How many times do all expectant or new Mum’s hear the words ‘breast is best’? In my opinion, too many!
Now before I continue, I want to make it absolutely clear, I have no issue with breast feeding whatsoever. In fact, I applaud women who do manage to breastfeed successfully. I’m not one of those people who turn my nose up when I see a woman breast feeding in public, it’s a completely natural way to feed your baby. My issue is with the saying ‘breast is best’ and how these 3 simple words can affect a woman.
Just because a woman isn’t breastfeeding it doesn’t mean she didn’t want to. Imagine how the words ‘breast is best’ affect a woman who spent the first few weeks of her baby’s life trying, and failing, to establish breast feeding. She is more than likely already feeling guilty because she ‘failed’ – these words will do nothing but damage her possibly already low self esteem.
Breast feeding Mums talk about the shame they feel around feeding in public, attitudes towards extended breast feeding, and a lack of practical support from medical professionals. Formula feeding parents talk about the shame around the entire first year of feeding, being made to feel like they are harming their children, being frowned upon by health visitors, and having a lack of practical support from medical professionals. There are problems, gaps and room for improvement on both sides. It’s not a competition.
When I was pregnant I don’t think a day went by where someone wouldn’t ask me if I was planning on breast feeding. Even a complete stranger in my local supermarket asked me why I was looking down the formula aisle and boldly stated ‘you won’t be needing that rubbish dear – surely you are going to breast feed?’. I was totally taken aback and actually lost for words – it seemed my growing baby bump gave total strangers the green light to discuss my boobs!
I knew right from the start that I wasn’t going to breast feed. There were many things that led me to make that decision, mostly personal. But what shocked me was the amount of people who took an interest into how I was planning to feed my baby. Not just health visitors and medical staff, but friends, family, and even strangers. They all wanted to know if I was going to breast or formula feed. I actually found all the questioning pretty overwhelming and started to feel like I was being guilt tripped into changing my mind.
You hear women saying that formula feeding Mum’s don’t have that ‘special bond’ with their babies as they aren’t feeding themselves. But I totally disagree. I sit and feed Max every night, cuddling him, looking into his eyes and soaking up all the features of his beautiful little face – do I feel like I don’t have a bond with him because it’s a bottle in his mouth and not my nipple? Absolutely not! Adam also get’s to experience that special bond as we share the feeding times 50/50 and I think it’s so important that Dad’s take an active role and get to feel included.
I suffered with Post Natal Depression after Max was born and the only thing that helped get me through each day was having Adam on hand when I felt I couldn’t cope. He could simply make up a bottle of formula and take over, allowing me to rest. I strongly believe that if I’d had the added pressure of breast feeding that my depression would have been a lot worse. The idea of breast feeding on demand and expressing in between feeding just felt too much for me to cope with.
Some women find breast feeding very rewarding, and for them, it is the right choice. Others find that formula feeding works much better, and for them, breast feeding is the wrong choice. We all know fantastic mothers who formula feed, and plenty of formula fed babies are as healthy as those who are breast fed. My Sister and I were formula fed, and my Brother was breast fed. We’re all now grown adults and I can honestly say that my Brother is no more healthy, intellectual or happy than we are. We all have an equal bond with my Mum and her love for all 3 of us is unconditional.
So, which do I think is best, breast or formula? The honest answer is both. It’s a personal choice to every woman. It’s your baby, therefore your decision. No one should try to influence your choice, only you know what will work for you.
But if you’re one of these people who promote the saying ‘breast is best’ please stop and think before saying this again – you may not know the reasons behind a Mum’s decision to formula feed and this question could lead them to feel anxiety, guilt and like they are failing at being a good Mum.
Max goes to bed happy, content and with a full tummy of milk every night- in my opinion that’s all that matters to me.
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