Convenience is the best recipe
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The Independent Online
The early stage of parenthood is drudgery. It certainly has its incandescent joys, but these are necessary rewards for the less than saintly parent.

Yet every so often there is new pressure for mothers to martyr themselves to their babies by doing what is most ''natural''. The periodic flaps about formula milk are a good example. I would not dream of challenging the medical evidence that breast milk is best. But the lectures we will hear about it again following the phthalates scare will overlook the disadvantages.

The first of these is that only women can breastfeed. In many partnerships, although not my own, daddy gets the unbroken nights while mummy wakes on demand. Some new mothers find breast feeding painful or unpleasant. The assumption that it is a universally enjoyable bonding process is one of the soft-focus myths of motherhood.

Mothers who want to continue in paid work generally start after two or three months. Rare is the job that can be fitted around feeds. Most of us have to leave bottles and jars with the childminder and could do without any extra guilt over abandoning home and infants for our job. Jars of baby mush are useful convenience foods, too, just like a Marks & Spencer chicken tikka masala. Great for the busy or the lazy.

Certainly, let us have formula milk and baby food free from chemicals. The discovery of a taint in some brands should be no excuse for bullying over-burdened parents to conform to an oppressive ideal.