Infant feeding is always a buzz topic. Especially at the moment, during National Breastfeeding Month (yes. A whole month…) conversations on infant feeding are everywhere.
With Eden being almost two (ridiculous!), I wanted to look back on ten things that I wish people had told me about feeding our baby. I’m going to be fairly “bottles and formula” heavy because that’s what I know.
10. Read Information From Credible Sources
Don’t just read the information that your midwife or OBGYN gives you – especially if you’re registered at a hospital that is accredited under the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Get online. Read. Don’t just read blogs, though. Read studies. Read scientific investigations and articles. Get the most up to date information from the most reliable sources. Unfortunately there are some incredibly unreliable sources online, so make sure you back up what you read with scientific studies.
9. Breastfeeding is not easy.
I haven’t breastfed, but here’s what I’ve gleamed from people around me. Breastfeeding isn’t easy. It isn’t “always in plentiful supply” and it’s often not the fairytale made out by the brochures in the early days. BUT that’s normal. It’s new. You’re learning and your baby is learning too. Like any new skill, you have to learn it to perfect it. Which leads me to the next point…
8. There is not enough Support/Information around breastfeeding.
When it comes to support and information about feeding your baby, there is plenty of support (for breastfeeding at least) before your baby is born. Once baby is here and you run into problems, you might as well kiss support goodbye. Doctors are well known to say “just formula feed” and lactation consultants often span from the militant type who encourage breastfeeding at all costs and end up causing baby health issues, to the “not that bothered” type. If you need support, push for it. Push for unbiased support who will not push breast above everything else. We need real support that recognises when to supplement and recognises when the end of a breastfeeding journey has been reached.
7. There is NO helpful support or information around formula.
The only information I was given antenatally about formula was a leaflet entitled “The Risks of Artificial Feeding”, promising me that if I fed “artificially” my baby would be fat, stupid, diabetic and would probably die before they were a year old. This was stuffed in amongst a whole booklet about “breast is best” and how breastfeeding is “natural, easy and always in plentiful supply”. Lots of misinformation. Nothing about how to safely prepare a bottle feed. Nothing about how much baby should eat in the first days of life. Just “breast is best” and “the risks of artificial feeding”. I often think that if the time spent berating formula feeding mothers who are doing just fine was spent helping breastfeeding mothers with problems, we wouldn’t have such a support vacuum.
6. Healthcare Professionals Will Say Stupid Things.
Sometimes healthcare professionals don’t know best. Sometimes they say silly things that haven’t been proven. For example, when Eden had her newborn hearing screen her right ear was a bit gammed up – probably from the swan dive she did out of me – and the audiologist asked if I was breastfeeding. I said no and she told me “that’s a shame. You have lovely big breasts. Why not share them?” Inappropriate at best, but from someone that it absolutely did not concern, this was rude. When Eden was five days old I asked a midwife how much she should be drinking and if it was possible to overfeed her. She told me “just feed her until she throws up. Then you know she’s had enough.” Again, dreadful and dangerous advice. At five months old I was told to put breast milk on Eden’s chicken pox, even though that has absolutely no scientific proof of helping in any way at all. It was “suggested” to me by a nurse. I carried on with calamine cream rather than put food on her spots…
5. The First Option Might Not Work.
This goes for breastfeeding, obviously, but it also goes for formula. I pretty much thought all bottles were created equal – turns out they are not! It took us going through a few different brands until we found a bottle that Eden could drink from easily. It also took us a few attempts to find the right formula for her. It’s always good to have a back up, however you choose to feed.
4. Mother’s Instinct is Often Right.
If you are not sure about something, seek medical advice. If you’re not happy with the advice or don’t feel that you’ve been taken seriously, seek a second opinion. We were sure Eden had reflux. I spoke to the health visitor about it and she told me “no no. If she doesn’t projectile vomit, it’s not reflux” and didn’t help in any way. After another time of getting covered in sick – AGAIN – we tried the dr’s suggestion of the anti-reflux formula that was available. It worked like a charm. Had we followed the first advice given, we would have spent our whole time getting covered in sick and Eden’s life would have been a whole lot more uncomfortable while she struggled with something so easily solved. Similarly, you hear a lot of stories about babies who don’t feed well and mum is just told to “keep feeding”. It’s later found that baby wasn’t getting much or anything in terms of nutrition. Healthcare professionals shouldn’t be letting families down like this and as patients we must insist on being listened to.
3.Militant Lactivism is real.
No matter what you do, people will have opinions. Militant lactivism is rife online and in the real world, but so are anti-breastfeeding opinions. In hospital, we had breastfeeding shoved down our throat repeatedly – not so much where Eden was born but definitely at the hospital where she was admitted with jaundice. By not breastfeeding, we were automatically bad mothers. Mothers who didn’t care. Mothers who put their own convenience above their child’s health. We were never asked why we weren’t breastfeeding, just told we were wrong to feed formula. I’ve been told (online) that I shouldn’t have had a baby if I wasn’t going to breastfeed. I’ve been told I’m selfish and I’m depriving her of her human rights by feeding her formula. It really is everywhere you go and some people are AWFUL in the things they say. There is a huge difference between advocating for breastfeeding and demonising formula. There’s a massive difference between talking about the differences between breast and formula feeding, and making mums feel like crap for no real reason.
2. You are important too.
As parents, we are often so wrapped up in the baby that we forget self care. Even before the baby, we are handed certain information in a certain way to ascertain a certain outcome. Before birth, my mental health was important. After birth? Well it fell by the wayside, didn’t it? Everything was about what was perceived to be “best” for Eden. One commenter on my blog told me I should “reclaim my breasts” in order to breastfeed Eden and combat my PTSD. Surely, if it was as easy as “reclaiming”, there would be no such thing as PTSD? “Oh yes, I’ll just reclaim my brain” – that’s not how this works!Remember that you are important too. Your mental and physical health as a parent is as important as your baby’s mental and physical health. Happy parent means a happy baby, after all.
FED IS BEST
I genuinely cannot push this message hard enough. FED IS BEST. Feed your baby however you need to. If you want to breastfeed, you should have all the support you need to succeed. Similarly if you can’t breastfeed or – and here’s the kicker – if you just do not want to breastfeed – your choice should be respected and you too should be offered support and education regarding your chosen (or necessary) feeding method. To clarify, by “education” I don’t mean “the dangers of artificial feeding”, I mean things like how to make a bottle, how to warm a bottle and the fact that all formula brands are basically the same quality. I don’t mean “you should breastfeed”, I mean talking a pumping mother through cleaning her pump and making sure a parent who tube feeds their baby knows all about that tube and what to do if something goes wrong.
Honestly, it would have saved a lot of heartache if someone had said early on “hey, fed is best! You’re doing a great job.”
Let’s empower parents. Let’s respect one another for our choices. Let’s not assume that somebody isn’t educated just because of the way they feed their baby. Let’s not project our own personal insecurities onto others. Let’s stand up for one another and be counted. If you see someone giving abuse to a breastfeeding mum – speak up – regardless of how you feed your own baby. Similarly for a bottle feeding mum – speak up – show that you care about your fellow human and your fellow parent. Because honestly, when there are babies dying of starvation in the world, no mum should be made to feel bad for feeding her baby.
Because regardless of how we feed, we’re all in the same boat really…