Breast is best blah blah blah.

I’m feeding my baby the way that suits my baby AND me the best. And I refuse to be sorry about it.
I’m feeding my baby the way that suits my baby AND me the best. And I refuse to be sorry about it.

I’m feeding my baby the way that suits my baby AND me the best. And I refuse to be sorry about it.

I am resolutely going to feed my baby from a bottle every day. With formula. Shut the bad mothering gate!! It suits me well to have the flexibility to leave my children for work and exercise and (so selfish) have a glass of wine or 3 at the end of the evening.

I am also resolutely going to feed my baby from my breast where and when it suits us, and without any kind of cover thank you very much. Just the same as you would have a snack from your handbag if you were hungry.

I refuse to sit in shame or cover my child in a ridiculous shroud because someone else needs to get a fucking grip. You stick a bloody cloth over your head whilst eating and then we’ll see how keen you are about it. This whole ‘it’s excreted from your body’ (therefore should be hidden away) argument just does not wash with me; breastmilk is created for the sole purpose of feeding your offspring; it is not waste.

Before I had children, I really thought that when women spoke about the stigma surrounding breastfeeding (to boob or not to boob), it was just a stigma in their own heads. No, suddenly when you become a parent the way you feed your child is up for public debate. And I don’t mean that in a ‘friends and family chat to you about your own choices’ kind of way.

I mean that perfect strangers feel it is appropriate and necessary to say a quick “well done love”, or a disgusted look away as you flash your ‘titties’ just for their enjoyment. A quiet head shake or a condemning eye for deigning to give a perfect creature a bottle of devil’s juice. And heaven forbid you ever read the comments section after an online article about the breastfeeding question: you’d think you were reading about porn stars or drug dealers.

Seriously, why do people think that breast feeding is ostentatious? I don’t know if there is a single woman on the planet who ever breastfed their child for the sexual gratification of a stranger (okay, there is probably a market for this, but I’m pretty sure they get paid handsomely on the internet, and aren’t doing it for free for whomever the ‘lucky’ passer-by are on the day).

Anyway, back to me and my boobs and my baby and my choices…

When I had Rio I was certain that I would breastfeed and I would do so ‘exclusively’ for as long as I possibly could. Why? Because I was told over and over that ‘breast is best’. I was told this again and again; by my midwife, antenatal classes, the internet/ every baby website I looked at, even formula websites are obliged to tell me so. I would do my utmost to provide the best start to my baby. As it happened, breastfeeding for me came quite naturally; Rio latched on well and I was full of adrenalin and joy and everything was rosy.

After a few months my desire to spend literally every second with my offspring gave way to a hankering for ‘me’ time. Exercise, sleep, work and socialising became aspects of my life that I missed desperately and actually NEEDED to attend, to feel like a full human. How was I supposed to leave my baby and fulfill these desires AND breastfeed like EVERY GOOD MOTHER must?

Pumping. I must pump! And pump I did. EVERY DAY. Every day an hour after his first feed I pumped a bottle of milk and put it in the fridge. We would give it to him most days, even if I wasn’t away from him, so that he didn’t ‘forget’ how to use a bottle.

When Rio was about 6 months old I suddenly was unable to pump anything. One day totally out of the blue my milk just wouldn’t come, no matter how long I pumped for. And I pumped the bejesus out of my poor boobs! My doctor suggested I pump whilst feeding, so for the next 5 months I did this; I pumped and fed until Rio was 11 months and then finally I weaned from breast milk onto goat’s formula, and then I was FREEEEEEEEEEE for a few months before I became pregnant again.

THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT.

This time I don’t have time for that shit!! How the hell am I going to pump every day whilst looking after a 2 year old AND a teeny tiny baby? And why did I care so desperately about EXCLUSIVELY breast feeding anyway?

Do children die from being fed formula? Are they dumber? Are they REALLY more likely to suffer from allergies/ asthma/ infections etc? I’ve read a few articles like this one http://time.com/9917/sibling-study-shows-little-difference-between-breast-and-bottle-feeding/ that suggest that studies aren’t taking into consideration genetic and environmental factors that most certainly contribute to these outcomes. Yes I know that one TIME article is no PLOS journal, but it is the most user friendly and blog appropriate link I can find with next to no effort (PS I’m no health professional, so don’t go crazy here, I’m not trying to offer advice to the masses. Do your own homework and make your own choices. Obviously).

