Its 5:28am, and I’m wide awake. I’ve been awake since 4am when Leo woke up with what I thought was a stinky nappy. It wasn’t, but I’m awake now, and Leo is back in bed.
I’m poorly too, been coughing my guts up (well, some nasty green stuff which closely resembles my guts) for a week or so now. I should be resting. At 5am I decided I’d stay in bed and at least rest. “At least let your body rest” I was saying to myself, so I shuffled back to bed after settling Leo and have been just laying here.
My thoughts turned to Leo, as they always do. Now almost seven months old I’m not quite sure how we got here. How is he seven months old? Have I really been back at work for 3 and a half months? He’s done a lot of growing in that time..
Oh! I’ve just heard a rustling on the baby monitor by my bed, checked baby cam and whaddya know he’s awake. This post may have to wait…
Ok, its 5:47, I’m back. Leo was awake so we’ve come downstairs and the light is on, which means I’m now well and truly up. Leo is on my lap and I’m giving him his morning bottle whilst also tapping away at my phone (typing this). Just so you have the full picture.
Which brings me to feeding.
I bottle feed my son, with formula. He’s been formula fed since he was about 2 and a half months old. I became consumed with worry over feeding Leo since the day he was born, even before when I was pregnant and attending all the various classes and workshops at the hospital. Its pretty much drilled into you from the moment you first see a doctor or nurse in your pregnancy; breast is best! I enjoyed breastfeeding Leo. Eventually, after getting past the nipple wrenching-sore-cracked-bleeding-emotional wreck-awake every hour side of it I was fine. Spoiler alert: I think this might be my first mumsy blog, oh well, may as well indulge…
Anyway, breastfeeding. Yes to start off with it was tough. I was 100% sure I was going to breastfeed my son until he was six months old. I so badly wanted to be that organic, quinoa, wash board stomach, gym 3 times a week mum. In my head that was perfection. So much so that I piled the pressure on myself (and the weight, but that’s a different story..).
Formula became the enemy, and the thought of giving it to my son and depriving him of the nutrients that only my breast milk could provide terrified me. I could not chill out, despite my husband’s best efforts to get me to calm down.
The first few days really were awful. Leo, like all babies lost weight after he was born, but he lost 12% of his body weight which is just slightly over the average so the health visitors and midwives were watching us like hawks.
A couple of days after Leo was born, we were visited by a midwife assistant. I don’t think she was an actual midwife. She looked nice, if a little stressed and flustered. I welcomed her into our home with our tiny baby in my arms. She weighed Leo and asked about his feeding routine. I explained that Leo had slept from 4am to 11am without a feed. I didn’t think this was a problem. He hadn’t woken for a feed. I just thought he was a good sleeper. Anyway to cut a long story short, I quickly regretted inviting her in. She was horrible to me. She made me feel like an unfit mother who didn’t feed her child. How did I get here? I was going to be super breastfeeding mum, I’d had such plans! Her visit just increased the pressure. I was having him weighed practically daily, and he was almost a month old before the midwives discharged us from their care.
Then I started thinking ahead. We had decided (out of necessity) that Leo would start nursery at 3 and half months old in the November as I had to go back to work. More things to think about. So I started pumping. I thought I could pump enough of a supply for when he started nursery. WRONG!
I could barely pump more than 2oz at a time. Pumping is both time and energy consuming – I also had a very small baby to look after who seemed to get jealous of the pump and decided he was ready for a feed pretty much every time I got the damned thing out. Poor Leo – was he getting enough? If I could only pump about 2oz in half an hour, how would I know if he was getting enough from me? Doubt and guilt started to set in. I tried to remember all the breastfeeding videos and talks, and about how a tiny baby’s stomach is the size of a small marble and they can’t drink much in one go anyway. It didn’t work, I was freaking out.
I carried on breastfeeding over the next couple of months, constantly worried he wasn’t getting enough, despite the fact he was steadily putting on weight.
At no point did anyone (by anyone I’m meaning professionals I saw) recommend formula. Maybe they win prizes for the most breastfeeding mums? I’m being candid. But it’s true – my mum mentioned it a lot because me and my siblings were formula fed. My husband had mentioned formula several times too as he thought I needed a break. I’d had it knocked into me that formula was evil stuff. It took me a lot to get past that.
