Breast is best. How many times have us mums heard this "universal truth" about breastfeeding? Among the countless benefits of breastfeeding that are shoved down our throats by medical professionals, the internet, mum friends, and other well-meaning mothers is the idea that breastfeeding will lead to bonding more readily with our babies. But after formula feeding three babies and breastfeeding one, I'm here to say that the bonding idea is bullshit.
The decision [not to breastfeed] was likely made with tears and heartache. But here we are, feeding our babies the best way we know how, bonding with them all the while.
When my first child was born, I tried breastfeeding her. At the time, it seemed easier to successfully land on the moon. Navigating the world of breastfeeding felt beyond foreign and confusing. My daughter wouldn't latch on. My milk wasn't coming in. My nipples were bleeding. My right boob barely escaped a harrowing experience with a breast pump on a too-high setting. I was relieved when my husband reminded me there was nothing wrong with formula feeding. From the moment I first offered my baby a bottle, I enjoyed feeding times instead of dreading them and feeling afraid of my baby.
Feeding times with my firstborn and then second and third children were always filled with love. I can still remember holding their warm, little bodies close to mine. Smelling their delicious newborn smell. Listening to their sweet noises. Whispering in their ears that I loved them so and would always do everything I could to protect them.
What many people don't seem to understand is that no matter how you feed your baby, you're close to them and spending time with them. Maybe some parents prop their babies up on a pillow and ignore them during every feeding, but that's not how bottle feeding looks for many of us. And what I would want everyone out there to know is that formula feeding mamas love their babies just as much as mums who breastfeed. For whatever reason, we just couldn't or didn't want to breastfeed. The decision was likely hard to make, fraught with tears and heartache. But here we are, feeding our babies the best way we know how, bonding with them all the while.
I already knew how bonded I felt with the three kids I formula fed. Then recently, my fourth child came along, and I was ready to give breastfeeding another try. For a variety of reasons — like that plenty of time had passed since my bad experience and I didn't feel any pressure to make breastfeeding work since I knew formula feeding was a good option as well — both me and my son took easily to breastfeeding. And just like when I formula fed my other kids, I hold my newborn and feed him every few hours. I smell his skin and head. I stroke his soft cheeks. I tell him how much I love him. I feel so close to him and so happy to be his mum.
Now that I've experienced formula feeding and breastfeeding, I'm sure that no matter how you feed your baby, bonding with them is possible. So although breastfeeding offers many benefits, the ability to feel close to your little one is simply not an exclusive virtue of this favoured and much fawned-over method. Here's hoping the mummies considering formula feeding get the message!