I feel compelled during what is World Breastfeeding Week to write a blog sent out to all mummies out there, be it to encourage you that you are doing a great job, to encourage support across all mums in their feeding decision, or to encourage an honest and open conversation about how mums actually feel or may be made to feel. Because the reality is, from breast feeding to bottle feeding, does it really matter? What is it that is actually important here?
I hope that in sharing my own experience and my thoughts it may be of huge benefit to many other mummies out there.
A heartfelt note
I would like to start out by sending a heartfelt note to all mums of bottle-fed babies out there during what can actually be a really difficult week. I absolutely 100% have the utmost respect for any mum who gives breastfeeding a go, but that doesn’t mean that I respect other mums any less. For many, seeing it spread all across social media about breastfeeding your baby so intensely across the space of a week, with pictures of mums achieving this and sharing their stories it can make hard reading for those that could not or chose not to give breastfeeding a go for whatever reason. This does not mean that we should not congratulate those mums on achieving such an amazing thing, or recognise breastfeeding as an incredible thing that should be celebrated, but it does mean that we should also take in to account that this mass sharing across social media can have a huge mental effect on others, and the feelings and thoughts of those mums should be held in consideration.
Breast is best
I can’t help but feel that there is a lot to be said for mummies who seem to constantly have it thrown in their face that breast is best. I am certainly one of those mums who felt that way (mainly prior to LB being born I must add, not so much after). But there is definitely a tinge of mum guilt there when you read all the articles, or get bombarded by information from midwives, or see it spread across social media that breast is best.
Surely, what is actually best is the interest of both mum and baby. This can and will be different for everybody, but I would argue that having those interests in mind is what will create the best set up for the mental and physical health of that lady as a mum, and that baby as a child.
Everybody has their own view
As with any account, one can only share their view and their experience, so as I share mine today, it is of course bias because it is reflective of my perspective, but I hope if I can share this it can help others to relate, or maybe even give others an insight in to the mind and emotions of those mums who were not able to, or could not breastfeed.
I made my decision around feeding our baby fairly early on in my pregnancy, along with the support of Adam. My intention is to share my reasons for that, not to justify that decision, but to outline the thought processes that not only me but other mums go through. May it provide comfort for those who need it, or even education to those who haven’t been through it.
Happy mum happy baby
We spent a lot of time during our pregnancy listening to material, reading books, and attending ante-natal courses (one of which was specifically on breastfeeding). I felt like I always knew that I wanted to bottle-feed, for reasons that I will share in a moment, but very much took the opinion of keeping an open mind when listening to information around breastfeeding and bottle feeding in case I was letting my views be skewed by previous experiences I had heard about or witnessed etc.
So what was it that made us decide that formula feeding our baby was the best thing for our family?
- Firstly, and most importantly, I made the decision based around my mental health: Before falling pregnant we had experienced the most difficult couple of years in our life so far, and my mental health had definitely taken a hit from it. Having seen some of my closest friends go through breast-feeding and the challenges it presented, I knew that I was not mentally strong enough to go through that process whilst also trying to adapt to my new life as a mummy and everything that went with that.
- Secondly, and some may argue selfishly, I felt that I needed to be able to ask for some support when I felt I need it and allow Adam my partner or our parents to look after our baby. I know I struggle the most when I am tired, and was very much aware that some time out to rest, sleep, practice self care or see some friends would do me and my baby the world of good.
- Thirdly, being somebody who has always been very self-conscious I knew that I would feel very uncomfortable breastfeeding my baby out in public (I honestly take my hat off to anybody who can do this), and chose not to put myself through those difficult situations when learning how to be a mum was going to be challenging enough.
Overall Adam and I made the decision that we wanted to go with the happy mum, happy baby approach. We really got a feeling of how overwhelming everything could be when you are presented with so much information on bringing up a baby, and we knew we had to decide how we would move forwards with this information and how we would use it. We felt this was right for us as we knew that this would ultimately have a positive impact on me, our baby and our family as a whole. We knew that it would take unnecessary pressure and stress off of what is already a hugely stressful time which was really important to us.
A new approach
Whilst I absolutely advocate sharing information that shows the benefits of something on a mum and/or a baby, I also believe that it is hugely important to consideration the bigger picture and to support mums to the same level in all situations.
I had an experience whilst pregnant whereby I went to purchase formula for my unborn baby to be told that I could not use the points I had accumulated because I should have been breastfeeding. Surely this is not acceptable for any person to go through this level of judgment and criticism, let alone a soon-to-be mum. No wonder our mental health is at risk so much?
That being said, I could not have received any more support from midwives and health visitors and felt far from judged by any of them when they knew my feeding decision once baby was here. This was also the same when I was out and about. Maybe it was at this point that I felt I didn’t care anyway as I felt strong in my decision?
What I am trying to say is that there are people with raw emotions behind these decisions. I can’t help but feel that a focus on picking mums up, letting them know that they are doing amazing, and encouraging this support across the network of mums is in fact the way forward.
So whatever way you choose to feed your baby, I think you are amazing and I think you should be extremely proud of everything that you have been through to get to this point today.
Sending love, always, from one mummy to another.