There is a huge stigma around breastfeeding, especially in public where some people think that it’s inappropriate. Because of this, 1 in 5 mothers are too anxious to breastfeed their babies in public.
A lot of new mothers who choose to breastfeed end up changing to bottle feeding their babies after a few weeks because of this, or like myself, alternate between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Campaigns are in place to help reduce the breastfeeding fear and many women have taken to social media to promote the “Breast is Best” message.
But to me, breast isn’t always best.
Health visitors and midwives push a lot of mothers towards breastfeeding as they say that breast milk is better for the baby – which is true for the first few days. The most important milk for a newborn is colostrum, which is high in antibodies.
New mothers are pressured into breastfeeding, but for some, they find it difficult. Not all babies latch onto the nipple easily or they sometimes become sore, and some mothers just don’t want to breastfeed.
This is my experience with breastfeeding: “I breastfed for the first 12 days of my baby being born, but he has a tongue tie and even though I was advised to have it cut to make it easier for him to latch on, I didn’t want to as he hadn’t struggled to feed at all. But after 12 days my nipples became so sore they started to bleed, so I decided to express and bottle feed my baby while they healed”
“It was easier bottle feeding. He was still having my milk but my partner was able to feed him too, which he loved because he felt more useful for the night feeds. Eventually, I couldn’t produce enough milk to keep up with my baby’s demands (he is very greedy), so I had to start using formula.”
Health Visitors push for breastfeeding. They say it is the best food you can give your baby, which might be true but are bottle-fed babies really that unhappy about their bottled milk? There is a lot of pressure on new mothers to breastfeed or continue breastfeeding because of the benefits, but nobody looks at the drawbacks.
- Breastfeeding can cause extremely sore nipples, which could result in getting infected. While this isn’t always the case, it can be caused by not feeding in the correct position (nipple to nose and tummy to mummy!), it’s always best to get help from your Health Visitor if you want to continue breastfeeding but you’re struggling.
- The other side is not being able to produce enough milk – this is nothing to feel bad about. Some people can’t produce milk or enough to feed their newborn, so have to start formula feeding from the start.
- If you’re sore or hurting, extremely emotional or struggling to latch on properly, your baby is going to be a little bit difficult to latch on properly.
Mothers who don’t breastfeed are told a lot of things that make them feel bad about themselves or as though they are doing a bad job. It’s a Health Visitors job to push mums towards breastfeeding.
Kim Wright (23), Rotherham, said: “I was told that breastfed babies go to university. I know that’s not strictly true but it still makes you feel slightly guilty.”
Other things people have been told are: “breastfed babies won’t be obese in later life”, and “formula milk doesn’t fill the baby”. It makes you want to carry on giving your baby breast milk.
But if it makes you unhappy, don’t do it.
Those who promote breast is best often make mums who bottle feed feel guilty. While trying to normalise breastfeeding, people forget to normalise bottle feeding, too.
I eventually wanted to give up: “After my nipples became extremely sore, I was in a lot of pain just by wearing a top. I cried a lot because I felt bad I wasn’t breastfeeding and I was told that my son wasn’t getting enough milk from bottle feeding. I was pressured into continuing with the breast and received at least four phone calls telling me I need to go to the Early Learning Centre to get support on how to breastfeed properly because I needed to stop bottle-feeding”
“I tried to breastfeed, but it hurt a lot and I bled a lot. Eventually, I realised the only reason my son was crying so much when I tried to feed him was that he could sense I was tense and unhappy. So I stopped”
“When my Health Visitor came when he was a month old, she told me that my baby was hungry all the time because he was being bottle fed and not getting enough milk like he would on the breast. He weighed 7lb 7oz when he was born, and after weighing him at home, he was 10lb 2oz (I think she shocked herself that his weight had proven her wrong)”
“I was a lot happier for bottle feeding and so was our happy little boy. He sleeps through the night and has done from four weeks old. He’s 2 months now and attempting to roll over. But I’d heard that ‘bottle feeding makes them a slow learner’.”
On the NHS website, there is a list of myths and facts. The thing is, what they describe as a myth is not necessarily true. Breastfeeding can hurt, it can stop some people from having a sex life (sore nipples? Long feed? You’d rather sleep).
At the end of the day, what’s best for mum is best for the baby. If you’re unhappy, then your baby will be unhappy. Yes, breast is best and it should be considered normal and acceptable in a public place, but bottle-feeding is best too.
There should be nothing shameful about how you feed your baby, as long as he/she is getting the milk they need and they are growing, then there is nothing wrong with how you feed them and we shouldn’t make others mums feel bad.