Yes, I know this may spark a bit of controversy. It’s probably a headline that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a site that professes to be all about unprocessed foods for our kids. How could I possibly say that “breast may not be best”?But…
There are no black or white, clear cut answers for every mom, child and family. We have to make things work for our very own personal circumstances.
The reason why I wanted to tackle this topic is quite simple: I’ve just had my little gorgeous baby boy and have been through quite a struggle with breastfeeding. I experienced about 6 weeks of cracked and bleeding nipples; I had the baby blues because of this and because of severe sleep deprivation; and I have a very big hungry baby (7.9kgs/ 17.4lbs at 14 weeks!). Through my challenges I used to ask many questions of Dr Google, a midwife, a lactation consultant, and a few mothers. This is what I am told over and over again:
- There is nothing wrong with your milk – only 15% of women actually have a problem with breastfeeding and you are not one of them
- You should exclusively breastfeed your child up until 6 months of age
- Breast is best and formula should only be given to children who are not thriving on breastmilk
Now, what those stated “facts” take into consideration is only one facet of raising a newborn baby. As you very well know, there is a WHOLE lot more to it than just breastfeeding. The journey of having a baby is an intensely emotional time with an extreme learning curve.
Don’t get me wrong – I do wholeheartedly believe that breast is best (in terms of the nutritional values of breastmilk as compared with formula). And it’s an amazing part of nature that some of us are able to feed our own babies. However, there are times when it may not be best – for you, for your baby or for your family. Moms should not be shamed or judged if they choose at a certain time or for a certain reason to give their baby formula. Hence, I love the recent hashtag doing the rounds on social media: #fedisbest. With all of that in mind, here are the 10 times when breastfeeding may not be the best option:
1. Your Baby Isn’t Thriving
So this is the reason that you have probably already read about. If you have been breastfeeding your newborn and they have not gone back to their initial birth weight after 2 weeks, then there may be an issue with your milk supply. You may also have a problem with your supply if your baby’s weight gain is below 200g (7 ounces) per week during the first three months or below 100g (3.5 ounces) between three and six months. The best thing to do if you suspect a low milk supply is consult your paediatrician or lactation consultant to confirm this.
2. You Are Sleep Deprived
In the first few weeks your baby will need to feed every 1-3 hours. This continues into the night, which means because you are the sole source of food, you have to wake up every 1-3 hours. You may be able to get a few naps in here or there. That’s only if you have support – a lot of people still have to maintain housework, cooking for the family, entertaining other kids… The problem is, that sleep you might get, is broken sleep – the worst kind.
People function terribly when they are sleep deprived and it is apparently worse than drinking alcohol. This means that you shouldn’t be driving! And if you shouldn’t be driving under these circumstances then you need to ask yourself if you are in the best state to be caring for a baby? Sleep deprivation is very real and can also exacerbate the hormones, baby blues and post-natal depression that you can experience with having a baby. So in these instances you may want to find a solution that allows you to get some unbroken sleep, so that you can function optimally and also to enjoy the time you have with your baby.
3. You Have A Very Hungry Baby
I want to share a bit of my story. My little boy was born at 3.64kg (8lbs) and 55cm which is on the big baby scale. By 14 weeks he was 7.9kg (17.4lbs). He was super hungry (and still is)! And very often he would get HANGRY (when you so hungry, that you get angry). He would cry and cry and cry even after I had just fed him. Sometimes he would cry while I was feeding him. It was as though there just wasn’t enough milk to satisfy him. He was gaining weight well and had lots of wet nappies, but he was just very hungry.
I would sometimes leave baby with my husband after a feed so that I could have some much needed “me-time”, and within 20 minutes my husband would be calling me frantically saying that our son is crying unconsolably and he doesn’t know what to do! For weeks I was in denial telling my husband that it wasn’t hunger and that he was probably just missing me. But through a process of elimination we both realised that it was because he was just not satisfied with my breast feeds! I can pick up on his hunger signals much better now, and if my boobs just don’t deliver what he needs I make him a bottle, and he is much happier afterwards.
It cannot be good for him if he is upset and crying for most of the day for something that I can so easily fix. I had tried to breastfeed him as much as possible to try and increase my supply, but this also did not change the situation. So supplementing with formula became the best option for me and my handsome chap.
4. Your Breasts Need To Heal
Oh my! The case of cracked nipples is a very tragic one. You’ve just got out of hospital either from a natural delivery where your insides have basically squeezed a watermelon out of a hosepipe OR you’ve received a cut through many sensitive layers of skin and muscle large enough to squeeze out said watermelon – and then… breastfeeding starts you on the journey of engorged breasts, cracked and bleeding nipples and maybe even mastitis!
You don’t have to suffer through everything all on your own. If your nips need a breather, then you may consider giving your bubs a bottle. And don’t forget nipple shields can offer some relief.
Just keep in mind that the best thing to get through the mastitis or cracked nipples as quickly as possible – is to keep breastfeeding. But don’t beat yourself up if you just need a 3 hour window to soothe your broken boobs!
5. You’ve Had Alcohol / Medication / Anaesthetic
It is important to keep in mind that nearly everything you eat or drink (or is injected into you) is transferred in breast milk. So what should you do if you’ve had a sneaky double shot mojito? It is recommended to wait 2-3 hours per alcoholic drink before breastfeeding again. What about medication or aneasthetic? The best thing to do would be to consult with your doctor on how long to wait after medication before breastfeeding again. You may be recommended to “pump and dump”.
When my little guy was 2 weeks old I had to have a basal cell carcinoma removed from my nose – which required a day in hospital and general aneasthetic. I was advised to pump and dump after the surgery, once every two hours for three pumps before resuming breastfeeding again. So bubsy had a formula day with daddy and he loved it… and so did baby! 😉
6. You Need A Break
Nobody can quite prepare you for the complete shift that happens to your life once you become a mom. Your whole being is consumed with: breastfeeding / bottle-feeding; worrying about schools, finances etc; changing nappies; keeping them happy; getting them to sleep; sterilising bottles; enjoying development activities with them; more worrying…
It may feel now as though your independence has gone. This all-encompassing shift can sometimes be attributed to why women go through the baby blues or post-natal depression (PND). If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of the baby blues or PND, then first get some help or support from a family member or psychologist. And second, give yourself a break. The baby blues can get worse and the best thing to do is to tackle it as soon as you experience any negative feelings.
7. You Don’t Want To
You may not have the inclination to breastfeed. It may seem unnatural to you. You may feel repulsed by it. Or there may be some personal reasons why you don’t want to breast feed. It is ok! Whatever your reason, go with your gut as a mother. You have a choice. And you also should not be shamed or judged for choosing not to breast feed. #fedisbest… enough said!
So Do I Really Think Breast Feeding Isn’t Best?
The objective of this post is not to put anyone off breastfeeding. It is a beautiful thing if you can get it right. And apart from the nutritional benefits, it’s a whole lot cheaper than formula feeding! 😉 But there is also a lot of pressure on mothers to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first 6 months. Sometimes this may not be possible. Mothers who choose to supplement or to formula feed their babies should not feel guilty. You ultimately know what is best for you, your baby and your family.
Let me know how you have decided to feed your baby? What has worked or not worked for you?