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Emotions of a bottle-feeding mum

You dreamed about breastfeeding. It has not worked. You are very upset, struggling with negative emotions, asking questions that hurt even more. You are worrying that bottle-feeding will not provide your baby with everything he would get if you could breastfeed. Here you can read how a bond between the mother and the baby develops, and why you should not keep on crying over your lost milk.
Eliza Komar, psychologist | 16 March 2014

Kinga, 33, "I must admit that before I got pregnant, I had read little about breastfeeding. I had focused more on clothes, equipment, a cot or even toys. Breastfeeding was to come naturally. It did not... I had a C-section. I was told I had no milk, and that this is normal after the C-section. I believed in that. Later, when milk came, my son did not want to suck my breast, preferring a bottle. Instead of helping me, the doctor gave me pills to stop lactation.

I am still upset about it, I am also very angry because things could be different if I had gone to another hospital."

Sylwia, 22, "My daughter rejected the breast when she was two months old. I could not make her suck it. I cried for a week or so, before I allowed myself to be convinced that this does not make me a worse mother."

Alina, 48, " I am a nurse, so nobody has to convince me about benefits related to breastfeeding. When my daughter gave birth, it was obvious to our whole family she would breastfeed. However, as it turned out , this was a great drama lasting for several weeks. We went for help to midwives and lactation advisers, used different methods and techniques, but breastfeeding was very painful to my Elwira. When the feeding time approached and she was to latch the baby on to her breast, I saw fear and panic in her face.

I started to tell her that she can extract milk and give it in a bottle. Elwira cried that she was a bad mother, that she would manage, that this pain was nothing.

Now, when Elwira is expecting her second baby, we already have assumed she would use a bottle. If she is able to extract without pain, then with her milk, but if not, then with formula."

Joanna, 28, "It was clear to me from the start that I would not breastfeed. For various reasons. I think I do not have to justify myself. However, from the very beginning I felt under pressure that I must do it, because it was the best I could give to my baby. Hold on there! The best thing is love, and a happy mum!

I must admit that later I started to say that I could not breastfeed, and not that I did not want to, Then, instead of being condemned, I saw sympathetic eyes.

Yes, I felt the lactational terror. I wish women had a right to chose."

Paulina, 24, "When I got through breast fullness, I had to fight with deficiency. I drank teas stimulating lactation, lots of water, I even meditated imaging milk in the ducts. My baby kept losing weight. A decision was made about supplementing. I did not cry, I was howling on my way back from the pediatrician. I howled preparing the formula and giving it. I howled in a bathroom and onto my husband's shoulder. Because what kind of a mother am I, not being able to feed her own baby."

Agata, 23, "Due to the pressure on breastfeeding I also feel guilty, but my intuition tells me that I am not a bad mother. I love my baby, care after him, hold him, rock him, whisper endearments to him. Fortunately, there are many mums feeding with a bottle and we can help each other, for example on Internet forums."

 

Here is a selection of stories from mums' lives.  We could go on and on about it: mastitis, sore nipples, looking for assistance, worrying, nights full of tears, as well as the sense of pressure, influence of people around, feeling of regret and shame.

Yes, certainly, breastfeeding versus feeding with a bottle is a very exciting subject. The best for you is to be in the middle. If you do not breastfeed at least to the 6 month of the baby's life, then you may encounter lack of understanding for this situation. And according to a general opinion, about 18 month you should wean the baby. When you breastfeed for longer, it may happen you will be reproached that it is too long and not good for your baby, but only satisfies your emotional needs. You breastfeed, and the baby cries, you may hear about worthless milk; you give formula, you will hear critical remarks. Looking for information, you will hear opinions that tests results, medical tests, positive opinions, they are all controlled, depending on the point of view, by WHO (World Health Organization) that wants to promote breastfeeding thinking about poor mothers in the Third World countries, or by infant formula producers...

And in the middle of all this, there are you: you - Mum and your tiny baby. And do not forget, even for a moment, that it is you and your baby that are the most important. And although it is difficult, focus on yourself and think what really is important and what do you want for your baby.

Bonding and closeness

Already more than 60 years ago there was a breakthrough in developmental psychology in perception of mechanisms underlying development of a bond between a baby and his mother or, more generally, his guardian. It was based on the results of experiments of Dr Harry Harlow's team. The research was conducted in rhesus monkeys, which (in brief, as there were several variants) could choose between two mothers. One mother was a wire dummy, and the other was a dummy of wood covered with foam and pleasant-to-touch fabric. Both mothers were warm (a heat-emitting bulb was installed inside). They were of the same size and shape. However, the textile mum, contrary to the wire mum, had something that Harlow called a possibility to feel a soothing touch, and monkeys could cuddle, brush against, or nestle in soft material covering it.

