If you’d asked me this question at any point before the last eight months, I would have given you a smug look ( you know the one, the breastfeeding is easy, anyone who tries hard enough can do it kind of face) and answered quite clearly that breast is best.
Number One and I breezed through breastfeeding, she loved it from day one, she came out (albeit out of the escape hatch) knowing exactly what she was doing. I didn’t have to think about it, worry about it, or focus on it, it just happened. She had the knack and she taught me what to do. And we kept doing it for almost two years, it worked for us. I was more than a little bit proud, the difficulty of this I decided had been massively underestimated.
So when Number Two came along, I didn’t even contemplate not breastfeeding. This was the one part of being a second time mummy I wasn’t worried about. This I knew how to do.
How wrong I was. Number Two struggled from day one, rarely feeding for long, and even when he did having such a poor latch that feeding exhausted him, meaning he would quickly fall asleep. In the evenings he would scream from hunger, yet he didn’t seem to understand how to open his mouth to feed. Ultimately he stopped gaining weight, and would only feed when he was asleep. He hated every moment of breastfeeding. And if I’m honest I hated myself for putting him through it. Who was I really doing this for, for him or for me. Because it was what was best or because it was my ideal of what a mother should be?
I decided there and then, there was no best. Best was what was right for my baby. Best was feeding my baby. Best was not putting us through torture every single feed. Something needed to change.
We tried a bottle. Enough was enough. It was time to stop being so stubborn. For us it didn’t work. The flow was too fast, and he hated it more than the breast. But what had changed was me, my attitude, to what was right, to what should be done.
We were luckily, Number Two’s Reflux was diagnosed, and brought under enough control to enable him to feed. Now at almost eight months I still breastfeed, we have tricky days but he’s got the knack, and mostly enjoys it.
That doesn’t mean I was right. I will always wonder if I’d introduced a bottle earlier whether it would have saved him some of the pain, whether if he was taking some now it would be easier to find out which foods affect him; because what I am eating would be taken out of the equation.
The point is when it comes to our feeding choices, we need to stop judging (and that very definitely includes judging ourselves), we need to stop the smugness of the breast is best movement, we need to start realising that what’s right for each family is right. There is enough mummy guilt in the world, we need to take it out the equation for this one. It doesn’t matter how we feed our babies.
It does matter that we love our babies. It does matter that they are able to be fed. It does matter that as mums we make the decision to do what is right for us and our baby without feeling like we failed.
We are good mums. Breast, bottle, or tube. Whatever works for our babies. That is what is right.