The age-old adage ‘breast is best’ still rages on in popularity and is recommended by the NHS and various health and social services throughout the country. Even other Mums can unintentionally pile on the pressure that babies should be breast-fed from the word go, consistently and throughout the nursing period – yet there are healthy alternatives.
Very few people would argue that breast-feeding a baby isn’t the best possible option for a newborn’s nutrition, weight and health, but the reality of the situation is that it just isn’t an option for some new Mums, and for a variety of reasons; mastitis, cancer, insufficient glandular tissue, premature baby, medication intake or breast surgery, amongst others. Some babies even just won’t latch on! And that’s OK. We know lots of mums would love to breastfeed, but have a massive amount of guilt when it doesn't work. Please don't beat yourself up about it. There are alternatives, and they are perfectly acceptable for when breast just won’t do, or to supplement it.
The most important thing is that your baby is being fed, he/she is healthy and happy, and he/she is gaining weight in line with their expected progress. Even when breast-feeding, you may find that your little one isn’t getting enough breast milk or putting on the weight you’d expect. In these cases, of course, your first port of call should be to seek the advice of your midwife, GP or health visitor – but don’t be surprised if they suggest ‘topping up’ your tot’s diet with formula. This is unlikely to be suggested too early on, as it could affect and set your milk levels too low, but later on can work just as well to keep your little one fed and content. In most cases, even if a mother is finding it hard to produce lots of milk, they can express at least some and so supplementing this with formula makes for a healthy, balanced diet for baby.
Many of us approach breast-feeding with an idea or plan of how often and how long for. Whilst there’s no harm in planning, it’s important to remain open-minded about your baby’s appetite, growth and development; and keep in mind that if things don’t go exactly to plan, that’s OK too. UNICEF report that 80% of babies in the UK are breast-fed from birth, so there’s still 1 in 5 Mums not quite managing it, which despite being a minority, isn’t a paltry amount! NHS studies have shown that less 50% of Mums breast-feed after two months, so although it may feel like there’s pressure to stay ‘au naturel’ for a long time, there needn’t be at all.
As long as your child is healthy, happy and of an appropriate weight for their development, there’s no need to worry about their milk intake. There is no doubt that you have your baby’s best interests at heart and will try whatever it takes – but if this comes at the price of your wellbeing, a compromise can be found.