The monkeys were divided into groups, where one group received milk from the wire mum, and the other from the textile mum. It turned out that both groups sought contact with the textile mother (group of monkeys receiving food from the wire mother preferred to spend time outside feeding with the textile mother). Moreover, at the time of any danger monkeys from both groups sought protection of the textile mum. Similarly, when exploring a new area, it was the textile mum that was treated as a safe base by both groups of monkeys.

The experiment results also include observations that monkeys with only wire mother available and deprived of a soothing touch of the textile mother developed worse, had problems with digesting milk, were more apathetic than the control group (receiving the same amount of the same food) that could cuddle to the textile mother. A developmental leap was also observed when the textile mother was made available to the monkeys.

The experiment conclusions prove that a bond between a mother and a child does not result from breast suckling. At that time, this allowed to change psychoanalytic approach that suckling as a method of feeding is, at the same time, pleasant for the baby, and from this pleasure a bond - love - springs. Here love and bonding are primary needs of the baby and are assigned the same, if not higher, hierarchical importance as satisfaction of hunger and thirst.

A bond between the mum and the baby does not depend on the feeding method. Feeding satisfies hunger, while the bond means closeness, tenderness, touch, satisfying needs. It is the baby's certainty that you are there when he needs you, it is his trust for you so he can trust the world.

Do you give less love to your baby when you feed him with the bottle? No, or at least, it does not have to be so. Select a position similar to one during breastfeeding, you can hold the baby against your naked skin, let him hear beating of your heart. Apart from feeding times, you can provide kangaroo care, carry your baby in the sling, hold, rock and cradle him.

There is a general opinion that bottle means "hurray, Dad, Granny or Granddad can also feed the baby; very good, because they will also develop a bond." It does not have to be so. The choice is yours. When you need and want it, feed the baby yourself. However, when you feel otherwise, ask your husband/partner, or other members of the family. Remember, you have a right to treat bottle feeding as something intimate, just for you and your baby, or the three of you.

Being a bad/worse mother

I have a tricky question for these mums, who still cry over their irrevocably lost dream about breastfeeding.

Who is a better mum?

Mum A, who on hearing her baby whimper, gets up from the bed, smilingly kisses her baby, talks to him, sings, is enraptured by a new face he makes, and meanwhile prepares the formula. - Here, love, now you are going to eat - she says, holds her baby tight and gives him the bottle.

Mum B hears her baby whimper, opens her eyes and is upset because she is a bad mother, drags herself out of bed, goes to the baby and holds him crying that he has such a bad mother that cannot even feed him. A new face made by the baby remains unnoticed. Meanwhile, baby's whimper probably developed into crying. Mum B prepares the formula, takes the baby on her lap and cries with him, giving him the formula.

When you see yourself in Mum B, it is enough. It is time to stop despairing. Nothing can be done. There are more important things you have to take care of. There is no use crying over spilt milk, particularly, when you can replace it with good infant formula.

Beware of negative emotions

Despair, pain, feeling of helplessness, unfulfillment, denial, or anger are normal, natural emotions during a change perceived by us as undesirable, and which is beyond our control. However, normal and natural does not mean here we can be wholly absorbed by these emotions. And although sometimes it is difficult to give them up, and this is additionally hindered by your hormonal balance still disrupted after birth,  you have to cope with them for your own and your baby's sake.

When you cannot overcome your low spirit, negative thoughts and feelings yourself or with a help of your family and friends, seek assistance of a psychologist.

You and your baby

A newborn has only a few ways or possibilities, to attract attention and get help. He can cry demanding satisfaction of his needs, tighten his grip trying to stop his guardian, or smile increasing his attractiveness (where at the beginning these last two behaviors are reflexes, and not a conscious expression of needs). The newborn is completely dependent on adults. And the parent is there to look for him.

To know your baby, understand him better, be sensitive to his needs, you do not only have to want it, but also need possibilities and psychical space.  And you will not find this space while you are focused on yourself and your negative emotions. That is why quick revaluation and fast improvement in your psychological condition is so important.

The best mum in the world

It does not matter whether you feed with the bottle or breastfeed. What is important is that you love and cuddle your baby, that your baby has you whenever he needs. What is important is your smile, tender words, caress and fondling. What is important is your soothing touch given to your baby, so he can grow up feeling content, safe, and psychical and physical wellness.

So... you dearest, bottle-feeding, best Mums in the world, smile and cuddle your babies :)

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