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We all have ‘breast is best’ drummed into us by the midwives, and most of us want to breastfeed and plan to during our pregnancy. However, as soon as we go into labour all hell breaks loose. THINGS JUST DON’T GO ACCORDING TO PLAN.
From my experience, breastfeeding was total, unbelievable agony with my first son. So painful in the first two weeks that I needed to bite on a rag as my amazingly perfect little boy latched on. But I never resented it and I was lucky enough to have an older, very cosy, West Indian health visitor who laughed at my pain in a good natured way. She told me it would get better in time and one day I would forget all my troubles and nursing would become second nature.
She was right on one count, breastfeeding my baby became an easy norm and I could not imagine why people went to the faff of sterilising bottles when you could offer milk on tap whilst forming the most incredible bond with your little one. However, my midwife was wrong about forgetting the pain. I never have and never will. Sore, cracked nipples almost make us forget the trauma of the birth. Maybe that’s our creator’s plan? But I persevered through the first few weeks and things did get a little better. I take great pleasure in reminding my (now 18 year old) son, how strong a grip he had as he latched onto my poor bleeding nipples! Such fun embarrassing one’s progeny in later years … don’t forget to take plenty of photos to put on a big screen slideshow at their birthday parties in years to come!
By the time my second son was born the nipples were a little tougher and in the end I managed to nurse both my boys till they were more than 6 months old. I loved it and it was a reason to rush home to them from work, as I juggled my home and work life. BUT whilst I fully believe it is worth going through the early difficulties of breastfeeding, I also feel that there is nothing wrong with introducing bottles quite early on. The sooner you offer a bottle (if you like, with expressed breast milk), the less likely your baby will reject a teat. Mixing breast and bottle can be a good idea on many levels, including in my case, as it allowed my husband to babysit and feel useful. Breastfeeding can make the man in your life feel isolated. If you run your own business, there are times you just have to leave your baby for a meeting and a few bottles of expressed milk in the fridge are a life saver. Juggling breast and bottle is a well-documented option which is obviously not for all but then neither is exclusive breastfeeding good for all. It would have been a nightmare for me.
As a result I just don’t agree with this £200 in vouchers scheme for those who breastfeed. It’s total nonsense. If the mother is that keen to breastfeed exclusively until her baby is 6 months old, she will have saved so much money on bottles and formula that she does not need them. If she can’t breastfeed because of medical problems, this will just add to her feeling of failure and if she wants to juggle like I did, I presume she will lie to the midwife.
This is a ridiculous initiative. What we should be doing is educating mothers who are worried about breastfeeding and encouraging them to ‘give it a go’, at least for the first three weeks. What we will find is that a natural bond will develop and they will wonder what all the fuss was about. Breastfeeding and nurturing my little babies is probably the most rewarding and emotional experience I have ever felt. Just do your best, don’t expect it to be easy and make up your own mind. And if you just can’t breastfeed, don’t worry too much; your baby will be absolutely fine.