Saturday, 14 July 2012

on bottle feeding

When I was expecting my son, I spent the entire pregnancy absolutely sure that I was going to breastfeed him - I was in no doubt that as soon as he popped out, he'd latch right on and away we'd go. In reality, that couldn't have been further from the truth, and after a myriad of problems (bad latch, bleeding nipples, mastitis and inadequate milk supply to name but a few), I gave up and he was formula fed. I don't think I ever really got over the disappointment or nagging guilt, and so when I discovered I was pregnant for a second time, I never imagined I would have problems again.

When Daisy arrived, she fed immediately, and the midwife even praised me on my excellent colostrum. I preened my metaphorical feathers, and thought, 'excellent. This time I'm going to nail it.' We hadn't bought any kind of formula feeding equipment, and unwanted bottles given to us by a friend went straight to a charity shop. It literally didn't even cross my mind that I would have problems anywhere near as bad as I had the first time around.

Skin to skin during bottle feeding
Once we left hospital, it became apparent that Daisy was having some latching issues. As time went on, I was spending more and more time taking her off of the breast, and trying to get her back on correctly - as any breastfeeding mother will know, the latch is key. Without a good latch, you might as well just chew your own nipple off. She was feeding every two hours, for more than an hour each time, day and night. As soon as she had finished, she was cramming her little fists into her mouth, seemingly still desperately hungry. 
Slowly, the old problems seemed to resurface, and I started to dread every meal - I used to hold my breath and bite down on a cushion when she latched on, and would sit there, tense and desperately hoping she would stay on and just feed.

It's at this point, that I think I should just make it clear that in the first four weeks of Daisy's life, we had no midwife appointments or healthcare at all. At her heel prick test, five days after she was born, the healthcare practitioner informed me that she would make me an appointment with a midwife for a weeks time, but had to do it when she was back at the hospital. Somebody would call me with a day and time, she said, and ushered us out of the room. Three weeks later, I had heard nothing, and was in the midst of feeding hell. I rang the only number I could think of - my midwife. She was on holiday. A week and a half later, I finally got my appointment, where I was informed that Daisy had tongue tie - this explained why she couldn't latch, or on the rare occasions that she did make it onto the breast properly, she couldn't sustain it. I was also told that as she was no longer in the first few days of her life, I had missed the option to have her condition corrected through the NHS, and would have to pay for it to be done privately, something that we certainly didn't have the money for. My midwife, who was actually seething that I had been treated so badly by our healthcare system, rounded it off nicely by telling me that my daughter would never get any better at latching on, and feeding her would always be a painful experience.


Which brings us up to date. I feel a number of things - anger towards the people who discovered her tongue tie (apparently it was written on my notes, but nobody thought to actually tell me) and did nothing about it. Bitterness towards the woman who simply couldn't be bothered to follow procedure, and make me
that crucial appointment.  Guilt towards my daughter for letting her down. Disappointment in myself that I had failed to feed yet another child, failed to deliver what I thought was best and failed to somehow discover her condition myself. Which is pretty much why I'm writing this post - I thought it might be a little cathartic, a way to exorcise the demons so I can simply put the whole thing behind me and move on, enjoy my children and not let it taint their younger years. I've considered relactation numerous times, almost daily in fact, but as both my Mum and the Husband pointed out, nothing will have changed - Daisy will still have tongue tie, I will still end up in agony and we'll be in even more of a mess than we were in the beginning. 


Bonding through bottle feeding - it can be done!
The breast vs. bottle debate has raged for years, and I have no doubt at all that it will continue to do so - the funny thing is, the majority of us don't give a Nun's chuff how other women choose to feed their babies. I might be a formula feeder, but it's certainly not through choice - I managed to feed Daisy twice in public in those four short weeks, and felt like I'd conquered the moon (admittedly, her head was pretty much buried beneath my shawl, but still....). I felt a swell of pride when I read this post on Fritha's blog, and decided that had I been living in Bristol, I would have gone along in support regardless. I still practise attachment parenting, 'wearing' Daisy frequently, and try my hardest to bond through feeding (skin to skin contact, placing the bottle at breast height, and so on) - when I'm not sending the plastic bottle hateful vibes. I found some useful information through the Sears parenting book, and more here. A quick search via Google produces some good results - after I'd done this, I certainly felt better about the whole situation.

