Breastfeeding or bottle feeding – what is truly on offer?

Breastfeeding and bottle feeding– a functional chore or something more?

Breastfeeding or bottle feeding – what is truly on offer?

Breastfeeding is a subject that inevitably comes up for women when they are having a baby and it seems that nearly everyone has advice to offer about the subject. The message is clearly out there that ‘breast is best’ and there is certainly no dispute that breast milk is a wonderful source of nutrition for an infant.

Health professionals generally encourage breastfeeding and there are many strong cultural and social norms that influence women’s ideas and values on the subject. Despite this, it is important that breastfeeding and bottle feeding are equally seen as options for women, rather than having a right and wrong ideology prevailing on the subject.

Many of us have been taught from early on that the motherhood role is one which all women should aspire to and is seen as evidence of true womanhood. Within this belief system, breastfeeding your baby is highly regarded, and emphasis is placed on the physical act of breastfeeding as proof of a woman being a successful mother. Having said this, it’s also acknowledged that some women choose not to breastfeed and it’s vital that each woman honours what she feels is right for her and her baby. What’s important to remember is that both breast and bottle feeding afford a process through which mother and infant can regularly connect – but neither one nor the other guarantees a high quality relationship between the mother and child on their own.

When we speak with women who do breastfeed it soon becomes clear that their actual breastfeeding experiences vary enormously. Some find breastfeeding straightforward and don’t experience any major difficulties and enjoy the experience. Several of these women see breastfeeding as an opportunity to stop whatever else they are doing and enjoy moments of shared delight and intimacy with their baby.

At the other end of the spectrum, some mothers find that, despite lots of effort, things don’t go smoothly, and breastfeeding doesn’t work out as planned. A common trap for these mothers is that they then tend to beat themselves up as they feel that their bodies have let them down and they have failed their child. With this mindset, the strong ‘Breast is Best’ message can also seemingly confirm the belief that what they have to offer their child is of less value because they can’t breast feed. Yet, as disappointing and upsetting as women may find this situation, the truth of the matter is that breastfeeding doesn’t define their success or failure as a mother and what’s more, the bond with their child isn’t ruined as a consequence of what has happened.

Another common scenario is that many mothers get caught up in the busyness of life, especially post childbirth. Multi-tasking is the name of the game and feeding times are routinely seen as an opportunity to simultaneously make phone calls, catch up with a favourite TV series or movie, check emails and social media accounts, browse/shop on the internet, or attend to work related matters on an electronic device. Feeding times then occur in a very detached, haphazard way where there is little care and attention paid to the actual quality of the connection between the mother and her baby and there are few, if any, moments of mutual delight involved. It’s as if having the baby latched on at the breast or sucking on a bottle equates to success as a mother. However, while the job of physically caring for the child may be getting done, there are also many unspoken messages being passed on to our baby and old mothering and womanhood beliefs and ideals unknowingly become more deeply entrenched within ourselves on a daily basis.

"There is an enormous energetic difference between breastfeeding a child and just hooking them onto the breast to feed. Breastfeeding is first and foremost a nurturing act, a deeply establishing loving connection the child feels well before it is a nourishment its body needs. And if one is just ‘feeding’ as a function, what message or feelings does the child feel?"

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 520

In the bigger scheme of our parenting we want our child to feel loved and to know that they can turn to us for support, regardless of their age. But when the abovementioned types of situations are a regular occurrence, we need to pause and consider what is actually being offered to our babies and what may be driving us to behave this way. Looking at the subject from the baby’s perspective, if they could talk, what do we think they would have to say about the quality of those times spent with us? What would our ‘score card’ or ‘school report’ look like if we were marked not just on the quality of the nutrition we were giving them, but also on how much the baby felt we were being fully present with them while they were being fed, i.e. what was the energetic quality of the time spent together? Were we willing to let our guard down by putting all else aside, be fully present with our baby in the moment and allow space for each to simply feel and marvel at their own and the other’s inner beauty – or was the experience purely functional and kind of distant? Or did the woman need the breastfeeding to be confirmed as a good mother who can wear the ‘Breast is Best’ badge or perhaps as proof to herself and others that she is a real woman?

In reality, it is the essence of us that our child sees and seeks to constantly connect with – breastfeeding and bottle feeding times give us the perfect opportunity to allow our baby to learn about themselves and the world through our bodies, our gestures, the tone of our voices and so forth.

These are key self-esteem building moments for the baby and possibly for us also – if we can give ourselves permission to accept what our baby so easily recognises in themselves and others. What our baby is reflecting is that at their core they are pure love and that they hold a natural ability to use their whole body to sense and learn about what is happening around them. We are being gifted with the opportunity to see first and foremost that in our essence we are just like them, with the only difference being that we have lost sight of this awareness as we have gone through our life experiences.

