My children are now four and seven so breast feeding is a distant memory but the bottle v breast will continue to rumble on as long as women are giving birth to babies. The decision every new mum makes it a tough one but hopefully it is a personal one and one they make with the support of everyone around them.
This blog is my tale of breast feeding experience in hope that it might just make one women’s decision about the way they feed their baby a little easier. Here goes…
Baby number one AKA Miss A
I am from a family of bottle feeders and to be honest I think we have all worked out alright. No one is poorly, abnormally small or mentally scarred from being fed formula from a bottle so this option was always a good one for me. However, something happens when you are pregnant and that is that every fucker in the world has an opinion of how best to (a) be pregnant and (b) fed the resulting baby. I had never been pregnant before not had I ever really looked after a baby so I have no idea what I was doing… still don’t btw!
Therefore when all of these words of ‘wisdom’ are thrown at you you start believing some. After the NHS classes and speaking to some other mums I decided that I was going to give this breast feeding malarkey a crack.
Miss A showed up via three weeks early and made her way out in a pretty speedy fashion. This obviously has its advantages but also has some downsides (mainly stitching) but also not being 100% mentally ready for the baby to appear – I was told more new mums are overdue so I thought I had at least another month of overeating and walking like I had been kicked in the foof….
As soon as she was plonked on my chest I gave the breast feeding a try and the midwife very happily declared “Brilliant! You are a natural!” Yay me I thought, this is going to be a doddle.
Miss A was born at about 10pm and the following morning I was discharged from hospital but I had asked to go to the local birthing centre in Ashurst for a day or two to get used to having a baby. This was offered which is why I asked to go.
On arrival to the birthing centre I realised it was not the tranquil place I had visited months before. This time it was in full swing of labouring women and screaming babies. I was shown to my bed, a curtain pulled around Miss A and I and then we were basically left to it!
First thing the next morning a midwife arrived, told me I was doing fine and I should go home as mums that really needed help needed the bed. So off I went!
First night at home with newborn baby
Being back home with a baby was tougher than I thought. Miss A wanted to be ‘feeding’ 24/7 and now people were visiting so giving their opinion:
– are you supposed to hold her like that when you feed her?
– is she getting enough milk?
– why don’t you just give her a bottle?
– you should breast feed for as long as possible!
– breast feeding is so much cheaper and easier
– Etc etc etc
Around the first or second day at home I decided to use the breast pump I had been given to try and ‘bank’ some milk ( I had read that this was a good idea).
So I attached the pump and off it went – nothing…. 20 minutes later and one very sore nipple and a tiny drop of milk made its way down the side of the bottle…
I had a chat with some of my breast feeding mum friends and they told me stories of leaking boobs, bottles of expressed milk and near to exploding bosoms. I had now of this!
Ask for help
The following morning I looked down at Miss A and decided that she didn’t look right. Her lips were dry and almost scaley, and she looked a bit yellow! So I made the call to pop back to the maternity hospital and ‘drop in’ to the breast feeding clinic.
I arrived and headed into the room where various women were feeding their babies or trying to get the baby to latch on under the watchful eye of the midwives. After they saw Miss A was asleep they decided to give me a try at expressing – one little drop… then they asked for a closer look at Miss A. The midwife picked her up out of her car seat and said we need to get her to a doctor.
We were whisked off to the post natal ward. Turns out Miss A was dehydrated and jaundice! Turns out I didn’t ‘make’ any milk but the midwives wanted me to keep trying….
So while Miss A subbed herself under the UV lights I had a new feeding programme. I had to give her 10 minutes of each breast, after this I had to pour in tiny drips formula into her mouth via a teeny cup (this takes a long time) and then I had to express from each boob. After expressing I had to take my one or two drops of milk and place it in the fridge. Placing my tiny bottle of a few drops of milk next to full bottles from other women if a sure fire way to make you feel like a crappy mum. I couldn’t even get the basics right!
Then I slept for about 30 mins before waking up and starting again. This feeding process was every three hours and it took about two hours to complete… it was relentless!
Decided when enough is enough
On day four of this game (still in hospital, knackered and still only producing a few drops of milk) I had my mini emotional breakdown. I finally decided that breast feeding wasn’t for me! The relief as soon as I said it was amazing like a huge weight had lifted from my shoulders. I got a bottle and for the first time since she was born over a week ago Miss A downed a bottle of milk and slept like a dream. The following day she was finally allowed off the lights and we went home!
Baby number two AKA Miss I
So you would have thought that after my breast feeding experiences with Miss A I would have gone straight for the bottle but one again the same old pressures were there plus some new ones!
Miss I had a different dad to Miss A and he (Mr C) thought breast feeding would be good and his ex breast fed their first child with success so that was the experience he had to draw from.
So I went for it again and it seemed to go to plan. Until we got to about three months and I was told my the doctor that if she didn’t start to put on weight ( her weight was decreasing) that we would have to get back into hospital to be monitored. I then tried to express some milk and once again there was hardly anything coming out. More than with Miss A bit clearly not enough to sustain Miss I. In the words of my big sister I ran on ‘skimmed milk’. We were already giving her one bottle at night and that was probably all that was keeping her going. So without the drama or stress of the first time I made the call to stop breast feeding and go all formula. And she thrived! Putting on those precious pounds and not needing to head back to hospital.
This whole experience taught me one thing. We are all different and therefore every feeding experience is going to be different. As long as we are feeding our babies and they are healthy then that is all that matters.
Support for new mums not pressure
I would call for all women to trust their own instincts and for healthcare professionals to not push so hard for ‘breast is best!’ What is best is happy mums and healthy babies. At a time when emotions are all over the place and self esteem is wavering the key needs to be to support woman in making their own choices and supporting them through it. I am therefore in neither the breast or bottle camp, I am in the ‘whatever works best for you’ camp!