Breastfeeding hasn’t worked for us.
I think we all prepare for pregnancy with the absolute best intentions, wants and wishes for our baby and that always means making informed decisions on how we will parent. I really wanted to breastfeed Felix. I managed ten weeks with my daughter and I really wanted to get past that stage with Felix because it was going to be great for him, good for me and, best of all, free. I got the clothes, the pumps to help, stuff to boost my supply…everything you can think of to get me off to a good start with feeding my baby but actually, nothing prepares you when the circumstances are against you and so, it’s with quite a lot of sadness that we have stopped breastfeeding and moved over to bottle feeding with formula. I felt incredibly guilty whilst I was making that decision although he has had a few good feeds from me, which I’m really happy with, and I wish it had been longer.
Breastfeeding is not easy
I think the first thing that was against me was my blood loss during my c-section. It left me feeling incredibly weak and drained and the lack of blood and fluid in my body, despite the absolute gallons of water I was drinking, the iron tablets when I came home and all the breastmilk boosting teas, foods, vitamins my milk just didn’t come in. My boobs didn’t ‘fill up’ as they did with my daughter and whilst there was clearly stuff there from hand expressing and some pumping there just wasn’t enough stuff to satisfy my son. The support I had in hospital was fantastic, they really tried everything with me but I have to say the equipment I had – big boobs, lack of mobility and “soft” (I was told at hospital) nipples it just seemed like a combination of things that I couldn’t really battle against.
The exhaustion was also holding me back. I knew I needed to sleep to recover with the blood loss but I was knackered after well over 30 hours of being awake from labour and then that weird adrenaline baby gaze buzz you have after. Adam had gone home to get some sleep and the midwives in recovery were amazing and helped me with everything as I was waiting for the spinal block to wear off. I feel like I’ve now caught up on sleep but I’m still tired because you just are with a newborn, because sleep is broken through the night and when you have an older child “sleeping when the baby sleeps” just isn’t really possible. Especially when you fall asleep on the sofa and they keep waking you up because they want a hug, or a drink, or a snack, or have a question, or want to watch TV, or want to go to the shop…it’s very hard to get in rest when you have a family.
I was totally overwhelmed with Adam going back to University and Work, he starts his first shift tonight at his new job and will be working from 11pm-7am for four nights, then have four nights at home. I was starting to get really worried about how I would physically and mentally cope with such a big lack of sleep whilst I was still recovering from my c-section and so soon after the birth. I hate that dads only get two weeks off as paternity leave. No wonder so many breastfeeding mums decide not to continue because the sheer pressure of doing it all on your own is really hard. I felt that actually, the more routine of bottle feeding – despite doing it on demand, would hopefully work a lot better with the school run in the morning. I have to leave the house at 8am to get my daughter to school for 8.40am, and then it’s a good twenty minute walk back, longer at the moment with a pram and whilst I’m still building my stamina up. I am hoping that we can get into the routine of a 6.30am breakfast and then when we’re back at 9.15am we can get another bottle ready.
But despite all this, and despite the fact that actually I feel we’ve made the right decision to stop breastfeeding because the evenings Adam is here, and during his nights off, he can help with a few night time wake ups which allows me the time to recover. I no longer feel like I won’t be able to cope or scared of being home during the night alone. I know longer feel like I’m completely ignoring my daughter to meet my sons needs. The guilt is still strong and I am still really sad. Having a baby brings about so many hormones and changes, having a c-section can make you feel guilty for not doing it properly. so I’ve cried some tears over it. I’ve been reasurred by the health visitor who said it is okay to feel sad about it and to feel like I’ve missed out but actually we still get lots of lovely snuggles and bonding time and that actually he really isn’t fussed because he’s fed and sleeping and clean. I still feel guilty. I feel like I’ve let myself and my son down a little bit for not persevering. I do feel like I could have tried a bit harder but then I think if I had I’d be struggling more emotionally with feeling so overwhelmed and I know I wouldn’t have been able to take care of myself as much recovery wise if I had stuck with it.
Breastfeeding or bottle feeding: Make an informed decision and go with it
I have always believed in making informed decisions based on what is best for the big picture; for the whole family, but most of all I am an advocate of fed is best. Not because it’s the bare minimum, because I know breastmilk is best for babies, and because all of us just want our babies fed regardless. But I think fed is best stands for that bigger picture, for a mother and baby’s post natal well being and because we all just want to be the best parents we can be. For me, that means being tired but functioning and mentally well for both of my children, and my partner, who has just witnessed me going through major surgery to bring his son into the world, become a father and is now coping with University work and a new job. He has a lot on his plate, and the last thing he needs is a girlfriend that isn’t coping with her mental health.
No matter how you feed your baby, you are doing the best job, you are doing the right thing and you have made the best decision for you. You, your mental health and your well being is just as vital and important because that is what will help you cope with the transition into motherhood.