Breast Is Not Always Best!

Breast Is Not Always Best!

Breast Is Not Always Best!

Fiona Edwards explores why breast is not always best!

She shares her struggles as a formula feeder – and argues it’s time we changed the messaging to new mums.

Every time I opened the tin of formula, I got angrier and angrier. The words printed on the side burned through me like hot iron; ‘If you choose not to breastfeed...’ I didn’t f*cking choose it I would scream quietly. To this day, those words infuriate me.

Society today is so breastmilk led that even the mention of formula is enough to warrant opinion. The message? Breastfeeding equals success and formula equals failure. That’s pretty much the black and white of it. But what affect does societies views have on mothers, like myself, who for whatever reason don’t breastfeed?  In my opinion, a scary and potentially damaging one. Why do we still feel like this in 2017?

My Baby Feeding Journey

Amongst other complications, extensive blood loss during my daughter’s emergency, C-section delivery had left me anaemic. My body was too sick to properly produce milk despite exploring every option to its fullest.  From supplements to prescription medication I tried it all, however, I just couldn’t make it work and my mental health was on the brink. By 6 weeks old my daughter was fully formula fed. She’d had every drop of breast milk I could produce when my body finally said no more.

As I continued to formula feed I found myself having to defend my ‘choice’ to not breastfeed. Was I really doing such a bad thing? Was bottle feeding my daughter a terrible act of neglect? Hell no!  Formula feeding is not punishment, its nourishment! Feeding my baby was the goal and whether that milk came from a tin or my breast was completely irrelevant. The problem was however, I didn’t always feel this way.

The negative messaging we receive

‘Breast is best’ is the phrase shoved down the throat of expectant mothers.  When I was pregnant the option to formula feed never entered my mind. It was never spoken about and breastfeeding seemed to be the expected route for everyone; an unspoken, unwritten ‘rule’. I’d dismissed formula to the point that when it was evident my milk wasn’t coming in properly, I was distraught and consumed with guilt. Was formula feeding okay? Nobody really said I had a choice. I felt like a failure because of the messaging I had received.

Who’s to blame?

Personally, I blame what I like to call ‘The Breastmilk Mafia’. Some people, staff and organisations who message us to ‘breastfeed at all costs’ seem to do so forgetting what the act itself is for; nourishing a baby.  Surely, it’s not better to see a distressed mother struggle to feed her troubled baby with her breast than to see a calm mother feed her content baby with formula? I know which one I’d pick. But the messaging isn’t on happy mums or nourished babies, the messaging remains on how baby is fed.

If the struggle is common, why is the messaging not changing?

Despite many women struggling with breastfeeding the pressure to continue can be relentless. When the health of the mother or baby is potentially at risk comes the point where we must accept breast is not best.  No child should have to suffer and no mother should have to feel shame, guilt or failure because she doesn’t breastfeed.

I’m not a health professional but I am a mother of a formula fed child who is happy, healthy, smart and developing just perfectly. I’m not denying the numerous benefits of breastmilk; what I’m saying is that it’s okay to formula feed your child despite what you might hear or read. There, I said it…cue the controversy. Agree with me or not, it’s a statement I strongly stand by.

Be your own champion. If your baby is fed, you’re doing it right!

Breastmilk is always going to be the preferred option for feeding a baby but it’s not the be all and end all of baby nutrition. A healthy happy baby and a healthy happy mother should be the be all and it’s time we re-program the messaging!  Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t or can’t do it. Nor should we judge others for their choices or reasons. Breast is not best; what works for mother and baby is what’s best. The sooner society drops the stigma surrounding formula and comes around to this way of thinking, the better. I welcome that day.

Fiona Edwards
An expat, mum of one with a thirst for knowledge; Fiona writes honestly & openly and likes to ask questions! She's no stranger to travelling with a toddler, is obsessed with pineapples and has a life long hobby of trying to keep fit!
  • Sal

    Informed is best. As long as you feel you make an informed choice with all the facts provided to you then you don’t need to feel guilty about your choices mumma xx

  • Yvette Stackhouse

    Here Here! The judgement started from day one for me.

