Breast Feeding vs Bottle Feeding

By Wednesday, January 11, 2012 10 , , , , Permalink 0

Now that feeding a baby is going to become part of the norm for me very soon, the subject is at the forefront of my mind too. With Beastie I always planned to breast feed. I knew that I couldn’t possibly predict whether or not this would be a feasible option for me until he arrived but like a birth plan, I had my ideas in mind.

My own Mum had breastfed me for six weeks and I had that figure in mind to at least achieve as much as she had. I felt it was right for me and that it would give Beastie a good start out in life, boosting his immunity as well as helping us bond. When he arrived, despite having a c-section, I immediately fed him in the Recovery room. He couldn’t be placed straight into my arms after his delivery as I was a little tied up being stitched up but it made no difference to us. I would say it took me about six weeks to properly establish breast feeding, with periods in between of feeling like I was failing and that I might have to give up. Purely by coincidence at the six week point things just started to get easier, after that I managed up to seven months until Beastie naturally wasn’t so interested anymore. Stopping was harder for me than it was for him and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

So this time round, with experience under my belt, I want to try again to feed. It may go smoothly but there again it may not. My baby might not take to it the same, tongue ties are common which might hinder feeding and I may have problems such as mastitis that I didn’t encounter first time. Each time is different but I am hopeful that I will be able to give the same to this baby as I did for Beastie.

Over the years the advice about feeding methods have changed dramatically. When my Mum had my sister back in the early seventies it wasn’t common practice to breast feed and as a young mother she bottle fed like most Mum’s were encouraged to. Fast forward to the late seventies when I was born and midwives were promoting the benefits of breast feeding. She managed what she could and I am proud of her.

Now there is new research questioning whether Breast is best?. They have apparently found that bottle fed babies are generally more content and cry less than their breast fed counterparts. What they do mention is that breast fed babies cry more but this isn’t down to being irritable and that bottle fed babies are probably more full up, hence being contented but that they may be over nourished and gain weight quicker. So again we have more conflicting information to only confuse and pressurise new mothers. I am pro breast feeding but I am also not anti bottle feeding. There is an option that is suitable for all mothers. We incorporated the odd bottle when Beastie was small because we had the main worry that all new parents get and that is is my baby getting enough milk. He took some bottle and he mainly projectile vomited the others. I didn’t want him to be bottle fed all the time because I wanted to be able to provide the milk. For me it was natural, less fuss (with sterilising) and best of all free. I didn’t get on with public feeding and I doubt I will fare any better this time but I found places to feed that were private and we got along just fine. I also appreciate that we are all different and that for some Mum’s the thought of breast feeding is repulsive. We are all entitled to do what we wish with our bodies and if feeding isn’t for you then that’s fine.

NHS choices has written a good article here highlighting the study and clarifying some of the points raised. They also point out that the choice of headline for the article was misleading. In my opinion the guidelines for feeding needs to be changed. I agree that breast feeding should be encouraged if it’s a possibility. Some people may establish easier feeding if they were to stick at it a bit longer but no one knows what a mother might feel like, unless they are actually that person themselves. Similarly I believe that bottle feeding should be taught alongside breast feeding and it should be common practice throughout the country. I didn’t experience any pressure to not bottle feed on the maternity ward I was on, it was fairly relaxed but I have heard stories elsewhere that people have felt pushed into feeding. There is always added pressure from families and partners over the correct feeding method that should be used. Luckily my husband was happy for me to do whatever option was best for me. He didn’t have many opportunities to feed him, besides the few projectile vomit bottle episodes, but he didn’t find this an issue and this helped me a great deal. Doing it my way and having my husband’s support was by far the key part of successful feeding for me.

The pressure then continues with advertising on the tv and I found once I had stopped breast feeding all I was bombarded with was adverts about ‘follow on’ formulas and the like. When Beastie was a year old I felt pressurised to continue with formula rather than switch to full fat milk as it was promoted as the right thing to do. All the while guilt tripping you into buying overpriced products to ensure your child gets the right nutrients for their growth and development. I didn’t bow to pressure though and changed to milk.

I think it’s high time that the subject of feeding your baby is relaxed and the pressure to conform is not emphasised so much. It’s hard enough bringing a baby into the world without the extra worries of whether you are nourishing your child in the correct way. People need informed choices but not constant and conflicting advice.

10 Comments
  • Love in the Nest
    January 11, 2012

    I love this debate… I don’t know why, it brings out loads of emotion.
    This post is fab! I feel this may be a long comment… I couldn’t BF my first child and I think knowing I couldn’t from early on in the pregnancy made me tell myself I didn’t want to. He was mix fed expressed milk & formula for 5 weeks then exclusively on formula. He is and always has been, happy and healthy. So when I fell pregnant again I thought I’d just ff. When my daughter was born I went through the usual and let the midwives latch (or more accurately force) her on and she fed, I didn’t feel much more than that it was stressful so we switched to formula on the ward. When we got home and were settled and relaxed I tried again to breast feed my daughter and found that in the comfort of home and nobody yanking my breasts around it was a much better experience. I breast fed my girl until she was 10.5 months and self weaned (I cried for days but she was ready).
    It wasn’t an easy journey, I struggled with supply, mastitis, disapproving looks when feeding in public, less than supportive relatives… But we did it and I’m so pleased.
    But… regardless of how they were fed, my children are equally happy, intelligent & healthy.
    The pressures put on women in pregnancy and after birth are crazy! I have been made to feel bad when feeding by bottle and breast! It’s one of those where you’ll never please everyone. Happy Mummy makes happy baby… that’s all that really matters x