I suppose when it comes down to it, the thing to concentrate on is that although things didn't go according to plan, and I haven't managed to feed the way I thought was best, I have two happy, healthy children. And who can ask for more than that?

The duet was not going according to plan.
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13 comments

  1. Here here! They look happy and healthy to me. I spent the first part of the 8 months I breastfed pretty much threatening to quit at every feed. It was demanding, painful at times and really exhausting (I did end up enjoying it and it sure as hell was handy).

    There's a lot of pressure on mothers to breastfeed at the minute but I'll never forget a midwife telling me (as I cried to her in the church foyer about how tired I was from feeding him every 2 hours!) that a happy mummy makes a happy baby. I'm glad I saw it through but it definitely isn't the easier option all the time.

    Good on you for your honesty; no one way is the best.

    P.S. someone was telling me about some cool eco glass bottles the other day. Not very helpful to not remember the name but...google?!

    x

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  2. Oh hun! I know exactly what you mean about the pain and agony of breast feeding. It is THE most painful thing for a new mother... I had such problems with charlie.. mastitus, cracked nipples and thrush. It's hard work. Then I had Rufus and like you I thought it would be easier. It wasn't. He too was tongue tied. I wasn't told either and the Dr who visited me (we had a home birth) the next morning. She looked in his mouth and said nothing. Nothing on his notes either. I noticed something was wrong when he was crying.. his tongue didn't move. He wouldn't latch a feeding was painful (even more so). A week later I was at a toddler coffee morning and got chatting to a lady who happened to be the area NCT leader. She made some calls with some paediatric friends of hers and an appointment was made. 3 wks later his tongue was cut at the hospital. But we had no support or help or anything. Tongue Tied is really common.. so why are midwives/health visitors/gp's so ignorant to it? Please don't sweat the breast feeding... it will fade into the distance once your beautiful children are going to school - more things to worry about! xx

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  3. I only managed to breastfeed my daughter for 2 months and she was also topped up with formula at every feed. It was painful, my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I had no advice from any health professionals (except being told "well no-one said it was going to be easy" by the midwife. Izzy kept losing weight and I was so frightened. In the end she refused the breast. I was devastated. With charlie I sought advice from la leche League. They have been amazing and I have had no problems breastfeeding. That's not to say breastfeeding is without problems.......5 hour constant evening feeds in the beginning, feeding every hour for the first 4 months. Now refusing a bottle (not good when you have to return to work and baby needs booby to settle). No one tells you how much hard work breast feeding is and few of us are able to spend the first few months doing nothing but feeding and bonding with out babies. However, I know from experience that I am a completely different mother this time round and I'm sure that is due to the bond through breastfeeding. That said but Izzy has always been healthy, it's charlie who had caught every cold going!!!!

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  4. What horrendous treatment from the midwives... it's so shocking, you think they'd be the first to signpost you towards help. But I think you're taking the right attitude. It's so easy to beat yourself up about things that didn't work out (I do it myself all the time about my son's birth) but it's always best to just let it go and move on, like you say, your babies are happy and healthy and that's all that matters!

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  5. This post really resonates with me. I breastfed my eldest daughter for 3 months but could only manage 3 weeks with my 2nd child (latching issues too) and the guilt I felt from that decision was overwhelming. I felt like I had let her down, that I was a bad mother for not managing to give her the same level of care as her sister. These things weren't true, but that was how it felt at the time and I couldn't help but feel pangs of guilt and disappointment every time I saw my friends successfully breastfeeding their children for months on end.

    Now it's almost 2 years after I made that decision and I can honestly say I gave her my best. My deep love and care for her didn't stop after 3 weeks. My dedication to her caused me to cry many a tear at that moment, but they will not be the last tears I cry for her and with her in her lifetime. I love both my girls deeply and try to do the best I can for them. They love me back because I'm their mummy.

