A Breastfeeding Rant

Sunday, 8 January 2017
The 'breast is best' debate is something that instantly gets my blood boiling for a number of reasons. I'm not arguing that, scientifically, breast milk is the best thing a baby can have but I think the way that breastfeeding is promoted or, rather, forced upon new mothers is awful. My experience with it, in particular the NHS, has left me feeling a little bitter about the whole thing.

Like any other mum to be, I started to think about how I was going to feed my baby during pregnancy. I knew little to nothing about bottle feeding or breastfeeding. I knew about the health benefits of breast milk but I had visions of sore, bleeding nipples and to be quite honest, the thought of pulling my boob out in public was daunting. When it came to bottle feeding, I had no idea how to make a bottle and was worried about keeping everything sterile. I had loads of things I wanted to know before I made my decision.

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I quickly discovered that it's almost impossible to get genuine facts anywhere. NHS staff are told to promote breastfeeding at all costs and all their information is intended in pushing you towards that. One of my antenatal classes was taken by a 'feeding specialist'. It was clear after a couple of minutes that she was well and truly biased. Every question about bottle feeding was met with a negative response. We were told that the only way to make a safe bottle of formula is to follow the NHS approved guidelines which is a 30 minute process, even during the night. We were told not to 'risk' using the Perfect Prep machine which makes them in two minutes, as it's not NHS approved. (spoiler alert - we used this for bottles and it's totally fine and so convenient)

Breastfeeding, on the other hand, was painted as a complete walk in the park. It shouldn't hurt at all if you're doing it right, it's free and it's so much easier to feed during the night. An obvious choice, you'd think. It was blatantly obvious that she was pushing breastfeeding, which meant we didn't trust any of the answers given about bottle feeding. We knew there must be negatives to breastfeeding, and positives to bottle feeding but no one was willing to tell us for the fear that we'd chose not to breastfeed. We all left that class feeling unsure, confused and manipulated.

Despite still being completely undecided when I went into labour, I ended up breastfeeding Oliver purely because he latched quite easily after he was born and I thought it was worth giving it a go. I quickly found out the reality of sore nipples, leaking boobs, painful contractions while feeding. It may be easier to pull your boob out during the night rather than making a bottle, but the feeding specialist failed to mention that breastfed babies feed much more frequently. You might not have to get out of bed, but you'll be awake nursing most of the night - which was the reality I was facing. You might save money on formula, but it's not free - you spend on nipple cream at £10 a pop, nursing bras, breast pads. These are the things that we should have been told. 

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Even when I'd already made the decision to breastfeed, I couldn't seemed to get past the 'breast is best' barrier when speaking to the midwives. They refused to say anything negative about it. When I was stressing out about the cluster feeding for hours on end, I was met with a condescending smile and a 'oh, he's a hungry boy!' comment. Not one person said, 'do you know what? It is bloody difficult. It's hell for a while, but it gets better'.

I haven't written this post to bash breastfeeding as there are positives about it too but it was really difficult and I'd walked into it blindly, misinformed and unaware of the hard work it would involve. It was no surprise that it didn't work out. I was so exhausted and frustrated that I gave up breastfeeding after 10 days and as it turns out, me and Oliver were much happier this way.

If I'd been told the real truth about the pros and cons of breastfeeding and bottle feeding, I really think I'd have enjoyed my early days with Oliver a lot more. I might still have chosen to breastfeed, but I would have been much more prepared for the challenge and probably would have researched tips and ways to make it easier. Instead, I had the reality of it thrown at me when my whole world was already up in the air. If I'd chosen to bottle feed, I'd have been more confident in what I was doing from the beginning and not felt like I'd been forced into it as a 'plan b' option.

There's so many decisions to make when you're having a baby and it's one of the most uncertain times in your life. It's not fair that the NHS feel they can make that decision for us by withholding the facts. No one expects it to be easy any way. There's pros and cons to both and we deserve to be given the facts to make our own decision and to be supported with whichever method we chose.

Did any of you have similar problems getting good advice on feeding? 
5 comments on "A Breastfeeding Rant"
  1. I'm 37 weeks pregnant and I found the exact same in the feeding class at antenatal! I am someone who has intended on breastfeeding from the beginning. It's something I always want to try! But I'm aware, from other mums that it's not always possible for a variety of reasons. The "specialists" as you say refuse to say anything negative about breast feeding or for any of the struggles you might face. Worries about not producing enough milk to keep up with your babies appetite were basically met with "your body has grown a baby completely on its own, trust it to do the same with feeding!" Some of the mums in my antenatal classes canf breastfeed, whether they want to or not due to medication they are on.

    I personally as I said really want to give it a try but I totally agree it's unfair for them not to give you equal pros and cons for both feeding methods. We also had the negative comments in regards to the prep bottle maker!

    1. Oh I heard that line too, 'your body will do what it needs to do' .. which really isn't the case, things sometimes don't work as they should! Yeah it's so important to know the real pros and cons. I feel like if you know what to expect then you're more likely to be more confident and prepared for it! Thanks for commenting <3

  2. I have heard so many horror stories about this. It boils my blood, but as a non-mum I feel unqualified to comment. I'm glad you found a solution that works for you and Oliver, and so pleased that you spoke up about it. I think this post will be a big help for many new mums struggling with the same guilt.

    Lis / last year's girl x

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Lis! <3

  3. I've just come across your blog and found myself reading post after post :) Oliver is gorgeous!
    This one was a really helpful post to read, I'm due in May and I'm almost certain I want to bottle feed but I'm finding it so stressful to find information about it, especially on what to do if you're bottle feeding from birth in terms of what you need to take to the hospital! At my first midwife appointment I was given the 'mum's milk' breast feeding booklet straight away and although there are many benefits to it, I think we should also be given a booklet about bottle feeding, no matter what your reason is to bottle feed! It's a stressful time for any first time mum regardless of which way you choose to feed your baby
    Laura xx


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