I didn’t ever want to get into the breast feeding debate on From Day Dot. There’s nothing new to say, no angle that hasn’t been covered and actually, in my eyes it’s each to their own and there shouldn’t even be a discussion to be had. If there is a newsworthy story, it’s the ‘conspiracy’ against formula which has been covered so brilliantly by Cat at Not So Smug Now in her Cigarettes & Formula post. Oh it makes me FUME!!
But, I have got a bit of a breast feeding story and am at the point now where I’m wondering how and when I’ll leave the booby bubble Max and I have one foot in.
To cut a long story short, I exclusively breast fed Max for the first week of his life, but after he lost 18% of his birth weight within the first five days and we were rushed into hospital, we had to introduce formula to get his weight back up and rehydrate him.
I felt pure guilt that day – the one job I’d had in that first week and I’d failed at it. I was determined to not to be completely defeated and to carry on breast feeding, but something hadn’t been working quite right that first week and I wasn’t prepared to take the risk for Max again, so settled on mixed feeding so he was getting the best of both.
The consultant at Alder Hey hospital was a shit head, for want of a more mature description. He was so pro-breast feeding it was overwhelming and after six frankly horrific failed attempts at trying to put a cannula in Max’s teeny tiny veins (as per the Consultants care plan), the only option was to start him on formula, and we saw a difference immediately. Max was full, a feeling he’d never had before and that broke my heart.
When the Consultant heard about this change to his plan the following day, the look of disgust on his face was clear to see. And when he said ‘I’m telling you now, if you carry on mix feeding you won’t be breast feeding this time next week’, it hit me like a blunt force and I felt like I’d failed before I’d even started. I remember that conversation every day and it amazes me how someone’s ill-informed words can affect a normally head-strong person when they’re feeling vulnerable.
Well Mr Shit Head, not only did we make it to week two, we made it to week 12. And we’re still going.
It’s not been easy but I’m so lucky that Max took well to the bottle when we really needed him to, and has never taken issue with the boob either.
However recently, Max has been majorly fussy during his morning breast feed, which is his one regular breast feed of the day. Apparently he’s likely to be going through his three month growth spurt and I’m probably not producing efficiently enough for his liking so he’s getting frustrated and isn’t being patient enough to get all the milk he needs, and with mixed feeding he’s not on the breast enough to increase my supply.
It’s got me thinking that maybe it’s coming to a natural end but as the days go by I just can’t stop and can’t see how I’ll ever be able to.
Practically, breast feeding has been so handy when he needs a snack between feeds, or if I’m not able to make a bottle for whatever reason, I know the boob is always there as a back up. It’s a comfort for him but it’s also food on demand which I wouldn’t be able to keep up with if we went exclusively to formula. In the early hours of the morning when my boobs are so full I think they’re about to explode or I’m going to start crying, I can’t imagine not getting the pump out or putting Max to work. I can’t imagine powering through the pain to the point that they dry up. It’s going to bloody hurt, for sure.
Emotionally I love that connection I get with Max when he wakes up every morning and I’m his first port of call. Leaking is a bit gross but it’s a reminder that I’m lucky to be producing food for my son, your body and the whole breast feeding process is incredible and every drop that isn’t into a bottle or Max’s mouth is a waste. So why would I intentionally stop producing it? Unfortunately I don’t produce it to the same degree when expressing. It’s a soul destroying task when you spend an hour pumping to get an ounce of milk.
Most of all, I don’t want to give up because I want to carry on proving that Consultant wrong, on behalf of all of the other women he might made to feel like guilty, selfish failures, when all we’re doing is our best.
But, when I was dealing with that guilt during that first stay in hospital, my (breastfeeding) friend made me feel instantly better by telling me ‘fed is best’. It put everything into perspective – yes breast may be best but it’s also fucking hard, and that’s something that they don’t warn you about or prepare you for, especially in the areas where funding and support services have been cut.
If Max is becoming upset and hungry because I can’t keep up, maybe my reasons for carrying on are a tad selfish and actually once we were over that first hurdle of stopping, it would be best for both of us?
It’s a bit of a minefield this whole feeding thing, riddled with emotions and other people’s opinions, so I’m going to go with my instinct and do what’s best for Max. I’ll just have to stock up on spare bottles for those moments that the boobs would normally save the day!