Breastfeeding: Be damned if you don’t… formula is the devil, isn’t it?


Breastfeeding: Be damned if you don’t… formula is the devil, isn’t it?

Today in my line of work, we frequently use the word ‘choice’. But is it really ‘your’ choice? Or is your decision regarding how you nourish your baby influenced by your fear of being judged and shamed because you choose not to breastfeed?

So many tears are shed from sore, torn nipples-which never seem to recover, nipple-thrush, under production of milk (to be addressed in another blog next week), a vicious let-down reflex, mastitis for the unlucky 30%, and backache from a poor posture for most, can all contribute to new mums just not enjoying their breastfeeding.  And it’s really OK to admit this. Then there’s the group of new mums who, through no fault of their own, don’t produce enough milk and so have to compliment with formula – or even exclusively formula feed. Or those who choose to formula feed from the start…

We really do need to be much more open in our support of women who don’t want to or can’t breastfeed, and respect their choice without judgement. Being happy in the postnatal period is invaluable for your mental health, your partner’s and your baby. Smiling at your beautiful creation and enjoying your postnatal period is much, much more important.

The main reason why I became a lactation consultant was because I hated breastfeeding. I am a midwife, I had to enjoy breastfeeding – right? I am happy to admit that at 3 months post delivery I did enjoy it, but it was short-lived and I experienced mastitis which put me right back in the hating breastfeeding box again. I gave my baby a bottle of formula at 10 months old and felt overwhelmingly guilty and ashamed, and hid the tub at the back of the cupboard so that no-one would find it. My second baby was a more pleasurable experience, she was 1 kg heavier with a bigger mouth and I was much more confident.

As a lactation consultant, I hear you. I will be beside you if you want to breastfeed, and will celebrate just as much with you if you decide that it isn’t for you. Be proud of your decision, and to the rest of the world with it’s judgements? Pah! Your baby, your decision, your happiness.

Don’t punish yourself for what you can’t do but praise yourself for what you can do. And no, formula milk is not the devil.

Jo Everatt RM IBCLC (INAMI and UK registered)