It's the age old debate isn't it, breast vs. bottle. It never seems to go away and I can't see it happening anytime soon. I see that it's 'National Breastfeeding week', how lovely to celebrate being able to do something that is supposed to come naturally to a women but what about a 'National Formula Feeding week' we never see women simply feeding their babies regardless whether bottle or boob, after all fed is best surely? Why are we not cheering the women on that are feeding their babies regardless of how and raising happy and healthy children through maternal well being and love.
You see my breastfeeding journey wasn't a great one. I would have loved to be one of the women who it came to naturally, who enjoyed it and embraced it but sadly I didn't. Throughout my first pregnancy with Alfie I uhhmed and ahhed about breastfeeding, my husband was very enthusiastic about it also, I knew I wanted to try and give it a go but I had reservations, I absolutely hated the thought of getting my boobs out in public and this stems from years of hate of my breasts and low self esteem, natural it may be to whip them out and feed from them, but for me it cut deeper than this and trying to get my brain in the right frame of mind for breastfeeding this was hard for me, plus I really didn't like the thought of my nipples being used as a feeding source, it made me shudder. Of course, all of the parenting workshops we attended reminded us that 'breast is best', there was never any mention of formula feeding and how to prepare bottles, sterilise etc which surely should be touched upon? It wasn't however, instead we were sent away with stacks of breastfeeding info and numbers and websites to access if we needed but not once was bottle feeding discussed.
Fast forward to May 26th 2012 and my baby boy was born after a long, drawn out and traumatic labour. I spent 2 1/2 hours in surgery afterwards and had minimal skin to skin with him initially due to blood loss and having a tear that needed to fixed fairly urgently. At the time it's not something I felt impacted on my bonding and breastfeeding journey but perhaps in hind sight it did slightly. After returning from surgery it was time to start breastfeeding I remember a midwife putting him to the breast and he didn't latch easily at all and when he did my god it hurt. This was pretty much how it went from this day, numerous midwives, health visitors and my husband trying to latch him on and each time it killed, absolutely killed but I was advised a little pain was normal to begin with. We did have a couple of times when he'd latch ok but then he would be on the breast for 45 minutes at a time and sometimes I'd have a 20 minute rest before he then wanted more milk, he was a hungry baby and the constant need to be fed was exhausting. I ended up with sore, bleeding nipples and having to rely on nipple shields to ease the pain as well as combi feeding but this made me feel like a cow, constant expressing and the more I expressed the more milk I was producing so my boobs constantly felt full or were leaking. I was in tears many times, I felt broken with lack of sleep and wondering how long to endure the pain and soreness for. I remember breaking down and sobbing on my husband one day, I felt useless, my body felt broken and I really just felt like I'd lost my identity and felt like a failure as a woman not being able to do something that was supposed to be natural.
We called the breastfeeding helpline as a last resort and they connected me to a lovely lady who did support me through feeding and I managed to latch him for a good feed but I knew deep down couldn't continue and honestly I didn't want to, I was miserable and was starting to resent my baby boy, my son, blaming him for my body feeling wrecked and for me feeling useless and miserable. At 8 weeks I decided to stop my breastfeeding journey and it was the best decision I made. Instantly I felt like a weight had been lifted, I felt happier and I got more sleep. Alfie took to drinking formula milk from the bottle with ease, we all seemed to be so much happier and although Alfie was a fairly sicky baby thanks to colic and reflux the route of formula feeding worked much better for us. My mental well being also hugely improved. I knew it was the right decision I had made, I look back now and I wish I'd stopped before 8 weeks, I wonder if stopping earlier would have made even more of a difference.
We then go on to 2015 and my little lady was born a long labour still but with less complications (thankfully). I had once again decided to try breast feeding but knew this time it was going to be with much less pressure on myself. I even took pre-prepared formula bottles with me should I decide not to commence with breastfeeding. After birth she latched on much better than Alfie, it seemed to be more natural and it hurt less, I guess I was a bit more experienced so knew what to expect we managed a few times in hospital so I knew she'd got some colostrum. We were discharged home later in the evening, couldn't wait to get back home to see my little man in the morning. Elarna, as we named her needed a feed before we went to bed, it was about midnight and I put her to the breast but she did not want to latch on properly. I tried and tried to get her to latch by changing positions, wetting my nipple with a bit of milk and trying to encourage her but no use, she just wasn't latching properly. I could feel my stress levels rise and began to get upset and this was when I decided that I would not continue like this, I was not going to put myself through a torturous time to the detriment of my mental health, happiness and bonding with my newborn.
Remarkably, although we were then formula feeding on demand Elarna definitely set her own little routines, she was a happy and healthy baby and thrived on formula. I was so much happier like this, I can't even tell you how much choosing to go down the formula route made me feel like I had made the right decision and I look back now and I know that it was the correct choice to make for us. That is important to mention, this was MY decision and one I chose for ME and my baby, my family and my mental health. I needed to not make the mistake I felt I did with Alfie and pressure myself and force myself to breastfeed to think that this was the right thing to do. Of course I don't deny that breast milk is miraculous and amazing full of the correct nutrients and properties that a growing baby needs, it is free of course and your body can produce as much or as little as required however there is alot to be said about making mothers feel like a failure for not choosing to or being able to breastfeed their baby.
I have two healthy, happy and thriving children, I do not feel that making the decision to not breastfeed my children has been at all detrimental to them in the slightest. I commend anyone who has been able to breastfeed and continues to do so, it is an amazing achievement however not everyone is able to or wants to and should not be made to feel bad about this or in the wrong. At the end of the day a fed baby is a happy baby regardless of how. We should be encouraging mothers to breastfeed however they want to, we should be helping women out either to breastfeed or formula feed, we should not chastise women who want to formula feed at all, it makes me sad to think that people may have looked down on me for my choice to provide my children with a bottle containing formula.
If I were to have a third child I don't even think I would bother trying to breastfeed. I feel that it isn't for me, I didn't enjoy it, I hated every minute of it, I didn't bond with my babies while attempting to and my mental health suffered so I definitely would bottle feed from the beginning and not have an ounce of regret.
Did you bottle feed or breastfeed? I am interested to know your thoughts on this age old debate, please do leave me a comment or get in touch.
* A FED BABY IS A HAPPY BABY*