Respecting A Mother’s Choice To Hit The Bottle

Respecting A Mother’s Choice To Hit The Bottle

‘We know that every woman wants the best for her baby and we want to be able to empower our members to support women to be the best they can be and enable them to make decisions that are right for themselves and their babies.’…….said the Royal College of Midwives this week.

‘Excellent’, we cried. ‘Hurrah’, we cheered.

‘Why has it taken until 2018?’, questioned Ren.

This comment is in reference to more support being offered to women who are unable to breastfeed or who choose to bottle feed, because it can be a choice. And, very quickly, it was mine.

J was born in 2016 and I remember having discussions with my mum, very casually, before his arrival. ‘If I can, I’ll breastfeed, but only for 3 months or so and then I want my boobs back, but if it doesn’t happen and we can’t establish then I’m not getting in a state about it’

That was my choice.

I had sterile bottles in the hospital bag and a breast-pump.

That was my choice.

When J was born, I had no one show me how to breastfeed, or what to do. I eventually, when J was screaming with hunger, had a number of different health professionals handling my wares and trying to tug at my nipple to make it more pronounced. Eventually I was given a syringe and told to hand express some colostrum for him. 

No more further information was given, and I left the hospital. I continued hand expressing what I could and syringing it into this tiny baby’s ever open mouth. I still did try to get a latch established in this time but this baby was SO hungry and frustrated that it just wasn’t happening. He just cried into my nipple!

On around day two of being home the midwife was greeted by my engorged boobs and a baby that had lost a fair amount of weight. More nipple tweaking as this midwife explained to me that my boobs were so enormous and my nipples so flat that baby was likely to continue having a problem. Marvellous. With the surging hormones I, of course, could do nothing with this information except cry about it so promptly burst into tears and snotted all over her! She asked if I had a breast pump and hooked me up. She sat while I had absolutely no trouble producing a dairy herd’s worth of milk which I then gave, in a bottle, to my hungry baby boy.

He lapped it up, he made those delicious gulpy noises and stared up at me and even though he wasn’t at the breast, I held him to me and we bonded, probably for the first time.

The midwife was lovely, she was kind and she was supportive and she gave advice on how often to pump to keep up a flow and how long the milk would keep.

From that moment my baby was a bottle baby. I could have persevered but quite frankly I didn’t want to.

That was my choice.

After three weeks of having to pump as often as baby fed and with my partner returning to work, I decided he could go onto formula so I could use pumping time on valuable sleep instead. That was my choice.

I have NEVER felt bad for any of those choices. I have never beaten myself up about them or questioned whether I am a good mum. The way my baby looked at me that day, grateful for his milk, really looking at me for the first time, how could I question anything at that point? His appetite was sated, I was relieved. In short, we were both happy. I made a choice for happiness.

The RCM acknowledge that ‘the reality is that often some women for a variety of reasons struggle to start or sustain breastfeeding.’ This was the case for me. But I do hope they stand by their acknowledgement that for some women it isn’t even the result of a struggle, it’s just an outright choice not to breastfeed, not to pump, and to go straight to formula. And that has to be okay.

To change attitudes and to stop making women feel as though they have let someone down, it has to respected that bottle feeding isn’t the by-product of failure. For some, it was always going to be the journey. And I have already made the choice that if I have another baby, I will be pump my milk for them into bottles and follow up with formula. That is MY choice.

Image credit: Ren Benson

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