Happy World Formula week! That time of year when we raise awareness of formula feeding and create positivity amongst moms that are struggling.
Just kidding of course. There is no such thing.
So World Breastfeeding Week is over and I have read a lot of posts for and against and one thing that seems to be reoccurring is ‘the struggle’ and the ‘lack of support’. Why do people make this assumption? There are other reasons for choosing formula you know. Every formula mom didn’t simply cry over cracked nipples and give up because they had no help!
Here is my feeding story…
I didn’t exactly struggle and I had support. My baby was born with a tongue tie and my lovely midwife said that he might not latch but not to be worried because he can have the tongue tie cut to help with feeding. Very supportive midwife. She was very lovely but to be honest, I’d already decided I was breastfeeding and I’m very stubborn. Once I’ve decided something… It’s happening!
When I was wheeled out of theatre my beautiful little baby was placed on me for skin to skin contact and his first feed. He latched on straight away. There was no pain or discomfort. No struggle. Just natural. We bonded straight away. I can’t say I was particularly proud of myself, it’s just what I thought I would do. I never imagined not feeding him myself. It just wasn’t an option in my head.
I spent the next two days in hospital with him and I secretly loved being in hospital, it was just us. I’d just look at him and smile. I fed him every couple of hours and he latched on perfectly every time with no struggle.
On my discharge day a midwife came to check on me and she was shocked that Ollie was my first. She said I was just a natural! (Aren’t we all?) He was feeding no problem at all despite his tongue tie. Again, very positive and supportive.
She also said that I looked like I might have a post c-section infection but she couldn’t confirm and I would have to wait for the doctor.
The doctor discharged me. Ollie had one more feed there and then we took him home. He hated the car and screamed the whole way!
I was in a lot of pain when I got home. I asked my mom to come round because I needed Dave to put me in the shower and wanted someone to look after Ollie.
My mom, having had two sections herself, knew that pain wasn’t normal.
This was the Saturday night. By Sunday night I was in worse pain. I rang triage and they said its normal. That was when my co-sleeping really started. Ollie had to be in bed with me so that I could feed him during the night. I could not sit up without help. So if we want to be picky, yes I struggled but not with feeding. The struggle was bending over and picking my 8lb 5oz newborn up!
By Monday night I was crying from physical pain. It hurt to just be still. Dave was meant to be going back to work the next day so I asked him to go and buy some formula because I got to the point where I couldn’t bend down and thought how am I going to feed on demand. If I had a bit of formula then my mom or sister could help me if I really needed it. I’m sure my mom would’ve helped me feed him but I suppose the formula was a safety net and better than letting him starve.
Ollie was still being breastfeed until Tuesday night when I was taken into hospital with a severe infection that nearly killed me.
I was still determined to breastfeed! I asked for a pump and they hooked me up and I was expressing little bits. Again, very supportive staff!
The next morning I was taken to HDU (High Dependency Unit) after a few people got told off by a top professor for leaving me on the ward. He just said, “Why is she up here? She needs one to one care.” And they all uummed and arred and fumbled papers around.
I was wheeled down to HDU, with my little pump at the end of my bed! Seriously, hospital grade pumps are what any pumper needs! That thing was good. The manual pump can go in the bin. Electric ones are the next best thing but the hospital one… I need to buy one for my next baby.
So there I was on HDU basically getting worse. What started off as a trip to triage was slowly becoming a scene suitable for a soap cliffhanger.
I was put on IV antibiotics and the first lot didn’t work. Then I went onto something else that started to work and the infection was literally pouring out of my wound.
Then pain was still really bad. I was getting in trouble for not drinking. I was meant to have two jugs a day but I couldn’t drink because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get up to use the toilet so I didn’t drink. One doctor decided to hook me up to a catheter so that she could monitor my fluid. So I had a tube up me, a cannula in me, a blood pressure cuff and a breast pump.
Then they also hooked me up to IV paracetamol and we’re giving me some mega strong painkillers because I was still in severe pain. Then I woke up surrounded by doctors hooking me up to oxygen. So after a few days on HDU I had a cannula, a catheter, a cuff, an oxygen mask, one of those heart rate finger clip things, I’m pretty sure I had blood taken sometimes twice a day, I was also having clexane injections everyday and I was being given very strong oral pain relief. I’ll be honest, I slept most of the day away. It made me really dozy.
All of the midwives were really helpful and kept asking if I wanted to keep pumping. Ollie had spent a few days without his mommy by this point. He’d had bits of expressed milk but was downing 3- 4oz of formula every few hours as he was being looked after by his Dad and Grandma.
I couldn’t keep up with what he was drinking. I know they don’t need as much breast milk but he still had a feeding pattern that I wasn’t keeping up with. And I was on so many drugs I did think is it really worth it? Is it really best? I could barely stay awake. When I was awake I was in severe pain. I had tubes in and up every where.
I didn’t want to give up but Ollie was perfectly fine and I wasn’t! I needed to just sleep and let the pus keep pouring out until I got better.
The midwives were so supportive and reassured me that I had given him the best start and I needed to get better. They said its the colostrum in the first couple of days that they really need and he had that. They would’ve helped me pump but understood how I felt and supported my decision to continue of formula. I never once felt judged by anybody.
When I finally escaped the hospital about a week or so later, my community midwife came to see me and I told her that I’d let Ollie down by not feeding him. She could see I was upset by it and she again was so supportive. She said he was a thriving baby and I hadn’t done anything wrong, again she said I’d given him the best start. BUT she did also say if I wanted to get my milk back I could and explained how.
I tried but I just couldn’t keep up with his feeds. I hadn’t pumped anything for about a week and was just getting dribbles here and there. Bear in mind I was still in recovery. I still couldn’t get out of the bath on my own and had to roll onto my belly to roll off the bed and I just thought this isn’t best for anybody. Stressing myself, feeling guilty, crying over my pathetic half ounce pump.
I decided to keep us both chilled out and he stayed on formula. I also returned to work when he was two months old so we needed a routine that me and his dad could do. Before I got poorly I fully intended to pump and dump before work but it just wasn’t happening.
I felt guilty for a while but now I know I have nothing to feel guilty about. I know some moms do get their milk flow going after a break but I’d been through a lot and decided to give myself a break. I needed to recover. I know I would’ve fed him for a good few months if I’d been well. I wouldn’t be one that feeds until age 2. It’s a personal choice but it’s not for me. I always thought 6 months would suit me.
I know I will breastfeed my next baby for a good few months… Assuming I don’t nearly die.
That ended up being quite long but the point is, I had support and advice, I was determined, I tried, I loved feeding, I didn’t struggle with his tongue tie. I was just really really poorly. No Facebook support group would’ve helped me. No brelfie would have raised awareness of the benefits. No blog post ‘normalising’ a normal thing would have helped me.
So next time you think you understand and think a validation seeking brelfie is support… Just remember, there’s always a bigger picture.
We’re not all scummy mummy’s that leave our babies with Nanny so we can get pissed. We’re not all unaware of the benefits. We’re not all waiting anxiously to hear that we’re not being judged.
So everyone argues that we don’t need to celebrate formula. Well actually I do. I need to celebrate that my baby was able to survive and thrive without his mommy. Most mothers surely agree that is worth celebrating?
After speaking to a lovely Mom in a blogging group, I was encouraged to share my story on her linky. So here is my #BreastfeedingandI story written especially for this link up!