OK, I'm hyper-sensitive because breastfeeding didn't work out for more than a couple of weeks with my new daughter, and she's only chunking up on formula. To be honest, what with pre-school, school and two elder girls vying for attention it's made life a little easier in that respect, and my husband loves giving Becky her bottle - the big girls have even helped give her some cooled boiled water.
But why isn't that where it ends? I honestly was looking forward to having this baby a bit more 'to myself' - the big girls are away a lot, and there is no need to hand her over to another caregiver. Last time around, I had a 19-month old and a newborn, and was happy to take any help I could get, over time.
But Rebecca is barely 6 weeks old, and she has already also been fed by three dear women - Sophie's godmother; one of my dearest friends who visited all the way from Scotland; and my sister in law's mum. I was actually happy for them to give her a bottle, or else I would have been extremely (and hormonally!) vocal about it. BUT what I wanted to write about is - people don't normally ask 'May I feed your baby', do they? Because bottle-feeding is something anyone can do, it's assumed that it's OK to go ahead, or to jump in and say 'I'll feed her', or just pick up the nearby bottle and put it in baby's mouth. It's often thought of as 'helping out'.
Yes, I have feelings of inadequacy re the breastfeeding - this is my own issue and is clearly exacerbated by the fact that anyone else can feed the baby (if I let 'em.) But if I was breastfeeding, no one would assume that they could do this, let alone fail to ask permission (although yes, I am aware of the cross-nursing phenomenon). Feeding a baby is part of the bonding process, especially in the early weeks, and as someone who's suffered with post-partum anxiety and depression, this is pretty key for me. Sitting down and nourishing a child, whether it is breast or formula milk, gives you a chance to cuddle your baby close in the hurry of the day, and rest in the moment (if you're lucky.)
I'm also a person who puts a lot of effort in feeding my family good food (most of the time), which may be a reason why I'm feeling this so keenly. And there are a lot of people who do choose to formula feed, rather than do it because they are struggling with breastfeeding. But for those of us who once had the idea in their heads that they would breastfeed long-term, and were unable to fulfil that idea, spare a thought - and ask permission to feed the baby :-)