And what about the women that can’t breastfeed? After I gave birth, every other mother I knew told me their stories of mastitis and ending up in hospital with fevers and infections, tongue-ties and procedures for remedying these, battles to be seen by the best lactation specialists, and the blame, and embarrassment, and family harassment, and the SHAME that they couldn’t feed their baby the NATURAL way that IS BEST FOR BABY.

And worse still if they CHOSE to feed their baby by bottle. Maybe they had a deep aversion to feeding their baby from their breasts? Maybe they knew they had to go back to work in 14 weeks because that’s all our Paid Parental Leave entitles us to in NZ (don’t get me started), and what’s the point in starting with full breast feeding if you have to then face the burden of weaning onto a bottle (if you can) after a few weeks? Or perhaps they intended to pump 3 or 4 times a day (1-2 hours) in a convenient private space that their amazing employer provided for them (whilst still being able to do as much work in as short a period of time as prior to having children) and that didn’t quite work out (because they weren’t magic).

Now go ahead and call me a heathen, but I just cannot see that the value added by breastfeeding is more worthwhile than the mental stability of the mother. My husband’s motto is “happy wife = happy life” and I’m absolutely certain that can be extended to ‘happy mummy = happy baby’.

I will never judge a mummy with a bottle in her hand, and I don’t expect that I should be judged either; whether my boobs are out, or my bottle.

I’m feeding my baby the way that suits my baby AND me the best. And I refuse to be sorry about it.

feed

5 thoughts

  1. Well said Gabe! Everybody has something to say about everything … And it drives me batty! No one knows what anyone is going through, bunch of judgemental freaks out there and everyone should just button up and get on living their own lives!

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  2. Thanks Gabe. I was nervous to read this as I assumed it was more ‘breast feeding is the only way’ propaganda. I have struggled to feed(low supply and slow let down) and for the last 3 months have pumped 6 times a day for 15 minutes to get as much breastmilk as I can for my daughter. It’s totally exhausting but the fear that has been put in me about her not getting breast milk is immense (despite knowing I was formula feed and I seem ok!?) I am so surprised to hear there is a sigma about women breast feeding, I really struggle to understand this- try bottle feeding a 5 week old in public and I tell you there are plenty of sideways judging looks that come my way. I would give anything to be able to breast feed her (convenience alone-mixing bottles at 3am with a screaming baby is not fun). I think I’m finally at the point where we will have to move to formula soon as I can’t sustain this set up much longer, but thinking ahead to the looks and questions I will receive about it makes me nervous. And the pain I feel myself at not being able to breast feed her like a ‘normal’ mother. I wish people would do as you say and mind their own business.
    Gawd! It’s exhausting this Mummy business isn’t it!

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    1. so exhausting! I totally hear what you are saying re feeling nervous about ‘the looks’, but at the end of the day you’ve got to do what’s right for you and your bub.
      If you are spending an hour and half every day pumping, when you could be sleeping/ playing with your baby/ cooking or just having some ‘you’ time, and you feel as though you can’t sustain that, then who is it serving? Pumping is utterly draining in every sense. I remember feeling totally shattered after pumping and that was something I was not expecting.
      Try not to give yourself a hard time about not feeding like a ‘normal’ mother, because YOU ARE feeding like a normal mother whether it’s boob or bottle. Kids need love and time and kisses WAY more than they need a perfect mother (saying this as much to myself as to you!).
      All the very best to you x

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  3. Apparently the world health organisation (WHO) is a big player in this debate. They say ‘breast is best’, but it’s possible the WHO has a somewhat ‘bias of responsibility’ towards what is best for third world country’s. In the absence of 1st world super formula, ‘breast is best’ is true. But this advice may be neglecting the contextual factors that exist in our 1st world country . This message from the ‘authority’ (WHO) may add to the conflict of mothers (and stigma) in a world where formula is safe, affordable (to majority middle class) and available.

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    1. Hi Urs,
      I’m not necessary refuting that breast milk is the golden juice it’s purported to be; I know that it’s a wonder liquid produced with great qualities that change depending on the needs of your baby – pretty incredible the ‘conversation’ between babies needs and milk production.
      Nor am I saying that people shouldn’t be educated on the benefits of breastfeeding, but some people cannot or do not want to breastfeed, and this is actually okay! Especially when we have formula that is a good option. It is a choice that shouldn’t have so much judgement attached to it, because mum’s judge themselves harshly enough!
      But while we’re on the topic of education, wouldn’t it be more helpful to teach people how to feed their toddlers with actual food? I saw a baby being fed a RASHUN/ TWISTIE at the park today. Argh!

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