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Breast or bottle?

There have been a few schools of thought on breastfeeding. For some time it was thought the “four hour feed” was the ideal, and mothers woke their babies every 4 hours to feed them, and not inbetween. No coddling, no fuss.   Then there was the “feed on demand”; requiring mum to feed when baby awakes and appears to be hungry. Any time, anywhere. All the time. So exhausting just thinking about it.  Hang on though... how do you even know what is a hungry cry, or a ‘ I have a wet nappy cry’ or ‘ my tummy hurts’ ?Thats a whole story in itself. It can be really confusing, even on a good day when you’ve had sleep, and can think straight. Did I mention the  never ending tiredness? In addition to growing and birthing baby, ( and recovering) there is the all important job of making sure the baby is fed and rested. So they can grow.  Breastfeeding is completely natural to some people, and others seem to have no end of trouble; maybe a dose of mastitis and cracked nipples thrown in. It can be disheartening, especially when others may seem to just ‘have it down pat’. This can cause you to become deflated, dejected and feel like a failure. Yes, I am speaking from experience- with our baby no 3 having all sorts of feeding issues. Couple that with the guilt that I had fed two babies, so why should I fail the third time. ( He is a strapping 21 year old who seems to not be damaged- phew).  While there are different ideas and methods, it is personal. It depends on your ideas, priorities, hopes . Yet one thing seems to be paramount and has most camps agreeing. Its imperative that your baby is putting on weight. To not do so is a bad thing, will have dire outcomes in the long term.  In the end, whether you are a natural at breastfeeding, or its too overwhelming, its clear that if your baby is receiving enough nutrition, then they will keep on growing, and thats a great thing.  How that happens is ultimately up to you. There are no laws on this. Your baby is a unique individual and its needs may be completely different to the next person’s baby. So yes, thats a recipe for confusion. Simple ideas can help- and these are a few that may be good- remember it is up to you in the end.  *Your baby needs to grow- so they will need food ( breast milk or bottle), and sleep. Being clean and tidy helps too- seems to settle them.  *Do what you can to nurture yourself- you are caring for / feeding another human. If you’re breast feeding, you need water, sleep and nutrition to be able to make milk. So rest up as much as you can.  *Breast or bottle- either way, try and relax as you feed; consciously push your shoulders down and relax your jaw, as your baby will feel it if you’re tense. It will also help you have a good let-down if you are relaxed. As long as you are ok in all this, baby will be ok.  *Ask for help from your baby health clinic- a lactation consultant can help with attaching baby and other issues. And there can be a few. Ask your doctor; pick the brains of people around you who have done this before. Keep asking until you get the answers you need.  *Do what you can - I wouldnt even say your best, because its not a test. Be kind to yourself, you are not being evaluated. Most of all, be loving to yourself as this will help overall. Both mother and baby are learning - it can be a pretty steep curve. Its great to be able to breastfeed, but when your child is 18 they probably wont care. Keep all things in perspective and remember, its a job in itself to just feed a baby. *Your journey is unique- what happens or works for others may not be good for you. That’s completely fine. Its not a competition. Your baby is a unique individual and in time will show you more what they like and don’t like. Even siblings can be vastly different. Don’t pressure yourself. Do what you can, ask for help and one way or another you will make it through. Step by step.  So, as I watched my niece feed her first baby today, just 4 weeks old, and having had a bunch of problems. She persists breastfeeding, asking lots of questions and worrying about every little thing. I couldn’t help think that this plan was a pretty good one. A wonderful mother, so concerned and caring, doing whatever she can to love and nurture this little baby, all the while being unsure if that is enough. Its a truly beautiful thing to behold; this unconditional love.
By B.M
Sept 2019.

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