By the time you leave the hospital with your newborn, you’ll probably have been given an abundance of information on the nutritional advantages of breast-milk and very little information about bottle – feeding and formula. Most parents feel enormous pressure to breast-feed exclusively. This may have been your first choice anyway, but if it wasn’t, you may feel very little support or approval from some health professionals. This is unfortunate. My objection to this one-sided lobbying by breast-feeding advocates is that it takes a perfectly good thing (feeding your baby from the breast) and turns it into an obligation and a measure of your devotion to your baby. This is not fair and I speak out against it every chance I get. Friendly support is one thing and coercion is another.
In my opinion, how you choose to feed your baby – bottle or breast – is a personal decision to be made by parents only. You should not have to explain or defend your decision to anyone, nor should you be required to sign documents before you leave the hospital, stating you have been told about the value of exclusive breast-feeding. That there is support, education, instruction and encouragement available at the hospital and at home for women who intend to breast- feed their baby is a good thing. The fact that equal support and respect is often not given to parents who have already chosen to bottle-feed or who find breast-feeding difficult for a variety of reasons and need to switch to bottle-feeding, is not a good thing.
If you or your baby find breast-feeding difficult, have consulted with advisors, and still you find yourself thinking some days that you’ve given birth to a breast pump rather than a baby, I recommend you consider changing your mind about the feeding method. By the end of the first month, parenting a newborn should start to feel fun and interesting. Whichever way you feed your baby – feeding should, by now, be automatic and easy. If you are still working very hard at feeding, my advice is to make a pragmatic, guilt-free decision about changing to bottle-feeding.
This should be before you feel any sense of failure, and does not need to be anyone’s business but your own. Women who have changed their minds about feeding methods report wishing they had made the decision sooner rather than later. The last thing you want is to look back and feel the first six weeks with your baby were a complete blur due to feeding issues which did not resolve. Change your mind on the feeding method before you reach that point.
Remember, babies thrive on formula just as they thrive on breast milk. For bottle-feeding parents, I recommend a book called Bottle Feeding Without Guilt, by Peggy Robin.