The whole breast feeding debate is often a Mums first introduction to the world of worrisome decisions that are about to land on their plates, and this one is particularly political and harshly debated.
One of the problems with any debate where people take a ‘stance’ is that the stronger they take their stance, the stronger the opposition takes the opposite stance. To be honest, I do wonder how much the Formula companies created the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), and whether the NCT’s then strong stance has created the continued focus on formula feeding in new mums. If possible, attempt to ignore any of the politics and focus on your family!
How Did I Tackle It?
To be honest, I had no idea whether I would manage it. I decided to go for a goal set approach, of aiming for 6 weeks (people often say, if you can possibly do this then at least it is a ‘good start’ for baby – it gets a lot easier and less painful after this), then 6 months (WHO minimum recommended time), then 1 year, then 2 years (WHO recommended), expecting to finish before 4 years (The world wide average duration of breast feeding). I was unlucky in that I had to stay in hospital for a few extra days after Max was born as the doctors were worried I might have the same blood problems as my Mum. But this meant that I was lucky to encounter 2 breast feeding teachers, who were really helpful. Plus, I didn’t have a caesarian or long traumatic birth, which appears to make it much more difficult for Mums to be able to breast feed. The other advantage I had was that I’m good at using the internet, so could find info on the fact that you have to eat and drink well in order to produce milk. (Beware parenting techniques that suggest anything other than feeding on demand, as that can affect your supply).
So How to Go About Making the Decision?
1) Will it work for you?
Breast feeding is incredibly easy once you are past the first few weeks. I rather think that although it is sold as being best for baby, and very ‘earth mother’, it is actually brilliant for rather lazy Mums like me. It worked for me, because I never had to worry about Max when he was sick, as it is much easier to BF them than give them formula when their tummies are upset. You don’t have to worry about their weight, or constipation (horrid to see in a new baby, bless them). There’s no getting up to make bottles at night, which would wake me up, and I’m not good at falling back to sleep. I didn’t need to prepare anything to go out, and just needed to buy some pretty scarves. Plus the nappies didn’t pong as bad as formula nappies. It also meant lots of bonding and sitting on a sofa, and yummy hormones being released, which I probably needed after a rather stressful and sad pregnancy (we moved house, my Mum died, and my husband was made redundant when Max was 6 weeks). So in all honesty, it was all about me, having the most relaxed time, and reducing the worries!
Would any of those things work for you? Write down everything that you think will and won’t work for you, and then double check some of your assumptions in step 3.
2) Will it work for family?
Undoubtedly the scientific research is that ideally it’s best for your baby, but you are not going to ruin your baby for life by formula feeding them, even if they do get digestive or weight problems, it’s still not a ‘ruined’ life. If you would love to feed or love not to feed, then the key here is to explain it to your partner in a way that makes sense to them, not in the way that makes sense to you! So if your partner is worried about sharing your breasts, then pop to step 3, and find the things that will help him understand. Perhaps there is a compromise? Does your partner want you to feed and you don’t? In that case, you need to explain it to them in a way that they will hear and understand. A stressed mummy will cause greater problems for baby, than what they are fed on, so you are extremely important in the equation.
3) What Are You Worrying About?
There are some standard worries (read step 4 for some answers to the more scientific or physical ones) e.g.
– People will hate me feeding in public – actually I never encountered a problem, or if I did, I didn’t notice it. I was mainly in coffee shops with lots of Mums and family restaurants. If you are worried about this, think about this – do those people really matter? Does it really matter if they stare at you? I promise you, that whatever you do in life, only 50% of the world will agree with you or like it. The worst thing that can happen is that they ask you to leave, which you could refuse to do!
– My partner will feel left out – if you can explain to him that it’s only a short time and will make their lives easier (if that is of value to them), then it may set their worries at rest. Explain that your boobs will be back for them at some point!
– It’s yukky, because boobs are for sex – actually no, that’s a misunderstanding, as breasts were clearly made for making milk, as they are in animals. What are you worried about? That you might get turned on (extremely unlikely!!!)? That your child will always remember your breasts (I’ve not heard of mentally scared children with this problem, and on average children are fed to 4yrs old around the world, so they must remember). What is it? Face your fear, and find out what it actually is based upon.
– I’m a bad mother if I don’t breast-feed – rubbish! We are all ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mothers. None of us do everything that we possibly could, and if we did, we would be so self-righteous and martyred, that no Child would want us! Be a contented Mum, that is what is most important to baby and make a plan for tackling the downsides. For example, keep a close eye on constipation, and get advice about it. Make sure that baby gets held for long times, maybe use a sling. Make eye contact with baby, and just cuddle them for hours on the sofa.
4) Have you read up about it?
I found this brilliant news article today, which summarises a great deal of the scientific research into breast feeding: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1201285/Sorry-breast-IS-best-As-leading-scientist-questions-benefits-mother-sorts-myths-facts.html
Check all your assumptions, because they may actually be incorrect.
5) Making the decision
Right, now you have all the information. What I would like you to do is list all the Pro’s and Con’s (good & bad things) on a piece of paper. It’s Ok if you keep coming back and it takes you a couple of days. The key to this exercise is to keep going until you have AS MANY Pro’s as Con’s! AS MANY. It is only then that you can be sure that you are seeing it clearly. You may wonder then, how to make the decision. The point is that at this stage, you will see that one option works for you and the family better, and kind of ‘sparkles’. You are aware of the opposite side to the story and can prepare for it, but your heart, feels that you would prefer this option. It’s not logic of the head, or emotion/fear of the gut, but a heart centered feeling of sureness. If you don’t feel sure, then keep going with the list, there is something that you haven’t included.
You are looking to be sure that you are informed, have cleared out the worry’s about it, and that the solution has been explained to your family in a way that works for them, and that the decision works for you and baby.
The above process is based upon the ‘Fun creation equation’, so you might like to check out my other blogs on that. Obviously though, I’ve only brushed the surface of what can worry some Mums, or the problems of communicating with a partner. So feel free to either pop a comment here for further clarification or post a question in the discussions on my facebook fan page.
You might want to check out my blog on why Breast Feeding isn’t always possible, to help reduce your guilt <click here>