    I'm so sorry that you had such a terrible experience, but please don't let that taint your memory of her early life. Your children are blessed to have you as their mother. They will always love and adore their mummy.

    Be blessed x

    Michelle x

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  6. Excellent post. I bottle fed both of my daughters after initially presuming that BFing would be easy. My eldest was underweight at birth and also had to go to SCBU and I couldn't even attempt to feed her for the first couple of days. When I tried, it just didn't work and she went onto bottles after about a week of stress. I too felt disappointed, like a bad mother. Even slightly embarrassed. When our second daughter ws born, I BFed her for one day to give her the colostrum boost, but then switched straight to formula. I couldn't bear even trying to keep it going. As you say, the main thing is having happy, healthy children. x

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  7. Okay, firstly you are AMAZING. Mumma! You are doing an awesome job. Your kids are so blessed to have a Mum like you. Don't think in anyway that you 'failed' because you couldn't breastfeed. There are always going to be things that don't go according to plan, but I do feel your pain and can certainly relate. You are right that other Mums don't give a tit about how you feed your baby. My oldest Max had tongue tie. It was picked up by the NHS midwife but they offered no solution. It was only after talking with a friend of a friend who is a private midwife that I found a consultant to cut the tie. If you want his details I have them. The whole thing cost £80 and was over in about a minute.
    I have recently started bottle feeding my baby Finn and I am finding it brilliant! Now that he is used to the bottle he just goes for it. Not so keen on mummy's milk now! ;-)
    Keep up the great work!
    Jo xxx

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  8. Hello - I wanted to pop in and say 'hi' and not just read and move on.

    I found breast feeding the pits if I'm honest - I had my babes around the same time as friends and they would all say what a lovely feeling it was, such connection the bonding, but I just found it painful and horrible....I was so desperate for that magical feeling you were suppose to have when you breast feed your babe, but I never could- with all three.

    Though friends did have other problems that breast feeding came with. The unbearable sleep deprivation, latching on every other hour for an hour, twenty four hours a day. Not being able to ween and a babe that was so clingy, had no routine that life and their bodies were not their own anymore.

    Jumping on years now and you look at the children in the playground, at school - you wouldn't be able to point out which were breast feed or bottle. They are all strong, all healthy and all smart in their own ways. They all catch the same illnesses and their bodies fight them in exactly the same way.

    I may never of breast feed, but i have no lesser relationship, bonding or connection with my kids then those that did.

    I think you're doing all the right things - it's the system and the people whose jobs depend on these things that let you down and should be the ones that feel guilty.

    Sorry if my first ever comment is a strange one though 'hello' and your children are gorgeous.

    Nina x

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  9. Firstly, try not to be so hard on yourself Vicky, you're doing a brilliant job.

    If you want my two penneth, here it is.

    I managed to breastfeed my first two children fairly successfully for nearly a year; something I always attributed to them, not myself or any kind of innate 'skill' I had. I think it's pure luck that both Charlie and Florence latched on well and just sort of 'got' it.

    However this has led me to a false sense of security and as it happens I'm experiencing quite a few problems with my third baby Beatrice at the moment. I've got cracked, sore nipples that are making me dread every feed plus we both have thrush (her orally, me on my nipples - great) so are taking a load of meds each for that.

    It's not ideal and with two other little ones to consider, I've been considering giving up on BFing for the first time ever. I will try to persevere for now and see how it goes but I know it's not the end of the world if we resort to formula.

    So, if it's any consolation, you're not alone (as all the comments above confrm).

    Take heart my dear that you are doing all the right things to bond with Daisy and that's all that matters.

    You will all be more than fine and so will me and mine xx

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  10. The thing I'm learning as a mother is that you don't have to live up to some ideal in order to be a good parent.

    I fully believe that at the end of the day, our kids won't care how they were fed. Only that they were loved and that we cared enough to try and do the best by them. Even if sometimes, life gets in the way.

