I’ve called it baby feeding because that is what I did, fed my baby, and that is what I advocate, feeding babies. Breast or bottle, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are fed that’s the main thing. I really wanted to breastfeed my son and I found out that actually it is a lot more difficult than it seems. So I thought I’d share our journey from bottle to breast and back again in case it is helpful for others and well, just to get it off my chest (sniggers).
After a long and traumatic labour (see previous sweary post) I was physically and emotionally drained. I didn’t sleep in the ward after giving birth at 11pm, so by the next day I just wanted to get the frick out of there and back to my bed/sofa and home comforts. However, midwives are supposed to watch a full feed before letting you go home, to check that babies are ok and mums know what the hell they are doing. Little man wasn’t really up for a meal, he’d start off and then immediately fall asleep. So come 6pm the next day I’d had enough and announced to the midwife that I was going home. That was my first mistake. Her words were “well I’m not going to keep you prisoner”. What she should have said to me is “look lady, you’re gonna be back here in 24 hours or less worrying about your baby who’s not feeding unless you bloody well stay one more night, let us look after you and let us see you feed”. Then I might have listened. Might have. I’m very stubborn.
As it was, bubba still hadn’t taken a decent feed by midday on his second day in the world, when we got our first midwife visit at home. Rather than offer to observe a breastfeed the midwife suggested we give him some formula. I was panicking by this point that he was going to die from dehydration, so obviously agreed. He still wasn’t that interested in the formula, even with the midwife forcing it down his throat he only took about 5ml. I now know that this is because he was tiny and his tummy was tinier and he had only just come into the world so he wasn’t very hungry. The midwife exclaimed that he must have a tongue tie and quickly called the hospital to ask them for an appointment with the lactation specialist ASAP. Cue tears from me and general panic and commotion.
We ended up seeing the specialist that afternoon, who said it was really too soon to tell if he had a tongue tie because he hadn’t actually started feeding yet. (On a side note tongue tie should not be a major cause of panic, though it can cause some feeding issues and mastitis in mum, which is horribly painful, it is relatively simple to correct if found early enough). Anyhoo the lactation consultant offered to observe a breastfeed (bubs still wouldn’t latch), then told us to keep trying him on the boob and if he wouldn’t take it to top him up with formula. Apparently 30ml was the magic amount that he should be eating every three hours on the dot. Also I should be pumping every three hours and eating and drinking lots. So we started trying this.
While visitors flocked in droves to come visit the baby, I was trying to breast feed, bottle feed and pump every three hours. Plus have warm baths, massage my boobs and eat lots. Well I’m sorry but for starters I just wasn’t fucking hungry. I couldn’t even look at food without feeling sick. I couldn’t bare the thought of chewing, so I was living on soup and chocolate milkshake (I actually got slightly addicted to chocolush, a brand sold in Tesco, during pregnancy and this obsession continued… so much so that my other half enquired into bulk buying the stuff). Secondly, I’m not gonna pump while visitors are round, just no. And while you try and hint that baby needs feeding or whatever sometimes they don’t get that actually you’re just not that comfortable doing it in front of other people right now and could they kindly make their excuses and bugger off please. Or you take the baby off upstairs to be fed, which is the only reason they have visited really, so then it seems a bit rude. Baby visiting politics is probably another blog in it’s own right to be fair. My advice… no non-essential visitors for at least the first two weeks. Ideally you need a few days on your own before anyone comes round because you just don’t know what the fuck is happening at that point, it is like a tornado has hit… but of course it is unlikely that grandparents will want to wait and I understand that. I’m hoping it will be easier with the second to put other people off for a while!
Anyway, where was I? Yes, so we followed the advice as best we could and he still wouldn’t feed. We took him into A and E because he wasn’t feeding and then as soon as we were in there he took 15ml from a bottle. “First time parents?” the doctor asked patronisingly. Yes of course we’re fucking first time parents, does it look like we know what the fuck we are doing? And also where do you think we are hiding our older child? Oh yeah we’ve left him in the car watching iPlayer and eating Frosties straight out the packet, sorry! I get it. New parents are anxious, over-the-top wrecks and doctors must see shit loads of them wasting time in A and E every day. However, if they kept women in for a bit longer and spent money getting midwives to educate them about caring for a newborn, they may not have so many crazed parents arriving on their doorstep because teeny weeny has green poo/reflux/doesn’t fancy his milk. Because parenting is not as intuitive as it may seem. My bloke and I could barely believe that they’d let us take our baby home without some kind of parenting for dummies crash course. We kept thinking we were going to get a knock at the door and some crony in a grey anorak would be standing there demanding we give our son back and issuing us with a fine for being so stupid as to assume he was ours now. But he was ours. Our responsibility. He just wasn’t bloody hungry.
After two more visits from a lactation consultant and countless phone calls, he finally took to it. A few days after he was born he just got the latch and went to town. What happened, I think, was that he got hungry. Shocker. He started to wake up a bit and was like “now I’m ready for food mummy, I don’t know why you were so busy trying to feed me before when I just wanted to sleep!” The best advice I got was to just go for it if I wanted to breastfeed and ditch the formula top ups. Up until that point it was so confusing because everyone gave us different amounts that he ‘should be’ having. “Ten mins every two hours at least” we were told. “Definitely 40-60ml per feed” they said. “Probably 4oz every four hours” was the advice. Fuck all that. Feed on demand.
