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Thoughts On Feeding, Second Time Around


I keep saying that I'm ready for Baby Number Two to arrive. The crib is assembled, the clothes are washed, there are nappies and wipes in the cupboard.

The truth is: I'm sitting here, at thirty-eight and a half weeks pregnant, still swithering about how to feed this baby. Which is a pretty basic thing, right? The kid needs milk, one way or another, and, at this late stage, I should have figured out how I'm hoping to provide it.

"I'm not going to let myself get stressed out about it this time," I tell everyone who asks (the midwife; the health visitor; a surprising number of people who are not medical professionals). "I'm going to try to breastfeed but, if it doesn't work out, that's fine."

What I don't admit is that, if it doesn't work out, that's more than fine. Because I don't really want to breastfeed at all.

You're not supposed to say that, though, are you? We all know breast milk is better for our babies than formula - what sort of terrible parent would choose to give anything less than the best?

Not me! Of course I'm going to try! Of course I'm going to offer the boob! Of course this kid's going to have the chance to get the good stuff! Of course I can't bring myself to be the mother who puts her own preferences ahead of her baby's health! I'm going to give breastfeeding a go!

It's just...

Do I have to?!

The thing is: my nipples are sore and I haven't even started yet.

The thing is: I want other people to be able to feed the baby so that I can have one-on-one time with Matilda.

The thing is: I want Steve to be able to do night feeds so that I can catch up on my sleep.

The thing is: I want my boobs back for grown up stuff. Soon.

The thing is: I want to be able to go out for a couple of hours on my own.

The thing is: last time around, I listened to breastfeeding friends' stories of mastitis and jaundiced babies and being used as human dummies and skipping important events because they couldn't take/leave the baby and bleeding nipples and night weaning and all the crap which can come with breastfeeding and I felt relieved. I had my misgivings when I first fed Matilda formula, but, within a couple of weeks, I felt like I'd had a lucky escape.

All of those things could be seen as selfish. I mean, honestly, yes, to some extent, they all are. They're all about me wanting a better experience of motherhood. But I don't hold with mothers being expected to play the martyr. Parenting should be enjoyable; nobody should be made to feel guilty if their path to a positive fourth trimester is different from the norm.

And the bits about wanting to be more present for Matilda? They're the most important things.

Last time around, all the other mothers I knew breastfed. All of them. They were all (outwardly, at least) supportive of me doing whatever worked for my family, but I was aware of being the odd one out. In my little world, breastfeeding was the default state and, for all their horror stories, every mother swore it was worth the hassle it caused.

So it was difficult to admit to myself that I didn't much fancy breastfeeding, this time around. It was one thing being the person who got "unlucky" once, quite another to quit under the pressure twice. I found myself guessing how other people would see this apparent weakness/laziness/selfishness of mine and being surprised to find that I cared.

But this time around, it's different.

Oh, I know people who are breastfeeding happily. Some of them are breastfeeding their second or third kids happily. They can't imagine doing it any other way and that's wonderful. For them.

But I also know people who are combination feeding. I know people who tried and tried and tried but ended up exclusively using bottles. I'm not quite the oddity I was before.

And I know people who are breastfeeding resentfully. They whisper about how jealous they feel of their partners' full nights of sleep, trips to the pub and lives which don't revolve around shoving boobs in a baby's mouth. They admit that they're looking for excuses to switch to bottles - bitey teething spells; thrush; whatever. They feel angry when their babies don't play along with the return to work weaning attempts. They're unhappy with the situation and I sit there, biting my tongue, trying not to shout, "I KNEW IT!"

So, with Baby Number Two, yes, I'm going to attempt to breastfeed. Of course I am. And part of me hopes that it's a revelation - that I find myself loving it; that I'm happy to carry on until the baby's had enough; that I never feel that it's an impediment to caring for Matilda or, for that matter, myself.

But, no matter how successfully the breastfeeding goes, the plan is for the evening feed to be formula. Because we know our priorities and our priorities are for me to spend fifteen uninterrupted minutes cuddling Matilda, reading her bedtime stories and chatting about her day, knowing that, if the baby wakes up hungry, Steve can wield the bottle.

As for the other feeds? Well, we'll have to wait and see.

But I mean what I've said to everyone who's asked: I'm not going to let myself get stressed about it this time. I believe that breast milk is better than formula milk, but formula milk is better than mother and baby spending the early days crying when they could be having cuddles. Whatever keeps us both contented is whatever works for me.

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