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There is just no point even attempting to research the outweighing benefits of bottle feeding over breast. Such research is unavailable, and if ever you find it I would wager my ‘jungle friend’s jumparoo’ that it’s massively inaccurate. No matter how you argue it, and the lengths you might go to appease the crushing guilt that consumes you every time you shove a plastic teat in the mouth of your innocent little darling, breast is unequivocally best. Why else would God/Buddha/Darwin have attached two horrendous, leaking and mostly redundant lumps to your chest?
And yes, I do truly mean redundant, and yes again, I know they are supposed to serve other functions; assertion of femininity being the clearest, and yes, I suppose that, for five or six minutes when I was 18 they were quite useful in that function, before the weight fluctuation caused the stretch marks, and the badly fitting bras caused the mismatched shape, and then the baby left them so lethargic that they rest on my lap, the sofa or the pavement at any opportunity.
I know that all of my Mum friends at least attempted breast feeding. I also know that with perhaps 2 exceptions, every one of them had to knock it on the head for one reason or another. I know that I was absolutely emphatic that I was going to breastfeed. I knew that whatever it took, no matter how many bouts of mastitis, engorgement or plugged-up ducts I got, I would keep calm and carry on. I spent a significant amount of money on breast feeding clothes, watched the online guides and spoke to other breast feeding Mums.
Sonny was born on the 16th August last year. Out he popped and was put to the breast immediately. I was a touch on the tired side having survived 7 hours of active labour, and therefore somewhat unreceptive to instructions from the midwife. No problem with that though, as Sonny knew what to do and despite our other complications, we got breast feeding right first time. Feeling righteous and ethereal, I kept him attached almost for the entire length of our stay in hospital. No pain, no biting, no bruising.
But then, on the 3rd day of perma- feeding, and with a sum total of maybe 6 hours sleep over a 72 hour period, I was aching for some time-off. But Sonny was a hungry and fractious new born, only really content when feeding. This presented problems to my then delicate mindset. I needed sleep. I was completely tired to my bones and aching from stitches, labour and hormones. Always a fan of the stronger brands of paracetamol, the mild painkillers I’d been given we’re not even touching the sides, but I had no other option; I was breastfeeding. I’d spent lots of money on breastfeeding clothes and bras and not kept the receipts! Giving up wasn’t an option. It just wasn’t.
I gave up on day 6. Sonny had been attached for 2 hours one side, 30 minutes the other, and when I put him in his cot he screamed until I fed him the tiniest amount of formula. The aching exhaustion was replaced with crushing guilt and more sleep than I’d had in a week. The guilt has lifted over the last 9 months, to some extent, but I still live with it.
He’s such a contented baby now. When thinking positively, I hope that it’s down to my now relaxed, rested parenting. When I’m feeling more guilty, I wonder if it’s less a case of ‘contented’ and more a case of formula-drugged. But the doctor tells us he’s developing well and people tell us he’s a particularly joyful little chap.
I have said sorry to him a thousand times, but he seems rather disinterested in mollifying my guilt. It’s something I’ll mention again when he’s older. For now though I am trying to be the best mother I can, despite my lactating indiscretions. And in the meantime, I’ve put all my booby clothes on ebay.