  • Mummybeastie
    January 11, 2012

    Thanks for your great response! This debate always gets me too and it was an itch I had to scratch with writing it. You are proof that women need to go with what is right for them, as you have tried both. I think it’s sad that a lot of Mum’s are rail roaded one way or another and that it might not always be the right road for them. I went to a breast feeding support group and I found it very useful, it was nice and calm and no one was yanking my boobs around like on the ward! Completely agree with happy Mummy makes happy baby :-) xx

    • Kate Buckley
      January 11, 2012

      Oooh! I LOVE my local support group. Completely invaluable for breastfeeding Mums esp since we are a minority xxx

  • Kate Buckley
    January 11, 2012

    I too love this debate and wrote a post a while back and it probably won’t be my last on the subject. I could waffle on for hours but the only point I want to make is that I wish every mum was able to breastfeed for as long or as little as they want without feeling guilty for stopping too soon or feeding for too long. I fed Spud to 7 months and was given incorrect and quite frankly crap advice from a MW whilst ill and I had to stop (I’m still mad can’t you tell) and I’m feeding Pooh Bear who’s nearly 9 months. I’m aiming to get to 12 months and avoid formula and bottles etc so I hope we get there. I’ve already had comments about how much longer I’m going to feed him.
    Re: loveinthenest’s MW comment – I hate when health professionals get it so wrong. You expect and rely on them to do everything to support you correctly.
    Great post :) I will be back to read more posts.

  • Mummybeastie
    January 11, 2012

    It’s definitely a subject with lots of mileage! I wish that all midwives came with a guarantee that they will give you correct advice. The term given to them often of ‘madwives’ is not far from the truth with some. Health Visitors also play a valuable role too and mine was lovely. She gave me gentle encouragement to carry on feeding, which can sometimes to so tricky when your baby is at the stage where they need to regain their birth weight by a certain date. She didn’t put more pressure on me and I carried on feeding and cracked it…

    Have been over to your blog too :-) x

  • Katie @mummydaddyme
    January 11, 2012

    What a great post hun- as you know I stopped feeding Mads at 11 months and I have written a fair few posts on breast feeding and the struggles I faced- from Mads having a tongue tie, to 5 episodes of mastitis one which included being hospitalised, and having only been able to feed her from one side and constantly express on the other, I can honestly say that it was hard work and I look back and honestly wonder why I carried on through all that. I think the main thing was the fact that we had that episode of her not waking up when she was a week old, I somehow thought if I breasted through it all then it would protect her. Eventually when she was about 6 months it all clicked into place and I just loved feeding her but I can honestly say when I have another baby if I face all these challenges again I don’t know whether I will continue as long. Although when I finally stopped with mads I cried as I was so sad to stop! I think you have to do whatever works for you and the baby and know that it’s your right- there are so many activists out there and it does make me cross as it is our right to choose how to feed our children. Xx

  • Lucy at Dear Beautiful Boy
    January 12, 2012

    What a well written post. And I honestly think that your views are shared by the majority of mummies who have either breast-fed or bottle-fed. I breastfed and continue to breastfeed at 11 months, but like you I only set myself the goal of a 6-12 weeks at the beginning. I’ve loved breastfeeding and would tell anyone I know who is pregnant to at least give it a try but I am by no means one of these people who makes formula-feeding mummies feel bad. Personal choices and personal circumstances mean that there is no RIGHT way that suits every mother and baby.
    I just wish that the media would butt out of it, if I’m honest. Articles like the ones that were all over the media yesterday make my blood boil. We’ve got painfully low breastfeeding rates in this country and I don’t think these sorts of things help. Plus I don’t think that my little man could have been more content if he tried. I’ve known far more grisly bottle-fed babies, so again, I think it depends on the circumstances and the individual.
    I also think that they need to work harder to get normal breastfeeding mummies involved in these sorts of stories on the television instead of rolling out the scary breast-feeding activitst who come across as pushy. There are so many lovely, normal mummies out there who have breastfed but don’t think that bottle-feeding is evil by comparison. They need to get you on telly next time Mrs!!!

    • Mummybeastie
      January 14, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, bad publicity about breast feeding is not the way forward! I honestly don’t know how it could ever be portrayed as being bad for babies….but someone out there has managed it and it worries me how many people will listen to that, sad really x

  • would like to be a yummy mummy
    January 13, 2012

    A great post and well written. I personally breast fed to 11 months with both my girls and must admit it was much easier second time round. I wanted to try it and was glad I did. When I stopped I went straight onto cows milk. After all they had not had formula for 11 months so I wasn’t go to start then. I had heard about follow on milk but did not feel pressurised to use it. Times do change and I think we all have to do what is best for us and our families but personally I believe I have given my little ones the best start in life I could. Good luck this time round xx

    • Mummybeastie
      January 14, 2012

      You did brilliantly managing so long with both your children, here’s to the third, it will be a breeze! If only we were all so determined and not easily swayed, it would make for a better experience x

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