Breastfeeding. Loved by many, loathed by many. In the world of newborns, it’s an increasingly divisive topic. We heard from Jennifer, who’s story shows that its not so easy for every mum. We love her story, honest brave and frank. There will be so many other mums feeling the same. Over to Jen.
Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world. How can one statement be so right and so wrong in equal measure? Breastfeeding may be the most natural way to feed your baby, but it doesn’t come naturally for everyone.
Baby Daniel was born after 3 days of labour, assisted delivery in an operating theatre. So when we finally had a quiet minute on the recovery ward, I asked to get some skin to skin time. As soon as Daniel was on my chest his instincts kicked in. He lunged, mouth wide open onto my boob. In that moment I thought I have this whole breast feeding business sorted! I blame the drugs.
Daddy was sent away at 3 in the morning when I was wheeled up to the ward. Just what I needed after 3 days of no sleep, food or water, to be left with a hungry, screaming baby. That first night with Daniel was awful and magical in equal measure. I had my baby, who I had waited months to meet and years to have. Yet this baby seemed anything but happy to be in my arms.
I also had an auxiliary shouting at me for not drinking through my labour and that it was my fault I wasn’t producing enough for my baby. Not the start I had hoped for.
‘I was exhausted, frustrated and couldn’t shake this feeling that I wasn’t doing the right thing’
Daniel was a big baby, 9 pound and 14 ounces to be exact. I was repeatedly told that all babies have the same sized stomach regardless of birth weight. To be honest, I still struggle to believe this. I had known I was going to have a big baby, my bump was enormous! So I had packed some premade formula in my hospital bag should I need it for my hungry baby. I shouldn’t have bothered, no one would let me give it to him. Instead I was encouraged to cluster feed my starving baby all night and all day. I was exhausted, frustrated and couldn’t shake this feeling that I wasn’t doing the right thing.
When the nurse practitioner came to check Daniel over before we were discharged she commented that he was dehydrated and his little mouth was all dry. He even had chapped lips. I had been a mum for less than a week and already I felt I had failed my baby.
When he was weighed at his first home visit we found he had lost more than ten percent of his birth weight. My baby was starving, the midwife could pinch a handful of loose skin from his tummy and I felt like a complete failure. The midwife fed him a formula there and then and so my journey into combination feeding began.
Combination Feeding from Birth
My milk took five days to come in, so Daniel was topped up after every feed with formula. After a week I bought a hand pump and tried to express for him to be bottle fed breast milk over formula but I couldn’t produce enough. I couldn’t help but feel the pressure to pick one and stick to it. After my hours and hours of research pre baby, I knew breast was the way I wanted to go. But it felt like the choice was being taken out of my hands.
‘it felt like the choice was being taken out of my hands’
I hired a hospital grade breast pump but never got the time to use it. It literally sat in a corner making the room look untidy. It served as a constant reminder that I wasn’t producing enough milk. I was at my wit’s end trying to do what was deemed best, natural and expected. All the while Daniel’s formula feeds were over taking his breast feeds.
‘I laughed because there was no point crying over spilled, or squirted, milk’
I was encouraged by everyone to pick a side. If I visited my in-laws I felt the pressure to have bottle feeds for them to feed him with so as to bond with baby. I would come home from my in laws in agony, desperate to feed to baby or pump. One time I was feeding baby after a whole day of bottle feeds when I heard water running. We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from till I looked down and saw a constant pressurised stream of milk spitting from my boob all over baby. I laughed because there was no point crying over spilled, or squirted, milk. I didn’t realise at the time the damage I was doing to my supply.
Everything I now know about combination feeding I have found out through my own late night research, or in dribs and drabs from the health care professionals who I’ve come in contact with. I wish I could go back five months and tell myself all this information! My breastfeeding journey with Daniel is coming to an end. I can’t help but feel sad at what it could have been like if only I had known.
Pace Feeding While Combination Feeding
I wish I had known that the more bottles baby has the less boob time they will want because the bottle is so much easier for them to feed from. If only I had heard about pace feeding when I began combination feeding, so I could avoid this bottle preference. I wish I had found out about Haakkas before I spent hundreds of pounds on useless breast pumps. I could wish my whole breastfeeding journey away but I don’t want to.
Breastfeeding gave me the chance to build Daniel’s immune system while bonding with him in a way most mums can only dream of. I had precious moments and nights with him to myself watching the changes in him and wondering at this baby I had made. I loved the first early morning feed, watching him in the light of the dawn and catching his first smiles of the day. For that I am grateful.
I once heard someone refer to their first born as their pancake baby, you never get it right with the first one! I think that is a very fitting description of my breastfeeding journey. If I am lucky enough to have another baby then all the little tit bits (excuse the pun) I’ve picked up along the way will help me and baby number two. It is just a real shame that baby number one was my pancake.
‘We really need to look into how we support mothers’
Having seen a baby who was not being fed, despite all my best efforts, I can honestly say fed is best regardless of how. We really need to look into how we support mothers. Especially combination feeders who don’t fit into one box.
It is not good enough to encourage just one type of feeding, pick a side or forever be damned. We need to ensure that mum’s have access to all the information they need for their chosen method of feeding. We need to educate our midwives and health visitors so that they can support combination feeders. Stop all the negative thinking around combination feeding.
So let’s make a new box, get the info out there and help make the most unnatural, natural thing in the world a little easier. Because let be honest Parenthood is hard enough!
You can find even more in our honest parent blog. Put the kettle on and grab five minutes, and hear the stories of mums and dads from across the UK.
How do you find breastfeeding? What’s your story? The world is changing fast! We would love to hear from you. Contact us with your story.