Sunday, 29 July 2012

Milk Wars

I am going to write about something a bit controversial. I am going to write about the whole 'Breast vs Bottle' war that seems to exist yet was only brought to my attention when I became a new Mummy last September.

Personally, I think that everyone should try to breastfeed. I think it's better for the baby and that if you are grown-up and willing enough to have a baby then you are grown-up and willing enough to always do the best for them e.g. quitting smoking when pregnant, breastfeeding, etc. However I appreciate that formula is invaluable to some and without it we would be lost. What would happen if the baby and mother were torn apart through circumstance, or if the mother was on medication that meant it wasn't actually safe for her to breastfeed? 

I don't look down on formula. But I would prefer not to give it to Ava myself when she can have breast milk - which in my eyes is much better for her. And for me. You should see how much weight it's helped me lose......

The thing is......I have always reiterated again and again how I don't judge other people who bottle-feed their babies. How formula isn't 'poison' and how, at the end of the day, it is best for mother and baby to do what's best for them. And I have always disliked the Milk Mafia who bang on and on about breast-feeding to the point of being intimidating, patronising and a little rude to those who choose to make their white stuff from the powder variety. But recently I have sort of found myself becoming one of them. Don't get me wrong, I will never preach or berate to anyone's face and my attitude to others is live and let live. But inwardly, without admitting it, I do kind of judge. Which is wrong. But I can't seem to help it.

See here's the deal. Breastfeeding is bloody hard. And no-one knows that better than me. The pain is almost insufferable at the beginning and it is literally like drawing glass through your nipples every time you try and feed. My poor boyfriend still has welts on his arms from my fingernails. But I think that that is why I judge. Because it is so hard. And I got through it. I battled on because it was the best for my baby. And I am the biggest, moaniest wimp out there. So if I can do it then I guess I kind of worry that these women gave up a bit too easily. 

Now don't hate me. I gave up. When Ava was ten days old I literally couldn't take it any longer and sent my boyfriend straight to the chemist telling him not to return without a tub of formula and a bottle of tequila (just kidding about the latter). And Ava went onto bottles for a little while. But only a couple of weeks. I fixed up, looked sharp, got my shit together and just got on with it. And it was awful. Really painful and mentally exhausting. But I wanted to do it for her and I did. And now we breast-feed easily and I genuinely believe it was the best thing we ever did. So much so that I am genuinely concerned that weaning her off at 1 year is going to be an absolute nightmare.

I have no right to judge others. I did it myself. But I guess I wish these mums had persevered like I did. Because the rewards at the end are so great and it really is worth it. And I do find myself secretely thinking sly thoughts that are quite frankly, just unfair. When I see the 4 month old baby that is already in 9-12 month clothes I bitchily think to myself 'bottle fed'. And when the third Mum in a row tells me their 3 month old is sleeping through the night I can't help but think 'that'll be the formula'.

But am I just lashing out? Ava is ten months old and most nights we are still up every 3 hours. I've got to a point where I just want to cry most mornings because I am still living my life in a perpetual state of exhaustion. Is it just bitterness because I secretly suspect that had I continued to bottle-feed her then I would be getting 8 hours kip by now? And why am I judging other people anyway? As long as they are a good mum, take care of their baby and give them all the love and attention they deserve then who the hell am I to look down on them because they choose Cow & Gate over saggy tits? 

One thing I have learned is that when you have a baby things sort of become a competition and you can't really help it. Toby has 2 teeth at 10 months? Well Ava has 9. Sarah is sleeping through the night? Well Ava is already saying 'Mummy'. Don't get me wrong, it's not an obvious competition. It's just that Facebook and Twitter continuously shove these facts in your face and it's hard not to get a little bit caught up in it. But you never actually speak these thoughts out loud. Oh no, we think these things bitchily to ourselves whilst congratulating the opposing mummy with gritted teeth and a forced smile.

But it shouldn't be forgotten that when the chips are down or someone is having a hard time then those women who secretly compete for the cutest or the cleverest baby (and we all do it, don't deny it) are also usually the first people to step up with some sympathy or helpful tips to try and make you feel a bit better.

I guess I just want everyone to really try their best and while I genuinely know that many do, I strongly suspect that alot of women throw the towel in way too early. And I can really understand why. Lack of sleep coupled with crazy hormones can make anyone opt for the easier option. You will never hear me outwardly berate or condescend anyone in regards to breast-feeding and in my opinion, those that do need a slap. But I wish the NHS would get their act together and form a scheme that encourages breastfeeding in a more gentle and friendly manner without the bullying tactics that sadly seem to exist in so many hospitals to this day.

I do wonder how many breast-feeding women secretly judge others in the exact same manner that I do? And how many bottle-feeding mummys secretly feel intimated and foolish by our silent and unfair judging?


Niki Swaffield said...

So true. I have experience from both perspectives. I breastfed my daughter until she was 13 mths. Bloody hard work but very proud of myself for doing so. I wanted to do the same for my son (now 5 mths) but a paediatrician scuppered that by *insisting* he have formula every 3hrs the night he was born, as a result of 'precautionary' sun lamp treatment. I tried to combine bf and formula, but he eventually refused the breast completely :-(. He now has formula, and yes, he sleeps through the night (something his sister never did!) but I wish I could have continued breastfeeding. Just goes to show, they're all different, and just because it works out as you want first time round, the second can, through no fault or lack of determination or perseverance of your own, be a completely different story. In the end, we all just want to be the best Mums we can possibly be and have happy, healthy children. That's all there is to it. :-) xx

Dawn Young said...

Couldn't agree more. My Mum breastfed me easily but struggled with my little sister who ended up being bottlefed. She was a real help and support to me when I was struggling and I wonder if I would have been able to stick it out if it hadn't been for her so I think it's got a lot to do with the support you get from others as well xx

Anonymous said...

Getting controversial about these things is pretty obvious and I am pretty sure that it is normal. There are many things in this state that are supposed to be discussed for the moment.