Let’s be grateful we can feed our babies, however we choose to do it

I have a two-year-old and a five-month-old and I combination fed the eldest and breastfed the youngest but have now switched to formula/expressed breast milk given by bottle. I feel like I’ve had quite a mixed experience.

I struggled with breastfeeding with my first. I never felt I got the latch right, I didn’t feel comfortable doing it out and about, I also didn’t feel comfortable asking for help either as it felt like I should know how to do it and I felt a bit of a failure at times. Still, I did a bit of both and we survived.

The second time round I did much better. Baby latched on with no problem, I felt like a had cracked it this time. A few weeks ago I switched. The decision wasn’t taken lightly, I sought advice from various sources, medical and support groups, and I did what I feel is right for us.

Most of the women I know have very different experiences when it comes to feeding their babies. I know women who have found it a physical challenge to breastfeed, one who found it mentally challenging, some who did not consider it and started straight off with formula, some who have breastfed successfully from the word go, some who have managed to breastfeed one child but not another, some who have had to stop breastfeeding due to a change in situation, one who has breastfed when they hadn’t planned to because of the babies health, I know a lady that has exclusively pumped and fed by bottle, the list of different scenarios goes on.

Some of these decisions I have not necessarily understood but I am firm believer that you need to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you can ever really appreciate their motivations.

What therefore amazes me is that people feel that they can judge how another person chooses to feed their baby. A lady at a feeding group I attend was asked by another diner at a local cafe to leave when breastfeeding her baby.

The lady did not leave, and the cafe supported her right to feed her baby there, but when she told me this I was utterly shocked that the person thought they had the right to approach a complete stranger and tell them where they should feed their baby. In this case the man concerned thought she should go and sit in the local public toilet.

A little while ago I was listening to a debate about breastfeeding on the radio and was surprised about the amount of people that still feel it’s something women should be ashamed of, but what has shocked me more has been how vocal and at times damning some pro-breast feeders are towards mothers that use formula.

Recently I have joined a few baby forums and my choice to use formula  has also come under scrutiny, I have not and would not advocate using formula to anyone as I am not an expert and have no training in the matter, and have up until recently mostly breastfed but I have mentioned in passing that I use it when people have asked about it. The response is always the same. I’m obviously ill informed and breastfeeding is the only option. The few times I’ve mentioned it I literally hold my breath waiting for the self proclaimed expert to give me a lecture. They’ve never let me down.

Again I’m shocked that complete strangers feel they can give an opinion on how I feed my baby without any knowledge of what has led me to this decision, or even asked for their opinion on the matter. It seems that however you feed your baby someone will always feel they have the right to give an opinion without any regard to the emotional turmoil that has led to that decision.

I think being a mum involves a lot of anxiety and stress, we always question ourselves if we are doing the right thing and I think that the best we can do is go with our gut instincts and support each other. When I see the ads on TV for children’s charities that support children that are starving I often sit and think how lucky I am that I can feed my baby at all, however I choose to do it.

I am Louise, a thirty something Mum of one, trying navigate the journey the journey that is Motherhood. Other than my son the most important thing in my life is striking that work life balance so I can take time to enjoy my family and be in the moment.

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