Breast milk or formula? Use whatever keeps you both happy

Ruth Davies breastfeeding

Ruth Davies has persevered with breast feeding all of her children, but says formula is a perfect alternative if it works for you - Credit: Charlotte Gray Photography

I was asked the other day on social media how long I plan to exclusively feed my new baby Posie. 

The answer is like the milky gold stuff itself, a little bit fluid. I don’t intend to do anything but I suppose it’s likely I won’t stop any time soon going on history.

However, will I give her formula at some point as well? I guess I might. My breast feeding mantra is do whatever suits at any given time.

Florence was my first and with no decisive plans to breast feed before she was born it became incredibly important once I found myself in a pickle trying to get established.

My midwife telling me (and my cracked nipples, burgeoning bout of mastitis and teary eyes) that it was perhaps time to give in and get some formula was all I needed to give absolute clarity that I would breast feed this baby even if it killed me.

It nearly did!

But I got there in the end always having the temperament to defy (just ask my mother to recount my teenage years) and eventually fed her until she was three-and-a-half.

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Years, not months and though I haven’t even once considered buying clothing made of hemp and am not a picture perfect earth mother, somehow that extended breast feeding story became us.

I fed her everywhere. In restaurants, parks, pubs, the Tube… heck, I even fed her on the toilet.

She was a baby who wanted milk little and often and though I expressed like a dairy cow she never once took it from a bottle though we did try!

Florence was as determined in her strength to hold out for the boob as I had been to get her on it when my nipples were so sore I’d thought they might fall off and though it was hard work, almost like a full-time job for the first year, I loved it. I was so glad we’d struggled so much and I’d persisted so hard because otherwise I may very well have given up.

Pregnant again when she was 18 months, I fed her all the way through and beyond taking on tandem feeding like a pro.

My friends used to laugh that my norks were always out and the photographic evidence from those days shows them to be telling the truth.

I found it beyond easy to satisfy hunger, soothe bumps, heal poorly tummies… whenever they needed comfort I was there to feed them and make it better.

I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way - no sterilising, no getting up in the night and no money needing to be spent! Jimmy also took a bottle with as much ferocity as the boobie and at four months, when I wanted to go out for the night, I thought yeah, give him some formula to save me expressing and he took that too. He fed until he was nearly four.

Of course I fed Raffie too planning on doing the same. However, a different baby knew his own mind.

He sometimes accepted a bottle of expressed milk but rejected formula like a militant breast feeder. I remember being praised for juggling skills as I walked around Aldi feeding him but that was to make life easy, I wasn’t doing it to be a hero.

Raffie eventually stopped of his own volition just before Posie was born, he was just over three, job done.

Then she arrived and we began again. It wasn’t easy funnily enough.

She didn’t latch properly for a few days which I found surprising as a veteran to lactation. I guess I knew what I was doing but she didn’t.

With perseverance we got there on day five and all is good now. I look into her eyes with every single one of the many feeds (it really is a full-time job at the start) and I’m so pleased we can do this.

I don’t have any plans to change right now but she takes expressed milk in a bottle so at some point perhaps she’ll have a go with formula, who knows? I’m ruling nothing out.

For now I’m breastfeeding and I’m flipping proud as hell. She thrives because of me. One day she will fly on her own but for now my wings cover the both of us and that’s something to behold.

How you feed your baby will always be an emotive topic to discuss and though I have only personally encountered one negative experience (a story for another day) I know that both formula and breast feeders come under fire for how their children eat lunch.

Goodness only knows why? It’s food. It’s life. It’s survival and that’s the end of the conversation. It doesn’t matter how you feed your baby as long as you’re both happy and we are. The both of us. Aren’t we lucky?

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk