Tuesday 12 February 2013

I am not a breastfeeding mum. But I have no regrets.

Below is a guest post written by Emily, a mother who decided to feed her daughter formula milk after six weeks of trying to breastfeed. This blog is the first of two about this subject, with one to follow after a lecture by Joan Wolf, author of Is Breast Best?

Let me get it out there - I am a non breast feeding mum. I breast fed my daughter Daphne for 6 long weeks. Long for me and long for Daphne. It's simple. Breast milk did not agree with her. But, here I am, yet again, finding myself explaining why I did not breastfeed for the recommended six months. It's like I have to give an excuse, a plausible one at that, as to why I failed my daughter.  And it is considered a failure.

Let me start at the beginning.  After a lovely pregnancy and easy childbirth, our beautiful daughter, Daphne arrived on New Year's day. Well that settled my much-agonised over 2012 new year's resolution.

Within minutes of her arrival she latched on and breastfed.  Breastfeeding came very easily those first few days for both of us. But then the problems started, the breast milk jaundice, the rash, the vomiting and the endless screaming. There was support aplenty. Breastfeeding counsellors, breastfeeding specialists, breastfeeding cafes, breastfeeding drop in centres, breastfeeding helplines. You name it, it was provided. And, don't get me wrong, it was absolutely fantastic. It was support when I needed it and in every possible form. Yet, deep down, I knew the problem was nothing to do with latching on or what I was eating. We ended up in the hospital not knowing what else to do. Reflux was promptly diagnosed and medication prescribed. Here I was pumping Daphne with medication so I could breastfeed. The medication made no difference at all. The doctors' answer? Increase the dosage. It just felt wrong.

Then one day I broke, after days of deliberations that put the UN to shame, my husband and I decided we would try Daphne on comfort formula. Our lives changed literally overnight. We had a happy and ever so contented baby. We took her off the medicine and she had a big beaming smile after every feed. A far cry (excuse the pun) from what we had just been through.

Due to the breastfeeding pressure I decided to try to mix feed - the difference between the two feeds was remarkable. In simple terms:

              Breastfeed = rash flared up + Daphne screaming
              Formula feed = rash substantively subsided + Daphne happy

Yet having made the decision to formula feed I felt so alone and it is this loneliness that has prompted me to write about my experience. 
The breastfeeding propaganda must end. I am a confident person who will happily stand up for my rights yet I was made to feel so awful once we decided to stop breastfeeding. I hate to think how more vulnerable people feel. 
There is no support for bottle feeding mums.  I had one thing that helped - the internet. That person-less place, but it was that that taught me what bottles were available, how to sterilise, handy hints on preparing bottles etc. I also finally found a lovely health visitor who deserves a mention, Karen. She was the first health visitor that I felt did not judge my decision and just sought to support me. I can tell you, she is a rare breed. 
Look, I am not having a dig at health professionals or the breast feeding support network. They all do a first class job. But all I ask is that non breastfeeding mums are not dealt with as second class citizens. I can look my husband in the eye and know that we took the best decision we could have done based on what we thought at the time. And do you know what? No regrets. None whatsoever.
And just like that, I will stop apologising for our decision.


  1. Recommendations are only advisory , it's up to the mother and baby how they do it . ( I am male , no chidren , but common sense ) .

  2. You definitely shouldn't have to apologise for your decision. It was the right one for you and for your daughter. I hate the idea that you've been made to feel ashamed for it.

    I must just stress, though, that your experience was personal to you. Where I live, in East London, breastfeeding rates are about as close to zero as makes no odds. Breastfeeding support is there if you seek it out, but the NHS staff I met during the course of having my 2 kids were almost all ambivalent or actually disapproving of it. I was pressured to use formula more times than I care to recall. Midwives and health visitors encouraged me to 'top up' cos my healthy babies were small. None of my fellow new mums breastfed (as I say, it just doesn't happen round here) so I felt odd and alone. Medical staff & forms kept asking me how many ml my baby had in a feed, etc. It was horrid.

    I guess the tricky bit is actively encouraging breastfeeding in areas like mine, without leaving formula-feeding parents feeling the way you did. I don't know how to do that, but I think properly-trained, thoughtful health professionals would probably have helped both of us.

    Thank you for writing this post.