An Open Letter to the Mum at a Baby Group (4 years too late…)

As I am sure you know by my various blog posts on the subject I combo feed my babies. I have a condition called Insufficient Glandular Tissue or IGT, this condition was diagnosed by a qualified Lactation Consultant at our local hospital after she prodded, poked, cupped (yes, she actually cupped by knockers) and squeezed (thankfully without saying “honk honk”) my boobs. My right boob has about 25% of the normal amount of milk ducts and my left boob has about 50% so I don’t make enough milk to feed my babies exclusively. So I combo feed. I feel like I have made my peace with the whole thing now but with the first 2 babies it was a bit of a sore subject and really did upset me.

After having Dylan we used to go to a baby group that run by the local breastfeeding support group. The group were mostly lovely and the breastfeeding support workers were very helpful, informative and caring. However, quite a few of the members were very militant breast feeders and would often start to rant about the evils of formula. As a result of one of these rants I ran out of one group because I was too embarrassed to get a bottle out to feed Dylan (I say ran, It took ages to get all my stuff together and leave). I wish I had had the guts to defend myself and other bottle feeding Mummies but at the time I did not. The line that she said still echoes around my noggin at times. She said “women who bottle feed are just lazy and probably a bit stupid. They are putting their babies at risk by feeding them poison.” I should have said something, I wish I had so I am going to respond now… Self righteous boob-feeding lady this is for you…

So women who bottle feed are lazy, are we? Believe me, I wish I could just whack out a boob and exclusively feed my children. Unclipping a top and sticking a nip in the mouth of my littles is loads easier than meticulously washing 6-8 bottles every day and then sterilising them and then timing feeds well enough so that the boiled water is cool enough to give to the baby. Pulling a top down and shirt up is easier than counting milk powder scoops into a powder box when you haven’t had a full nights sleep for weeks and you have a baby screaming in your ear and a 4 year old asking you why a globe is spherical when the earth is clearly flat. Popping a boob out to feed a screaming baby is easier than trying to soothe your crying baby who is writhing around in your arms while you try to unscrew a bottle of water and mix in milk powder, screw the lid back on and shake it until it is properly mixed. It isn’t laziness, it is necessity.

There are 100s of reasons why a mother doesn’t breastfeed and all of them are valid as long as they baby is getting fed. Breast isn’t always best or indeed possible. In my case I tried, I tried so hard to get a full supply but it didn’t happen and without formula my babies would have starved. Some women who have had babies early or via c-sections find that they are unable to breastfeed, the mechanics just don’t kick in and so formula is their own option. In some cases it is a traumatic birth that causes the issues with breastfeeding. Sometimes it’s the baby who cannot feed for whatever reason. Maybe the mother wasn’t given the right support after giving birth to get things going well. Maybe the mother had adopted the baby or used a surrogate and then formula is the only option available to them. And then sometimes a mother just doesn’t want to. Some mothers just don’t like the idea of breastfeeding, it makes them feel uncomfortable or having just given their body over to nurturing a baby for 40 weeks (give or take) they just want their body back. All of this is totally fine. It doesn’t make the mother stupid or less of a mother to that baby. I wouldn’t even say that breastfeeding is a choice because I chose to and couldn’t. Breastfeeding isn’t something that other people have a say in, it is between the mother and the baby. As mothers we should support each other not call each other names because they do something different to you, how is that helpful?! Bottle feeding isn’t stupidity it is a necessity if breastfeeding isn’t, for whatever reason, possible. Having a happy baby and a happy mother is what is important. I am sure there are loads of reasons why breastfeeding isn’t an option that I haven’t even thought of!!

And Judgy-Lady-Breastfeeding-SUPPORT-group-nearly-5-years-ago formula isn’t poison. Yes, it isn’t breastmilk and yes, it doesn’t have all the magical antibodies and yes, formula is harder to digest than breastmilk. Formula is just that, it is a formula that has had a lot of research behind it to create the best alternative that science can. There are a lot of scary statistics that are thrown at expectant mothers and fathers about the risks of formula milk vs breastmilk to the view to giving them an informed choice and I understand why they do this. However when the Midwives, Doctors and Nurses at the children’s ward were telling me that I needed to supplement Dylan with formula due to my crappy boobs basically starving him for 4 days I was a nervous wreck. I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) sleep as I knew by giving him formula I increased his risk of cot death. I spent a good few weeks terrified that I had failed this tiny baby. And then with Evan, I was told by the midwife who did his pediatric check up on day 3 that because I was supplementing his feeds I shouldn’t bed share as I wouldn’t bond with him as well as a mother who exclusively breastfed. As if I didn’t feel shit enough that my breastickles had failed me yet again. I am reminded that giving my baby formula is frowned upon every time I buy formula from our local Aldi as they keep it locked away in the cupboard and only the manager has the key. So whenever I need to buy some I have to ask the cashier, the cashier then has to find the manager, they have to then find the key, go to the cupboard and get the formula for me all while the queue gets longer. The alcohol is on shelves all along one wall and no one has to get a manager to get it for them. It is awful and I feel guilty every time.I tried to boycott buying formula from Aldi but Evan got really awful wind and would chuck up a lot more when I switched him to another brand. I am reminded that I am going against WHO guidelines every time I look at a receipt for formula bought at Boots and Tesco and they are exempt from getting Advantage Card or Clubcard points – and I am pretty sure that no one would ever choose to formula feed due to getting clubcard points. If it was a cash incentive you are after then surely you would breastfeed, it is free!

In short, as long as your baby is fed, healthy and happy that is all that matters and if you can’t be supportive to another mother who is trying their best then keep your mouth shut.These comments still effect me today. I have no problem getting a boob out in a coffee shop or on a train or wherever to feed Evan but I hate following it up with the bottle, I feel ashamed that I have to top up which is crazy. I know that a fed, happy baby is what is important but still, those comments still hurt. Be like Thumper, if you can’t say nothing nice then don’t say nothing at all.

Right, thankfully that is finally off my chest. Thank you very much for reading and I am sorry about the ranty nature of this blog post.


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