Tuesday, 11 October 2011

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.


  1. I couldnt agree more, well said lovely

  2. Brilliant post and the last paragraph sums it all up. I know so many who BF because they thought it was best, then for only them and the baby to suffer...

    Women are far to quick to judge other women...

  3. @Alysonsblog Thank you. I was definitely guilty of judging others when I breastfed Blake. Now I realise how stupid that is!

  4. @Frankie P
    We absolutely are our own worst enemy. I'm sure women would be a lot happier if we stopped judging each other.

  5. I think it is almost always a difficult decision. Sometimes you can, sometimes not. Even some babies can't. My daughter turned from a grouchy unhappy baby to a really happy child when we stopped breastfeeding. My son, however, was a natural right from the beginning. Good post x

  6. Very well written. I think you have voice what a lot of people feel on this situation xx

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  8. Sorry couldn't see how to edit, terrible spelling! Will try again ... 'whilst you are right please don't knock those that breastfeed because the government and/or medical studies say breast is best please. I feel every one to their own and nothing is a problem in this debate, but personally feel terrible that i breastfeed when people start to create about the fact that they feel victimised over not being able or wanting to. It is a viscous circle and everyone should be happy and not feel they are being judged by their decision.

  9. Breast-feeding or bottle-feeding? It's a difficult decision to make and not one any mother takes lightly. I decided to formula feed my baby when he was born - I didn't attempt breast-feeding. My mum was very supportive - she formula fed all of us - and we're all perfectly happy and healthy - no allergies or anything. My mother-in-law breast-fed her two boys and challenged my decision almost every day until I lost it with her.
    When it comes down to it - I know I've done what's best for V and he's happy and healthy.
    Great post :)

  10. I was so close to giving up breast feeding with both my boys at about 3 weeks but found giving them one formula feed in the evenings when my supply was really low stopped them being hungry and gave my poor bleeding nipples a chance to recover a bit. My HV was horrified and told me I'd end up reducing my milk supply and be unable to feed but I was able to carry on until E was 13 months and T is now 9 months and still going strong.

    I wish HVs were more willing (and better trained) to talk to women about the many options and variations there are to help them feel they are making a positive choice on feeding rather than just setting it out as one good and one bad option.

    Even as a (mostly) breastfeeder I do think the hysteria around formula is just ridiculous. It is a perfectly good substitute and I have had no qualms about giving extra formula to the boys when I've been somewhere that breastfeeding is difficult or when someone else has been looking after them.

    As with every parenting choice all we can do is get the best information we can and then make what ever choice seems best. I'm certainly not losing sleep over it now and I hope you're not either.

  11. I was lucky in that I managed to breastfeed (and still am)and we had no problems but I still feel I was in a minority - so many mothers I knew had problems breast feeding. There is nothing wrong with formula. I was formula fed (70's child) and I haven't had any major health problems. Its a terrible thing to find yourself judged, even worse by other women, if you decide to switch to formula - its usually a difficult decision and one made after a real bloody battle (as it was in your case) with breastfeeding.

  12. OH MY GOONESS!! I agree with this whole heartedly. I was exactly the same, my baby looked like he was drinking strawberry milkshake most of the time, i DREADED him waking up because I knew he'd want milk and I felt like I wanted to smash him against the wall for causing me so much pain - I hated my own baby. Then I eventually moved to formula milk, he turned into a happy chappy, I turned into a happy mummy and it turned out breast feeding wasnt just harming me physically, it was harming both of us mentally, just wish I'd swapped earlier. Also heres my favourite midwife quote; (just to set the scene of this exchange, I'm a hormonal first time mum with a post graduate qualification and proffesional job attending an NHS run antenatal class with some other mums to be who didnt get any GCSEs because they 'forgot' to go to the exams).

    Midwife: "Okay, which of you mums to be was bottle fed as a baby?"
    Me: "I was" (the ONLY one)
    Midwife: "Well, as we all know bottle fed babies are less intelligent than breast fed babies"
    Excellent - Thanks for that NHS, great way to make me feel good about myself.

  13. This is such a fantastic post. There's not nearly enough information given from the midwives or health visitors on how to prepare formula milk.

    My son was born 5 weeks early, and I didn't realise it at the time but I had retained placenta, and as a result by body was confused hormone wise and my milk didn't come through properly.

    Instead of trying to help me feed my son, as I wanted, they pushed me to formula feed my son, they provided sterile bottles in the hospital but they didn't advice us on how to make the formula up once we were home, and I ended up asking if we could take some made up bottles home with us to give us a day to get things organised at home for formula.

  14. Agree 100% the pressure Mrs B endured was ridiculous! The NCT Breastfeeding "expert" was so one sided she was offensive!

  15. I found breastfeeding difficult with both my sons. I managed to feed my eldest for 4 weeks before developing mastitis and then gave up. I felt so guilty at first and cried and cried. WIth my second son, he latched on so well, but I fed him too frequently and ended up with blistered nipples. There was no way I could carry on as the pain was excruciating. The thing I found was that they advocate breastfeeding, but don't really tell you how often you should feed, at least that's what I found. Anyway, I don't regret bottle feeding my sons. I was breastfed, but still ended up with eczema, asthma and a number of allergies anyway!

  16. Thank you all for your comments. I breastfed my son for six months and I think one of my problems was that I expected the same with my daughter, I didn't entertain the idea that it might not work.

    I'm so pleased the NCT breastfeeding counsellor was a sensible woman who just told me to stop. There should definitely be more advice and support out there if you feed your baby formula.

  17. I completely agree. I've breastfed my 3 children (still breastfeeding my youngest) and I feel extremely fortunate that I've been able to do so without any problems. I always knew I would breastfeed, it was never really a conscious decision, and I really feel for the mums who agonise over it because they're told that 'breast is best'.

    I've recently trained as a breastfeeding peer support worker though in my area breastfeeding rates are really low. I'm in the minority. But I do feel sometimes that mums who formula feed think I'm going to judge them just because of their feeding choice, when I would never do this! I think it's more important for the mum to be happy as this will benefit the child, whatever choice they make.

  18. A great post! I too have written of the whole breast is not best issue. Why should mothers be made to feel inferior if they find they cannot breast feed for any reason?
    Formula milk isn't poison!
    We are all women and mothers - let's support each other not snipe each other for choices we make!

    Hoorah - love this post so much !

  19. Oh gosh I absolutely agree with your post! I formula fed my first child and am breast feeding my 2nd (now almost 9 months) but I have no guilt about either thing, and believe me people find fault with both, you are never right whichever you decide to do.
    A happy mummy is a happy baby and if you are happy in your choice and that is reflected to the baby then great! :) and that applies with boob or bottle as far as I'm concerned :)


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