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.