Before having Jonas I read lots of magazines preparing me for this exciting time. One of the most common questions was “will you breast feed?” For me the answer was simple, of course! There was no question in my mind: my baby would take to it easily and the whole experience would be an amazing bonding time. Well, as with many things within those first few days, nothing quite goes as you expect.
I was induced early as Jonas was small. The delivery was long and the doctors used ventouse. On day two I was given what has become, in my opinion, detrimental advice: to breast feed, express milk and syringe feed and then top up with formula. Being a first time mummy I of course did exactly as advised. However, those first few weeks were tough. Jonas never fed well, screaming through every single feed, looking immensely uncomfortable. As I preserved for what felt like 3.5 LONG weeks, I felt emotional and upset seeing him in such a state. After those first few weeks, when even my health visitor was surprised I had continued so long, me and Alan made the difficult decision to stop breast-feeding.
This was not easy. There are so many books that openly tell you that ‘breast is best’ and that ‘if you give formula, there are higher risks of illness in the future’. Scary things to take into account! As I stated mulling over the decision to bottle feed I chatted to my mum, nan, sister and friends. In the wise words of my nan that for me sealed the deal:
No one knows the difference between a bottle fed or breast-fed baby when they are older!
For me, if this had simply been about breast-feeding I would have carried on, as my son always comes first. However it wasn’t simply about that. Those first few weeks are vital in the bonding experience between mum and baby. As newborns tend to sleep a lot, the feeding is such a special time when you can get to cuddle your baby and see them awake, looking up at you. Jonas was in discomfort though each and every feed, and I was stressed out. I knew he would be fine regardless of whether he had breast or bottle milk, so as long as he was healthy, what was of utmost importance was the relationship between us. I desperately didn’t want those first few weeks to be traumatic for him, or for him to be sensing his mummy was stressed.
I have since learned that when babies have ventouse delivery, this can make it particularly painful for them getting a comfortable position when breast-feeding. Oh how I wish I had known this at the time! Deciding to stop breast-feeding was a tough decision. I have since met lots of mums who have given up breast-feeding, and I can see the sense of guilt or the need to justify their actions written all over their face. But we all make decisions based on what we feel is best for our families and we should never be made to, or allow ourselves to, feel bad for this.
So, is breast always best? Not necessarily! It wasn’t best for our family; it wasn’t best for my son who was in pain throughout every feed (who totally calmed once I introduced just bottles) and it wasn’t best for countless other women I’ve met who have made this tough choice.
If you are a women who managed to breast feed easily, well done. It is my hope that I will have the same privilege next time round. For all those mums who found it hard but persevered, good for you. But to all those mums that made the decision to stop after giving it a try, credit to you! I don’t believe there are many mums who make this decision without first taking into account the needs of their baby and the whole family. And in the words of my nan, no one knows the difference when they’re older!