We started half feeding Leo when he was about 2 months old. He’d get used to a bottle by having a couple of formula bottles a day, this also freed me up and gave me a rest and then I’d do the night shift with breastfeeding and a few during the day too.
Leo had no problem with bottles or formula, and very quickly I warmed to it as I saw my son becoming a healthy little boy. He was putting on weight and following his percentile line. I felt proud, not ashamed. Leo was getting what he needed – did it matter that it wasn’t coming from me?
I didn’t make a big point about my last breastfeeding day. I didn’t sit down with him and say “right, today is the last day I shall breastfeed you”. It just kind of happened. We were on holiday at Centerparcs – everyone was helping out with Leo’s feeds. My mother in Law and her partner were with us and along with Mike everyone had the chance to give Leo a feed. We got to the end of the holiday and I realised I had gone 48 hours without breastfeeding. It was OK. I mentioned it to Mike as we were packing, then didn’t mention it again. He was on formula and that was that.
Leo is over 6 months old now, so it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal to the health visitors and support workers that he is formula fed any more. But it was, for a long time. I had him weighed at around 3 months old. I was just about to start back at work and Leo was due to start nursery the following week – we were going through a stage which I was finding particularly difficult – being away from Leo for such a long time. I was taking Leo’s clothes off at the clinic when a lady came over to me with a big badge on which said “ASK ME ABOUT BREASTFEEDING”. Apologies to any of my friends who have already heard this story – I have mentioned it a fair few times.. The lady seemed nice and was even helping me with Leo as he was wriggling around a lot as I was trying to undress him. She asked me how I was getting on with feeding. I explained that I was back at work soon and Leo was starting nursery and that he was formula fed – I still felt I needed to explain my reasons for giving him formula. Why couldn’t I have said “he’s formula fed” and stopped there? The lady said “Aww that’s a shame, it’s such a shame that we couldn’t help you out with a plan to continue breastfeeding whilst you are at work..”
OK there are so many issues with that sentence – lets break it down. “Aww thats a shame” – IS IT? It doesn’t feel like a shame to me. My son is smiling, he’s putting on weight and my husband is helping me get some shut eye by doing some of the night feeds – it doesn’t feel like a shame to me at all. “It’s such a shame we couldn’t help you out with a plan to continue breastfeeding whilst you are at work..” NO IT’S NOT! Now, I know it’s my legal right to ask my employer for a private lockable room to express in and for a fridge to store the milk in but remember all that stuff about pumping before? It was never going to happen at work! Also, my job is all over the place – I don’t have an office job – sometimes I can be at 2 or 3 different sites a day and sometimes I work at home. She didn’t ask about my situation – she just assumed that I was terribly gutted to not be breastfeeding and therefore it was such and awful shame and I must just feel so crap about it. She then took complete liberties (not said that since I was 13) by giving me a breastfeeding at work leaflet!!
I told the lady I had made up my mind and was happy bottle feeding. Not content by being the second professional to make me feel like a complete idiot, she then decided to quiz me on my bottle making skills, finishing up by telling me that the way I was making up my bottles (the night before and storing in the fridge to be reheated later) was putting my son at risk of gastroenteritis and that sooooo many babies go to hospital with it. JESUS!!
I walked out of there feeling like the crappest mother ever. I pushed Leo and sobbed pretty much all the way home. Shit.
I’m lucky to have met 9 lovely ladies whilst I was pregnant – at a pregnancy yoga class. We kept in touch once we’d had our babies and still meet regularly.
I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have family and friends who have already been through this – but to have people going through it at the exact same time as you – is kinda the best thing.
We are all there for each other, a lovely little network of new mums, we do lunch, eat a lot of cake and really enjoy watching our babies grow up together – but most of all we don’t judge. A lot of them still breastfeed- but I’ve never felt inadequate around them.
I don’t think breastfeeding is wrong – in fact I’d like to hopefully give it another go if I’m blessed with a second child, but it doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. The sooner you deal with that, the better.