I am sure this is likely to cause some controversy but I do feel like I need to speak on this. We are currently feeding Sofia our daughter of 3 weeks on a combination of formula and breast. It has been difficult for Em as everything official – midwife, hospital etc.. are largely focused on “breast is best”. I agree with this but that doesn’t stop me from thinking this mantra has a negative affect on those who may not always be able to feed from the breast. We are not all created equal (I am not talking breast size) and people have different situations from which they have to deal with the whole breast feeding conversation. In many cases it is not always possible to breastfeed only and the official line needs to help here.
Em had trouble post birth and needed a further operation to stop internal bleeding and to recover from low iron counts due to the blood loss. For a period of time after the birth the official line was to continue breast feeding but this felt difficult with a recovering body and a baby which loses weight after birth and then has a week to recover it’s original birth weight. Throughout this period the advice was to progress the breast, the milk would come and it was essential that we tried for long periods to satisfy Sofia via the breast without introducing formula, as it might lead to rejection of the breast. I think for a healthy person this is fine and something to be pursued but with Em recovering it was clear she wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy Sofia and in fact Sofia’s weight dropped dramatically. Through all this and the subsequent visits at home the advice was to progress as much as possible on the breast every few hours, we did this. However Sofia continued to lose weight and so we took the decision to add formula. We’d used it in the hospital immediately after the operation, doing this rapidly led to her gaining weight and in a few days she was back on track towards target weight. We’d avoided a trip back to the hospital.
For me formula is perfect, it allows me to support Emma and give her time off to sleep and time with Sofia. There is much to suggest that formula gives you a balanced set of nutrients to help the baby start and gain weight. On the other side there is much also to suggest breast helps prevent infections and disease such as meningitis and blood poisoning. I’ve posted two articles here from a popular newspaper for the only reason that conflicting information is prevalent and is at times no better than the fan boy arguments that you get over whether Sony or Microsoft has the best console (not trying to compare breastfeeding to consoles, just to the ideological way in which it is fought out in the media and on forums. The thing is that this all lead to Em feeling guilty that she wasn’t breastfeeding only and worried also.
I had formula almost from birth and I am fit and healthy, a slight bit of asthma but hold down a good job, play football and run marathons and ultra’s. It definitely didn’t seem to affect me. This seems to be a thing, many of the ways my mum brought me up have since been poo poo’ed by the establishment, something my mum finds hard on hearing. I turned out fine. There are many more factors around your socio-economic background which likely plays a greater role in your childs development.
Looking around online is scary as it is so weighted to the breast with more scare stories than a brexit vote being used to try and make women feel guilty when not using the breast and in cases lies about the differences in content of breast to formula. Yes, it is natural and women have done it since the dawn of time but I am sure babies and women themselves have suffered through not having any other alternative and support when breast milk isn’t working 100%.
I think what it comes to is personal preference and balance, Em still breastfeed’s but we also use formula and the bottle as a way of topping up, in some cases replacing the breast for a meal. This balance allows me to help, Em to recover from her own challenges and Sofia to gain weight and become a healthy baby. This isn’t an anti breast post, it is important and if you can fully feed and look after your baby with just the breast then great, just don’t look down on those who can’t or where it might not be best. This also needs to go to healthcare workers who need to be more than fake sympathetic when the mother has breastfeeding challenges or is not well herself. There needs to be equal support for those women.