I’ve never felt the urge to write about this before, because in my mind as far as I’m concerned, how a mother chooses to feed her child is up to her. But recently I was talking to a woman who has been struggling with a huge amount of guilt because she decided to formula feed and said hearing my story really helped her. So here I am, laying my cards down about breastfeeding.
When I was pregnant with Oliver, I was all about breastfeeding. At this point I had just moved to a new area, I had no friends or family close by and my partner was working ridiculous hours (still does in all honesty). Regardless of the lack of support, I figured that I’m quite a resilient person and like all other things in my life, would work at breastfeeding until I found it easy. Then I gave birth.
The birth itself was quite traumatising, then I was manhandled and spoken to like dirt. (I have spoken about my Oliver’s birth story here). My experience in the hospital with my eldest wasn’t great, there was the odd friendly midwife, but generally I was spoken to like rubbish and at one point – hours after giving birth – was shouted at because I had lost control of my bladder. I just wanted to get away from the hospital and get home.
Regardless of the experience, I persevered and struggled on with trying to breastfeed. After about a day and half, I started to notice my baby shaking, so I asked the doctor who said it was normal for a newborn to shake in this way and within a couple of days I was sent on my way home.
Within hours of being home, I called the ward and told them my baby had done nothing but sleep and wouldn’t feed despite trying cold flannels and blowing on their face to wake him up (something I was told to do in the hospital). The woman on the phone told me to keep doing what I was doing and just wait until my midwife came to see me later the next day.
I was getting really close to taking Oliver down to A + E when the midwife turned up, she looked him over, weighed him and sent us straight to paediatrics. Oliver had lost 12.5% of his body weight within a few days because despite it looking like he was feeding, he wasn’t. He had also contracted an infection, which meant he had to have a number of tests to find out what was on, including a meningitis test, where spinal fluid was taken. The medical team were so good and told me that the infection levels appeared to be low, so meningitis seemed highly unlikely, which calmed me down and stopped me going into complete panic mode. We then spent the best part of the next week in the hospital while he was on a course of antibiotics. He was also jaundice, so they monitored him closely with regular blood tests each day to see if he improved or if he needed treatment.
Once we were admitted I was given the choice between donated breastmilk or formula, personally I didn’t feel comfortable with donated milk, so I opted for formula. I was so adamant to breastfeed, I then expressed for twenty minutes on each boob, every couple of hours so that there was enough to feed him breastmilk by the bottle every feed. I was really lucky and had a lot of milk, so there was plenty to store and feed to Oliver after his first formula feed. The staff in paediatrics were so wonderful and I’m so thankful to them for everything they did to help Oliver get back on track and the kindness they showed a very distressed new Mum.
After a few days, the doctors were happy with where Oliver was and were comfortable with the amount of milk he was taking by bottle, so we were sent home. I then had regular midwife checks until he was back to his birth weight, which took a couple of weeks. During these couple of weeks, I had midwives and health visitors come and help me establish breastfeeding, but it just wasn’t working. Eventually I had become so exhausted that I couldn’t express as much as I had been and I sent Mr. C out for formula. Personally I think the whole experience was a huge contributing factor to me developing post-natal depression and it was deeply upsetting.
When Elijah was born, it was a bit of different story. His first feed went well, but I wasn’t sure if he had had enough, so kept trying to make him drink more, which I think was largely down to the experience I had had with Oliver. I told one of the midwives he had stopped feeding and she snapped “well he is obviously full up then isn’t he?” I was so emotional, having just had a second traumatic birth, that I decided there and then that I wouldn’t exclusively breastfeed. I just couldn’t face going through what I had gone through with Oliver again.
Once I was home I expressed regularly and used a combination of formula and breast milk. However during the postnatal midwife appointment, the midwife told me I was expressing for too long, so I reduced the time, which lead to my milk eventually drying up and left me with no option but to go solely to formula feeding. I know I could have tried harder with Elijah and I feel some guilt for not doing so, but I couldn’t go through what I went through with Oliver and I didn’t want to develop post-natal depression again.
I am a firm believer in trying to breastfeed, nutritionally it is the best option. However that said, from experience I know it isn’t always the best option for each family and sometimes it just doesn’t work out for some people. I know a lot of people will argue that I should have tried harder, should have been more resilient and say I haven’t given my children the best start, but I made a conscious decision that was best for my family and I stick whole heartedly to that decision, because at the end of the day, it was just that, my decision.
What are your thoughts on breastfeeding? Did you find it easy or quite difficult? I’d love to know, let me know in the comments, Twitter, Instagram or on Facebook. You can also follow me on Pinterest.