Every breastfeeding Mothers journey is very unique to them. For my 16 week old baby and I, we were lucky enough to get off to a great start and have thoroughly enjoyed our journey so far. However, with recent pressures of self-employment, I need to introduce a bottle every few days so that I can do my job and also be a good Mother.
However, introducing a bottle is a moment many established breastfeeding Mothers dread. The thought of giving your baby a bottle may seem so alien to some that it can reduce you to tears (well, for me anyway). You have just spent however long establishing breastfeeding that it just seems so strange to introduce a bottle when you have overcome all the obstacles (latch pain, night feeds, even mastitis) to have gotten this far.
For me, the designer of a breastfeeding product (Bellamoon), it seems bizarre in one sense that I should think about anything else besides breastfeeding. Yet, in another sense, I am a Mother. And just like everyone else, I have needs and pressures in life which mean I can’t always breastfeed my baby. Not to mention other Mums who just can’t breastfeed their babies for medical or other reasons.
Depending on your views, introducing a bottle may not be your first choice, yet often, it is the ‘Mother of necessity’. You may find yourself going back to work early, self-employed (like me), too nervous to feed in public (also me), for health reasons, allergy reasons or just need a good old night out so you can feel some sort of resemblance to your previous self.
Will I or Won’t I?
Before any breastfeeding Mother comes to the decision about whether to introduce a bottle or not, all sorts of emotional turmoil can trundle around your head.
‘If I give my baby a bottle will I feel redundant?’
‘Will that be the end of our breastfeeding journey?’
‘Will it affect our bond?’
‘Will it affect my milk supply?’
‘Will I be an emotional wreck?’
‘How WILL I really feel watching my beautiful baby drinking a bottle from someone else’s arms, staring into someone else’s eyes ?’
‘What if my baby won’t actually take a bottle? Maybe I shouldn’t bother trying them as I know they won’t take it anyway’.
Go Easy on Yourself
All of these feelings are perfectly normal.
Personally, when I introduced my baby daughter to her first bottle of expressed milk at 15-16 weeks of age, I had put it off for as LONG as possible. To put it simply, I was not looking forward to it and I used all sorts of emotional deflection to avoid it.
I told myself I was ‘too busy this week… next week will be quieter and I will have time to focus on it.’
Or, ‘do I really need to? Can’t I just keep exclusively feeding her forever?’
In hindsight, I was saying these things so I wouldn’t have to ‘let go’. I even cried to myself a couple of times thinking about it. Like many Mothers, I love breastfeeding her and the bond that we have developed through feeding. If I didn’t have other responsibilities then I probably wouldn’t HAVE to try. But life must evolve and I knew we had to give it a proper go.
Finding the Courage to Try
Every time I doubted the decision, I thought to myself, ‘what happens if I need to leave her for a few hours? I don’t want her to be crying for hours or simply starving.’ I felt like I had to give her the life skill of being able to drink a bottle in my absence. In some cases, it’s not only a life skill – it’s a survival skill.
It felt like such a huge step for her to feed from something that wasn’t me. I know that Mothers feed their babies from bottles everyday – and that’s totally fine. It just was that WE hadn’t. This was OUR journey.
So, I somehow found the courage deep down – for her benefit as well as mine. I had spent enough time debating the decision inside my own head. The only thing left for it was to stop over-thinking and try it.
How it Felt
So we did it.
We gave her a bottle.
And you know what? It was nowhere near as dramatic as I had built it up to be in my head.
In fact, for all the emotional turmoil I put myself through, as her little face happily stared up at me during her bottle-feed, I actually felt so incredibly proud of her! That, in turn, made me feel incredibly happy. Watching her big brown eyes stare up from behind the rim of the bottle at the wonderment of it all!
I cheered her on like she was going for an Olympic Gold and smiled widely at her as she drank. I think she could even sense the relief in my tired bones. ????♂️
How I felt
I thought I would cry. I thought I would be upset. I thought I would be devastated.
But I wasn’t. Actually. I was elated.
I have given my weary body a gift of the prospect of a few hours off. I don’t know if I will ever need it, but if I do I will have peace of mind.
The Future of our Breastfeeding Journey
Introducing a bottle of expressed milk every few days is our choice. Every Motherhood journey is different. Everyone wants or needs different things for their baby – and that’s ok.
It is also my choice to continue to breastfeed my baby for as long as possible. Why? Because that is what I want to do.
This is our journey through Motherhood. It is unique to us, it works for us and it makes both my baby and I feel happy and healthy – physically and emotionally. We hope to continue to have a long successful feeding journey as baby grows and navigates her way through all her little stages of early life. And maybe I’ll get a little bit of time to myself again too.
Thanks for reading,
Irene (Founder of BellaMoon) xx