Breast is always best …

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Breast is always best …

breastfeeding. mother feeding her baby in nature outdoors in the park

Or is it?
A few weeks ago there was a very interesting article in the Canvas magazine regarding breast feeding, written by a mother who had turned cartwheels – painful ones – trying to establish breast feeding, and going though pain and suffering each time she oput her newborn baby to the breast. She wondered, whether all the pain and suffering was worth it – eg cracked and bleeding nipples.

As a Karitane Nurse with many, many years experience, here is my slant on breast feeding:

We all know that breast feeding is the best - BUT: sometimes breast feeding is not the best but I applaud Michelle Duff (the writer of the article) for her incredible perseverance in finally enjoying breast-feeding.

I have written a book called 'Baby on Board – Mum is Driving' and it deals with the first three months of a baby's life.

I coach young mums in post natal care, and I have yet to meet a mum whose ante-natal health provider has suggested the use of a good nipple cream in preparation for breast feeding. The cream keeps the nipple supple and therefore prevents the nipple from cracking, bleeding and splitting. These extremely debilitating conditions are exacerbated by putting the baby to the breast at the first hint of a cry. If the baby has a good feed at each feed, that baby will sleep for at least three hours before it wakes for another feed.

There is no such thing as 'nipple confusion' . I have cared for many, many babies who regularly, for one reason of another, had both breast and a bottle with absolutely no problems. This included twins who took turns at the breast – so were both breast fed and bottle fed every day.

Many babies I have cared for have had 'top-up' bottles and one baby, whose mother was a Doctor, had breast before she arrived at my house for the day, bottle, if the mother could not make it back to the house for a breast feed at around lunch-time and then back to breast when the mother picked her up at the end of her working day. No problems – no gut bacteria, and who better to judge that than the Dr. mother! The 'gut bacteria was mentioned in the article as a reason NOT to offer a 'top-up' bottle to a baby as it could cause 'gut bacteria'

Maybe the gut bateria was caused by not sterilizing the bottle and teat. I have NOT experienced this problem in all my yuears of caring for babies.

A 'top-up' bottle does no harm when the mother's milk supply is not quite enough to settle the baby in the first week or two of it's life. There is no reason for a baby to be fed hourly. It is the primary cause of sore and bleeding nipples and it exhausts the mother as well as the baby. The outcome is a mother who is so tired from endless feeding and has no time to call her own plus an over tired baby who then becomes very difficult to settle.

As I said before, a baby will settle for a good sleep with a full belly. A breast-fed baby should get used to feeding from a bottle at least once a day! Yes – you read that correctly! The dad, who often feels a lost soul especially when the first baby arrives, but if he can feed the baby a bottle of expressed milk or formula and from my 55 years' experience, there is no problem with that – the Dad gets a chance to show his softer side and the mum gets to have a rest – maybe a nap.

One day, a mother may want, or be required, to return to work and if the baby has never been introduced to a bottle, the result is mayhem! I have been asked on many ocassions to come to the rescue and 'teach' the baby to take a bottle. It's easier for a complete stranger to do this, than the emotionally attached mother!

Maybe I should have called one of those 'Advocates' mentioned in the article to come and take over this difficult learning stage, which could, very easily have been avoided if the baby had learnt to take milk from a bottle at a very early stage. (This statement relates to lactation experts)

I had three children under the age of three, and I would never had been able to spend hours and hours feeding my baby while the two older children also needed my attention. I breast-fed my three children but they were on a very strict routine, breast fed for six months and were used to taking formula, when necessary, from a bottle.

Yes – breast feeding is the best, but if it compromises the health of the mother, or completely disrupts the life of all the family, maybe in some instances a bottle-fed baby does just as well, is still loved to bits, is held close whilst taking his bottle and the family stays sane!

I have a nephew and a niece who were adopted and I also know a surrogate child – all loved most dearly but could never be breast-fed. There are many reasons why – and all those who pass judgement should just mind their own business, but instead, give praise and support.

1 Comment

  1. Lidya Samampouw says:

    Thank you for this article. I was going mad with indecisiveness whether I was cruel to choose NOT exclusively breastfeed because I need to sleep at night for my sanity sake. I breastfeed in the morning through afternoon and bottle feed (formula) in the evening. So far it has been a lifesaver and a bout of depression has been evaded as well. Thank you..and keep on writing.


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