Is breast best?

Sometimes you have to hit the bottle

So breast-fed babies are less likely to have behavioural difficulties according to a new study. Add to this the health benefits we already know – a boost for baby’s immune system, protection against some cancers for mum – and it seems breast must be best.

While these are all the reasons I chose breast feeding in the beginning, they’re not what’s made me stick with it. Six weeks in and, although I love the closeness with my wee one, I have to be completely honest; the three main reasons I’m continuing are that it’s helping me lose weight, it’s free and it’s less hassle (I keep burning myself with the steriliser).

Because here’s what they don’t tell you – breast feeding hurts. It’s uncomfortable. It can be embarrassing. It can be inconvenient. I have a very hungry baby boy who sometimes wants fed every hour. Bearing in mind that you time the feed from when they begin suckling, not when they finish, you can end up sitting there with your boobs out for half the day.

Although I know I have to sit properly with my back supported and my feet flat on the ground, sometimes it’s easier to hunch a bit to keep him attached. I know I should freely feed in public and the hell with other people’s insecurities, yet it can be embarrassing to open your shirt in a cafe. And I know I could wear normal clothes and just pull my top up, but I don’t particularly want to show off my not-yet-flat belly, so everything I wear has to button down.

The health visitor tried to discourage me, but I’ve opted to introduce one formula bottle in the evening. It gives me a rest and allows my husband to take over for a few hours. He baths the wee man then gives him his bottle and really enjoys having him to himself for a little while after work. Even though the health visitor warned it could disrupt my milk flow, I don’t feel it has – and it’s not going to affect that other huge advantage of breast feeding: no menstruation.

The breast feeding rate in the UK is really low – only a third of mums do it – but I can understand why. If I had to go back to work full-time after a couple of months I don’t think I’d continue. If I needed to share the baby care, bottle feeding would be much easier  – it’s a hell of a pressure to be the only one who can give a screaming baby what he wants. Plus I was lucky that I had a very straight-forward delivery, if I had been ill or was suffering from post-natal depression I think breast feeding would have pushed me over the edge.

So while I, personally, have made the choice to breast feed my baby I totally support the mums who don’t.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Is breast best?

  1. Good read on a touchy subject.
    My friend is nearly 6 months pregnant and is feeling pressured into breastfeeding from her family, even though she doesn’t want to. She has a niece and a nephew who were breastfeed, both have asthma and one has eczema.
    She is not really into the idea of publicly breastfeeding (not because of staring from people) but because she would find it embarrassing, albeit it can be done discretely.
    I think it’s a shame that the strapline ‘breast is best’ is banded about these days like pure fact as it makes it sound like mums who don’t are doing wrong. Each to their own i say. I think my friend will get stressed out when she has the baby which is a shame.

    • This really upsets me to hear your friend is being pressured. Every single decision a new mum makes feels like the most important in the world and it’s so unfair for other people to judge. She has to do what’s right for her because her baby will pick up on her moods. If she’s unhappy breast feeding then the baby won’t get as much from it anyway, so tell her to be strong!

  2. I know what you mean – I’m still just breastfeeding (also 6 weeks) but am very tempted to start expressing and getting my husband to bottle feed that to the baby. Partly because, as you say, it starts to feel like all you’ve done all day is have a baby latched on to you and partly because I think my husband is missing out on the bonding experience.
    I think you have to go with what works for you and not feel guilty – as you say you get a break, you and your baby still get all the benefits of breastfeeding AND he gets to have some quality daddy time. Sounds like a win all round to me!

  3. Great post – I wish more mums were as honest as you about the downsides to b/f as well as the bonuses!

    I breastfed my son for 9 months, and am happy I did, but can’t say I really enjoyed it.

    I’ve blogged about this too – from a slightly different angle. Even as a supporter of b/f I think that the media coverage of research like this probably does more harm than good. Please feel free to have a look and comment.

    http://dorkymum.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/breast-is-best-but-theres-no-need-to-keep-shouting-about-it/

  4. katy whitelaw

    Well done Kim for breastfeeding! Loving the site – well done. I have to say breastfeeding does get easier after the first few weeks, which I have to agree are pretty painful. I fought through the pain barrier of cracked nipples and then the tearful nights when I got thrush in my boobs (didn’t even know this was possible) and managed to carry on until my little one was six months and getting teeth. He was also a hungry baby who didn’t sleep through the night and at one point was getting fed every 2-3 hours which led to me having around 4-5 broken hours of sleep a day for about three months!!! Stick with it and don’t let the health visitor guilt trip you re the formulafeed – you need to do what works best for you (and your sanity in the early months!). If nothing else you will feel a smug sense of satisfaction that you have tried to give the best start to your wee one and watch the pounds drop off and get into your pre preggy jeans that bit quicker.

