Debunking bottle feeding

Yes, we bottle-feed and we have since our little guy was tiny. No, it's not for convenience. There's nothing convenient about creeping downstairs throughout the night when you have a newborn, to make-up formula or (my own early hell) get the attachments for the breast pump to express at 2am…. and 6am… while also feeding baby at 1am and 4am (with the milk you expressed at midnight, or the top-up formula you have to keep on stand-by).

It's not convenient to insanely google how to safely make-up and store formula, as it's sort of skipped altogether in NCT. It's not convenient to travel with lots of sterilised bottles, and panic in case a sterilised teat should come into contact with something unsterile. Holidaying with bottles isn't convenient – it means microwave bags to sterilise bottles, which means you need accommodation with a microwave; or it means old-school sterilising tablets which smell of chlorine and somehow seem so… archaic and untrustworthy. It's not convenient to be pulling your hair out as your baby rejects yet another bottle teat, or refluxes on yet another formula.

I'm a firm believer in breasts being a pretty private thing – and unless someone shares their story with breast vs bottle, all I'd say is… don't assume it's for convenience. (But for the record, if it is – no judgement from me as it's hard enough being a new parent without feeling like others are judging you.)

Personally, I was really mad at the universe for not being able to breastfeed – because it's what I wanted to do. It seemed like the no-brainer option as I'd never get caught out without being prepared, as I always remember to leave the house with 'wallet, phone, keys, boobs'. And it seemed pretty straightforward from a baby-nutrition point of view. But – life didn't pan out like that. I gave myself a REALLY hard time of it for about six weeks and then… I moved on. I realised I had to do the right thing for my baby AND me and my husband, and it was time to stop judging myself. To be kind to myself, as I would any friend or neighbour who'd chosen to bottle-feed.

Certainly, bottle feeding has some definite advantages in my book. But not for convenience sake. Here's some really awesome things about bottle-feeding your baby.

Awesome things about bottle-feeding babies

  1. Babies need food to thrive. Frequent feeds, pretty much all the time. If your baby can't latch (or won't latch), or if you can't get things going as a team with breast feeding for some reason (low milk supply, illness, mastitis, stress and anxiety meaning you and baby just don't seem to click, baby with tongue tie, etc etc – it's actually a petty long list)… it's kind of AWESOME to still be able to feed your baby.
  2. Babies grow into marvellous and miraculous beings for many reasons – and there's a whole host of things you can do – and should really avoid, actually – that could f*** that up. Your choice of bottle over breast is not likely to have the lasting effect some scaremongers would have you believe. It's all about context – don't beat yourself up about this. You'll have 99 other things to choose about the way you bring up your baby before he or she even turns one…
  3. I bloody love feeding my little boy (I haven't always – but I do now). He's 9 months and the night feeds have stopped (and it's much easier to love the world when you're not freaking exhausted). I love the evening feed, when we cuddle and I tell him stories or sing, and he rests into me and plays with my hands or my hair. I love the morning feeds, when he's funny and demanding and smiley all at once – and once he had enough, he's a wriggly worm who wants to escape to explore the world! And I love the day time feeds – often we're out and enjoying a visit with friends, but sometimes we're home and we just take some time to chill and rest up. No chores. Nothing I can do but cuddle my little fella. Is this specific to bottle feeding? DUH! Of course not! The point is this – you can be the mother you'd like to be to your little guy or gal, regardless of whether you get your nips out.
  4. Oh yeah, my nips are great – thanks for asking. Nothing bitten or chapped here in ages – I use my fancy and expensive nipple cream as a lip moisturiser nowadays. #smug #okthisISconvenience
  5. Daddy and grandparents ALSO get to love feeding our little boy! My husband and I just had a pow-wow, as we haven't talked about how he feels about being able to bottle feed our little guy in ages (it would be like asking whether he enjoys breakfast – it's just something he does without thinking). I knew the answer but his reasoning really got to me. He said he loves feeding Jasper – and is especially glad he could help from the beginning, because he could see what a tough time I was having (I had a touch of 'more than the baby blues' for a while) and it would have killed him if he couldn't have helped out, and let me rest by looking after our little guy… But now that he's got a bond with Jasper, too, he can also see that in part that's because bottle-feeding helped him to feel very involved. Is it necessary for a Dad to feel involved? Of course not! But it helped us.
  6. You can look lovingly into your baby's eyes… that's actually quite hard to do when baby is focusing on your nipples! The other bonding stuff? It can definitely ALL be done while bottle feeding. You can cuddle. You can kiss your baby's head all over. Anyone who says it's not as easy to bond with a bottle-fed baby is talking crap – you adapt, that's all.

Ok, here I have to confess that some of the awesome things about bottle-feeding ARE related to convenience. Here's a quick recap, in case you're feeling down about bottle-feeding… but for me, it doesn't beat the convenience in those early days of being able to whip out a boob to satiate your screaming newborn:

  • You can drink (no need to 'pump and dump').
  • You can wear whatever goddamn bra and top you fancy.
  • Once your boobs have settled, they become YOUR domain, and your playmate's.
  • You can sort out childcare and go away for a romantic weekend (knowing your baby WILL be fed).

Happy days. Do those four points, alone, outweigh the endless sterilising? The heavy diaper bag? The constant googling to check if you're bottle-feeding safely? The guilt and judgment (from some others) about not breast-feeding? In my book, no.

It's not easy parenting. Bottle-feeding has it's own challenges – and just like breast-feeding, there are great things about it, too.

FED is best. Screw the rest.

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