount of colostrum, he needed food, he could not latch, so formula it was. I wasn’t educated into breastfeeding, my main concern was the health of my boy and that he was fed when needed. When he came out I did try to establish a latch which was hard as he was small and I am well endowed in the chest as it is so it was a fail. I didn’t receive any help, only criticisms and told keep going. Health visitors just told me to stick with formula as if to say it’s too late and I’ve failed. No one sat with me and explained much or showed me what to do, however, they had a great time making me feel crap for not being able to breastfeed him. I did mix feed for around six weeks, but due to depression I hardly ate which meant there was nothing to express, after a while formula it was, as trying to express or breastfeed was only strain on us both.

Now, when I had my daughter, things were much different. I was more established as a parent, more resilient and a little more patient. This time I did opt to push breastfeeding because I felt as though I was not a real mum until I experience it. <——This was and is absolute ignorance and it has taken me to drop the judgements and comments of others to realise that for myself. As Jahzara was more or less on time, the latch wasn’t an issue, although I did have difficulty breastfeeding for about 8 weeks. The first month was difficult as Jah was losing weight. Formula was immediately suggested and I was monitored as if I let her go hungry. My milk supply was presumed low. I refused formula, I was sure there was something that was missing so they suggested mix feeding and made me feel as though there is no way I can exclusively breastfeed. At first I was wasnt worried because Xion took forever to put on weight and if you see him now you wouldn’t even know he was a preemie. But they made me feel so crap to be honest as though I made her go hungry. Breastfeeding may have been straightforward to some but it was not straight forward for me. After watching videos, talking to my fellow mummy friends and my own research within two weeks Jahzara had put on weight and was signed off by the midwives… I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding her since.. tell me something!!!

Now, my experience is my experience and it can be entirely different to another mother. I personally think that formula is looked upon as a fail, rather than an alternative. A mothers choice on how they feed their child should not be looked down upon or seen as a fail. Some mothers are more than capable to produce milk but due to the pain breastfeeding causes, their career demands or sometimes personal preference their children are bottle fed or mix fed. Some mothers milk do not come in on time, which is actually very popular and this is where there should be more support and information available to mothers that bottle feed because it can be daunting sometimes learning that you are unable to feed your child naturally. Mums should be aware that formula, although an alternative, is OK.

Even for myself, if I am going out and I haven’t expressed enough for a full evening, I throw a small bottle of Aptimel in her baby bag because you know what? She has to be fed, so if it means an alternative then so be it. Although this is rare, I would rather be out knowing that when my child is hungry food is available at the ready. I personally see nothing wrong with it.

Pros and Cons of Bottle Feeding

 ✔ going out and leaving baby without worrying about how much you need to express or a time limit to be back

✔ scheduled rather than on demand so more time to do things

✔ allows baby and father/other family members to bond

✘ not natural

✘ constantly cleaning and sterilising bottles

✘ expensive

Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding

✔ baby gets essential nutrients straight from mother

✔ no preparation needed (just whip them out!)

✔ if going out you have to think about clothes which are breastfeeding friendly

✔ creates unique bond between baby and mother

✘ no feeding bond with dad/other family members unless bottle is introduced

✘ upon going out you need to express or be out for a short time period

✘ no schedule, on demand, this can be a two hour gap sometimes and others 15 minutes it all depends on the baby.

✘ for some mums first few weeks/months of establishing breastfeeding can be excruciatingly painful

✘ at times expressing can be an absolute myth

What have others experienced?

As stated earlier, my experience will most definitely be different to another. So I got some of my mummy friends involved to share their experiences on how and why they chose their method to feeding their babies, take a look…

Breastfeeding has always been an option mainly because I knew it was the best way health wise. I love that I do not have to make bottles, the milk is available at the ready. It can be difficult at times to be discreet publicly breastfeeding but apart from that I love it. I was encouraged and supported by the midwives and health visitors to breastfeed which helped me not to give up. I was also told about a support network which helped a lot. I will breastfeed in future as I see the benefits and love the bond.” (Rochelle, Mother of 1)

I mix fed for a month and started bottle feeding. My labour was traumatic and formula was the quickest way as my milk had not come in yet. I did feel a bond breastfeefing but it wasn’t as strightforward as everyone made it out to be. I felt judged by family members and constantly compared to others. I would definitely try breastfeeding in the future. I no longer feel like a failure my son is five years old, healthy, and doing well in school.” (Natalie, Mother of 1)