    Judging from what I've seen, your kids have love by the bucket load and that's what counts.
    You're an amazing mum. Never forget it.

    X

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  11. Gosh, thank you for all of your replies and kind words - I should have found my balls and posted this much earlier methinks!

    @Mel - that's pretty much what my midwife said. She told me that while she could put her professional hat on and bang on about breastfeeding, sometimes it simply isn't the best thing, and that's that. I honestly could have kissed her!
    I'll check out the glass bottles too - although the ones we've got are BPA free, so that'd half the battle. Thanks for the tip off!

    @Lou - sorry you had the same rubbish experience as me, I honestly don't know what's wrong with the NHS sometimes, they are so inconsistent with their level of care. I do wonder if the midwife who checked her, and helped me latch her on noticed and just said nothing - surely it's their duty to inform us?

    @Thriftymonster - Same - Benjamin was formula fed and so far has only had a handful of colds, no serious illnesses whatsoever! I don't feel it's affected our bond at all, the only thing that's affected that is the fact that he is currently a trying three-year old!

    @Eleanor - I agree, I did think about lodging a formal complaint, but then just decided it wasn't worth it. After all, how can you take on the might of a body like the NHS? Somebody on Twitter told me that as mothers, we are our own worse critics, and I think she had a pretty good point!

    @Michelle - thank you for your lovely words, I know what you mean about seeing other people breastfeeding, it always gives me a knot of envy in my stomach!

    @Living it Little - I get the same embarrassed feeling - you read so much anti-bottle feeding stuff on the internet, it makes me feel like breastfeeders look down on me (incidentally they don't, I did a quick survey amongst my breastfeeding friends!). It's only now that I'm starting to care less about how others perceive me - after all, they don't know I struggled through for four weeks!

    @Jo - Sorry you had the same experience with tongue-tie - I don't understand why some people are offered the operation and others aren't, it seems a little shambolic. Glad Finn is enjoying the bottle - Daisy does seem quite partial to hers!

    @Nina - hello! Not a strange comment at all, really wise words - just what I needed to hear. I know what you mean about wanting the bonding experience, I was the same, but my Mum pointed out that I was in so much pain that there wasn't actually much bonding going on anyway! Welcome, by the way, and thank you for your lovely comment, always nice to meet a new reader!

    @Kat - it was actually having Benjamin around that made me finally decide to give up - I was putting all of my energy and time into breastfeeding, while he sat on the sidelines. I looked at him one day, after I'd snapped for no reason and just thought, 'this isn't on'. And that was pretty much the beginning of the end for me. You've done marvelously with your kiddos, and whatever decision you come to, it will be the right one for you.

    @Kim - thank you, that's a lovely thing to say *sniffs and wells up*. I think there are so many guidelines and 'rules' these days that sometimes we forget we're actually human.

    Thank you all so much for taking time to comment on my experience - all of your words have been gratefully received :-)

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  12. Just read this after Mama Tea posted it on her Facebook page

    Being a first time mum of a 4 month old it is reassuring to hear that others had problems.

    I'm still feeling guilty that I was only able to feed my daughter for a week before having to swap to bottles, and it always seems to me that everyone else can do it.

    A different story to many as I had amazing support from the Midwives, Community Midwives and Health Visitors who all went out of their way to support me through that tough time & never made me feel bad for going to the bottle.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and the pictures of your beautiful Children

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  13. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I was led to believe that breastfeeding would all come naturally by my antenatal classes but it's a skill you and the baby have to learn so it's far from straightforward! I managed 12 weeks exclusive breastfeeding then I got ill and we began mixed feeding instead which was excellent, my little one didn't care how he got his milk! He still gets a little expressed milk at 6 months. Looking back we could have taken the stress out of the situation by starting mixed feeding at around 6 weeks but I was stubborn, so determined to carry on even though I was hungry every hour and felt faint after feeds. Not only is there pressure from midwives to breastfeed, we do it to ourselves too!

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