Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding

Breastfeeding or bottle feeding? It's important to consider what is right for you.

How you feed your baby – either by breastfeeding or bottle-feeding – is something that you need to learn about. It may also end up involving a lot of trial and error.  As with other stages in the journey of pregnancy, birth and motherhood, breastfeeding may come easily to you, it may be a challenge, it may not possible, or you may make the decision to bottle-feed. 

What you need to know about breastfeeding

Many women report difficulties with breastfeeding initially, and with time, assistance and support they have managed to overcome initial struggles and successfully breastfeed. Contacting their child health service or a lactation consultant helped them to get the information and support they needed.

For others however, breastfeeding challenges continue to cause frustration and pain, leading many to decide that breastfeeding is not working for them.  These experiences are often compounded by our own expectations, pressure we put on ourselves, pressure and conflicting advice from health professionals and/or well meaning advice given by others about breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Furthermore, messages informing us that ‘breast is best’ places even more pressure on women.  As a result, being unable to breastfeed can cause additional feelings of guilt and failure.

I struggled with breast-feeding. Cracked nipples, incredible pain ….there was a lot of frustration and disappointment there.

Support services for breastfeeding

Ultimately it is up to you to decide if, or for how long, you want to continue to persist with breastfeeding. If you decide that you would like additional support for breastfeeding, a good place to start is by talking with your midwife or maternal and child health nurse.

Often these health professionals will have access to others who have specialist skills in this area – including lactation consultants. You can also access further information and support from the Australian Breastfeeding Association, who have a 24 hour support line on 1800 686 268, and the Raising Children Network who have information, resources and a helpline to assist you as well as helplines.

Your primary focus is that your baby is feeding – and thriving – whether that be via breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.  If breastfeeding is important to you, access quality information and support from health professionals to give yourself the opportunity (if that’s what you want to do).

The local health care nurse saw that I got anxiety – mainly from trying to be successful to breast feed. They got help for me straight away, they were fantastic and it really helped.

However, if the distress caused by breastfeeding difficulties is beginning to take over and cause ongoing distress to you and/or your baby, it may be time to weigh up the costs and benefits of breastfeeding for you right now.

I felt under immense pressure to breastfeed and that breast was best for baby.  What I learned was that when a mother is struggling, it is the recovery of the mother that is best for baby.

What you need to know about bottle-feeding

While in the past there has always been a focus on providing such support for those trying to breastfeed, it is only in more recent times that there is now also additional supports for those who are bottle-feeding.

In particular, this includes a range of website and books which have been written and developed in response to the significant pressure and guilt that many women are left experiencing as a result of not breast-feeding their baby (for what-ever reason).

Support services for bottle-feeding

A review of these websites including Bottle Babies and Guilt Free Bottle Feeding can help you draw on the insights of others and very importantly, help you to realise that you are not alone.

 Your role as a parent is to feed your child.  If breast-feeding is not working for you, or not what you choose or are able to do, you are no less of a loving mother or provider.

Either way, it’s important to remember to consider what is right for you. There are also a range of places to access help and support for which ever decision you may make.

(Photograph by Kelly Sikkema)