When I was pregnant with Sonny Jim there was absolutely no question in my mind that I would breastfeed my baby.
I was prepared for it to be painful, for cracked nipples, for leaking boobs, to deal with any tuts in public.
I was prepared for everything…except a baby that refused to be breastfed.
My little boy was what they call a reluctant feeder. He mastered latching on, but then totally refused to do anything more than four sucks.
This was the reason that despite a trouble-free labour (16 hours long, but just gas and air, and no stitches) we spent two nights in hospital.
I was determined to persevere with breastfeeding, I knew the benefits of breast milk and all the staff at the hospital were super keen to keep telling me them – and help my attempts to get Sonny Jim to figure it out. The hospital’s breastfeeding expert came by every hour – but after more than 24 hours even she ran out of ideas.
After almost 30 hours without feeding, the hospital then suggested I start expressing. To start with, you have to do this by hand and use a tiny syringe. It’s incredibly fiddley and hard going – but at least my boy was finally getting some milk. Once we had done this for a few hours I could then move on to the hospital’s breast pump. And once we had got the hang of this we could then go home, with a plan to exclusively express feed Sonny Jim – while still trying to get him to breastfeed.
With hindsight I wish one of the very many hospital staff I saw over the course of those few days had told me to go a bit easier on myself. To of course express so my baby could get all the early benefits of breast milk, but to think about giving Sonny Jim some formula too.
At three days old Sonny Jim had lost just under ten per cent of his birth weight. If he wasn’t gaining at his five-day check up he would have to go back into hospital. To avoid this, I was told he had to be fed every three hours. Which meant I had to express every three hours – a process that took about 45 minutes to get enough milk for a feed. Then feed him – which took a fair while too – while trying to get him to breastfeed. Which left basically a half hour between feeds. To sleep. To eat. To do anything.
Which, to anyone with a non-baby addled brain, is clearly utterly, utterly unsustainable for any length of time. Even if your husband is helping out with the feeds.
Yet it wasn’t until Sonny Jim was almost two weeks old, that any health visitor/nurse/midwife suggested I combination feed. And they only did then because my husband asked about adding formula.
I exclusively express fed Sonny Jim – who continued to refused to feed from source – for almost three weeks. Looking back now, I made those first precious days way harder for myself than they needed to be. And poor Sonny Jim probably spent all of that time a little bit hungry, with a tiny tummy that was not quite full up enough.
The difference when we started topping up Sonny Jim’s milk with formula (Aptamil for anyone wondering) was startling. He was almost instantly a happier, more content baby.
He was combination fed until he was three months old. The sound of my trusty breast pump will probably haunt me to my grave (why are those things so noisy, whhhhhhy?!) yet I was determined that my boy would get all the benefit he could from breast milk, so battled on, juggling five expresses a day, and then four. Missing out on precious sleep time, to sit, in the middle of the night, hooked up to that bloody pump.
I did all of that and yet I still found myself being apologetic at check ups that I wasn’t breastfeeding. Feeling judged when out and I whipped out a bottle for my boy.
Which. Is. Just. Ridiculous.
The #FedisBest campaign (www.fedisbest.org) struck a chord with me, because the breast is best movement is so loud and so vocal that anyone who does something different (through choice or circumstance) is made to feel they have failed their child. That they are a bad mum. That their child will suffer because of this “lazy” decision (FYI, formula feeding involves sterilizing bottles, making up bottles, making sure you have enough milk in the house, in your bag – it is a lot more blooming time-consuming and annoying than simply whipping out your boob!)
The judging, the faux concern SUCKS. It’s so very wrong, on so many levels.
The hastag for the campaign, in my opinion, as one new mummy just finding her feet with this parenting malarkey says it all. #FedisBest.
My baby is not hungry. My baby is fed. That is best. That is all that matters.
PS Things not to say to a mum struggling to breastfeed (all of which were said to me…and made me instantly want to brain the person saying it.)
- Formula, it’s basically fast food for babies isn’t it?
- Maybe if you just let him get a bit hungry he’ll breastfeed then?
- Formula will make your baby fat though won’t it?
- Are you worried about bonding?
- Did you try (insert obvious breastfeeding tip du jour)…?