The publication of a new report from the ESRI today linking breastfeeding with lower rates of childhood obesity in Ireland coincided nicely with a new experience I had last week.
My little boy has never taken a bottle. Scratch that, he took a small bottle of expressed milk once from his Dad, fell asleep and then promptly denied all knowledge of the event immediately thereafter! So it’s been breast all the way in our house for 10 months now and counting.
So last week I had my first encounter with a bottle of formula and a small baby. A good friend and mother of three needed to pick up her eldest from school and left her beautiful sleeping bundle with me. Her new daughter is both breast and formula fed and I had 2oz to give to her if she woke while her mama was out. No probs. Except then I found myself a little out of my depth. When I went to feed the baby, I found I wasn’t able to read her cues. I wasn’t sure if she was hungry or not. It took her a few tries to properly get into taking the bottle which she then drank readily but then I couldn’t tell if she was finished or not. 2oz looked like a small enough amount in the bottle but I really have no idea how much that is so I wasn’t sure if she needed to finish it all or not. In the end I left some behind. Her mum told me later that she had taken more for me than she does for her Dad. Is that a bad thing? Did I give her too much? Now, she was a little angel so there was no crying – like that desperate, insistent “I’m starving”! cry I remember my son having at that age when he was hungry – and she was a pretty chilled out little lady so I can only presume that she was a bit hungry, took what she needed and was satisfied.
But it got me thinking that in some ways, breastfeeding is like the precursor of baby-led weaning really isn’t it? At that age, my son let me know when he was hungry – and boy did he let me know – he’d stop when he was finished and when he didn’t want a feed, he was pretty clear about that as well. So he was totally in charge of his intake all the time. That’s what caught me off guard with the little lady. I was in charge – and I didn’t like it! Breastfeeding and formula feeding are really two very different ways of nourishing your baby. It makes sense that exclusively breastfeeding mothers and exclusively formula feeding mother would struggle to understand each other’s methods. I know I do but that’s my issue.
You can read the full report here. But if you’d prefer to skip the economist-speak, the Irish Times have a summary here. On an aside, I was shocked to read in that article that nearly half of all Irish babies are weaned on to solid foods by four months. I had no idea it was that high.