So is breast really best? I think the answer ultimately lies with you, the mother. Not your friends, not the internet sites you prolifically read, not the professionals, but you. Putting it plainly, its not for everyone. Some mothers choose not to entertain the idea of it before their baby is even born. Whether that’s for selfish reasons because you want those extra glasses of wine or not. Its your choice. You shouldn’t be judged. We all know the horror stories of the cracked, sore, weeping nipples that you have to endure. And about the cabbage leafs and lanolin you’ve used to ease the pain. It’s not all fun, games and precious bonding, it has to be right for you.
I knew as soon as I got pregnant that if I was able to do so I would at least try and feed my baby myself. The female form is an amazing thing and on top of being able to give birth to a child, you can also provide food and nourishment to them. I really wanted to take advantage of that as that was my choice.
Breastfeeding is something that is championed by midwives and health visitors. They will give you the leaflets and tell you to attend classes and really push for it when you’ve given birth. I felt like I had to constantly explain myself every time I was asked if I was breastfeeding and my answer was no. I was looked upon with disappointment. Did I want to breast feed? Yes of course I did. Could I breastfeed? No I couldn’t. I had the choice and that choice was taken away from me. Unfortunately it isnt always as simple as you may think.
I wanted nothing more than to pick Ernest up, cradle him in my arms and feed him but he rejected it. When Ernest was born, he was born with Sepsis.
I was continually asked throughout pregnancy if I’d had a urine infection. My levels were always quite high when checking for proteins and ketones and twice I had to be tested for gestational diabetes. I was feeling fine within myself and hadn’t suffered with any symptoms but my test results suggested otherwise. Physically I couldn’t have been healthier, or so i thought, but what I didn’t know was that I had an underlying infection. So whilst Ernest was inside my tummy he had been in contact with this.
If you read my previous blog you will know that as a precaution Ernest was given antibiotics when he was pulled out. He was so drugged up that when he was finally handed to me and placed inside my vest he had no interest in anything, but to sleep at this point. I was only allowed to hold him for just a few minutes when he was born before he was whisked off to the Neonatal ward so the skin to skin and first feed wasn’t possible.
I’m really not one for showing off my body as I have so many hang ups but by far my biggest would be my tits. Even before I had Ernest I would compare them to golf balls in socks. I wasn’t blessed with lovely perky upright jubblies, mine came with a map and compass. Me and my husband would joke that when I did start breast feeding that the poor mite would need a sat nav to find my nipples. If I could take some meat out of them and place them in my arse then I would, in a heartbeat!
So you can imagine I wasn’t too comfortable in getting them out. One of the midwives came in in the morning to assist me and initially we just stared at each other for a good few seconds but it felt like minutes. I didn’t know what she wanted me to do I just awkwardly shuffled about but I wasn’t achieving anything, until she tells me point blank and matter of fact ” no dear you need to reveal yourself”. So there I was, naked from the waist up, nipples touching my sagging tummy.
We tried to get Ernest to latch on but he still wasn’t interested, probably because they were bigger than his head and I was smothering the poor lad. She tried having me lie down on my back with him, on my side, sitting up, just anything really to get him started but nothing was working. It was so disheartening as he just didn’t want any food from me. All the other mother’s were like a human milking farm, with bottle after bottle being produced. I would have been happy with a dribble.
Ernest was initially given a bottle of premade milk so that he at least had something to eat but I still wanted to keep trying with the breastfeeding. What I didn’t know at the time is how i was going to achieve this. I never thought in a million years that I would have a helping hand. Literally.
I went from being totally mortified to get my tits out, to being milked like a cow. This is completely no exaggeration. I was wincing. The lovely lady would come in a couple times a day and squeeze my nipples in the direction of a little plastic pot until the colostrum would come out. It was pretty humiliating, i’m not going to lie. I tried to do it myself but I just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. It was mad to think that a little syringe of this stuff would be enough to satisfy him. Apparently its like a liquid gold super concentrate version of breast milk.
As the colostrum only lasts a couple of days, and Ernest still wasn’t latching on, i was having to use the premade bottles again to bump up the feeds. Being in hospital for a few days was definitely a great way to throw you in at the deep end. It was certainly a learning curve and a great way to really bond with my boy.
Although I was starting to feel very deflated and useless as a mother, especially when everyone around you was having little issue in that department. I would go down to the communal area to steralise my bottles to be faced with mother after mother coming in with their bulging milk filled tits and their bottles of expressed milk to put in the fridge. I was so jealous. I then kind of gave up really. My husband brought in an electric pump so that I could try that method but I thought what’s the point?
I was just stupidly feeling sorry for myself but it wasn’t about me, it was about making sure our son got the nourishment he needed.
When we were discharged and I could finally take my boy home, I thought snap out of it and gave it one more bash. Nope still nothing. I think because he was now used to drinking from a bottle, he wasn’t interested in my services. I decided to try and self pump instead. Finally. It worked. I was expressing a few times a day but topping up with formula. I felt like i’d finally achieved something. Unfortunately Ernest was a very thirsty boy.
I can tell you now, pumping by hand was really hard work. The tap tap tap used to drive my husband nuts. Everywhere he turned, there I was tap tap tapping through the house. When we sat down to eat, when we watched a movie, when we woke in the morning (especially as it poured out at this time), literally I felt like I didn’t stop all day, but this was never enough. It would have been so much easier if Ernest just latched on. I couldn’t believe how much this kid knocked back. Even when he was a few days old he was already taking 90ml. I simply couldn’t keep up with the demand manually and after a month of expressing I gave in to full time formula feeding.
Did it make me any less of a mother? No, it didn’t. When I look back I often think, did I try hard enough, should I have used the electric pump instead of the manual? Should I have persevered with getting Ernest to latch on? I got embarrassed if I told people I was formula feeding. I even got embarrassed when my husband took a picture of me in hospital with the Aptimil bottles in the background, because I thought people would judge me! How silly is that? No one would have bat an eyelid at it. It was all in my head. You will forever beat yourself up over these things but as long as your child is healthy and happy you shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.
I needn’t have worried about any of my hang-up’s as Ernest is thriving. He has never been below the 92nd centile and he’s bloody massive, in length and in weight. People are always shocked when I tell them his age, as he looks so much older.
It just goes to show that no matter what you choose, you don’t need to feel pressured to do something you aren’t comfortable with, because you think that’s what you should be doing. Or, beat yourself up if you had a plan and it didn’t work out. Breast or Formula. The choice is all yours.