I breastfed my first son for eight weeks. My second son till he was almost one. Having done both I feel I can argue for either side of the breast/bottle debate, and quite frankly wonder why we argue so much about it all.
To me if you love your child, feed him, keep him warm and safe then you are a good parent.
But in the Internet age of parenting we feel constantly judged and pressured to be a certain way when it comes to every aspect of life; most particularly it seems when it comes our children.
I can honestly say that with my first son I hated nearly every minute of breastfeeding. All I knew about it was from out NCT class where a lady with a knitted boob and an orange tried to teach us how our babies would latch on. My group spent most of the time trying not the laugh at the knitted boob and most of my NCT group forgot anything relevant when most of us endured quite difficult births.
For me after a 60 hour labour a midwife came into the room, stuck the baby onto my chest and said that’s how you breastfeed.
He then took to feeding every 2 hours or less for what felt like forever and nothing would settle him but being on my breast. I felt like all I did was feed him and I never slept longer than 1 or 2 hour stretches day or night for a month.
As the cards and gifts from well-wishers came flooding through the door I must have exposed myself to the postman at least 5 times a week. He actually asked me if I would rather he left the parcels at the front door.
I rang the knitted boob lady when I felt like I was really starting to fall apart, she had said to call with any questions or problems. “He must be really attached to you, how lovely,” was all she said; the health visitor said his hourly wake ups were probably gas. At this point I was starting to spiral downhill. I was exhausted, hormonal, in pain and my body had never had the chance to get over the labour.
Then finally a voice of reason. A wonderful GP at my son’s 6 week check-up. “Go home to your Mother,” she demanded when she saw the state I was in. She reminded me it took a Village to raise a baby and I needed help to get rest.
So I went home where there were more people to help out, got some sleep and decided to stop breastfeeding. I told my husband this decision on the phone over heaving sobs that I had failed as a mother. He was incredibly supportive and relieved that now he could help more and hopefully get his wife back from the shadow I had become.
With my second son I was determined to breastfeed. Now living in Brooklyn; where many people seemed to see formula as some form of poison and would happily nurse hourly on demand till their kid left for college, the pressure seemed even greater.
I of course expected it to be harder, especially with a toddler in tow. Instead I loved it. Yes there were hard days when I was trying to feed the baby while chasing my older son round the park but it was just easier this time. The birth was easier, he didn’t feed on an hourly basis like his brother and I was so much more relaxed.
I am very lucky to have had two incredibly smiley, healthy, strong boys. How different they will be as they grow will have nothing to do with how they were fed as babies.
My biggest issue with the breastfeeding pushers is when they say you bond more with your baby if he is breastfed. I did not properly bond with Max till I finished breastfeeding. I did not even feel like I was being a good mother till the day I stopped. My bond now with both boys is equal, that is the natural part. Yet if I tell people how long I breastfed Max for I still feel I need to justify it.
I think that with everything with our kids we want to be perfect and this perfection simply does not exist. I guess the fact we worry so much means we are doing this parenting thing right.
So feed from your breast, feed from a bottle, feed from a sippy cup, a plastic nipple. Breastfeed for three hours, three months or three years if that is what works for your family.
This is not and should never be the measure of a mother. Shame on us for making it so.