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Am I being a bad parent... by not breastfeeding baby number two?

We put one expectant mum’s dilemma to a group of anonymous Irish parents.

Image: Shutterstock

AS ALL THE literature – and any public health nurse – will tell you, breastfeeding brings with it a whole host of health benefits for newborn babies. Breastmilk is packed with immune-boosting antibodies and enzymes that aid everything from digestion to iron absorption. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Many mums struggle with breastfeeding in the early days, others end up stopping earlier than planned, and others again decide against it entirely in favour of bottle feeding. So what’s the right decision?

Each week in our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out if they’re on the right track with a parenting choice, or if they’ve gotten something 100% wrong. To get a balanced view of the situation, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

This week’s dilemma

Am I being a bad parent… by avoiding breastfeeding baby number two? My second child is due in a few weeks. With my first, I was determined to breastfeed and even took a preparation course before the birth. But after four painful and very stressful weeks, I had to stop. I wasn’t producing enough milk for my baby to thrive. My doctor has told me I should “give it a try again” this time around but I really don’t know if I can face the process. Am I being unreasonable to want to give breastfeeding a miss entirely?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

No, of course you’re not being unreasonable. Having (and then looking after!) a new baby is stressful enough without adding this obviously traumatic layer. I know breastfeeding is recommended by public health bodies but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone, and it definitely doesn’t sound like it’s right for you.

You’re being unreasonable by writing it off entirely. We all feel as mothers that we are familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of both types of feeding, but I would suggest that it is worthwhile reading up on both once again before deciding. Lots of mothers who have successfully breastfed one baby have problems feeding another and vice versa. So you could try again this time – but only do what feels right for you with no guilt. In the long run if you are comfortable and happy, your baby will thrive too.

You’re definitely not being unreasonable and there can be no guilt involved. It’s down to the individual. I think the happy clappy stories of everyone’s wonderful breastfeeding experiences are a bit of a fantasy. We had a nightmare getting the hang of it (or rather my wife did).

No, you’re not being unreasonable. Don’t feel guilty about breastfeeding or not. If you feel you would like to give it a go, why not try a mix of bottle and breastfeeding. Then you can be sure your baby is getting enough milk and you won’t feel under pressure. 

You’re not being unreasonable. I had a tough time establishing feeding with my first child. The external pressure did not help, but it ultimately worked out and I am glad it did. Second time around, the feeding came easy (and I had been dreading it) but couldn’t continue because of a medical issue. Both outcomes can come loaded with maternal guilt and a sense that you are being judged. Those emotions have no place when you are just trying to be the best mum you can be so trust your instinct and don’t look back.

So what’s the final tally? Is our reader being unreasonable?

No – 4

Yes – 1

Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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