There are no winners in the breast v bottle debate

Photograph: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Photograph: Oscar Wong/Getty Images© Photograph: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Sirin Kale’s experience of the first eight weeks of breastfeeding was exactly the same as my own; pain, shame and trauma (‘I felt rage. I had traded my sanity for milk’: what happened when I breastfed despite the pain, 10 January). Thrush was never mentioned, neither was caring for my own breasts, aside from signs of mastitis, and I spoke to a lot of different support providers. It was only when a friend recommended the use of hydrogel discs and I managed to pump enough to give me a break from feeding that my cracks were able to heal and I could feed without being in excruciating pain.

Until the guidance surrounding breastfeeding is more personalised and new parents are better informed, this will be an ongoing issue for many mothers. I explored the issues surrounding this in a co-authored article for the International Journal of Birth and Parental Education last summer.

Jess Haigh : Leeds

• When I gave birth to twins in the early 1990s and tried breastfeeding, it was absolutely excruciating. I felt this was the biggest conspiracy of silence I’d ever encountered. By turning immediately to formula I felt that I was letting people down – curiously other family members as much as my babies, such was the prevailing social expectation, although I don’t remember my husband or family ever pressing me to breastfeed. Fortunately, a very kind doctor gently counselled me that as I would be the one doing the feeding, the decision was completely mine. I was very lucky.

Barbara Wallis: Crosby Ravensworth, Cumbria

• I was a consultant anaesthetist with a special interest in obstetric anaesthesia and analgesia for 30 years and met many women who struggled to breastfeed. I told them that if you lived without clean water or the means to sterilise bottles, and were unable afford formula, breastfeeding was essential. If you lived in 21st-century Hertfordshire, it wasn’t.

Every week a newborn was admitted to hospital with dehydration because breastfeeding had failed. For a new mother to be able to look after her baby, she must also look after herself. Much misery is caused by forcing women to breastfeed when they are struggling. I was able to breastfeed both my babies, but I would certainly have given them formula rather than have them starve.

Dr Heather Parry: Watford, Hertfordshire

• I hated breastfeeding, so after a couple of months of struggling I just stopped. Simple: no guilt, babies fed and healthy, and I was no longer in agony doing something that I hated. What was not to like?

The guilt trip mothers endure for not breastfeeding is appalling. Luckily I’m a stubborn so-and-so, and being 38 when my son was born and 41 when I had my daughter, old enough, and self-assured enough, to ignore everyone and decide what was best for me and the babies. Try if you want, you might love it. If you don’t, don’t bother. Your kids won’t care, they get held and fed just the same. Don’t let anyone scare you with stories that “natural” equals better either.

I’m a retired research scientist, and there are numerous “natural things” I wouldn’t have anywhere near my children – snake venom and blue-ringed octopus tetrodotoxin to name two. We are lucky to live in a world where we have choices. No one should beat themselves up about a short period of their child’s hopefully 90-year healthy and happy life.

Dr Janet Dawson : Bennwil, Switzerland

• It’s unacceptable that health professionals today haven’t been taught the simple idea that breastfeeding should never be painful and if it is, something needs to be put right. What has happened to evidence-based care in breastfeeding?

Peggy Thomas: Founder, Association of Breastfeeding Mothers 

Reference: The Guardian:  

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