Until recently I wouldn’t have been brave enough to share this photo. I hated the thought of being judged because I was bottle feeding. Looking back, I know that most of it was driven from my own paranoia and my own insecurities. But if you’ve ever wanted to breastfeed and not been able to then I’m sure you will know that it can be a bitter pill to swallow.
I never knew my desire to breastfeed until it didn’t work out for me. I’ve talked in detail about my journey before (see post here if you’re interested) but essentially I had a very hungry baby and for whatever reason I just couldn’t seem to satisfy him with my own milk. And it was seriously taking its toll on my mental health. Despite some unhelpful comments from a few health professionals (and a few fellow mummies in fact), I had an incredibly supportive family around me, including my husband who ultimately made the decision I was too afraid to make. We started to introduce formula (at around 4 weeks) and we combination fed until Archie was about 3 months old, at which point he decided he’d rather just have formula.
So that’s how our bottle feeding journey began. And almost 9 months later, as much as I still feel a sadness that breastfeeding didn’t work out, I know that we 100% made the right decision for us. Archie was a much happier baby, so much more content, and has thrived ever since.
But for a long time I remember feeling ashamed that I was bottle feeding. I dreaded people asking the question as to how I was feeding. My answer always involved a detailed explanation as to why breastfeeding didn’t work out as if to justify my choice. But it never felt like a good enough reason.
If I went out on my own, I remember timing my outings so we were never out of the house for more than 2 hours (which is how often Archie needed feeding) just to avoid having to feed him in public. I would carefully place the bottle I took (for emergencies) at the bottom of my bag so that if I opened it no one would see and hopefully no one would know.
I was nervous about seeing friends that I hadn’t seen in a while because I didn’t want them to judge me. I didn’t want them to assume I’d taken an “easy route”, especially because they hadn’t seen the impact the whole experience had on me.
And what’s crazy is that apart from a handful of people, most had never judged my decision. It was mostly self-inflicted driven from my own paranoia and the feeling that I was a failure.
Of course, the constant endorsement of breastfeeding doesn’t help. I completely understand the need to promote it but sometimes it feels it’s at the detriment of the mothers who can’t or choose not to. Yes encourage those who can and who want to but there doesn’t need to be a counter effect to that. And often the praise handed out to mums that breastfeed can feel like a critique to those who can’t (or don’t want to). It would be great if there was equal support for both. The fact that the NCT can’t cover it as part of its antenatal course says it all.
So for any bottle feeding mums out there that are struggling with this too, I want you to know that bottle feeding doesn’t define your ability to be a good mummy. You never need to explain yourself or worry about your explanation being good enough. As long as your baby is happy and thriving that’s all that matters. Well actually that’s not entirely true, YOU matter too. Your happiness is just as important. So don’t waste time feeling bad/ ashamed/ any other negative feeling. As long as you are making the best decision for you and your family then ultimately you are doing exactly the right thing and should be proud of that. And I, for one, think you’re doing a great job.