In the battle of the boobs, we all lose

Despite decades of debate, bringing up the topic of breastfeeding in a room of mothers is still akin to lobbing a hand grenade.

Breast vs bottle, the ultimate showdown continues to rumble on like the longest-running and most exhausting boxing match ever. Everyone taking part is fed up, and everyone watching is desperate to leave and get on with their lives.

New studies and opinion pieces will appear in the media on a weekly basis supporting one side or the other, scoring points for one camp but never quite winning the war.

It makes me wonder what on earth are we still fighting for?

On one side we have women who are feeding their babies so that they grow up to healthy and nourished, while on the other side we also have women who are feeding their babies so that they grow up to be healthy and nourished.

As someone who had very mixed experiences of breastfeeding and then bottle feeding my two girls, I know all too well how emotional a subject this is.

It goes without saying that any new mum wants the best for their baby. I wanted mine to have the very best start in life that I could give them.

But for me breastfeeding did not come naturally, at all. My first baby would latch on, but not suckle. When she did suckle, she would get upset at the speed of the flow. Hours of crying and frustration ensued.

My second fed immediately, but I suffered through weeks of pain and she continued feeding all night long until I finally threw in the towel at seven months.

As I tried to persevere I turned to Google for help and got caught up in a whirlwind of angry forums, judgemental opinion pieces and studies insisting I had to breastfeed.

Here’s a little round-up of headlines regarding breastfeeding from a Google search:

Dietitian claims breastfeeding makes babies crave sugar

Mother criticised for breastfeeding toddler while doing yoga

Quarter of mums made ‘uncomfortable’ breastfeeding in public

Time To Support And Normalise Breastfeeding

‘It makes me queasy’ Mum SLAMMED for breastfeeding 3-year-old

GAP praised for new campaign that aims to normalise breastfeeding

Longer breastfeeding tied to lower diabetes risk for mothers

Breastfeeding wars: is breast really best?

Are there downsides to ‘breast is best’?

Breastfeeding doesn’t make children more intelligent in the long term

As you can see it’s a real mixed bag of headlines, enough to make a tired and stressed out new mummy feel distinctly light-headed. I know because I was that tired and stressed out mummy, afraid I was going to ruin my baby’s life.

The trouble is that both sides are suffering. On the one hand, the bottle feeding mums feel they are judged and suffer tremendous guilt for not being able to breastfeed, as they are bombarded by information that it’s the BEST things they could do for their baby in the first six months.

On the other hand, the breastfeeding mums now feel there’s a backlash against them, as if they are being self-righteous by flaunting their latched-on babies in public and in social media “brelfies” (breastfeeding selfies for those of you not in the know!). They feel as if they are somehow being held responsible for the guilt that is piled on the plates of bottle feeding mums.

And yet at the end of the day we are all mums.

We all know how bloody hard it is, regardless of how we feed our babies. They all refuse to sleep and cry at all hours of the day and night, regardless of whether a nipple or a teat is used to placate them.

It’s the advertising and health campaigns that really drive this war. The ones that pump out endless rhetoric about how wonderful breastmilk is. And it is incredible stuff, tailor-made by you for your baby. The science on that is clear.

But the NHS, the World Health Organisation and breastfeeding campaign groups need to find a way to encourage and support mums who want to breastfeed without isolating that group of women from those who did not breastfeed.

Hyping the breast vs bottlefeeding debate only divides us further, pouring fuel on the fire.

We need to challenge and bin the assumption that women who bottle feed are doing so because they are lazy and couldn’t be bothered to try breastfeeding.

We also need to challenge and bin the assumption that breastfeeding women are all members of the breastapo out to guilt trip all mums who haven’t achieved the holy grail of six months’ exclusive breastfeeding.

The fact is that we all make the choices that we need to make. We make ones that are best for both us and for our baby. That makes us brilliant mums, regardless of what those choices were.

Can we please stop using breastfeeding as a means with which to divide women? In motherhood we need to stand united, because when you have kids you need all the back-up you can get.


Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

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  • Good post. There is a real distortion on having children, when it suddenly became all about the ‘mother’s achievement’ (in a long story, i think this has actually turned into our high rates of anxiety in teenagers – but that’s for another post). I read someone the other day who referred to their ‘breast feeding journey’. When my teen becomes vegan, I don’t talk about my vegan journey – it’s not even my journey – I just have to feed them vegan food. Why is the baby experience all about MY experience, yet later the child is less a reflection on me? I think we need to stop overthinking birth and start being a little more balanced in our approach – then maybe the PND rates will reduce and we can all be happier mothers. #KCACOLS

    • For the record, I breast feed for close to 2 years with each child (out of laziness, not politics or health) but I am a vocal supporter of bottle fed babies (being one myself) and in hospital would get in fights as the defender of the women struggling to breast feed because the midwives (and even sometimes their husbands) would say the meanest, dumbest shit ever. It sets me off, especially when these women are usually exhausted and emotional, and I have no idea why it makes me so angry (I think because with my first, the idiot lactation consultant let my baby dehydrate rather than comp some formula. The doctor then did comp a bottle as the baby was going jaundice, and the baby recovered and I still breast fed. Why anyone would put the baby’s health at risk is beyond me)

  • Bravo!!! I managed to breast feed my firstborn for 6 weeks only. He wouldn’t/couldn’t suckle and it was too frustrating for the both of us. It was the same with my second child. We non-breastfeeding moms don’t need anyone’s approval. We know what works best for ourselves and our babies. So, people, stop JUDGING!


  • I never paid much attention to those taking sides. All that really matters is you are doing what works best for your child. I did mixed feeding and the health visitor totally supported it because it worked best for me and my baby. #kcacols

  • I adopted my little girl when she was 4 so we missed that whole boob thing. I think it is a natural way to feed babies but I understand it does not work for all women. It is a personal choice. #KCACOLS

  • I bottle fed my first two and breastfed my third. I never had any bad experiences or backlash for bottlefeeding but I felt SO uncomfortable in public when breastfeeding. People made me feel SO small, but it never stopped me. In fact, it made me stronger in ways.

    It’s all a shame that mum’s just can’t accept that there are many feeding ways, bottle, tube and breast.


  • Yes! This! All of this! I breastfed for what, 3 weeks? Then I gave up for all sorts of reasons but mainly because I couldn’t keep up. And no matter what anyone says, I still loved my baby the same as when I bottle fed her! And she’s now a healthy, happy 8 year old. Oh the debate goes on! #kcacols

  • The UK is particularly bad for supporting and educating around breastfeeding. I had both my boys in Canada and I found the attitude much more supportive. I too struggled with feeding my first but persevered out of necessity (he wouldn’t take a bottle). I nursed both of mine for a long time and in Canada no one batted an eyelid but when I did so when visiting the UK, I was shocked at what complete strangers (and friends) thought was acceptable to say to me. Needless to say, fed is best #KCACOLS

  • Totally agree! I got myself so stressed out over breastfeeding but no I look back and wonder why I got so stresed over it. As long as you feed your baby it doesn’t matter which you choose! #KCACOLS

  • Couldn’t agree more! Im totally fed up with the whole thing. I breastfed my son to ten months but 6 of those where mainly breast with one bottle of expressed or formula. My daughter is 3 months old and exclusively breastfed so no other reason that she took to it well and she isn’t a demanding feeder. I feel awkward when I say I breastfeed, like I have to say that I have nothing against bottle feeding. It’s almost assumed that because I breastfeed I hate formula, which really isn’t the case. #KCACOLS

  • Spot on! We all make our choices and that should be that really, whether people love or hate it it is down to us as mothers to do what is right and with the best intentions. I never thought I would breast feed and when it came to it I thought it was the most amazing thing ever that I could manage it and see my boys grow so well. Lets pat ourselves on the back whatever we choose to do.

  • Great post! So well said! I don’t understand why breastfeeding is debated so much, mums should do what is right for them and their baby and not listen to anybody else. Mum knows best. As long as the baby is well nourished and healthy that’s the main thing. I really struggled to breastfeed so ended up exclusively pumping, it was so hard. I still find the subject difficult and an emotional one, I think we put far too much pressure on ourselves in the early days when we shouldn’t #KCACOLS

  • I found it really difficult to breastfeed as I wasn’t producing enough milk and so bottle fed for most of the time. I think women need to just do what works for themselves and their babies and stop judging what everyone else is doing #KCACOLS

  • I find it so sad that we all feel the need to explain our choice of feeding to others when no explanation is needed as we’re all doing what’s right for us and our babies. #KCACOLS