Written by Hazel Davis


The breast of both worlds

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, but choosing a feeding method doesn’t have to be a straight pick between boob and bottle. Hazel Davis remembers how ignoring naysayers and mixing her babies’ drinks made life easier for all the family.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Breastfeeding is the topic most guaranteed to cleave womankind down the middle. Either you’re a breast is best gal or you’re a stick-a-bottle-in-their-mouth-and-get-a-good-night’s-sleep sort. Well, what if you’re… gasps… BOTH?

When my first daughter (now four) was born I was determined to breastfeed, or at least give it my best shot. Not because I am Mother Earth but just because, well I don’t like carrying shit around. It worked pretty easily and pretty early on. I was lucky. But I am fairly certain if I had been sitting up in the middle of the night weeping as I tried to squeeze a tiny droplet of nothing out of my mams, I would have stopped immediately.

As we were splitting the childcare, my partner and I were determined to do everything we could to ensure the baby bonded with him. So, with a little help from Uncle Google we worked out that I would express (if I could) from the word go and we’d bottle and breastfeed.

Easy, right? “Noooooo,” said everyone ever. “The baby will get nipple confusion and then won’t breastfeed.”

“Hmm,” I said, “What if I JUST express and bottle feed from the word go?”

“But you won’t bond with your baby!” they cried.

“Hmm. What about the baby bonding with her father?” I asked.

“Who?” they said.

I actually called that pretentious lactation hotline whose name I can’t remember. “BLOODY HELL!!” they said. “You want to do WHAT???” “You can’t!” “The world will implode!!”

Basically, everyone I asked said I couldn’t express from the word go because the baby would forget how to breastfeed and it was better that I sat upstairs on my own crying for a year than a man got to come near my children. Or something. So we forgot about it and decided to see what happened when the time came.

“I got very adept at holding the pumps on with my elbows and painting my nails at the same time.”

She came. She latched on. She drank. Every time, like something out of The Grapes of Wrath, never spilling a drop, nary a vomit. It’s pure coincidence, I have found. Never blessed with ample bosoms, as soon as babies needed feeding they stepped up to the plate (and yes they’ve retired flatly into the background again now). A friend of mine with enormous bazookas couldn’t get so much as a trickle from hers. Mother Nature is cruel.

Consequently, I managed to express quite a bit too (TMI?) and duly popped it in the freezer as and when I could, just in case. After about a week of this, I whispered to my partner, “I think she’s got the hang of it. SURELY one bottle isn’t going to send it all tits up.”

“Nooooo!!!!” screeched the midwife, “Your entire family will die and you will NEVER BREASTFEED EVER AGAIN.”

The advantage of having a partner with an extremely strong will telling me to trust my instinct was that we thought, “Fuck it” and did it anyway.

Upshot? Both babies breastfed and bottle fed with breast milk from about two weeks to a year. Result? Mother Who Actually Got Some Sleep in the first few months, father who got to bond with his babies. And two parents who could say, “Yeah it’s mother’s milk actually. Do one, hippy…” when that woman with her four-year-old in a sling in the café narrowed her eyes at the bottle.

Expressing was easy because I had lots of milk *dry heave* BUT it definitely did entail going the extra mile. So if I wanted to skip a night feed, I would still express before bed. However, because expressing is done by machine (We had a Medela electric double pump from eBay that lasted yonks and never conked out once), it’s over pretty quickly and you can get stuff done while you’re doing it. I got very adept at holding the pumps on with my elbows and painting my nails at the same time.

The lesson here, as with everything like this, is that you have to do what feels right for you. Listen to and read the information available and match it with what feels right. Or tell it to go fuck itself if you want. Whatever gets your babies fed.


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Written by Hazel Davis

Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".