Chips and chocolate

Breastfeeding is best.

Really? I had no idea. Haven't heard anyone mention it before.

So, formula is rubbish and we are lesser parents if we decide to go down this route, that much seems to be clear.

However, as I have previously mentioned in my post about breastfeeding struggles, it is not always possible to breastfeed your baby. I recently read a blog which suggested that it was an old wives tale that your nipples can become chapped and sore. Trust me, this is not an old wives tale. If you don't believe me, I have pictures to prove it. I took them to remind me why I stopped attempting to breastfeed my daughter. My nipples were cracked, sore and bleeding. The milk my daughter was drinking was pink with blood.

Whilst it is clear that formula will never match up to breastmilk (it couldn't if it tried due to the enzymes and the way that breast milk changes as your baby grows), it is a pretty good alternative. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be on the shelves in supermarkets and we wouldn't be allowed to feed it to our children. 

My grandmother tried to breastfeed two of her children but got such bad mastitis that her breasts got infected and she had to have the infected parts cut out of her. Subsequently, she didn't feed the next two children. They didn't wither up, full of infection and suffer an awful childhood filled with allergies and coughs and colds. They are absolutely fine.

In fact, out of my two children, my son has eczema and rashes all the time. He was breastfed for six months. My daughter has no nappy rash and no signs of eczema and she was only fed breast milk for three weeks. I know there are people who advocate bringing wet nurses back, but for me this wouldn't be an option. It would merely amplify my utter uselessness in comparison to a woman who could feed my baby. 

In researching for this post, I found very few positive stories about formula feeding your baby. However, I stumbled upon this blog post which was well written and gives a reasoned perspective from a mother who tried breastfeeding. I also came across this post which has incredibly 'useful' sub headers such as 'so why aren't women bothering breastfeeding' and, more worryingly, 'killing babies'. This scaremongering alone is enough to keep any new mother from popping out and buying some formula.

There is very little information available, in my experience, to women who choose to feed their baby formula. When I made the decision (with the help of a wonderful breastfeeding counsellor), the midwives and health visitors did not give me any information to aid me with this decision. It was up to me to find out how to make the milk up and sterilise the bottles correctly. I don't think that formula feeding advice should be given above breastfeeding advice but it is imperative that advice is made available for the safety of our babies. I had no idea of what I needed to do to provide my daughter with sterile and safe milk. For anyone who would like to know, the recommendations from the World Health Organisation can be downloaded.

I currently have a friend who has a five week old baby. She started feeding him formula at three weeks but in the last week, the midwife has encouraged her to start expressing again (she's getting 2oz every two hours) and try to breastfeed. She doesn't want to, but she is doing it because this is what she is being told is best. She is unhappy and expressing every two hours twenty-four hours a day. This can't be good for her or her baby in the long run.

Judging people because of the way they feed their baby has changed so much over the past decades. My mother in law said that when she had children (70's) breastfeeding was the second option and formula was what was suggested to her as the best way to feed her children. Even since I had my son in 2009, I have found that attitudes have changed towards formula. With my son when I had trouble breastfeeding I was encouraged to switch to formula (which I didn't) and with my daughter I was criticised by the midwife for even contemplating switching.

If you are feeding your baby formula, at least you are still feeding your baby milk. There are people out there, who I encountered in a soft play centre, and I'm sure there are others, who feed their baby chips and chocolate, with milk as an afterthought. This is not right. Not even close to being right. 

So how about we support each other in whatever decision we make about feeding out children? Please don't view us as not as good as you, or not bothering to breastfeed because we're lazy. We are doing what we think is right for us and our baby and it is our decision to make. Accept that the majority of people weigh up the pros and cons before making a decision and it might very well have been a very difficult decision for them to make.