Indy turns four months old on Friday, and I’m still breastfeeding him (alternating between breast and bottle)! Even though I’m no longer exclusively breastfeeding, I’m so so proud that I’ve made it this far, as there have been many times when I’ve wanted to stop.
The breastfeeding vs bottlefeeding debate has changed vastly since I had Busby back in 2012. I remember sitting in our postnatal class, feeding her from the bottle, feeling utterly judged by the other 8-9 women who were sitting there with their breasts out feeding their babies. I felt useless; like I was a dreadful mother. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t my fault breastfeeding hadn’t worked out; you can’t explain your story to everyone.
I felt like I’d failed.
This time round the pressure has been less. Other mamas seem to be more open about talking about bottlefeeding. Open to discussing the merits of bottle vs breast. There’s conversation about which formula people have found best. Conversation about how difficult breastfeeding actually is. The taboo seems to be lifting.
There are so many pros for breastfeeding, but I have to be honest and say there are certainly cons too; it’s not all plain sailing. As I overheard in a coffee shop the other day from a first time mum: “I thought breastfeeding would be easy – after all, it’s such a natural thing. But it’s really difficult. I never thought it would be so difficult.”
- The Bond. I’ve written about the magical bond I’ve formed with Indy through breastfeeding before, and I do feel like it was so much more easily forged than my bond with Busby which took a while to fully develop. A whole host of other factors could be involved too – Indy’s birth was an amazing experience, Busby’s was fairly traumatic. Indy is my second child and therefore I’ve felt more relaxed and have known what to expect, Busby was my first child and therefore I didn’t have a clue what to do. Breastfeeding your own baby is a unique experience – so no wonder such an intense bond is formed – no one else can do that for you.
- Fuss-free. Baby needs food? There’s no waiting around for a bottle to warm up or cool down, it’s a quick and easy ‘pull up t-shirt, pull down bra, and pop baby on boob’. Simple. Especially great in a public situation as you’re not on the receiving end of the entire elderly population’s disgruntled stares while your baby wails. And wonderful at night, because there’s no screaming and/or having to comfort a hungry baby while the bottle warms… and only one of you has to be awake.
- Magical breast milk. Breast milk is amazing! It’s packed full of natural goodness, anti-bodies and immunities! It’s also pretty good for clearing up conjunctivitis, and supposedly great for making milk-pops for teething babies. I’ve also known Mamas to express a bit of milk into their tea if they’ve run out of cow’s milk in the morning.
- It’s “free”. You produce it, so no tubs of formula have to be purchased!
- Your partner will get more rest. Nick has had far more sleep this time round, which has meant he’s been a great help during the day if I’ve needed a nap, or on the days where I haven’t been able to function…
- Guilt-free cake. Hurrah! Breastfeeding (exclusively) supposedly burns 500 calories a day, so cake is essential!
- It’s easy. Eventually. The first few weeks are difficult, but once you crack breastfeeding, it’s so easy and so convenient.
- Supposedly an effective method of contraception. Don’t take my word for it on this one, but according to the helpful contraception handbook we were given in our ‘you have a baby!’ pack, exclusively breastfeeding is an effective method of contraception. Just take heed, as I know a few people who have had little surprise bundles…
- You feel like you have a super-power. Not only have you just grown a baby in your womb, you have then birthed a baby, and now you are also feeding your baby with your breasts, with milk that you are producing! Woah! Us women are amazing!
- It’s a wonderful, intimate time that no one else will ever have with your child, and that you will never get back. This point makes me hormonally sob every time I think about it. I am the only one who can feed Indy in this way, and once breastfeeding is finished then that’s it – there’s no returning… It really is such an amazing experience.
- You are the one doing every feed. You may NEVER SLEEP. This is what I’ve found hardest about breastfeeding – it’s utterly exhausting. Your baby is literally (and I mean, literally) draining you and there isn’t much chance of an energy catch up. You are constantly in demand. It is shattering. At one point, Indy was feeding every 30 minutes at night; I was a zombie. A zombie who wanted to hurt anyone and everyone who even dared to say they were tired.
- Breastfeeding hurts to begin with. I’m not going to lie and say it’s pain-free. It does hurt. Of course it hurts. Unless your nipples are used to being suckled and pulled every hour of the day, then you’re going to experience pain, and most likely cracking/bleeding/bruising, until your nipples harden up. The pain eased around 8 weeks in for me.
- Mastitis. *Touches wood* I’ve been so lucky to avoid this, but I know lots of mamas who have suffered… Mastitis is caused by a blocked duct and/or engorged breasts. Symptoms include a fever, the shivers and a cold. The only way to get through it? Keep on feeding. If it’s really bad you may be prescribed antibiotics.
- Public exposure. Unless you want to spend every day inside the house, or fancy shacking up in a public loo for a few hours, there will be a time when you flash your nipple at an unsuspecting passerby. I was terrified of feeding in public to begin with (I’m not a ‘naked’ person), but actually it’s not that bad as long as you’re wearing something you’re able to feed in!
- The expense of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding clothes, breastfeeding bras, pumps, nipple creams, breast pads, not to mention ALL the food you will want to consume… Breastfeeding isn’t as “free” as it is advertised to be.
- Partner may feel useless/inadequate. Nick has found it more difficult to connect with Indy than he did with Busby as, while I was exclusively breastfeeding, I am all Indy wanted and he felt sort of defunct. With Busby, he was helping with feeds very early on. There were so many times he wanted to help me by letting me catch up on some sleep, only to have to wake me up half an hour later because Indy was screaming at him for a feed.
- Can’t get body back. This is something I’ve been struggling with; we spend nine months growing our babies, giving over our bodies to our babies, and then with breastfeeding, our babies are still in possession of our bodies. From only being able to wear clothes we can feed in, to always feeling hungry (from feeding and exhaustion) and finding it difficult to shift any weight… It might be a vain point, but sometimes we need to feel like us again. I can’t wait until I can wear bras that give me shape again, and dresses that don’t have nipple holes.
- Be careful what you eat/drink/take. With Indy being investigated for an intolerance at the moment, I have seriously cut down my dairy intake. I’ve also had to cut out courgettes and cucumbers, as these made him super gassy and uncomfortable. You also have to be careful what pain relief you take or use whilst breastfeeding – I discovered that gels like Deep Heat can’t be used! And of course, you can have a glass or two of wine, but excessive alcohol consumption isn’t really wise, nor is drinking lots of caffeine.
At the end of the day, there are so many positives to breastfeeding, as well as the negatives listed above. The same can be said for bottlefeeding!
It’s completely your decision as to whether you want to breastfeed or not. I am over the moon to have breastfed Indy for as long as I have, but at the same time, Busby hasn’t suffered in the slightest only being breastfed for 10 days.
The most important thing about feeding your baby is that a) they’re being fed and b) you’re happy as a Mama! A happy Mama equals a happy Baby!
We beat ourselves up over the breastfeeding vs bottlefeeding debate, but in 5 years time, will we be standing at the school gates trying to work out which children were given formula? No. In 21 years time, will we be clapping with pride at graduation ceremonies, but secretly scanning the room working out who was a breastfed baby? No. Do what works for you. Your baby will thank you for feeding them in whichever way you choose, and they will be even more thankful if you’re happy, calm and loving – they don’t care about anything else.