So I fed him. And I fed him. And I fed him some more. Bloody hell this kid can eat. The next thing I knew I was stuck to the sofa for hours at a time during ‘cluster feeds’. I barely had time to go for a piss and my partner had to cut up and feed my dinner to me most nights. I watched so much shit TV. I told friends about it and they said “oh breastfeeding sounds easy, I’d be good at that”. Except it’s not. It is completely all consuming and you are 100% taken over as a vessel for milk. It is hard work. No wonder the majority of women don’t make it past three weeks. Fortunately my partner was very supportive and so he did everything else, other than feed the baby for at least the first month, which was amazing. We were lucky that he had annual leave saved to take (definitely recommend this, I was not ready to be left alone after 2 weeks).
Once we got the hang of it I actually quite enjoyed it. And it got easier. It became second nature. My son was so comforted by it that he often fell asleep on the boob, cute. But then it became a major sleep association for him, he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go to sleep without it. As he became more alert during the day he stopped wanting to eat at fun and busy times and started eating more and more at night. By four months he was full on reverse-cycling, up every couple of hours at night to feed and refusing boob during the day for more than a few minutes at a time. Urgh! I tried getting him to eat more in the day but it was impossible if I ever wanted to leave the house, and staying in all day drove me batshit crazy. This also happened around the same time that he started refusing a bottle and I had to go for surgery… so now I couldn’t really leave him and sitting up at night was a bloody pain in the arse, quite literally. So we brought him into our bed and I would feed him laying down. Very sweet at first but a couple of months later he was waking even more frequently at night to feed! Urgh what am I meant to do?! I don’t want to not feed him at night because he hasn’t eaten all day but if he eats all night he’s not hungry the next day! Catch 22. At 6 months and after 3 months of the reverse-cycling fuckwittery I decided to stop breastfeeding. Six months had always been my goal and I had a friend’s wedding and hen coming up anyway, where I would be staying over night, so I needed him to take a bottle for that. I know some people might gaze open mouthed and mumble “shouldn’t the baby be her priority?” Yes he fucking is actually but mummies deserve a night out too. We just need a night off sometimes. Because we are real people as well as mothers. Right? At least I think we are…
Little man, however, had other plans. He would scream blue murder every time a bottle neared his lips for the first two weeks of trying. Then gradually, bit by bit, he came around. First he took my milk from a bottle, then a mix of mine and formula and eventually just formula. I had to trick him by making him sleepy with rocking then putting him in a position as if I was going to breastfeed and finally sneaking the bottle in. After a week or so of this he started to just accept the bottle and now, about a month later, he reaches for it himself and can’t get it in his face quick enough. For us it has also helped with sleep, not because formula is ‘filling him up’ more, my milk was just as good at filling him up thank you, but because he has stopped reverse-cycling. He now drinks more during the day because he can still look around with a bottle and therefore he doesn’t need to eat as much at night. We’ve also removed boob as a sleep association (though the night feeds were the last to go) and replaced it with rocking (I know, he still can’t bloody self settle like all the ‘good’ babies out there but fuck it, it’s the only way he will go the frick to sleep at the moment). So he’s off the boob. Woohoo.
I did enjoy breastfeeding while it lasted and there were some special moments that just the two of us shared. I will cherish the memories. Plus it was a hell of a lot more practical than all of this sterilising and powder malarkey. But it got to the point where I just wanted my body back. I wanted to diet without worrying that it would affect my milk. I wanted to wear tops that I didn’t have to worry about having quick access to my nipples without flashing too much flesh. I wanted the odd night (or even just an hour) off. The thing that pissed me right off was the lack of support in the online breastfeeding community for women like me, wanting to stop feeding. People gave me shit for it. I’ve done six fucking months ladies, credit where it’s due please. I only wanted a bit of advice about how to avoid mastitis. Jeez. At some point everyone will stop (unless…bitty…?!) Some choose to let baby lead on this and breastfeed until their children are toddlers or even older. That’s fine. Great for you if you decide to do this. That’s just not for me. Others want to stop but find it difficult because baby screams and screams and won’t take milk any other way. The advice “they’ll take it if they’re hungry enough” is just utter bollocks by the way, some babies are damn stubborn about this stuff, they want boob and only boob; so mum continues feeding until they do decide to stop. However you do it, or don’t do it, don’t judge others because they’ve decided to stop breastfeeding, or not to breastfeed at all for that matter.
A fed baby is a happy baby. Feed your baby. Worry about how your own baby is fed. And leave everyone else’s baby the fuck out of it. They are not your concern. As a mum I’m sure you’ve got enough on your plate that you don’t need to troll other women for what they do or do not do. And if you don’t, then you need to get a fucking life. And your head out of your arse. Anyway, all this talk of feeding I’m absolutely famished. Slimfast anyone?