Dear Jamie…


breastfeeding baby

Let’s talk about my breasts, because I know you want to. You recently announced that breastfeeding was “the next big thing” when asked by LBC what was next after your successful and admirable campaigns with school dinners and sugar tax etc. The only problem is breastfeeding, and the inevitable breast vs bottle debate that follows, is not the ‘next big thing’ but the ‘are we seriously still discussing this thing’. It’s been done. Overdone even. After 10 years of having babies and parenting, I’m bored of hearing about it and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

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Now before you start thinking I’m anti-breasts or ‘oversensitive’ as The Independent claims, I want you to know that I think breasts are awesome. I breastfed both my boys and plan on breastfeeding the third, who is due imminently. I have no issue with getting them out in public either and totally agree that women who choose to breastfeed should be supported and allowed to breastfeed wherever the hell they want to. I guess you could say I’m pro-breastfeeding, and that would be half true. You see I’m also pro-bottle feeding, because above all, I’m pro-choice.

My breastfeeding journey with my first was rocky to start with, which I think is pretty typical. When I say rocky, I mean pretty fucking painful. My left nipple, just so you know, actually split so bad I could lift the top of it up and off. I continued to feed my baby through gritted teeth because I had been told ‘breast is best’ so many times that I was left believing there was no good alternative option. But anyway that was a long time ago, my nipples healed, breastfeeding got easier and I moved on to the other parenting hurdles.

Many years later I had my second son and this time it was easy to feed him from the start. What I had not anticipated however was that when I got pregnant with my third, whilst still breastfeeding, that my milk supply would dry up. I had exclusively breastfed for 6 months without any trouble and I had fed my first son for a full 12 months, I had not considered that my breasts would ‘fail’ me now. I assumed I had breastfeeding nailed. But little by little my breasts stopped filling with milk and I lost that let down sensation. Hours would pass between feeds and whereas before my breasts would feel full, they stopped ever feeling full and worst of all, my baby’s nappies got drier and drier. Politics aside, breastfeeding is above all else intended to provide hydration and nutrition, right? So what happens when your baby is becoming dehydrated and malnourished because the milk just isn’t there? Clearly breast is most definitely NOT best in a situation like this.

In the end it was a Doctor who told me to stop and give my baby a bottle. She told me that my body couldn’t grow another baby and produce enough milk at the same time. Now some Mums can do this; they can breastfeed all the way through their pregnancy and then tandem feed afterwards, but like everything in life, we are not all the same. My body was struggling to do both so I gave my baby a bottle and immediately his nappies started feeling really heavy with wee again. I felt terribly guilty. Not because I had stopped breastfeeding but because I hadn’t noticed how dry his nappies had become. They had got slowly less heavy over time and it was only after giving him a few big bottles of milk and feeling the weight of the nappy afterwards that I realised how dehydrated he must have been. I felt guilty that I had not noticed and had needed a Doctor to tell me.

Of course I was disappointed that our breastfeeding journey was cut short and that he got less time at the breast than his brother. Whenever a decision is taken out of your hands, it’s frustrating. I like to be in control and had expected to be able to choose when I wanted to stop feeding, so that was a little upsetting but in the scheme of things really insignificant.

Now I’m sorry if I’ve bored you with these nostalgic tales but my point is that breast is not always best, even if, as you say, it halves the chances of you getting breast cancer! My experience is just one reason why it’s not but there are millions of reasons and situations where breastfeeding is more damaging than it is beneficial. Sometimes it’s not best for the baby and sometimes it’s not best for the mother. It’s not just physical reasons either but psychological ones too. A mother’s psychological wellbeing is paramount to her being able to mother well and if breastfeeding threatens that, then it’s simply not worth it. Especially when we have a perfectly good alternative in formula (and thank goodness that we do).

Now the final thing I wanted to say is also probably the most important so please stick with me. I want you to understand that promoting the ‘breast is best’ message (with all good intentions I don’t doubt) is not only inaccurate because breast is not always best (as explained above) or ‘easy’ as you claim, but this message can also be really dangerous. I don’t mean dangerous because a load of angry oversensitive formula-feeding women will want you hung, drawn and quartered (although this is probably true) but dangerous because I’m not sure you fully understand the risks of promoting breastfeeding. In publicly promoting the ‘breast is best’ message you are reinforcing the dynamic whereby bottle feeding is pitched against breastfeeding and seen as, at best, inferior and, at worst, an inadequate way of nourishing and caring for one’s baby. This makes any mother who has wanted to breastfeed but has found they cannot, for whatever reason, feel like they have failed to do the best for their baby before they have even had a chance to get started.

