Yasna Blandin de Chalain (maternal and child health nurse, counsellor): When breastfeeding doesn’t work it's really important for health professionals, family and everyone around the mother is playing a very supportive and understanding role respectful of the decision to feed her baby in the way that actually works the best for that family.
Emma (mother of Jack, 10 months): So after about 5 weeks I had to give up breastfeeding because I had a number of problems and move over to formula feeding. And I wasn’t really prepared for that because I thought it was going to be so simple and it wasn’t. Breastfeeding really wasn’t that simple at all for me.
Alicia (mother of Bethany, 6 years, Jesse, 4 years and Susie, 22 months): I had previously said with great conviction that I would be a breastfeeder and I actually believed it myself. And I think I was quite personally shocked that it was hard and it just doesn’t come naturally, I thought you just whacked them on and off you go.
Yasna: Some of the emotions that women may feel when there is a need for them to give up breastfeeding are things like guilt. They may feel judged, they may feel that there might be a lack of support for their decision to then formula-feed.
Emma: I think there's so much pressure out there from health care professionals, from media, even magazines, leaflets. You go to a doctor’s surgery and the walls are covered with ‘breastfeeding’s best’. That’s a great message but also if breastfeeding doesn’t work for you it can have a real negative impact.
Yasna: We know that being understanding, being respectful, being caring and being inclusive is incredibly important for the formula feeding experience then to be a really positive one for that family.
Alicia: So having a good support network when I was dealing with the feelings of letting go of breastfeeding and turning to bottle-feeding. I spoke to a couple of trusted friends so I guess I identified people within my network of friends and family that just would be good people to listen to. I also went and personally went through counselling on my own. And it was just great to have somebody that was able to break down my thoughts and my feelings and give me tools to actually work through some of those harder things that happened for me personally. Yeah I can’t recommend counselling enough, it’s just so wonderful to have that kind of support and help.
Yasna: With bottle-feeding it’s important to get as much support as possible. So we know that can be achieved obviously through your health professional initially but later on perhaps through online communities where parents can get online and get support from other parents who have been through similar experiences. Perhaps new parent groups where mums and dads are both invited to attend where they get to meet other parents who are in the same boat as they are in terms of the parenting experience.
Emma: When I went to the first mums group and the babies were approximately 6 weeks old at that point I was already in that week of predominantly moving to formula-feeding so I was quite nervous going into the mothers group because I didn’t know how many other mothers would be formula-feeding. I was thinking am I going to be judged because I’m formula-feeding when I could see everyone else was breastfeeding and breastfeeding successfully. And it wasn’t until we did our introductions and said about our deliveries and whether we were breastfeeding or not that one other lady there said she was formula-feeding and I quite loudly said, ‘Oh thank God there's somebody else here formula-feeding as well’. And then I could unzip my bag, mix up my formula and feed Jack. Nobody gave me a look or anything like that, nobody ever said anything negative towards us. And the mothers’ group have been fantastic, they’ve been really supportive.
Yasna: Feeling supported can mean different things for different people. It would be feeling understood. It would be about feeling respected for the decision that you’ve made. It would be about being empowered about the decision that you’ve made also.
Alicia: Changing to the bottle meant that I was able to function better, I was able to care for her better and function in our family better. It was gut-wrenching, it was very hard for Matt and I to work through that decision, for me to say I’ve had enough and to go out and physically buy the bottles and to actually change to formula-feeding. But yeah for me it was quite a relief.
Yasna: That relief now comes in the form of being able to spend a lot of their time and energy that they’ve previously been spending on trying to make breastfeeding work into making their bottle-feeding experience a positive one.
Emma: You just have to really trust that you’re doing the right thing and once you know your baby as well it makes it all so much easier, it starts to fit into place and what works for you is the right thing.
Yasna: Some of the tips for bonding with your baby when you’re bottle-feeding and that is whether you have perhaps breast milk in the bottle or you might be feeding your baby with formula are to give your baby as much eye contact as possible. Creating those lovely warm connections is very, very important. So along with eye contact you might also choose to perhaps talk to your baby at that time, you might choose to read, you might choose to sing to your baby but making that a very, very special time between you and your baby is very, very important. And you can do that very well whilst bottle-feeding your baby.
Alicia: The best piece of advice that I was given was probably just to stand firm in the decisions that I had made and to be confident in myself. So to answer to people I've made the decision to go from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding and I’m happy with that, that was the best.