Most mothers will have strong preconceptions or ideals about how they will feed their babies and what feeding will be like. There are also strong cultural pressures that favour one form of feeding or another. Our current health service actively promotes breast-feeding over bottle feeding.

Breast-feeding can be a miraculous and bonding experience but it can often be more complicated than first imagined, with setbacks along the way. It can sometimes take a huge amount of stamina and perseverance before breast-feeding becomes pleasurable rather than stressful and painful.

It can be difficult not to feel bad when breast-feeding isn’t straight-forward. For some women this can undermine their belief in themselves as good mothers. If your baby rejects your milk it can be hard not to feel personally rejected.

Feelings about breast-feeding can be affected by how you feel about yourself. Uncertainties about whether there is enough goodness inside of you can be expressed by anxieties about whether your milk is of sufficient quality or quantity.

The issue about whether to breast or bottle feed is highly emotive and women can experience a great many pressures to ‘do what’s right’, which can get in the way of their own inclinations and instincts. Mothers who would really prefer to bottle feed will struggle to continue with breast-feeding because they think they should. Or mothers might give up breast-feeding, even though they’d like to continue, because of anxieties that their baby is not gaining sufficient weight. It can take some reassurance and support to persevere with breast-feeding and allow it to work out.

Babies will also play a part in this interaction. Babies who latch on and feed with great gusto might help to persuade an anxious mother to continue breast-feeding. Or babies who turn away from the nipple, or don’t latch on might undermine a mother’s confidence in breast-feeding.

Breast feeding can offer closeness and intimacy, but this can also be achieved through bottle feeding. The most important element for a baby to take in, is that feeding is a pleasurable experience for all concerned. A baby will benefit more from a mother who is relaxed and acting according to her own instincts than from a mother who is feeling stressed and bad about herself and doing something she doesn’t really feel comfortable with.