A long-forgotten fact for most of us is that we all equally have this ability to be connected with our essence and feel the stillness that comes from our loving presence with ourselves in our day to day lives. When we tune into the baby instead of trying to fit the baby into our busy daily schedules, we can start an equal relationship with the child. We learn about listening to our bodies and meanwhile we support this all-knowing ‘being’ in their small body to move and grow in life.

"Accept that every day can be light, love and grand. And even when it is not, as it sometimes is the case in human life, it still is, for it’s you in it."

Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume II, ed 1, p 261

‘Unconditional love’ is a term that is often associated with the concept of ‘good’ mothering, but what if deepening our relationship with the baby first of all called us to deepen our relationship with ourselves? From there we then have the foundation that upholds the basis for a true relationship and not an arrangement of needing to be loved, fulfilled or obtaining meaning and purpose in our lives through parenting.

To start to build a relationship with ourselves we first of all have to take care of ourselves, which is something specifically mothers are not doing, and in fact most do the opposite. Having a new-born baby offers us the opportunity to re-calibrate our attention to self-care. We can learn from the rhythm the baby offers and, without judgment, establish our own rhythm by listening to our body rather than giving our body away to the baby and all the tasks we believe we have to do to be a good mother.

Can we as women take the time to stop, breathe gently and allow ourselves to feel that amazing spot within each and every one of us – our inner heart – that is actually the marker of our true loveliness and worth? We are being asked to be the woman first and to nurture ourselves accordingly.

This means allowing self-love to build by, for example, saying ‘no’ to things that don’t feel loving and caring, asking for support, and not carrying the burden of motherhood by taking on all the tasks. If you feel you get caught in these types of behaviours, stop, as this shows you that you are replacing your connection with yourself with busyness.

Breathe deeply and see if you can feel what’s inside you and look at your baby and feel them. Can you then feel this same quality in you; feel the stillness of your baby also within you? Although it may be hard to believe, you do have the same quality. Keep coming back to connecting to that quality as best you can, all the while knowing you have a little baby mirror reminding you day in day out of what’s really there inside you. Work on establishing a mutual learning relationship with your growing child as they teach you a lot about how to listen to and be settled in your body; how to feel, observe and be naturally at ease with yourself. Each step helps to establish a foundation which naturally values the rhythms of our body and supports us to tune out the constant chatter of our mind and all the images fed to us that cause the distrust and confusion.

To know ourselves in this way isn’t something most of us are used to feeling and it takes courage, commitment and time to look beyond our perceived flaws and any associated emotional hooks. Here you are instead being asked to step outside your comfort zone and be curious about what else there might be that makes you the special ‘you’ that you are. No one is expecting perfection; just a commitment to honestly looking at where and why we go into hardness, protection, drive, withdrawal and so forth, especially in the area of parenting. These behaviours all distract us away from a connection with our essence and create barriers to developing a more loving relationship with both ourselves and others.

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding offer women wonderful moments to pause and notice what is happening in their bodies and with their child. During pregnancy and the day-to-day rhythms and rituals women go through with a baby, they are given a strong reminder that there is a natural state of being within them that signifies that they have an innate stillness at their core, and that through this stillness they have access to their precious delicacy, fragility and sensitivity. When we stay with (to the best of our ability) and use these qualities as our compass, there is space to develop a loving, kind, strong relationship with ourselves. The more we can make living this way our new ‘normal’, the higher the energetic quality of relationship offered to our babies and moments such as bottle or breastfeeding hold a completely different value.

What’s on offer here is the chance to replace old hurts, ideals and beliefs and allow the real ‘you’ to emerge. The hardest part is often braving our mistrust, doubts and fears and taking the first step, but if you don’t yet feel you are worth it, look deeply and lovingly into your baby’s eyes and you will have an honest answer.

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Women – rekindling our natural rhythms

As women underneath it all we are exactly the same, deal with the same issues and agree there needs to be a different way. That change starts with each one of us.

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  • By Helen Giles, Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, MMH (Family Therapy), Post Grad Cert Family Therapy & Counselling, M. EPA Recognised

    I love that life is amazing with every relationship offering constant drops of pure gold, whether that be in my work as a perinatal counsellor or through friends, family and others I meet in everyday life.

  • Photography: Rebecca W., UK, Photographer

    I am a tender and sensitive woman who is inspired by the playfulness of children and the beauty of nature. I love photographing people and capturing magical and joyful moments on my camera.