‘I breastfed my adopted son’

I have two sons, both adopted. I breastfed my first and bottlefed my second.

With my first son I followed a breastfeeding protocol for adoptive mums. It involved taking the contraceptive pill continuously (no placebos) before our son’s arrival. After his arrival I stopped taking the pill and took medication and herbs to induce lactation.

We cup fed him for the first few days until my milk supply settled in and the latching was successful. It was very difficult in the beginning. Luckily a lactation consultant helped to get the whole process going. It took a while before my milk was sufficient for our son’s needs so I used a supplementary nursing system (SNS). It’s a bottle that hangs on a string around your neck. It has thin tubes that you tape to your nipples. When the baby sucks the milk comes both from the breast and the SNS. I think it’s ingenious because the sucking stimulates milk production, there is no nipple confusion and baby gets enough nutrition.

I loved breastfeeding. My first son and I became so close and bonded really well through the constant physical contact. I also believe it helped boost his immune system. He only needed his first antibiotic at the age of one. The biggest downside was to be on call 24/7 - and he only stopped nursing when he was 3 ½ years old! Other downsides were always watching what I ate and not being able to take many medications. In fact, I stopped breastfeeding when I had to go on medication that was contra-indicated for lactation.

No2 for the bottle

I wanted to breastfeed our second son but it was not to be. We had no prior notice of his arrival so I couldn’t follow the breastfeeding protocol. He was five weeks premature and had been scalp fed for the first three weeks of his life. Then he was bottle fed. We only got him when he was eight weeks old and by then he was used to the bottle. I tried him on the breast but after a few feeble sucks he gave up and cried for his bottle. Breastfeeding is much harder work for a baby than bottlefeeding.

I was determined to love bottlefeeding and looked for the upsides. The most obvious upside is that other people can feed your baby. This is an important part of bonding with the family. Daddy, big brother and Granny can all feed the baby. I fondly imagined that the best part of bottlefeeding would be not doing all the night feeds but mysteriously only I can hear our baby’s cries for a bottle when it’s dark!

The downsides of bottlefeeding are the paraphernalia and preparation. It’s a bewildering world of BPA-free bottles, melamine-free formula and different ways of sterilising bottles. And you need to wash and rinse and sterilise and boil and cool and measure and shake and warm for every feed. Breastfeeding is so much easier but it’s all up to Mummy whereas bottlefeeding is a game the whole family can play.

I confess: my preference is for breastfeeding. But not only for the usual bonding and nutrition reasons. I love it because it allows you one hand in which to hold a book. Bottlefeeding requires holding the baby and the bottle - no spare hands for my reading fix. And that’s the real selfish reason why, for me, breast is best.

Breast or bottle? Which do you prefer?

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