The worst thing about breastfeeding has to be those sanctimonious souls extolling its virtues in rose tinted shades; usually the same people who said labour wouldn’t hurt.  In their eyes formula is poison, to bottle feed a taboo - an act of gross negligence. Most women understand breast is best and want what’s best for their baby. The pros are well documented. It’s physically and emotionally healthier for baby and mother, free and incinerates calories – basically what’s not to like.

However what women don’t want - is to be patronized or made to feel unreasonably guilty for the choices they make or have to make. There are many reasons why a mother might chose not to breastfeed, (medical, psychological, physiological, economic) - indeed breastfeeding exclusively can become nigh impossible when working and a lot of mothers have to work.  Reasons to breastfeed or not, are as diverse as women themselves and to be informed on the pros and cons are vital.

The realities of breastfeeding

  1. It hurts... Initially breastfeeding is likely to hurt.  Your nipples won’t know what hit them. Breastfeeding is a skill and needs to be learnt.  It’s all about the latch. A bad latch can lead to swollen, sore breasts, cracked bleeding nipples and in some cases engorgement, plugged ducts, mastitis, fever and, thrush.  It really is all about the latch. Every mother should have the support to learn how.  Remember - practice makes perfect and once mastered, it is the easiest thing in the world.
  2. Lactation pitfalls.  In the early days you may be anxious about ‘tongue tie’, or your milk coming in (wondering if it ever will) or feel let down by the ‘let down effect’.  Know that leaking breasts are common, (some spurt, others dribble). Also stock up on Lanolin to soothe your skin, nipple pads, shields, maternity bras, easy access tops and modesty shawls, if required.
  3. Drugs, alcohol and caffeine Anything you ingest can have an effect on your baby. The question is ‘how much’? As ever moderation is key. If you do enjoy a tipple allow time for the alcohol to leave your system naturally. There are at-home tests available that detect alcohol in breast-milk and give results in minutes
  4. Sexy Minx .V. The Milk Lady. No libido? Please don’t worry. It’s temporary, hormonal and part of Mother Nature’s plan to keep your focus on your baby. Your amazing body (yes amazing - the giving and nurturing of life is no small feat) needs time to adjust to its new role and functions. Rest assured your libido will return in time.
  5. Open All Hours Being a sole feeder on call 24/7 can leave some feeling bovine (despite the daily rush of feel-good oxytocin). Use a pump to express milk so your partner or friend/s can help with feeding and give you a break.
  6. Breast V Formula This doesn’t have to be an either or option. Many persevere when lactation problems arise and with the right support a resolution will be found. Others supplement their breast milk with formula.

However, for some if it’s not happening “as nature intended” make an informed decision without feeling stigmatised, pressurised or judged. The best advice ever received was ‘don’t be a martyr’.  This is not an ideal world. Life is full of compromises. Remember to listen to your instinct. You know yourself best and whatever works for you and your baby is key.