The results of a large scale study published in 2014 looking at the relationship between breastfeeding and post-natal depression, found the group most at risk of developing depression were those that planned to breastfeed but then were not able to. The good news was that those who planned to breastfeed and were able to, were least likely to experience post-natal depression. The group who did not breastfeed but did not plan to, were in the middle. Now why do you think this might be?

It can’t simply be that bottle feeding increases the risk of depression because the results showed it was more complex than that. The group that planned to breastfeed but could not were over twice as likely to experience depression than the group that bottle fed but had planned to. It seems plausible and highly likely that those who planned to breastfeed but could not struggled because they had bought into the ‘breast is best’ message, they had committed to it physically and emotionally, probably bought their overpriced feeding bras in preparation etc etc. But then they found it wasn’t as straightforward as all the breastfeeding advocates had made out. That’s got to come as a bit of a shock, right? And when you whole-heartedly believe that breast is best and breastmilk has all these great benefits, what the hell do you do when it doesn’t work out? Nobody has spoken to you about the benefits of formula so you can only assume that it offers none of the benefits of breastfeeding and by feeding your child with a bottle, they are going to be obese, stupid and sickly, all of the things breastmilk supposedly protects against. So now how do you feel when you have no option but to bottle feed them? Pretty shitty.

Now I know depression is far more complicated in every way than just feeling shitty but this feeling of not being able to deliver has got to be a major contributing factor. Which means it’s so important that women understand they have options. And good ones at that! Breast may be best in many situations; where mother wants to breastfeed and baby can be breastfed and they are supported in this decision and her milk comes in and its not causing any physical or emotional harm or pain. But equally it’s important than women understand breast is not always best. Sometimes bottle feeding is best. And when bottle feeding is best, be that for whatever reason, then isn’t it brilliant that we have the option to provide hydration and nourishment to our babies in this way. And no woman should ever feel guilty about this or worry they are not doing a good job.

The bottom line is, if you’re feeding your baby (whether with your breast or a bottle), you are doing a mighty fine job and nobody should ever dispute this.

I’m all for empowering and supporting women in their choices and strongly believe women should be informed, but let’s not focus solely on singing the benefits of breastfeeding. They have been sung many times before. We can debate the benefits of breast (of course nobody should be silenced) but let’s not forget also the benefits of bottle feeding. We need to support all women and be sensitive to those who wished to feed but could not, because not everybody is as lucky as you and Jools have obviously been; not everybody will find breastfeeding easy.

Best wishes,




In the (mother) hood

She’s young, hot (mega legs), creative, talented and Mama to little Luna. She’s the owner, maker, admin doer and everything else in between, behind the creative homegrown brand Sophie & Co. This week we’re privileged to have the gorgeous Sophie Cummings in the (mother) hood, telling us what mama life is like for her…

Name: Sophie Cummings

Age: 26

Location: Highbury, London…for now. Soon to be Hemel Hempstead…

Number of Kids: 1

Names & ages of aforementioned: Luna Mary Jean, 15 months


Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Somewhere in the middle of a lovely and a not so lovely surprise.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Oh, shit. Then, f***.

How did you tell your partner?

We were walking back from a romantic trip to our local Sainsbury’s when he pointed to a banged up people carrier for sale and jestingly suggested ‘we’ll be buying one of those next…’. Naturally, I made it all super awkward and let him know it may be sooner than he thinks.

His reaction?

Radio silence.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

I spent the first few months unaware I was pregnant and drinking all the alcohol and eating all the seafood, soft cheeses & rare meat I could get my hands on, some of which was spent in Australia & Tasmania, so my body didn’t seem to react too badly to growing another human! I bloody loved being pregnant, I was very lucky it felt pretty natural.

Tell me about your birth experience?

I didn’t plan much for birth, the pregnancy seem to fly by and I really didn’t want to read too much in to it. Whatever happened, I had to squeeze another human out of my vagina and I didn’t really care where or how that was going to happen as long as I didn’t die. My two (loose) wishes were to have a water birth in the birthing centre and to be the first person to touch her, I wanted to pull her out. And that all happened after a 39.5 hours of contractions and half an hour of pushing, can’t complain…My only wishes for next time are to do all of that at home!

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Oh god where do I start; exhausting, hilarious and unpredictable. They’ll do!

Can you share any highlights?

This probably counts as a parent fail but I laugh every time I think of it; Monday afternoon having a smear test (go, me!), Luna’s safely strapped into her pram while I decide a packet of raisins would be the best snack to keep her distracted…except she can never get the sodding things out the packet so I spent the entire duration hanging over the bed drip feeding raisins to a toddler who perfectly timed working out how to get the lid off her sippy cup perfectly with a nurse inserting a plastic tube up my vagina. Water, raisins, everywhere. Dignity = zero. Once upon a time that may have been mortifying, I’m expecting worse.

Can you share any low points?