    I HAD to have a medically essential c-section, it’s amazing how often I was judged for taking the “easy way out”. Of course I planned my baby to be breech and have his cord wrapped around his neck three times. Of course, I would be willing to risk his life so that I could deliver normally. Rest assured he wouldn’t be here if that had happened!.

    After the C-section I started breastfeeding asap but after about 7 hours and a baby blood sugar test it was proven that I had nothing- no colostrum, just nothing. I HAD to give my baby formula. During those 7 hours I was also vomiting and pretty much unable to lift my head from the pillow due to an undiagnosed reaction to the anesthetic. I can’t tell you how much I struggled that night to look after my first newborn.

    I persevered trying to bring milk in. I tried to breastfeed but baby wouldn’t attach for more than 5 seconds at a time. I listened to advice and tried everything. Different positions, only giving him finite amounts of formula (he would scream when we took it away as it wasn’t enough), I pumped to match every feed (yes that included the all night time ones- sorry ward neighbours). I used a supply line in an effort to kill two birds with one stone but it was terribly fiddly and I couldn’t do it without help. Even though I was trying I still got the third degree from some midwives throughout the hospital stay. A few of them even delayed getting a bottle while he was crying- my god really?!.

    I felt utterly worthless!!. Baby was screaming because he was hungry, my body had failed him and I had nothing to give until they decided to bring it in. Unfortunately I also developed terrible anxiety which meant I barely sleep in the hospital even when baby allowed me time. So that probably sapped whatever milk I may have gotten. We also discovered that baby had a tounge tie which meant he couldn’t attach and as one midwife put it ”
    my boobs weren’t right”.

    Pushed by “breast is best” and midwives/ Child nurses I continued for another 8 weeks at home. Formula fed baby while I worked on getting a supply. I used recommended medication, pumping to match his feeds- getting drops then eventually 30mls total. I had finally produced enough one day that to give one half feed of breast milk a day. I did for three days and the difference between the formula and the breastmilk upset his stomach. My “milk” turned to water shortly after that.

    In hindsight trying for so long was the worst thing I could have done. I was utterly destroyed!. I was so tired I was hallucinating often and my mental health had suffered to a point where I semi-catatonic and so very close to suicidal. The whole thing destroyed not only me but strained the bond with my baby and my husband. I/We am still recovering over a year later.

    So while nutritionally breast is best (and I would encourage you to give it a good try) it doesn’t make sense if it has severe negative impacts. Be informed and do what is best for you and your family.

    oh and remember that you never know someones story so be kind. It is hard enough to care for a tiny humans without feeling guilty and second guessing yourself.

  • Elizabeth Stanley

    This is extremely refreshing to read – I also couldn’t breastfeed (mine didn’t produce any milk, 2 hours on a breast pump and 3 drops in the tube was all that produced). I had PND made worse by not being able to do what is supposed to be natural and best and formula made my eldest ill until we found soya milk and that was spot on. It was a nightmare as I had my heart set on breastfeeding. When I had my 2nd I was more prepared for the feeding – tried breast again (no milk), failed with regular formula but by that point comfort thicker milk was easy to get hold of.
    On the positive – my eldest is one of the brightest children in her year and sitting her GCSE’s this year with straight a’s/a*’s as her predictions, my youngest is going into high school this year and he is also another smart child.
    The best milk for your child is the milk that nourishes your child and works for you as a family. I had no choice, if you have the choice it is your choice and no one elses and your choice is the right one. Enjoy the early days as much as you can – there are far too many opinions of what you should do and we’re made to feel inadequate all too often, it MUST stop and we MUST stand together

  • Ineedacoffee

    Well written, fed is best always

  • Melinda Redman

    Not sure why you are posting this propaganda, we all know that since the push for the global treaty: a Framework Convention on Formula Control that the companies that produce formula are becoming desperate and pushing these fake stories and you guys are helping by posting them everywhere. I agree fed is best but come on…I have seen so many fake stories around lately on formula feeding its becoming ridiculous.

  • Holly Beauchamp

    Great article! Happy healthy mum and thriving bubs is the way to go. Bonus for bottle feeding is that it gives dads/other parent a chance to bond with baby too.