Before having my first child, I did not in any way, shape or form anticipate or appreciate the complete life change becoming a mother is. As expectant mothers we're bombarded with heart-warming stories of how everything will click into place, the love you have for your child will be instant and all consuming, and of course, that all too familiar insinuation that has permeates every antenatal appointment and class, that good mothers breastfeed.
I didn't breastfeed. Not because I physically couldn't, but because I just didn't want to. Call me selfish, I call it doing what was right for me. I just couldn't get my head around it, and having spent nine months carrying my child around, I wanted to get my own body back for myself after the birth, so I made the very firm decision before my little one came along that I was going to go for the bottle. I didn't mention this to anyone bar my husband and close family, because, truth to be told, I was worried about the reception such a decision would garner. For me, choosing not to breastfeed was an easy choice and one which was fully supported by my husband and family. What wasn't easy was putting up with the absolute barrage of assumptions that I would breastfeed, so much so that I went along with it and didn't mention anything about the odious bottle to anyone else for fear of the general disgust and antipathy such a decision could potentially generate.
My healthy, thriving, happy child was bottle fed from the minute she came into this world. She loves her feeds, she sleeps solidly through the night, and is a very happy baby. And I'm a happy mum. I love the besmirched bottle for the routine and contentment it provides both me and my child. Based on my experience, and comparing it to the many women I know who had children around the same time as I had mine, I know it was 100% the right decision for me. The absolute pressure put on mother's to breastfeed is, frankly, disgusting. I know of women who have been on the verge of breakdown because the child isn't latching properly, isn't getting enough breastmilk, and isn't sleeping, however they feel the need to stick with it because of the pressure. It's really has made me think, does breastfeeding, and adding extra pressure to what is undoubtedly the most stressful time of your time, really make you a better mother, or your child a healthier happier baby? My conclusion? No, no it doesn't. How can a mother who is so stressed out and sleep deprived as a direct result of feeling the need to choose breastfeeding really provide a better arena for a growing child than a mother who is relaxed, knows that her child is being well fed, and who is getting much needed solid rest and sleep.
I have not yet met one woman who has, though I'm sure the exception is out there, when being truthful, spoken of how easy breastfeeding is, how it came completely naturally, how their child sleeps solidly and through the night from the early weeks, or how they actually don't feel stressed out. Bottle-feeding mothers on the other hand, for a life-change that is so all consuming, they seem to deal with it better, because they are getting the proper sleep, and the baby is getting the proper feedings it needs. In the quite large circle of women I know who've just had babies, just a few of us made the personal choice not to breastfeed. Our 'baby talk' consists of constant stream of cries for help from the breastfeeding mothers; 'babies not latching', 'crying all the time', 'feeds every two hours around the clock even at five months old', 'must be tongue tie', 'I don't think he's getting enough', 'I'm really struggling', 'today's been a bad day'. Ad infinitum. I want to tell them, 'you've done your best, you've tried your hardest, go for the bottle', but they're grown adults. It's their choice.
And choice is what should be promoted, not exclusively breastfeeding. I am absolutely sick to the gills of health professionals and the NHS and antenatal/postnatal professionals, and worst culprits of all, fellow mothers, constantly banging on about how important it is to breastfeed. I'm appalled at the open disrespect shown to mothers who bottle feed. I've heard of women being left in tears by midwives lambasting them for choosing the bottle. I'm not refuting that breast milk is of course best for baby, but what about what's best for mother? What about trying to get your head around the, albeit fantastic, complete life-shock being handed a new baby is, without the pressure of everyone expecting that you will take him or her to your breast and everything will fall into place just like everyone assumes it will. That, in my admittedly limited experience, rarely happens. I want to see a step back from 'breast-is-best' to a 'do what is right for you' attitude being promoted. And women's adaptation to motherhood and all the stresses that come with it, physical and psychologically, being taken as seriously as the contents of the babies milk.
Bottle is best, breast is best. Basically, whatever is easiest for you as being the best mother you can be, is what is best. Don't feel pressured into breastfeeding because society seems to expect it of you, try it if you want, but if it doesn't suit you, or you think a bottle would be easier, do it. You're still a great mother. You'll feel no less bonded to your child. When they're toddlers running around we'll not be able to differentiate between who was breast or who was bottle-fed. Happiness is knowing that choices exist for a reason. Know there is a choice. Do what's right for you.