Sorry this is the longest post ever…
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that breastfeeding didn’t go to plan with Arthur and you can read about that HERE.
This time around, I was determined to try again. I hate failing and a small part of me felt like I had failed with Arthur. This time around I was more knowledgeable and really wanted it to work. I know how much formula costs and sterilising is a pain in the ass… I would make it work!
I did say, however, that I wouldn’t beat myself up about it if it didn’t work and I also wanted to breastfeed on my terms. I wanted my husband to be able to give a bottle at night and despite how midwives advise against this, I know plenty of mothers who’ve done this from 3 or 4 weeks in (with either expressed or formula) and it works for them.
So here’s what happened
Teddy was born a couple of weeks early; I was told that this wouldn’t effect his latch and it didn’t. He was put to feed really quickly and latched on ok. I decided to stay in hospital for two nights so that I could get as much support with feeding as possible. The help was fantastic – a million times better than at Shrewsbury Hospital where Arthur was born. Despite Teddy being rather sleepy and falling asleep after a couple of minutes during every feed, his latch was good.
So off we went home and for the next day or so we carried on feeding every 2-3 hours & all seemed to be going ok – the feeds were taking forever, but I understood that this was perfectly normal for the first week or so. On day 3, Teddy was weighed and had lost 8.9% of his birth weight. This wasn’t a worrying amount, but because Teddy only weighed 5lb 14 to begin with, they wanted to weigh him again in 3 days time.
On day 4 Teddy’s skin and eyes had gone quite yellow and so he had a blood sample taken to test for jaundice levels. I was so upset about this and thought it was because the feeding wasn’t go as well as I thought and that it was my fault. They said that if the bloods showed levels above a certain amount then we would have to go into hospital that night. Thankfully, his bloods were below the concern level phew…(for now)!!
So I carried on with breastfeeding. It was getting harder as he was taking longer at each feed & one side was starting to get quite sore. I could tell his latch wasn’t quite right so on day 5 we had the midwife back out to help us try different positions. I found that the rugby ball position really helped.
Teddy was weighed again on day 6 and he’d only put on another 20g. The midwife wasn’t that happy with this and so said we needed to go on a feeding plan 🙁 I was gutted.
The feeding plan was that after every feed, they wanted me to express and then top him up with expressed from a bottle. So I started expressing from both sides after every feed… this is when I started to think that my milk hadn’t really come in. Even from the side that Teddy hadn’t just fed from, the most I managed to get was about half an ounce!
Teddy was also becoming hungrier and hungrier and even the expressed top ups weren’t enough for him. I’d put him back to the boob to cluster feed and so for the next few days I was just in a constant cycle of breastfeed, express, bottle feed, breastfeed, express Ahhhhhhhhhh. One side became so sore and so I bought nipple shields to help. These were actually great and I thought that Teddy was starting to feed better and get more. I could see the milk in the end of the shield & it was reassuring to know he was having it.
On day 10 Teddy was weighted again and yaaaaay he was now putting on weight at the required level…just. I really thought we’d turned the corner and that all my hard work had paid off. BUT… the midwife was concerned that Teddy was still rather jaundiced – she said that we’d have to monitor him for a couple of days and that we may have to go back into hospital.
The next few days were really tough; I was hardly getting anything from expressing, Teddy was starving, getting really angry on the boob and so I reluctantly introduced a couple of formula feeds. I was then able to express a whole feed…and from doing this I could see that I was hardly producing anything. It was so frustrating – I was trying so hard and I couldn’t believe how little I was making. From speaking to the midwife, we came to the conclusion that Teddy was a lazy feeder. He would go suck suck, snooze …then have a bit more, then snooze again. This was (a) why feeds were taking so long, and (b) could be why my milk hadn’t come in properly.
Then on day 14 we were sent back into hospital for more jaundice testing. Teddy needed to have a blood test and give a urine sample. Blood test did not go well; after being poked and prodded for a good hour they only managed to get a couple drops of blood 🙁 The doctor was not happy – she said that he was really dehydrated as his blood was too thick. I was devastated. I’d been trying my hardest, feeding all the time, doing everything I should. Why was this happening? She said that I had to give him formula top ups after every breastfeed, otherwise he was going to get really sick.
