Jill Foster wanted to breastfeed but couldn't keep up with demands from premature twins
She's shocked mothers are called 'lazy' and 'stupid' for using formula
Comments come as supermarkets ration sales of formula
Last autumn, six weeks after my twin daughters Charlotte and Martha were born, I telephoned my mum for a chat. Ever since my husband Robin and I had brought our daughters home — they were born seven weeks prematurely — I’d been breastfeeding every three hours, day and night. I was desperate for sleep.
‘Don’t you think it’s time you tried them on a little formula?’ Mum suggested. ‘It will free you up to get more sleep and Robin will be able to help more’.
My throat tightened as I admitted that she was right, and after I’d hung up the phone I burst into tears. Putting my babies on formula meant — in my tired eyes, at least — that I’d failed as a mum.
Pressure to breastfeed: Mothers who bottle feed their babies have been labelled 'lazy', 'selfish' and even 'stupid'
Reluctantly, I sloped off to the supermarket and carefully studied the labels on every brand of formula milk. As I read the sides of the packets, the overriding sense of guilt heightened.
The most popular infant formulas have more than 40 ingredients and you’d need a biochemistry degree to understand them all. Demineralised whey, galacto-oligosaccharides, potassium chloride, choline chloride, taurine, emulsifier, fish oil, cytidine 5. What on earth was I giving my babies? I remember trying not to catch the checkout woman’s eyes.
At home, I scooped out the powder and watched it dissolve in the hot water. Later, as I fed it to them from tiny bottles, I imagined what damage it was doing to their little premature insides and wept.
Today, eight months on, I realise just how ridiculous I was being. Lack of sleep and perhaps mild postnatal depression meant I completely overreacted. My girls are healthy, thriving and are now, like thousands of other babies, fed exclusively on powdered milk. But I feel for any other new mums wrestling with similar guilt-ridden anxieties this week.
Rationing: Supermarkets are trying to prevent the bulk buying of formula milk so it can't be sent on to the Far East for a profit
As news emerges that supermarkets are rationing popular brands to prevent formula being bought in bulk and shipped to China, where it can fetch three times the price, the ‘breastapo’ are out in force, berating the formula-feeding pariahs who feed our babies this manufactured ‘poison’.
We have been labelled ‘lazy’, ‘selfish’ and even ‘stupid’. After all, let’s face it, fellow formula mums, we have probably brought this crisis on ourselves.
The competitive mum in me was slightly irked that I didn’t manage to reach the full six months with breast milk
The restrictions — requested by the manufacturers Danone, who make Cow & Gate and Aptamil – come after students and businessmen were found to be bulk-buying the tins and sending them to China, where contamination scares mean that parents trust Western brands more than their own.
Shops now insist that parents buy a maximum of two tins of formula per day, per shop. Security guards have even been hired in some shops to ensure that worried parents don’t return to the same store twice in a day.
I’ve been aware of this since last month, after a rather worrying episode when we were snowed in at my parents-in-laws’ country cottage for six days.
There’s no other feeling like the gnawing, primeval fear that you might not be able to feed your babies — a fear many mothers will be experiencing when they arrive at the baby aisle in the supermarket to find the shelves empty. Once again, I felt guilty for having stopped breastfeeding in the first place, and in a panic I despatched my husband on foot to buy at least four boxes.
My girls get through a box every two days, so we always bulk-buy. He returned hours later with only two packets, informing me of the new ‘rule’.
This is indeed worrying news for formula-feeding mums, and especially mums of multiples who get through several tins a week. After all, if our own milk has dried up, we can’t simply buy a carton of semi-skimmed and give that to our children. Babies under one can’t tolerate cow’s milk.
As I read yesterday’s headlines, I pictured armies of mums looting branches of Boots. At nearly £10 a box for some brands, formula feeding is not cheap. But on eBay, boxes of Aptamil, Cow and Gate and SMA are going for more than double their shelf price. There is a telling line at the bottom of each listing — ‘Will Ship Worldwide’.
Yet while such profiteering is to be condemned, the comments the crisis has elicited on some online forums make me even angrier. ‘If you want your kid to have second-rate milk, that is up to you in my opinion,’ says one. From another: ‘Has anyone tasted baby formula? I wouldn’t give it to my cat.’
Breast is best: But not all mothers are able to breastfeed and don't need a guilt trip
Well thank you, ladies. I feel so much better about my decision now. My girls were born seven weeks prematurely and spent their first 17 days in a special care baby unit. Determined to do all I could to help them survive, I knew breastfeeding was my only option. I could reel off the benefits by heart — it halved their chances of asthma, reduced the risk of cot death, would help raise their IQ. The list went on and on.
At the hospital, it was heartbreaking as I was separated from my babies for 24 hours while they lay in incubators and I recovered from my C-section in the maternity unit. But if I couldn’t be with them, at least I could ensure that they had my colostrum (the ‘high-octane’ milk packed full of antibodies to protect newborns) which I painstakingly expressed over the course of several hours to send up to them.
After that, although I couldn’t put them to my breast, I could at least express milk. When that ran out temporarily, they drank breast milk donated by other mothers.
When I brought Charlotte and Martha home, there was no question that I would breastfeed them both, ideally for the first six months.
But it was not to be. My milk production could not keep up with their demands and because they were premature, the feeding regime of every three hours meant I was utterly exhausted. Something had to give.
Follow the rules
In the UK, infant formula advertising has been illegal since 1995, but advertising for 'follow-on formula' is legal
We started combined feeding of breast and bottle. At first I gave them one bottle of formula a day and gradually this grew to two, to three and four, until today when they are entirely on bottled milk.
The competitive mum in me was slightly irked that I didn’t manage to reach the full six months with breast milk. Instead, I ‘only’ got to five months, three weeks.
I know I should heed the advice of my fantastic health visitor, who told me encouragingly: ‘Give yourself a huge pat on the back. You’ve done brilliantly.’ But the feeling that I’m not feeding my children the ‘natural’ way has never left me. And I’m not alone.
My colleague and fellow formula mum, Kitty Dimbleby, recently wrote about the pressure she felt from the breastfeeding Nazis even before her daughter, Chloe, was born last year. She attended a National Childbirth Trust class and dared to ask if there was any information for mothers about bottle-feeding, as a few friends had had problems.
‘The lovely woman in charge of the group looked embarrassed and explained that the organisation takes the same stance as the NHS, which has decreed that all its employees take a vow of silence on the issue,’ she wrote. ‘Then and since, even when it was clear for medical reasons that I would have to bottle-feed, no one would advise me.’
I am no big fan of formula milk companies, whose aggressive marketing in the Third World is well documented. But the ‘breastapo’ have no right to make mothers like me feel inferior.
Besides, new studies suggest that breast milk may not be quite as superior as we’ve been led to believe. Women who breastfeed tend to be wealthier than women who don’t, so the benefit to their children may come from other factors. For instance, women who breastfeed are less likely to smoke — so no wonder their babies suffer less from asthma.
Today, as I begin weaning my girls onto solids, I know their days of bottle milk will soon be over. But to discover that the greed of a few selfish eBay ‘entrepreneurs’ could put the lives of babies at risk is sickening. And it’s certainly not the time for those on the breastfeeding bandwagon to make me feel as if I’ve let my babies down.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2307070/Formula-milk-shortage-stressful-breastapo-piling-guilt-A-anguish-mother-seven-month-old-twins.html#ixzz2Q6KjOr7R
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