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Live and let live – Back off Breastapo!

breastfeeding, bottle feedingYesterday I was watching the news and reading comments on Twitter, and was totally horrified to discover that yummy mummy, Denise Van Outen was getting stick for giving up breastfeeding! I’ve written about breastfeeding and bottle feeding so many times, and have had so many distressed mums contact me feeling like failures, that this recent bullying of a new mother has ‘Grrrrr’d’ me to the max!

The 36-year-old actress said she gave up breastfeeding her daughter Betsy after less than a month for a number of reasons.

In an interview with She magazine, Denise admitted she should’ve tried for longer than Three weeks but faced many pressures of being a mum in the spotlight.

“I can’t be sitting in Starbucks and breast feeding, because they (photographers) are taking pictures!
Another time, I was at the back of a really long queue at the Post Office to get Betsy a passport, knowing that in the next half-hour she was going to wake up and cry, wanting a feed.

Sure enough, when I got to the front, that’s exactly what she did. And I felt so conscious of the pressures of everybody looking, tutting and waiting to see how I dealt with the situation because they knew my face.”

Miss Van Outen, who is married to Lee Mead, a West End actor, added there were other factors in her decision to stop breastfeeding.

“I wasn’t producing enough milk and Lee wanted to be able to feed her too.”

This interview has sparked outrage among the Breastapo and ‘Breastfeeding only’ groups that think she has done wrong for motherhood!

On social media sites and chat websites such as mumsnet, other parents were saying awful things about this lovely new mum who made her own decision for herself and for her baby.

There is no doubt of course that breastmilk is best for baby in the first six months of life, but sometimes mums can’t or don’t want to feed and this choice is their choice and should be respected.

As a qualified Nanny with a degree (BA hons in in childhood development) and two diplomas in Nursery Nursing, (NNEB Dip and Childhood dev Dip) I was adamant that breast was best, and I would be solely breastfeeding for at lease four months.

Three infections, very painful (youch-oh-my-goodness) nipples and two bouts of double mastitis later, I gave up playing super mum and put my daughter onto formula.

Now many ‘experts’ will say that my daughter Betsy was latched on wrong, that I wasn’t feeding properly, but as a professional nursery nurse who has taught others to breastfeed in my career as a nanny and maternity nurse, I assure you I was doing everything correctly, it was just bad luck.

In 2005 I had a breast lumpectomy. The midwife and health visitor both reassured me that with all my best efforts, this was probably the cause of the constant pain and blockages, and supported my decision to go to bottle.

The day I went to bottle I felt like a dark cloud had lifted! From that moment on, my daughter thrived on formula, was in a four routine by two weeks, sleeping through the night at five weeks, and we were all very happy. She jumped from a tiny baby at the bottom of the growth charts, to a thriving, healthy baby at the top within three months much to the amazement of the health visitor who wanted to know my secret!

My secret, is that I was happy, Betsy was happy and she was in a routine, eating and sleeping well, and this, together with lots of bonding, hubby taking over some of the feeds and fresh lots of fresh air we ensured that we were both healthy.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not down on breastfeeding!  I’m jealous of women that manage to do it for those first essential months. I am however, down on the pressure new mothers face when they decide to bottle feed.

Most new mothers feel they should breastfeed, even when they don’t really want to and often get pressurised
to do so by midwives, health visitors and other mums!

When I first told changed to bottle, I would get questions from random strangers about my choice, sadly I have to say, from other pushy mothers!  You may have experienced this yourself; experienced mothers will have their preferences and many will offer you their unsolicited advice if you ask for it or not!
While experts agree that breast milk is the ideal food for infants, many mothers cannot, or would prefer not to nurse, and often suffer for their decision not to, but why should they? It’s all about choice!

Commercially prepared baby formulas offer a high quality alternative to breastfeeding and are formulated to contain all the necessary ingredients to support a growing baby’s healthy development.
So, if you do decide not to breastfeed, it is important to remember that you are choosing what works best for you and your baby and not to feel guilty about that choice. If you do decide to feed your baby with a commercially prepared formula, be assured that your baby’s nutritional needs will be met and you’ll still bond with your baby just fine.

Motherhood is a rollercoaster experience, a fantastic  knock-you-for-six time of life when you need all the support you can get.

What’s not needed is know-it-all breastfeeding fans who don’t realise that their choices are exactly that- theirs!

Breastapo! Back off!  Live and let live!

Motherhood is wonderful, please don’t make it a catty-cat fight with sides! Let’s all pull together and support each-others decisions in raising children.

This article is also featured on ‘Mums rock.



  • Emma Russell

    I am always amazed that women feel the right to judge other women for the choices they make. She is not beating her child, or doing anything terrible. We all know breast is best etc. and it is a shame that not all women feel/ are able to do it. But no-one would berate a women who could not breast feed e.g. because of medical reasons. There are other reasons than medical why people don’t/ can’t breast feed. Many are psychological and emotional e.g. the pressure and responsibility of it is too much, they have significant body image issues/ eating disorder and can’t cope, their culture dictates that they cannot undress in public so breastfeeding ties them to the house, they have been abused in the past and breastfeeding is traumatic, or simply because their partner is going to be a main carer. Women may not share the true reasons (and given how judgemental others are I am not surprised!) so the best thing we can do is support women’s choices, and be accepting of choice and difference.

    I bottled fed my first child and breast fed by second son for 2 years and was lucky enough to love it but I never judge others. I can see the benefits of both ways, and both of my sons are happy and healthy.

    Come on ladies, lets try and be supportive and understanding at what is a stressful and difficult time for most mothers.

  • Heidi Mamma

    Knowledge isnt always a good thing, but in my case, I had seen the dark side of breast feeding and how it can be detrimental to a baby. As a qualified Paediatric Nurse I have looked after many small, failing to thrive babies whose mum’s struggled to express more than 20mls of milk in half an hour. Their babies were admitted into critical care dehydrated and some with respiratory distress. As a new mum last year, to a whopping 10lb 10oz new born baby girl, I decided before Heidi was born that I would not breastfeed. There were numerous reasons, I was unwell after her birth, lots of antiobiotics for a long time, my husband and my parents wanted to be able to feed her, I would be returning to work and wouldn’t be able to express so the decision was made, I would formula feed the big baby.

    As soon as Heidi was born, the midwives encouraged me to breastfeed, but I was reluctant and quite frankly, a baby that size, I was convinced would suck me dry. Home we went and Heidi was hungry all the time and there was not enough formula to sustain my hungry girl. Against health visitor advice and the two hourly feeds that were crippling me, I put Heidi onto hungry baby formula and Heidi was happy. Afterall a happy Heidi equalled happy parents. Heidi slept through the night at 6 weeks kept on leaping up the growth chat, happy days.

    Despite the happy days at home and a happy baby, I felt judged by the breast feeders, who went to feeding groups and tilted their heads when I said I wasn’t breast feeding, the tilting increased when I said I was going back to work and my daugher was going to start nursery. As if new mums dont have enough to deal with in the first few months, to then be judged by other mummies was demoralising and lead me to question if I was doing the right thing or not. It should be a time for mummy’s to be able to confide in each other and openly discuss their choices, but all I heard was “breast is best” and no other options were discussed to the very tried, very sore and easily influenced mummies whose tiny babie’s looked like they would benefit from a formula bottle.

    In the end, it is individual choice and it is no one elses decision but the mummy.

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