Bottle-feeding

I wrote this post a few weeks ago but didn’t feel ready to share it until now. It’s still hard to find the courage to press the ‘publish’ button but I think it’s important. Be gentle.

When I had Ted I was totally unprepared for breastfeeding. I thought it was something that just happened and that if it didn’t it wouldn’t really matter.

Ted was a fairly big baby and I struggled to satisfy him. He also reacted badly to my epilepsy medication and once I started combination feeding and saw the difference in him depending on the kind of milk he was given I knew stopping breastfeeding was the right thing to do.

That doesn’t mean it was easy. I felt guilty and disappointed and, frankly, disgusted with myself for failing and, worse, for being relieved that I didn’t have to do it anymore.

When I was pregnant with Ben I was determined that it would be different this time. I did more research and I spoke to the epilepsy nurses at QMC (who are amazing, by the way) and I put together a plan to help me achieve my goal of safely feeding my new baby. 20131029-210816.jpgThe idea was that if I had these strategies and supports in place then I wouldn’t put so much pressure on myself. I’d have people to ask for help and advice and I’d finally be able to call myself a proper woman.

It didn’t work. I’m not breastfeeding Ben.

There are a lot of contributing factors and it would be so easy for me to say it was just because of my medication, but I’m writing this because I’ve always spoken honestly about my experiences of trying (and failing) to breastfeed and I don’t intend to be anything less than honest this time.

As I said, there were a lot of different reasons for my decision and none of them meant that the strategies I had put in place failed. They didn’t. They just didn’t work alongside all of the other things I hadn’t planned for.

The main reason I decided to stop feeding Ben was my mental health. After he spent eighteen hours attached to me and I felt like my breasts might actually fall off – and that it would be a relief if they did – the moment that I tearfully pressed my buzzer and told the midwife that I wanted to give him a bottle was one of utter relief.

I had spent the whole night awake and the whole day crying. The other women on my ward were bottle feeding – one through choice, one through necessity – and they couldn’t understand why I was putting so much pressure on myself. They were lovely and listened while I poured my heart out, but neither of them told me what to do and I appreciated it. I was still working everything through in my head and I needed to do it for myself.
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Similarly, when BabyDaddy arrived he talked me through my options and my fears and asked me what it was that I wanted and how I could achieve it. He got a midwife to come and help me with my latch and talk to me about why certain things were happening, and then he held me when I sobbed and admitted that I couldn’t do it.

I could have persevered through the pain and discomfort until my milk came in a few days later in order to see whether he would finally be satisfied and give me a break. You could argue that not giving him that chance was selfish, and I have absolutely no doubt that there are people who think that of me.

Or you could accept that when I tell you I was so close to depression I could feel its icy fingers on my neck I’m being completely honest. It’s harder to admit that the one thing I should be able to do for my baby made me wretchedly miserable than to make excuses about my medication or even just to say I chose to stop, because now in my head I’ve not only failed to breastfeed but I’ve failed because I’m not strong enough.

A very wise and patient friend counselled me through the worst of this time and helped me to see that feeling so full of despair could never be a good thing for Ben and that I couldn’t make him happy if I was so far from it myself. I realised that I would be failing to nurture him emotionally as well as physically and I couldn’t bear to put him through more than I had to.

Ben spent eighteen hours alternating feeding with crying before falling asleep after his first bottle and staying that way for three hours. I have never felt such a bittersweet combination of guilt and relief as I did when I laid him in his crib peacefully for the first time that day.
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I sobbed for the majority of the time he slept but when he woke up happy and contented I knew I had done the right thing.

It’s been hard to cope with leaking boobs when I know they could be feeding my son, but my mental health wasn’t worth compromising for the sake of not being judged. I couldn’t have done a good enough job of caring for my two boys in the state I was in to justify pushing on with something that was making me ill.

I desperately wanted to breastfeed Ben after not being able to feed Ted but in the end I managed even less this time. I was devastated but I didn’t just have Ben to consider, and pushing myself through the psychological pain wouldn’t have allowed me to be a good mum to either him or his big brother.

I did feel guilty when I decided to stop and I have struggled with the decision since, but I know I made the right choice for my family. I had four people to consider and all four of us are happier this way.

That’s how I can share this post despite knowing I’ll be judged. I’m not the only one who has had to make this decision and I don’t want anyone else going through it to think it’s not okay. It is.

Your body, your boobs, your decision. 20131029-211741.jpg

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About Stitches and Stretchmarks

Honest and frank Mum of one.
This entry was posted in Difficulties, Issues, second baby and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Bottle-feeding

  1. Mama H says:

    A very moving post.

