The Allure of Formula

My boobs have dried up and shrunk. They fit my nursing bra like peas rolling around two egg cups. I didn’t mean for it to happen. Or not consciously.

My husband nailed looking after RB while I was on a three day hen. I compared his hour of feeding per day to my breastfeeding four hours. Plus RB slept better and was never dehydrated, as he had been with breastfeeding in the heat – his fontanel had sunk a few times. It made me question my choices.

I thought I’d move to a more equal boob and bottle split, rather than the 70:30 split we had. But most times RB was hungry, I went for a bottle. I didn’t pump regularly. I learned on the hen that regular pumping is almost as much of a commitment as breastfeeding.

Now, my boobs have gone and the bottle is firmly here.

I was ready for this rationally, I don’t trust the breast feeding propaganda, fuelled by political belief, not solid science, and I’m grateful for voices of reason among the madness.

Emotionally, I’m lagging a bit. What I say rationally doesn’t always make sense in my heart. I say I don’t believe the propaganda but a part of me still niggles. 1% of me still irrationally feels like I’ve somehow let RB down, even though the evidence says bottle and boob gives the same life results when you control for the millions of other factors that influence a child’s development. That 1% of me also feels irrationally that I’ve somehow failed, even though the idea that a parent can fail for such a spurious reason makes me furious. I read enough of that bullshit when I chose a c-section over a vaginal birth for nothing more than my personal preference. I guess it’s evidence, if ever we needed it, that norms matter. Words matter. We all fall prey to what we hear on repeat, even when we know it needs serious questioning at best, is bollocks at worst.

Still, I’m not emotionally lagging enough to go on a ‘nursing vacation’, as suggested by this website. (FFS!??!!***) I give RB my boob occasionally. He might feed for ten minutes, or an hour. Then ten minutes later he chews his hand and I give him a bottle.

Really, I wanted a Boris. I wanted to have my cake and eat it. But as the white haired serial shagger is learning, it’s not possible. You have to compromise somewhere.

I’ve lost the elevated status as RB’s feeder. I miss that. It made me feel special to be his important one. The feeder, and life giver. There is something beautiful in nurturing life from your body. I’ve lost the simplicity of needing nothing but enough privacy. I’ve gained a lot of freedom and time (some of which is used preparing the bottle paraphernalia). I might not burn the breastfeeding calories but I’ve gained some hours in which I can exercise. I’ve also gained more sleep. (And I’m going to whisper this, I’m not saying it to offend but to challenge convention… I questioned the ‘you can eat whatever you want when you’re breastfeeding’ argument after realising that not all breastfeeders are thin. Breastfeeding alone is not a reliable diet.)

I don’t think RB has lost anything. I believe in science and think that today’s formula will be part wizardry, given that the formula of thirty years ago did a pretty good job. He’s satiated when he’s hungry, and quickly. That gives him more time to play and watch and learn. It also frees us up to go places and see things and people that are more stimulating than the same rooms of the same house.

I don’t understand the idea that you only bond through breast feeding. With a bottle I can stare into both of his eyes as he feeds, and I do. As do his grandparents, aunts and uncles when they bond with him through feeding. From asking friends if they were formula or breast fed, I see no correlation between the type of feeding and their parental bond, thirty years on.

I don’t believe that breastfeeding is the answer to a happy child. If it was, the answer to the world’s problems would be a boob away. But it’s not. A boob for a year or two can’t make a child a well-balanced and complete adult. A lifetime of love, care, education and guidance is responsible there.

I guess the one thing I’ll never know is has the formula affected RB reaching his potential. Could more breastfeeding have given him the edge? But in reverse, we’ll never know if formula could have given breastfed babies the edge. It works both ways. Maybe one day we’ll have accurate science that tells us, but for now, I’ll find comfort in the research that says that when you control for other influential factors in a child’s development, the type of food doesn’t matter. Siblings fed differently end up the same. And if you haven’t clicked one of the two links for that research above, you can find it here. It’s pretty important.

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