Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Number Fifteen: The Beast Breast Vs Beast Bottle

Breasts! Wow, they are important. The female form… sex…confidence…Oh and feeding your baby! (That’s what they’re really for. Right?) 

Now I’m not sure if it’s just our staffroom or staffrooms across the country but we do have a lot of baby/pregnancy/labour talk in ours. There’s rarely (never) a breaktime where the topic has not cropped up. And there’s no hotter baby related topic than ‘the feeding of the baby’. I’m sure Cherry Healy’s documentery ‘Is breast best?’ Got them all talking and probably the topic arose yet again at the news of Elton John having his adopted baby’s mother’s breast milk fed exed over for him!

Although I’ve remained ridiculously positive throughout this whole ordeal, there has been a couple of times my tears have caught me off guard. Both of these times were when I saw another mother breast feeding her baby. I felt sad that I probably wouldn’t breast feed again- even if I had another baby one day- I’d only have one boob! How would this affect my successfulness as a breast feeder? (Cut it by about 50% I imagine!) I breastfed both my babies, the first for six months, the second for almost three months. I had really mixed feelings about breast feeding at the time. I had two very greedy boys- neither of whom had any trouble latching on (We’re back to the amazing pencil eraser like nipples again!)- they both fed well from the moment they were born and I loved it! The closeness, the cuddle, the feeling that I was the only one in the world who could do this for them! The very best part for me was the lack of preparation (and expense) needed compared to the endless washing, sterilising, measuring heating and cooling necessary for bottle feeding! (Now we’re back to me just being lazy!) But over time breast feeding made me very tired and very hungry and to be brutally honest sometimes I wished I wasn’t the only one who could do the feeding. The biggest problem I encountered with breast feeding was quitting! My first born was (and is) incredibly stubborn and to say he was not interested in a bottle is a huge understatement! He screamed if you put a bottle anywhere near him and only changed his mind when I went away for the weekend and his only other option was to starve! With this in mind I was anxious to ensure my second born would take both bottle and breast which he did quite happily for a while and at the first sign of him beginning to get fussy I gave up breast feeding much sooner than I had done first time around. I had a comment on an earlier post from another young mum going through the same thing as me- she was in a similar situation with similar aged children to me- sadly she had to give up breast feeding in order to start her treatment. I feel very lucky that I had stopped of my own accord- I imagine feeling a lot more angry about the whole beast breast thing if it had robbed my babies of their food! I came out of this feeling like I was a successful breast feeder, I was satisfied I had done an important job for my tiny babies and they were happy too! (They are both very healthy eaters with big appetites for whatever food is offered- no fussy eaters in our household!) The reason I mention feeling like I’d made a success of breastfeeding is because I realise what an emotive topic this is- I know people who have struggled on feeding for longer than I did second time round and moved onto bottles because it didn’t work out for them. Leaving them feeling like they’d failed. Once you’re a mummy it’s amazing how much guilt you can feel about a huge range of parenting aspects. Watching Cherry Healy made me think again about breastfeeding- she was clearly upset that breastfeeding hadn’t worked out for her- she felt judged even when people didn’t know how she had fed her baby so they definitely weren’t judging her- it was the guilt again!

Opinions are incredibly strong when it comes to breast Vs bottle; I posted a facebook status about struggling to prep bottles when moving from breast to bottle the second time around and the comments came in thick and fast- mostly with advice but some with opinions on what was best for my baby. (Something only I am in a position to decide thank you very much!)

Whilst I believe breast feeding is (scientifically anyway) best for babies, I also recognise that there are, as with most things, a whole host of other factors in play. The pressure on new mothers is immense, no one can prepare you for the overwhelming feelings of love coupled with responsibility- I remember feeling terrified in the middle of my first born’s first night in the world- What have I done? I love him so much it scares me! I’m terrified that something or someone will hurt him. The combination of worry and love manifested itself as terror. So my life had altered dramatically with the arrival of my bundle of joy, I was terrified, I had a load of new skills to master AND I obviously had the need to appear like the best one! Talk about pressure!!! I heard someone say that modern mother’s have it really tough- they are expected to be something in the kitchen, something in the bedroom, something in the boardroom AND something in the nursery! This rang really true for me. (As I was trying to be the best in all this places- except the bedroom maybe- too tired ; )

My advice to all expectant mothers now is- give breastfeeding a go- see if it suits you and do what makes you happy. Happy mummy=happy baby! (And happy baby=more sleep for everyone!)

So who knows whether I’ll breast feed again- with just the one boob. I’m lucky for another reason you see… my middle sister has a mild form of cerebral palsy, hemiplegia. It affects the right side of her body so when it came to breast feeding she found it only worked for her on the left side. She’s breast fed my gorgeous baby niece extremely successfully with just ONE boob and I’m SO proud of her! Bet there’s not many girls with the beast breast that can say that! So I’m lucky enough to I know it IS do-able!  Strange, the places you can find comfort in- her ‘right breast’ issues began as a problem but now live on as a lesson to all the mono-boobed ladies out there!
My beautiful niece- happily fed with just the one boob. Left is best!

I know that breast cancer is a good ‘un to get- one of the most treatable and as I said to my mum it sounds a lot more glamorous than bowel cancer!  whilst we’re planning on sticking to just the two children I guess they’ve done their job!


  1. Brilliant post Erin! I'm a breast feeding support counsellor (one of the other hats that I wear & yes - it seems a bit ironic now that I'm a mono-boober too, lol!) but I'm not militant about it! You're right, it's a very emotive subject but I do agree that new mums have enough pressure &, if it's too difficult for a new mum for whatever reason, then I tell them not to put pressure on themselves - as you said: a happy baby is a healthy baby; & there are plenty of happy, healthy formula fed babies out there who are just fine! But, even if a new mum feeds for just a small amount of time, the baby will get fantastic benefits. So honey, well done to you, you have given your babies a brilliant start in life & you WERE/HAVE BEEN successful!! Love Chez. xx P.S: Your niece is beautiful & what a fabulous advertisement for 'giving it a go!' xxx

  2. Breastfeeding was a nightmare with my first son and the hospital wouldn't discharge me until we'd sorted it out. Thankfully, a midwife walked in on Day 8 and said, "Right, let's get this one on the bottle!" I was so relieved. He thrived after that and stopped losing weight. As for my second son, he's a guzzler and it was a breeze. So different for every mum and every baby.

  3. I was still feeding my daughter when i was diagnosed - she was just coming up to 9 mths. I had to stop to start my chemotherapy. If I ever had another child I bet I would end up feeding again - with only one breast if that is what I have. Something in the hormones just won't let me quit! I stopped with my eldest at 7 mths as he was failing to thrive with reflux and allergies, but my youngest I managed to feed on a dairy, soy and gluten free diet. Crazy crazy crazy I know! But I love feeding my babies - and like I say - the hormones do silly things to me.