You may or may not have seen that this week was World Breastfeeding Week, so as mums ourselves, we thought it was a great opportunity to open up, share our stories, remove any stigma and tell every mum – you’re doing a great job. With 5 children between us, we’ve certainly had our experiences (severed nipples for one - we'll get to that later...), but we are by no means telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Ultimately, it’s down to you - it is your choice, they are your boobs, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself and when you have made your choice (using our favourite and well-versed phrase) remember ‘you’ve got this’.
So I thought I would give it a go – why not. Having always been of the petit bust variety I had naively thought my boobs might not produce enough milk. I mean how silly am I – the size of my bust did not have an impact on how many pints I could produce. To my delight when I tried breastfeeding with Baxter, my first, it was fairly easy and surprisingly effective. How convenient not to have to use all the sterilising equipment. I was a mobile feeding machine and with my favourite ‘hooter hider’ in tow this was a win win situation. But I believe the important point here is that it worked for me. It isn’t for everyone. As my son always likes to confirm – ‘mummy we are all unique’ and he is right on this and every occasion. Some may want to breast feed, others not, some may produce more milk than stocked on Waitrose shelves, others less, and some may just not be able to breast feed - we should listen to our bodies. If your body is saying no, don’t fight it. I have had close friends suffer from mastitis, severed, cracked and bleeding nipples and they have felt the pressure to carry on feeding through this. Please do just listen to your body, you know your limits – no one else.
When Clemence arrived, number 2, I was far more confident with breastfeeding and my capabilities. I topped her up with formula early on if I felt she needed it and it warranted a calmer and more satisfied little baby girl. When Elodie arrived, number 3, I felt like a bit of a pro to be honest. Topping up again when necessary and really enjoying the bonding and role I had. Let’s not pretend it didn’t come without its pitfalls. Let’s just reminisce for a moment – it was my Glamour magazine Christmas party, Clemence was 6 weeks old and I set off into London, looking the part, ready for a fun night with my colleagues and with my breast pump tucked in to my handbag, super chic. After the dinner I thought I couldn’t last much longer, my boobs were at capacity so I discreetly retreated into the restaurant toilets to start the process. Aside from imagining how I could stifle the ridiculously giggle inducing pump noise that this machine made – if you have used a breast pump before I need not say any more – to my horror I had left the all-important electrical cable at home, the pump could not work. My boobs were on fire and I was stuck in a toilet pondering my next move.
A swift and, I would like to think, elegant goodbye to my boss, followed by a glare of horror to my colleagues who I could discuss the state of play of my boobs and I was out of the door quicker than you can say hooter hider.
I wasn’t always in the Team Bottle camp – endless brain washing by the NCT breastfeeding mafia had me firmly believing my baby would grow up malnourished and stupid if I bottle fed, and had me running for a breast pump before you could say “mastitis”.
But unfortunately for me it just never worked - despite some very good intentions, a breastfeeding councillor, a tongue tie specialist, a cranial therapist, hundreds of £s and most of my sanity. It was pure agony all the time, my baby couldn’t latch on, I couldn’t position her correctly, for some reason I needed to remove my entire upper half of clothing (and sometimes bottom) just to get my boobs out. And the sweating. Oh! There was so much sweat. I’d look on in wonder at these mums casually breastfeeding their new-born whilst simultaneously eating a Sunday roast, wondering was it only me that started having cold sweats about the next feed before the first one was even finished. The final nail in the coffin came after a rather serious case of mastitis and a severed nipple. A SEVERED NIPPLE. Suffice to say we moved onto bottles pretty darn quick…
I was an immediate and loyal convert to Team Bottle. My husband started doing half the feeds, I knew how much milk she’d taken, I started to enjoy feeding time rather than dreading it. I had a happy, full baby that slept through the night from 12 weeks. She was gaining weight and had no signs of malnourishment or stupidity. For me it was an all-round win, win. Don’t get me wrong, bottle feeding is no walk it the park. The faff, cleaning and preparation involved is insane. An ugly great bottle steriliser took up half the kitchen top space in our flat for 12 months. I was always washing, sterilising or air drying something. But my goodness it was worth it. Moving to bottles gave me the freedom and confidence I desperately needed to start enjoying life with my new baby.
When baby number two arrived, we bottle fed from day 1, no questions asked.
I didn’t feel judged by other mums for bottle feeding, and it would never occur to me to judge another mum for their choice of feeding (unless its Ribena or Coke in a bottle, which is ALWAYS wrong). Life is just too short and we really need to preserve our nerves for the sleepiness nights, armageddon nappies, projectile vomit and all the other wonders of being a new mum.
It should be about what works for you. And by ‘YOU’ we do mean you – not your partner, not the grandparents, your friends, social influencers – but you. Remember that.