We got back to the car and I just burst into tears. I was on my own with Teddy as Dave was looking after Arthur and I was kind of glad about this actually. He hadn’t been particularly supportive about breastfeeding since the feeding plan was introduced – kept saying we should just do formula. He just didn’t get why I was putting us both through such difficulty, when in his mind there was a perfectly suitable alternative.
I knew I couldn’t do formula feeds as well as breastfeeds for every feed. Not with a toddler constantly wanting my attention – it would just take too long. I cried all the way to Boots where I was headed to buy more bottles & formula. So you guessed it…I was packing in exclusive breastfeeding.
However, I was determined to carry on expressing – so for the next 10 days, whilst Dave gave Teddy formula, I expressed about 8 times a day so Teddy could have this, and I was doing the odd breastfeed as well. I was still getting hardly anything from expressing, so started eating oats which I’d heard were good for milk supply. In my optimistic head I thought that if I could just get my milk supply going, I could go back to breastfeeding, rather than formula.
Three and a half weeks in, I realised that I couldn’t carry on like that. Dave’s back to work date (he works at sea for weeks at a time) was coming closer and my milk supply wasn’t improving. I couldn’t carry on doing both formula feeds and expressing, as well as look after an energetic toddler. I therefore decided to stop expressing and just put Teddy to the boob a couple of breastfeeds a day until my supply went.
When Teddy was 4 1/2 weeks old, I went away for the weekend to a friend’s house. Arthur stayed with Dave and so I was be able to do a few last breastfeeds before Teddy would go exclusively onto the bottle when I got home. To be honest, I did this for me rather than Teddy. Teddy had decided by then that he much preferred the ease of the bottle and so after a minute or so on the boob, he’d get angry as there wasn’t much milk there by then.
How I feel now
So that’s about it really. I’m still fairly devastated by it all. Devastated and pissed off. I feel like I’ve failed. With Arthur, it was out of my hands as he just wouldn’t latch on. With Teddy, we had the latch sorted!! I said I wouldn’t beat myself up if breastfeeding didn’t work, but I have beaten myself up about it and I still am really.
In my rational non-hormonal head, I know that there’s nothing wrong with formula. I’ve read loads of literature/studies that have found that formula fed babies are just as happy, healthy and intelligent etc as breastfed babies. I know babies who were exclusively breastfed who are constantly ill, and I know formula fed ones who are never ill (and visa versa of course). I’m pretty confident that as long as a baby has that initial colostrum, there’s no difference to the well being of a child. But I’m still pissed off…
I’m pissed off with society for making me feel like such a failure. My health visitor said that she isn’t even allowed to speak to formula reps and that they’re funding is partly based on how many mothers breastfeed. She’s been really supportive though and has said that I shouldn’t feel like I’ve failed after trying so hard.
If you go on to the Aptamil website, you pretty much have to tick something to acknowledge that you’re a bad mum for not breastfeeding (slight exaggeration, but that’s how it makes you feel.) Mums constantly ask how I feed my baby – I’m sure that most of them aren’t judging me and that it’s just something to say, but I feel like they are judging me. I’ve seen twitter discussions where the breast brigade have come down really heavy on a formula feeding mums. I was inundated with breastfeeding literature from the midwives and everywhere you look for information on feeding, you’re told that you should breastfeed. I even read on one Mummy forum, one Mother refer to formula as “poison”!
I blame this pressure for making me feel like a failure. It’s not necessary and it’s not fair.
I am not a bad Mother, but the preachy breast brigade people make me feel like I am.
I don’t want to hear of more support that I could have got. I don’t want to be asked if I’m breastfeeding my child and I don’t want to read another blog post or see another Twitter discussion preaching about the benefits of breastfeeding.
I’ve had enough of it all…
So if you are one of the lucky ones who’s managed to breastfeed with ease, please don’t tell me about it. And if you are one of the ones who overcame countless struggles to breastfeed with ease, please don’t tell me about it. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t even want to see anyone breastfeed, because you just remind me of how society has made me feel like you’re a better mum than me.
I’m sure I’ll get over these negative thoughts. But for the time being, that’s how it is.
NOTE: I am indeed now over not wanting to see anyone breastfeed… only took a few months haha