Oh probably the time I forgot I’d undone Luna’s straps to her pushchair, she fell face first onto a cold concrete floor. Never felt so guilty in all my life.


What do you do when baby sleeps?

Complete orders & drink lots of caffeine.

Have you got a business?

Yes! Sophie & Co; I started it when Luna was around 6 months old, the thought of leaving Luna and returning to an incredibly underpaid job with a total lack of creativity made my heart hurt so I put my skills to use and started making infant and toddler clothing. Lots of exciting things to come and I can’t wait for the year ahead!

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What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Aside from watching Luna learn new things, which seems to be daily at the moment, my absolute favourite part of being a Mother is watching her eat so well. Is that weird? I get so much joy out of her not being a picky eater. She wouldn’t survive in an Italian family if she was but I’m also very aware that she will have her moments so let’s not all burst my bubble just yet, OK?

What are the worst bits?

The game changing. Why oh why do they change the rules all the time? One minute she self soothes and has 2 regular naps in her cot, the next she refuses to nap anywhere but strapped to my chest. And…tantrums.

What was the biggest surprise that you wish you’d been warned about/known before becoming a Mama?

That bonding with your child can take a few weeks, sometimes it’s not instant and that’s ok. So many people want to warn you about Post Natal Depression but no one seemed to shed a light on those first few weeks…

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Stand your ground, say no, and tell family members when they’re stepping over the line or downright rude. Looking back, I see now how important it is to have space and time to bond in those first few days…don’t let anyone jeopardise that. Also, go with the flow because it will all change next week.


What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

People get SO into this don’t they? I had some clothes for Luna, a pair of leggings, fresh pair of knickers and my camera. Snacks went untouched, a nightie? For god’s sake why did I buy a nightie I was naked bar my bra which came off the moment she was born. Bare essentials ladies, bare essentials.

What’s been you best baby product?

Ergobaby 360 Sling, sleepy dust I tell you!

What was really useful in the early days?

My mum!

Who inspires you?

Again, my Mum. She’s a hardworker. If there’s anything I want to pass on to Luna it’s to not be idle, do something, anything! Be innovative!

How many children do you dream of having?

Always wanted 4, now I have 1 I think I’ll be happy with….1. No I joke, 3? 2? Ask me in a few years!

If you could go back to your pre-child life, where you weren’t so tired, for a short period of time, what you do?

EVERYTHING. It’s amazing how much you manage to squeeze in to nap time, just get shit done. Stop procrastinating and do it. I’d also be really spontaneous. Childless people don’t realise how lucky they are to just…go out. Even the thought of taking Luna to a coffee shop these days sends me into a cold sweat.

What do you miss about life before kids?
Friday nights and sleep. Nothing new there, hey?

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

Patience. I can be quite hot headed and struggle to keep calm when Luna’s being frustrating, I’m really crap at just ‘being’ with her and not constantly thinking of the other thousand things I need to do. I also don’t take her to enough groups and feel forever guilty about that. Basically, lots! Parenting is tough?!

TOO RIGHT IT IS!! Big thanks to Sophie for sharing her experiences of Motherhood, from taking time to bond with her new baby to going for a smear test with her toddler in tow! Hope you all enjoyed reading what she had to say as much as I did.

Make sure you check out her shop Sophie & Co where you will find some absolutely gorgeous pieces of clothing for babas and toddlers, all available in a variety of fabrics, and all handmade by the lovely lady herself.


And if you’d like to take part in this ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature, please drop me an email – – I’d love to hear from you!



In the (mother) hood

This week we have first-time Mama Robyn Wilder sharing her experience of motherhood so far. She juggles pen-wielding with baby-rearing on a daily basis writing for Buzzfeed, The Pool and her own blog The Parent Crap. She’s married to the man behind the hugely popular Man with a pram column. You NEED to read it ALL, but for now, here’s what Robyn has to say on pregnancy, birth and baby loving…

Name: Robyn Wilder

Location: Ashford, Kent

Number of Kids: One

Names and ages: Herbie Heritage, 8 months old

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Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

A planned surprise. Got engaged, came off contraception because I’m a little bit elderly in babymaking terms, so thought I needed to air out my uterus or whatever. But I fell pregnant immediately! Luckily Tiffany Rose make some gorgeous maternity wedding dresses.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Just a rush of adrenaline. I ran around the flat like a deranged spaniel for about half an hour, shouting “oh my god, oh my god”.

How did you tell your partner?

My husband was out, and I was all set to play it cool and surprise him when he got back with a coy smile and a cake. Then I snapped and barked the news down the phone to him while he was getting fitted for his morning suit. Which was interesting for him.

His reaction?

