A baby sleeps in the arms of his mother after a breastfeeding. The author says women should support each other when it comes to feeding babies.
A baby sleeps in the arms of his mother after a breastfeeding. The author says women should support each other when it comes to feeding babies.
You are doing no harm to your child by weaning her.
You are doing no harm to your child by weaning her.

London - Right, I've polished my battle helmet, retrieved my columnist armour from the garage and positioned the ear plugs within easy distance. I'm ready for the flash-flood of hysterical responses but here we go.

Breastfeeding: you don't have to do it.

It's not just me saying it, this week a GP - yes, that's right a medically qualified grown-up with two children of her own - said so too.

Author and parenting guru Dr Ellie Cannon believes breastfeeding doesn't always work, and for some the best decision is not to do it. You can give the newborn formula instead.

Good God, I can't believe I wrote that. Sirens must be going off all over the place. But really, I'm telling you, you don't have to do it - it's not the law. I breastfed all four of mine so I'm not flag-waving for the newly formed 'Fearless Formula Feeders' group - I'm not on one side or the other.

I'm just depressed that, 11 years after I first breastfed my eldest and two-and-a-bit years after I finished breastfeeding the youngest, the vitriolic war between those who do and those who don't doesn’t appear to have abated.

A new mom and journalist friend of mine wrote a piece at the weekend revealing she had stopped feeding her now ten-month-old at three weeks. The unpleasant, ignorant and frankly illogical abuse she got online (and via the post) left me dumbfounded.

Come on, team, we have got to get our act together on this soon. At a time when women are truly at our best (when we've just made another human forgoodnessnakes, as my son says) we show ourselves at our worst.

The acerbic and acidic response to my friend's honest memoir of new motherhood baffles me.

Why are some breastfeeding enthusiasts so obnoxiously fanatical? Why are some bottle-feeding moms so ridiculously defensive? Where is that nutritious glow of support other women generally offer in almost any other circumstance? Why not nourish each other as we nourish our babies instead of justifying our choices and needs by rubbishing the women who make an alternative choice?

The relentless breastfeeding row is “stupidy stupidy stupidy” as my middle child is prone to say when you disagree with one of her more illogical schemes (naked trampolining, the formation of the musical knicker ninjas, umbrellas indoors).

I had two fantastic breastfeeding experiences and two truly awful experiences. Everyone has a different tale to tell so I won't bore you with mine except to say it's peculiar how something so natural can feel so unnatural at times.

Of course, you're free to ignore me because obviously I am not an expert on anything (apart from doughnuts), but I feel the need to offer advice because I know that tonight, in the bleak small hours before sunlight rescues them, an army of exhausted new moms will hunch over howling newborns with their heads full of half-truths and tangled statistics, trying and failing to breastfeed.

The dark depth of their misery will know no bounds, they'll be tortured by failure and those incredibly precious moments they spend with their new child, which should be all velvety and soft, will be painful and pointless.

After one such night I remember taking my still howling six-week-old for a walk as the world woke up, just to escape the scene of my disaster.

A kind older woman stopped me in the street to ask if I was OK. “I'm really struggling with the night feeds,” I said apologetically.

“Give her a bottle,” she said, “just go home and do it now. Or get your husband to give her one at midnight so you can sleep and not be too tired to feed later.”

At no point had any of the midwives, breastfeeding counsellors or NCT experts said this. They just kept telling me I would get the hang of it soon.

So I'm saying to you what that lovely lady said to me. Do it, give the baby a bottle now. Give yourself a break. Don't explain and don't apologise. Given you'd step in front of an out-of-control car for your newborn, you can trust yourself to make the right decision.

And hear this: at no point today do I ever look at my now happy, healthy, A-grade 11-year-old and say: “Oh man, if I hadn't given her that formula she'd be at Cambridge University by now.”

Not once. Nor do I ever look at my seven-year-old son and say the reason he is a world champion hula hooper who never gets ill is because I breastfed him. - Daily Mail

* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of ELLE.