Re Zoe Williams’ article (The ‘breast is best’ lobby has failed women, 23 April), babies should have tummies full to the brim at the end of every feed. Persevering with breastfeeding may be an admirable aim, but an underfed baby will be in danger of developing symptoms of anxiety in adulthood as well as addictions to smoking, drinking unhealthily and overeating. The physiological benefits of breast milk versus those of formula milk fade into insignificance when compared with the long-term consequences if the chosen method of feeding prevents a baby from developing that vital sense of security and confidence, from a satisfying feed, that its survival is guaranteed.
• Thank you, Zoe Williams. I have breasts but they were not the best. That hasn’t stopped my non-breastfed daughters from growing into strong, healthy women. I wish I had read this article 20 years ago, as I would have felt less of a failure as a mother, less apologetic and more able to deal with the breastfeeding lobby’s intolerance.
• I had my first baby in 1975, and, thanks to the National Childbirth Trust’s support, was the only mother in a large Nightingale ward who chose to breastfeed, contrary to the wishes of the other mothers and the staff, who found demand feeding a huge inconvenience.
Yes, ideas and fashions have probably reached a similar intolerance on the opposing side, but breastfeeding was not the only raison d’etre of the organisation even 44 years ago. I was certainly better informed about childbirth; the support given by my NCT teacher (£8 for the package of classes) and the support given afterwards, which would be considered good postnatal mental health care now, was wonderful. It’s so easy to generalise, but from this ex-member, now a granny to nine, a huge thank you.
• I think perhaps this debate has got a bit out of hand. I had four babies, my older sister had five, and our younger sister three. For a variety of reasons, some of these babies were breastfed, some were bottle-fed, and some a combination of the two. But I don’t recall any of us having nervous breakdowns about decisions made. Making personal choices on rational grounds is part of being an adult, and definitely part of being a parent.
Perhaps sensible mums will check out the pros and cons, ignore the pressure groups and doom merchants, face the realities of the situation, stop being bullied by ideas of “perfection” and just get on with it.
Dr Carole Ulanowsky
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