Before giving birth to our first child I made a decision. One I thought was set in stone, a definite, solid decision. This decision was that under no circumstances was I going to breastfeed. I made the mistake of sharing this decision with a friend, I was met with a confused stare and ‘what?! Why?!’.
I was quite taken aback by her response since after all, this decision was mine to make, I was stating a fact, not asking an opinion. What’s the big deal I thought.
However, once I grunted out child one and my partner showed me the formula, I shook my head and popped him straight on the boob. It felt natural. As a woman, I have the right to change my mind, and that I did.
Unfortunately my breastfeeding only lasted 5 days. My nips were extremely sore. You could say they looked not dissimilar to a dogs chew toy, mangled and a tad bloody. The fear of someone brushing up against my boobs, in their exaggerated sensitivity, grew after every feed. I felt defeated and I wimped out of the whole idea.
I popped my boobs back in a normal bra, let them dry up and sag down to my knees, as I looked in awe at other mums successfully breastfeeding in coffee shops, on the train, in playgroups. Good for them. But what works for one doesn’t always work for another. Which is what I wanted to say everytime I was asked ‘so, are you breastfeeding’ I felt the need to explain myself. That feeding a baby formula should be a dirty secret of mine.
It always surprises me how personal people become, once you have a child. The outlandish questions, that really don’t need to be asked. Do you breastfeed. Was he natural. When’s the next one. Were they planned. All things that are acceptable within family and friend groups, but strangers join in the quiz too. None of your fucking business, just doesn’t seem like a very composed answer.
With baby number two, I breastfed for two weeks, but I also bottle fed in the evenings. So I could sleep and Mr Firstooth could do the night feeds *chuckles*. After two weeks of brilliant feeding, we realised it just wasn’t working for our family. With a newborn and a one year old, I became torn and overwhelmed. So we whipped out the steriliser and bought some lovely pink bottles, ones so fancy, I was proud to show them off.
I still felt a little shameful about my decision, with the amount it’s drummed into us mums that ‘breast is best‘, it’s hard not to feel disappointed that I couldn’t conform to the norm. Breast is a brilliant thing to give your child and I admire all breastfeeding mums, I also hope those nips didn’t stay chewed up and mangled for too long, I remember my toes curling through those early days. But, sometimes it doesn’t work out, sometimes bottle is best and that is the decision of the parent to make.
Having experienced both, for however long or short, I can say that neither is an easy option, there is no hierarchy, both should be equally respected and none is anyone’s business.
While I’m sterilising the bottles, I ponder over the ease of just popping the baby straight on the boob, none of this boil the kettle, leave it to cool, wash the bottles, sterilise the bottles and fill the bottles rubbish. While I’m pondering the easiness of just having a shower as a form of sterilising, I then think about doing it in public, the bra unstrapping, finding a comfortable place to sit, placing the modesty fabric over the baby just so and those gawping faces. Then I think, I just can’t win.
Both have their pros and cons. Both decisions come with judgemental Judys’, willing to stare or judge from afar, but both decisions are ultimately that of the mum (dad’s too).