I mix fed my son and my newborn. My first born was initially breastfed but due to him going into ICU he was bottle fed and refused the breast thereafter. I expressed and topped him up with formula. I made the decision to mix feed this time as the latch did take some time to be established so formula was the next option. I find expressing in between feeds much easier as I have longer gaps between feeds. Hospital and after care staff were very helpful and supportive, however my GP advised me to stick to formula due to a slow milk supply rather than advising me on ways to boost my milk supply or better yet offer some medication. I found this deflating and as though I failed. I still feel that way sometimes but at the end of the day what is more important is a fed baby and plus my partner gets a chance to bond with baby as well which is lovely to see.” (Hannah, Mother of 2)

I chose to breastfeed because I am very concious generally about what is put into our foods, so I stand the same with formula. I also wanted my whole experience as a new mother to be as natural as possible. The only disadvantage I have had was sore nipples. I have read that breastfeeding helps with your baby’s general health, helps during illnesses, confidence and much research shows its beneficial in calming tantrums. Formula was never suggested to me as I was adamant about breastfeeding. As long as I am able to, all my future children will be breastfed.” (Dionne, Mother of 1)

I initially chose to breastfeed but as my milk did not come in quick enough I had to introduce formula. I did try to breasfeed afterwards but I found that I was not producing enough. However, my baby was always well fed, I had time in between feeds to express and I could leave her with her dad or family members and not worry too much. I did feel as though I failed her because the method I was using to feed her wasn’t entirely natural as breasfeeding has so many benefits and I was unable to give her that. But in reality, as long as they’re fed and happy that’s all that matters. In future, I would love to breastfeed exclusively and I will make it a priority. ” (Val, Mother of 1)

I wanted to breastfeed because of all the nutrition my child would get and plus there was nothing to prepare. The only disadvantage I experienced was weaning them off and the sore nipples. I got loads of support breastfeeding and never had an issue with latching so formula was never an option. I will and do want to breastfeed in future, what I may do differently is express so that weaning is easier and I get longer periods out.” (Tania, Mother of 1)

“After having my daughter, I was unwell on two occassions therefore unable to breastfeed. The only alternative was bottle feeding and she was used to that once I was was well so I continued with it. Formula is more scheduled and you know exactly how much baby is getting and when, it can be expensive though and the constant washing and sterilising bottles can be tedious. Although breastfeeding was my initial plan, I was still open to bottle feeding but in future I do want to experience breastfeeding for the bond and other benefits that come with it. I did find that medical staff as well as family made me feel like breastfeeding is the only option and you’re a bad mum if you’re not. There also was loads of information and support on breastfeeding but hardly any for bottle feeding mums. It makes choosing to bottle feed your child daunting.” (Angelique, Mother of 1)

As my milk took a while to come in, I had to bottle feed. I was supported to breastfeed but by the time my milk came in my baby was already used to the bottle. When it came to formula I was more or less left to fend for myself, whilst in hospital and formula was offered. I felt really upset when my child was hungry and I couldn’t feed him and had to use formula but once he was fed it brought me piece of mind. However I will attempt breastfeeding in future as it is something i would like to experience.” (Roxanne, Mother of 1)

It is hard to ignore the judgements and pointing fingers that we already experience on a day to day basis as mothers. So it’s even more upsetting to know that even down to our chosen feeding options, others will be motivated to treat you differently. I constantly say that you can only do what you can where you can and what is beneficial for you and your child, no one else. I too felt as though I failed my son, but if I look at him now, failed him where? Not only is he smart, he is full of energy, growing, communicating, happy and developing. So, my choice to give him formula affected him how? Also with Jahzara, I was very hard on myself to ensure I breastfed her, so she got the best from me. But what it really comes down to it, is the best from me really in my milk of how she is cared for? She is love, she is growing and she is happy. Everytime I look at my little girl she’s smiling, she’s wriggling, she’s laughing. Breast milk or Formula milk my children are happy, growing and healthy.

Anyone who is down on themselves about not producing enough milk or they have or currently being judged by their choice. Don’t let those negative ignorant people get you down, whether specialists or experienced people. It is all about YOU and YOUR baby and what is best for YOU!

Thank you to all my mummy friends for sharing their experiences.

Thank you to you also for reading, if you wish to discuss further or would like to share your own experience, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Until next time..

Dionne x

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