So with the new guidance from The Royal College of Midwives that states “Bottle feeding is a Mother’s right” I thought I would share my experience of feeding babies!
I first became a mum at the young age of 18 (Almost nine years ago 😱). During my pregnancy I said that I would try breastfeeding but I was open minded and wouldn’t stress or beat myself up if it didn’t work out for us. My little man arrived into the world in November of 2009, and there I was, left to my own devices with a newborn and no real clue what exactly I was doing.
Lucas Mark Graham
Breastfeeding started off well, I fed him for a full week while he was receiving photo therapy for jaundice as an inpatient. It wasn’t long until all the usual breastfeeding issues began though, including inverted nipples, poor latch, excessive weight loss and it all just became a bit stressfulI albeit not painful. It’s important that babies with jaundice receive adequate if not extra fluids to help excretion of bilirubin into the bowel movements and stop the yellowing of the eyes and skin; so I was worrying he was not getting enough. I then made the choice to switch to formula. This same day I was behind the curtain, at my bedside in the hospital ward speaking to my mum on the phone and explaining the situation to her including the reasons behind my decision to switch to formula. My mum is the best and gives me all her support and encouragement in whatever decisions I make in life. While I was having this conversation my midwife was standing on the other side of the curtain listening in on my call and when I finished she opened the curtain and more or less told me off for my decision to formula feed. I was so taken aback by her words and the way in which she said them; when she finished scolding and walked off I burst into tears and felt like such a failure. Looking back, having my nurse training and being a bit more long in the tooth I feel that she took advantage of my age and vulnerability and that definitely played a huge part in my decision to formula feed my second child. I put her straight onto formula as I could not face the idea of failing for a second time; and that still breaks my heart to this day. I believe that if I had been given a bit more support and encouragement instead of what I felt was a telling off by the midwife I would possibly have persevered with breastfeeding and maybe even at least tried with my second born.
Seven years later and having just given birth to my second daughter 6 weeks ago; I was determined during pregnancy to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first sixth months! As soon as I found out I was pregnant I was researching everything to do with breastfeeding from pillows to nipple creams to pumps and everything in between!
My surprise baby shower at 36 weeks pregnant.
Finally she arrived and I felt so well prepared and was very determined to make it work this time!
Things started off great! She seemed to have developed a great latch and I was producing big amounts of colostrum in hospital.
Our first feed (I’m looking slightly traumatised after some post delivery complications; but it’s such a beautiful memory to me).
Once we got home things soon started to change. My nipples began to become sore; crack and bleed, one even split in half and was oozing, baby was getting very fussy and agitated and just not getting the latch at all. Initially we thought this was down to positioning but after trying every position known to man we began to suspect baby had a tongue tie. I spoke to my community midwife and she agreed. So we were referred to the breastfeeding coordinator in our local trust and she had her tongue tie snipped the following week. The latch was instantly better on the right boob but I think the left was too far damaged to feel any immediate benefit. I attempted feeding her off the right boob and expressing from my left to give it a break, I couldn’t get a single ounce from the left even though my milk supply was well established. We tried to use nipple shields, again with no avail. I continued to feed off the left boob in the hope that it would heal, using nipple creams and cooling pads to relief. I cried and felt sick to my stomach at the very thought of the next feed and when she began feeding my toes would curl and my whole body would tense as I would be biting down on a muslin cloth! The pain was too much! She then began to drop too much body weight and hadn’t had a dirty nappy in five days; even though she would cluster feed from 6pm to 12.30am in the evenings. My head was in a constant tizzy worrying and stressing myself and my mood was becoming increasingly low. Is she getting enough? Is she dehydrated or starving? After two weeks of serious perseverance and dedication I made the heart breaking decision to give my baby a bottle of formula. I cried during the whole feed. Again I felt like a failure.
After speaking to my health visitor, who was incredibly supportive and reassuring; I realised that mothers have to do what suits them. I agree that breast feeding has so many benefits and is the best and most natural way for us to give our babies nutrition and I love and even envy those mothers who have been able to feed their babies to six months and beyond, who have the strength to push through the obstacles that maybe I just wasn’t strong enough to battle through. I will always be a supporter of breastfeeding and I can honestly say that there is no feeling I have experienced that is more beautiful than the bond you experience when feeding your baby in the most natural way.
However; when it comes to your mental health, sanity or needs of your baby, fed is absolutely best! No matter if you are breast feeding, bottle feeding, combination feeding, pumping or your baby is being artificially fed through an NG or PEG for medical reasons, as long as they are happy, healthy and getting their adequate nutrition at no cost to the maternal mental health that is truly all that matters.
One baby being fed two different ways… equally content and happy in each picture.
So basically what I’m trying to say is that it is a great step that the Royal College of Midwives have taken the step to say that mothers should have the right to bottle feed, it is still very sad that they had to actually say it because surely health care professionals should always have respected a mothers choice and provided them with support no matter how they decide to feed their baby? I’d love to hear some of your views and experiences on this topic! Thanks for reading!
Love Kirstie xx