As an expectant, new or recent mother will be more than aware that the NHS is on the campaign trail for breastfeeding. The age-old line of ‘Breast is Best’ is the mantra of the midwives, neonatal and antenatal nurses alike. However, I’m going to give you 6 reasons why bottle feeding isn’t bad, and no mother should feel bad for bottle feeding.
To start with, let’s tackle that issue of ‘breast is best’.
Well, yes. And no. It’s a mantra that really needs updating and a lot of clarification.
Breast milk IS great
Breast milk is terrific for babies. It helps to boost you baby’s immune system by passing antibodies from mother to baby. Its calorific and nutritional content are technically perfect for supporting babies as they zoom at hyper speed through the challenging process of growing massively through their first year of life.
Breast milk even comes in different varieties to support babies at their various stages of development. Initially a thick yellow liquid – colostrum – the milk has, in a tiny amount, more than enough to support your child’s needs. Colostrum is also a natural laxative helping baby to shift that difficult meconium.
Breast milk then develops into transitional milk before becoming mature milk by the time baby is around two weeks old. This milk is nearly 90% water to meet baby’s fluid requirements. It’s also high in fat and carbohydrates.
Breast milk is naturally evolved for babies to be able to digest and there is a direct link between breast milk and improved immune systems. These are just facts and links can be directly linked together, as in it can be scientifically proven that these two are true. No one will argue that breast milk is the perfect meal for hungry babies. That doesn’t mean that you have to exclusively directly breast feed though.
Here’s 6 reasons why bottle feeding isn’t bad:
1. Reduce Stress
Breast feeding is an incredibly stressful endeavour. You are sole provider of life sustaining sustenance for your tiny, fragile little baby. You know what? It is entirely possible that you may have difficulties.
Latching difficulties. Not producing enough. Mastitis. Physical pain.
The drive for breast is best can mean that even when it’s not best you can be pushed to the edge of sanity in the desperate need to feed. It can and will leave you feeling like a terrible mother. Like a failure. Or worse it can lead to babies being endangered and becoming starved because of the drive to only breastfeed because of the belief that formula simply isn’t good enough.
Using a bottle can alleviate a great deal of this stress. You can supplement (more on this later) to ensure your baby is getting enough. You can be safe in the knowledge that your baby is getting a nutritionally complete diet, even if you are having difficulties, because bottle feeding isn’t bad.
2. Get Dad Involved
Breastfeeding is great for building a bond but what about those others around you? Also, there’s that whole stress issue too. Breastfeeding means you are the sole person able to support your child meaning you never have a break. You know what stops that? The bottle.
Bottle feeding means that father (or indeed other mother or any other family members) can be involved and part of the process. There is something endearing and bond-building about holding your child in your arms and feeding them. And there is something especially comforting to mum about not having to be solely responsible for feeding baby.
3. Expressed Milk Is Still Great
Milk can most definitely be expressed and given using a bottle without any negative impact to the milk itself. This means baby is still receiving the same high-quality meal without the stress and anxiety that can be attached to having to attach your baby physically to you every time they need to feed!
There are all kinds of breast pumps so plenty of options for expressing. You could even express by hand if need be. And you are able to feed from a bottle whilst giving exactly the same meal. There can be no shame in that. Bottle feeding isn’t bad!
4. Formula is a great second option
Another reason that bottle feeding isn’t bad is the fact that modern formula milk really isn’t a bad second option. This is especially so if you are having difficulty breastfeeding or even producing milk. Remember all of that stress I mentioned before? Formula is not the enemy.
As a mother you may be made to feel like an abject failure for resorting to formula. YOU ARE NOT. Modern formula is so close to natural breast milk that your baby will not be missing anything. Yes, there is the element of shared immunity, but in the modern western world this is less of a significant issue. In the UK you have access to some of the finest healthcare in the world. Bottle feeding isn’t bad because it gives you a more than viable and reliable alternative.
What do you think the midwives suggest when mother has difficult?
You are the food factory at the beck and call of your baby. And babies get hungry a lot. 3am in the morning? In the middle of McDonalds? Travelling to visit relatives in another city? When your baby is hungry you have to feed them. They can’t, and shouldn’t have to, wait undue amounts of time. When you’re breastfeeding that means the pressure is on you to whip yourself out and feed.
Waking up to tend to your baby at all hours is hard enough as it is, but breastfeeding is also physically draining. Breastfeeding supposedly cause the release of dopamine and is supposedly good for you mentally but ask any mother who had to breastfeed at 2am how great she felt about it.
Expressing milk means you don’t have to worry about facing those feeds with trepidation. You can have exactly the same meal ready for your little one in a handy form. Breastfeeding is great for building a bond when everything is working as it should. When it’s not, using a bottle isn’t bad. Bottle feeding gives a level of convenience that breastfeeding never could.
6. Combination and Supplementary Feeding
Let me introduce you to a concept called combination feeding. Breastfeeding is great, sure. Breast milk is perfect, definitely. However, it is perfectly legitimate to combine both breast feeding and bottle feeding. Now that bottle feeding can be either breast milk or formula! This is combination feeding and means you can have all of the benefits of both breast feeding and bottle.
Another version is supplementary feeding. This is where you give baby a mix of breast, expressed and formula at different times to ensure they are getting everything they need. Bottle feeding isn’t bad because it means you have a very legitimate and real support format when breastfeeding is difficult or lacking.
So, there’s 6 reasons why bottle feeding isn’t bad. Now on a short side note there are other benefits which are commonly presented as reasons to breastfeed: there is a correlation between breastmilk fed babies and fewer deaths by SIDs, vaccines seem to work better because of breastmilk diet etc. It is important to note that there is no definitive reason given for these. These reasons are linked statistically but there is no direct cause between breastfeeding and these outcomes merely a ‘causal’ link which means that they seem to be linked.
I deal with hundreds of mothers, some super experienced with several children and others who are brand new to motherhood. We all have our own stories around feeding, but one thing that always strike me is that bottle feeding is vilified. No more! You are not a bad mother, bottle feeding isn’t bad, your baby is not missing out if they are having a bottle. No matter your reason, do not feel bad about reaching for that bottle.
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