“WELL THAT’S NICE WE WILL DISCUSS THIS LATER.” Later, obviously, we just stroked my belly while occasionally emitting high-pitched laughs at each other, until the news sank in.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

I glowed for precisely 2.5 weeks after finding out, then I was hit with hyperemesis gravidarum and a “highly likely” result for a serious genetic disorder (Herbie is fine, as far as we can tell). Next I developed gestational diabetes and anaemia, and later even broke a rib. Pregnancy wasn’t fun at all – I was constantly nauseated, in pain, or dizzy, and had to take a lot of time off work. Although I did enjoy the feeling of this little life growing inside of me, I definitely didn’t enjoy suddenly not liking coffee, or not being able to rely on my body anymore.

Tell me about your birth experience?

I was induced at 38 weeks due to gestational diabetes, and whereas inductions normally take a few days to get labour going, I was fully dilated within 20 minutes of starting the procedure. However, then the epidural slowed things down again, and 14 hours later I still hadn’t progressed, and ended up going into sepsis with the baby in distress. Eventually I was wheeled away for a C-section. That was actually the least stressful part – three minutes from incision to delivery. When they placed the baby on me, though, I passed out through blood loss. Labour was nothing like I had hoped for – I have quite a severe anxiety disorder and found it difficult to cope with the pain, anticipation, and how medical and impersonal everything was – like a really long, really intense dental operation. I think my mental health could have been accommodated better, and will be talking to my hospital about it. I have PTSD from the birth, and I think Herbie is affected, too. C-sections all the way from hereon in.

Incidentally, my husband wrote a fuller account of the birth for The Guardian.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Joy and poo. And fatigue. And forgetfulness. Hey, did I mention joy and poo?

man with a pram baby

Can you share any highlights?

We got really excited when Herbie seemed to say his own name. He was babbling on the changing mat and shouted “Her!” Then he shouted, ”BEE!” and we were overjoyed. THEN he said what sounded very much like the N word, so all bets are off, basically.

Can you share any low points?

The other day a wasp flew at me and I found myself running away from it – and my pram, which continued to roll down the road. The baby was fine, and more recently I ran away from another wasp with my pram, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive myself.

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

Herbie’s not very good at sleeping alone, so I try to put him down away from me as much as possible, and get on with writing. He is very cuddly, though, so often I sack off and either curl around him and doze off myself, or let him sleep sprawled on top of me while I sink into a box set and just let the oxytocin flow.

Have you got a blog?

I’m in awe of those Pinteresty parent blogs where willowy first-time mothers float around their airy upcycled homes with perfect skin and messy side-braids and show you five steps to making your own organic hemp soy almond fair trade chia seed babycinos. Mine’s not one of those blogs. It’s about how I really don’t know what I’m doing, but am muddling through parenting anyway (mostly?) successfully.

What’s the link?

Do you have another job (besides being a Mama)?

I work at BuzzFeed as a staff writer, but I’m freelancing during my year’s maternity leave. Experience has taught me to change how I work because I don’t have the luxury of spending hours at the computer anymore. Now I try to make notes and edits on my phone while the baby sleeps on me, then do the actual writing while he naps, or his father has him. So far it’s doable…ish. I don’t know how it’ll all work when I return to the office – I’m basically ignoring the prospect for now.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

Just that I have the requisite biology to CONJURE NEW HUMAN FRIENDS INTO EXISTENCE. Isn’t that amazing? I could go mad with power. Also, I know it’s a cliché, but I have never felt love like this. It’s almost painful.

What are the worst bits?

Being trapped under a breastfeeding baby during a growth spurt when you’re recovering from a C section and you have postnatal depression is a special sort of misery. But then you’ll wake up to a tiny perfect hand stroking your face, and it all seems worth it somehow.

If you didn’t have your kids for a week what would you do?

I’m still breastfeeding and I’m dairy-free because Herbie has a milk protein intolerance, so probably eat loads of cheese, leak breastmilk everywhere, and cry myself to sleep because I’d miss him so much.

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Okay, you know when you see really lazy products in the supermarket, like pre-diced onions and pre-grated cheese, and you wonder who that’s from? IT’S FOR YOU. For at least the first three months after your baby’s born you’ll be doing stuff onehanded, so maybe go onehanded for a day while you’re pregnant so you can figure out what you’ll need.

Is there anything you wish you had known?

I wish I’d known that birth trauma was a) a possibility, b) something I could get help with, c) something that passed, because when no one tells you that it’s a thing and suddenly you find yourself hallucinating and terrified when you should be happy and picture-perfect, it’s very hard to process. can help.

Anything else you’d like to tell me about/share….

I write about parenting for The Pool and my husband writes a parenting column in The Guardian.

robyn wilder

Huge thank you to Robyn for finding the time to share her refreshingly honest experience of motherhood. Be sure to check out her brilliant blog and her husband’s column in The Guardian.

If you would like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, please email