A version of this post was first featured on the awesome The baby feeding series by Mimi Rose and Me.
My feeding story
When I think about those early days it seems an age ago. Within minutes of getting into the room at the hospital, Chops was latched on. He was feeding well. I remember that overwhelming feeling of relief. There’s definitely a worry surrounding breast feeding. A lot of the conversations I had with my midwife ended with ‘If I can’. Both my sisters had decided to bottle feed I was determined not to.
The first few hours went fine. He fed, slept, pooped then did it all again. It was when the night came that something changed. Up to that point I’d felt empowered and in total control. Over night it became apparent that I was not going to be able to feed this baby as much as he needed. I sat on the edge of the bed. My body was sore all over from an emergency c-section. My back ached as I tried to sit up. He cried, and cried and cried.
Feeling like a failure
Thankfully, a midwife came in and saw the state of me. They could hear him crying from the nurses station and she came to check on me. I burst into tears. She said ‘Do you want me to give him some formula? He’s hungry love.’ I felt like a failure. That initial rush of providing for my baby vanished. At that moment I no longer cared. He was hungry, she had food and I didn’t. No sooner had he taken 20 ml of formula out of a cup, he slept. I slept. For the first time in over 36 hours.
I didn’t give over to the formula straight away. Now I see that the midwife who talked to me the next day and said that now he’d felt full for the first time I’d find it harder was right. Explaining that in a few days my supply would be there and he’d feel full she wanted me to succeed. I kept going. This blind perseverance would lead to blistered bleeding nipples and painful feeding. Expressing colostrum into a syringe is possibly the most desperate thing I’ve done. Knowing these syringes were filling up with vital nutrients kept me believing it was the best thing I could do. Seeing that they were only 1ml each in volume continued to leave me disheartened. Over and over I asked for advice of his latch because it hurt. His latch was fine, the strength of his suction was causing the pain and blisters.
Finally allowed to come home, I thought everything would get better. I agreed to cup feeding so as not to cause confusion. Cup feeding was soul destroying. Using a little cup with a lip, we poured the milk into his mouth incredibly slowly. At times he lapped it up like a cat. He would drink it and throw it back up. I almost felt like we were force feeding him. It was horrible. With each cup that went down more and more tears flowed. The cries got louder. It felt impossible, more milk came back than went down. That was the final straw.
In order to feel sane we decided to go forward with the formula. We purchased bottles and power . Sterilizing and setting up took no time at all. Feeding became calmer and an enjoyable experience for all of us.
There were times when he would root for milk. It’s a natural reflex for babies so I wasn’t surprised. I knew that I was producing more milk now. With nothing to lose I tried again. This time around I had far more success. There was more milk to satisfy his hunger and my blisters were healing. I continued to combi feed for about 6 weeks. While buying the bottles we bought a prep machine, an breast pump and storage lids. Expressing felt like a fruitless ritual. I’d sit pumping for half an hour for 20 ml. Appointments with the midwife came and went. Each time I’d tell her I was still combi feeding, she’d tell me to up the boob feeds. I felt exhausted keeping track of feeds alone. 15 minutes breast. 40ml formula. But that was a small price to pay for knowing I hadn’t given up.
It breaks my heart
Eventually it became apparent that Chops knew he could get his milk quicker from a bottle and he started to fuss about latching. Stopping breast feeding I felt like total failure. I couldn’t see that in fact, it wasn’t what was best for him. It was satisfying my needs more than his.
From around 6 weeks he was exclusively bottle fed. I struggled with feeling like I had given up. Soon enough it was like second nature.
Today he’s a happy, healthy one year old. I feel judged for bottle feeding him but I’m sure if it wasn’t that, it would be something else. In the future I want to exclusively breast feed. I’ll try again. I feel more prepared having had this experience. A girl I know recently let on that she wasn’t even going to try, I think attitudes like that tar all bottle feeders with the same brush. Although as long as baby’s fed it doesn’t matter does it? When you see the mother with the bottle, remember that it might be breaking her heart.