    • Youch – thrush in your boobs?! I’ll watch out for that one. He’s managed a couple of 11-6 nights so I’m not too sleep deprived, just wish I could figure out what I did differently!

  5. Zoe21

    This is a very interesting subject to discuss and the reason that breastfeeding uptake is low is because people don’t tell you how hard it is! Don’t get me wrong I have breastfed both mine and Duncan will turn one on Sunday and I have just stopped feeding him this week. I am surprised how I feel about that and actually really sad that the breastfeeding stage is over. Anyway, sometimes to establish breastfeeding at the start is tough and I can totally understand why people give up because there is an expectation that it should be easy right from the start. It is hard but it does get easier and the bonding you get with your baby is brilliant. I also introduced a bottle with Madeleine at bedtime so that her daddy could bond with her which was great as a lot of the time dads get left out but with Duncan he refused to take a bottle until he was 10 months!! Enjoy the breastfeeding time because before you know it you will be over!

    • I am so impressed you’ve fed Duncan as long as a year! That’s amazing! One of my friends was saying she’d like to exclusively breast feed until her wee one’s 6 months and I nearly fell off my seat 🙂

  6. Hi,

    I used to work as a medical secretary to a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist for 5 years and knew a lot of Midwives. They were always saying the usual “Breast is Best”. However, a lot of ladies had problems breastfeeding and preferred to use a bottle for convenience and many other reasons. I think it should be up to the mum not anybody and certainly not peer pressure or pushy midwives! When I had my baby I used a bottle from the beginning. Firstly, I did not really want to breastfeed and secondly as I had to go back onto medication which meant I was unable to breastfeed whilst taking. Some of the Midwives I knew including, the Head of Midwifery at the hospital made sure they did not press their opinions onto me and knew it was my choice whatever I did.

    It was also easier during the night feeds as I used to keep the bottle in the warmer ready to heat up. It also meant my mum and sister could take over (I was getting divorced at the time).

    Think how you feel and if you prefer breast do so if not do not let yourself be pressured into doing something you are unhappy about!

  7. 9 years ago I had almost the opposite! I was determined I wanted to breastfeed, but got very little support at all. My daughter didn’t get back to her birth weight until she was almost 8 weeks old & I was told to put her onto the bottle by my health visitor & others told me ‘there must be something wrong with your milk’! I persevered & introduced bottles when I went back to work after 7 months… then one night coming home from a meeting I got stuck in the snow all night – having left the midlands at 3pm, I arrived home at 9am, yes you can imagine how uncomfortable I was, so that was it, I stopped!
    Then when my son came along I was prepared for the arguments, and again, although he was a far more voracious feeder, he didn’t get back to his birth weight until 8 weeks either. Both are now stropping 9 & 6 year olds & none the worse for it!
    I think Mums should be supported and encouraged (especially in the first few weeks when most give up), but not have it forced on them. I found breastfeeding easier & more convenient (no having to sterilise or heat bottles when I was out & about), but other people simply want their bodies back! Whatever’s best for Mum in the end is best for baby. now my kids are at school, can I tell which of their class have been breastfed & which haven’t… of course I can’t!

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  10. Hi there,

    New to the mummy blogging world and trying to connect with others. I enjoyed your balanced perspective in this post. I breastfed, bottle fed and pumped until my daughter was 5 months.

    Breast feeding didn’t come naturally to my daughter or me for that matter. We experienced difficulties with latching on, milk supply and weight loss. I was advised against topping up with a bottle because it would interfere with breast feeding but my daughter needed the nutritional boost that formula gave. I loved seeing my daughter gulping down the milk and thriving but all the negative press still managed to make me feel bad.

    Two years later, I couldn’t care less. My daughter is happy and healthy and making excellent progress for her age. My advice to new mums is to do your best with the breast, but if it doesn’t work out don’t beat yourself up over it.

    Sorry for the long message:). You can check out my new blog at http://www.countingblueberries.com. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    Evie

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