    I wasn’t able to feed my daughter, under very different circumstances and she became very ill, but I absolutely understand your feelings of guilt, failure and and the worry of being judged. I am expecting my second in March and am still so undecided about what I will do. I can only rest easy in the comfort that knowing that formula hasn’t hurt my daughter (who was big at birth too, and is still big now!) who is bright, healthy and thriving. People are too quick to judge bottle feeding mums without thinking that there might be more to it. You are making the best decision for you guys and that, IMHO is more important than where milk comes from. Xx

  2. Sarah says:

    Again a lovely honest post. I was adamant I was to BF Henry. My mum of all people against it. I tried on day 1. Got no help from hospital. I rang my bell/buzzer 3 times with either someone coming and saying they’d be make (never did) or it was just simply ignored. H was born at 5am. At 8pm the nurse came, got some colostrum and said you have inverted nipples if I was you give up. Then she wasn’t allowed to recommend a formula (though I’d done no research as wanted to BF) so my easy birth πŸ˜ƒ, theatre visit because of my tear 😩 where I needed a spinal block though I’d managed my 1st birth on just far & air was topped of with the guilt of not being able to BF. In the end it was a god send as OH could help with feeding. Still don’t know if I’ll even attempt BF next time 😁

    • That could have from my diary! It’s so hard and although you get midwives telling you it’s an absolute must they just don’t have the time or skills to help make it happen. I think next time I’ll feed while I have skin to skin in the first 24 hrs but then have to judge it on how well we do & trust myself to know what’s right for us.

  3. Louise says:

    You should never feel as though you have failed. Your children are happy, healthy and beautiful and most important of all they have a mummy who loves them dearly. I have 3 children aged 12, 9, and 6 months and I did not breast feed any of them. I did not even try. I do not feel guilty about it as I know it was right for me and my children are not affected by my decision. They are normal happy, healthy loved kids! Everyone is different and no one should judge. Enjoy your gorgeous babies x

    • Thank you. One of the things that made me feel better was that I could enjoy getting to know Ben rather than just crying over the top of his head. I didn’t want our bond to be disrupted and I think it really could have been.

  4. alison says:

    From an outsiders perspective I think it sounds like the bottle feeding was the right thing for your whole family. It’s hard for me to understand the feelings that you went through (and are going through) but I’m not going to belittle you and deny you those feelings.
    As an Auntie, I’ve know that when it comes to breastfeeding you really can’t make any plans or promises. There are so many aspects to it and why you may or may not end up doing it.
    One thing I can absolutely say with certainty is that it is the most wonderful thing for me to give my niece her bottle of milk. I love that I can bond with her like that in a way I never got to do with her breast-fed big brother. So, far from me seeing it as a failure when bottles are used, I feel it as a lovely gift to be allowed some close times with her.
    Aside from the problems my sister had that meant she really had little choice, I doubt she would have had time to sit quietly and breastfeed what with her having two older ones and being the sole parent on the week days!

    I still think it’s so incredibly wrong that the midwives/hospital offer no advice and no support to bottle feeding mums. It’s disgusting!

    • It’s definitely a good thing for both of us that daddy can feed him too. If it was all down to me I’d struggle to look after Ted & daddy would miss the opportunity to bond with him. I would have loved to be the only one who could feed him and keep him to myself but I am glad his daddy can share it now.

  5. I think you’re amazing for putting this out there, knowing the kind of backlash bottle-feeding mums can face. I don’t have children, but the idea of – and the pressure associated with – breast-feeding both weigh heavily on my mind when I think about having children in future. It’s reassuring to know that there are some women, like you and the two you encountered on the ward, who are supportive of a woman’s right to choose.

    Wishing you and your family the best. x

  6. Formula, breastmilk, combination feeding, there are so many different factors that will effect a mom’s decision over the way she will feed her baby. I’m happy you had a support system there to help you. You have nothing to be ashamed of or feel guilty about, mama, the important part is that you new little baby is loved and fed and

  7. sorry, my little guy hit enter…
    and I’m am convinced that you are providing both wonderfully. Having a baby is hard without having to put pressure on oneself over how the feeding is going to happen. You gave it a go, you were as prepared as you could be and it didn’t work out. Hugs mama, you’re doing great ;).

    • Thank you, that’s lovely of you. I am lucky to have people around to support me and I was also lucky that the midwives, once I’d made the decision, didn’t make any negative comments or try to make me feel guilty. That definitely wasn’t the case last time.

  8. Pingback: Nuby bottle-feeding | Stitches And Stretchmarks

  9. Hannah says:

    Why do we do it to ourselves??? – you made entirely the right decision and there isn’t a person alive who could judge you for it (unless they are twats) xxx

  10. Well done for making the right choice for you and your family. It’s clear to hear how upset you were and how much guilt you feel in your post. Don’t do it to yourself! You sound like a fantastic mum and I’m sure you boys couldn’t be any more loved πŸ™‚ xxx

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