So, as the saying used to go “breast is best” but I’m firmly in the “fed is best” camp. There’s no denying breast milks benefits and I’m not about to pretend that formula is as nutritious. But I do know that breast wasn’t best for us. It wasn’t best for my kids, it wasn’t best for me and it wasn’t best for mine and my husbands relationship.
My first experience of breastfeeding was shortly after my sons birth in 2009. I decided I wanted to give it a go as, at that time, it was heavily encouraged and I didn’t want to feel like a failure or as though I was giving my son second best. I managed the post birth feed well and I was encouraged to continue. However, Logan had other ideas and showed little or no interest when he was presented to the breast. I was shown all kinds of positions to sit and lie in but I just sat sobbing on my hospital bed. I was alone, I was bleeding heavily, my son was crying with hunger and the nurses were reluctant to provide formula. I just couldn’t do it. Eventually we were discharged after having proved I could latch my baby but I knew I’d struggle when we got home and we resorted to formula. You see I said resorted….that’s what it felt like. Like we were offering second best and, after 48hrs of being a mum, I felt like I’d already let my son down.
My second born was again offered a breast feed after birth which went well but I was adamant she would be formula fed and my mind wasn’t being changed on that. The midwife was lovely but she made a comment along the lines of it being a shame that I hadn’t continued breastfeeding as Florence had seemed to take to it so well. Again I felt guilty. But, at least my daughter was happy and content. However, I did always wonder if I should have continued.
When we finally found out we were expecting a third child I’d already decided to give breastfeeding another crack. I’d made more of an effort to read up on it and what I was letting myself in for. I was so determined to succeed that we didn’t buy any formula or bottles.
The feeding went well in the hospital and I went home with a breast fed baby who seemed to have a decent latch. I spent the first day at home in a permanent state of undress. Elsie’s grandad was already there looking after the other kids and I felt a little on edge that he might get a glimpse of something he shouldn’t as I was still mastering breastfeeding let alone doing it discreetly!
The days passed in a blur of nipple cream and breast pumps and eventually we got the hang of it, but at what cost? I’d spent no time with my other children, I slept in a separate room to my husband for months on end and I looked disheveled, at best. I snapped at everyone through tiredness and I became a little bit “I know what’s best for our daughter” which is inevitable after spending so much time with her. I don’t think I was great fun to be around in those first few weeks and the switch to formula seemed like a huge relief!
Suddenly we had all this time, we could go out knowing we had two whole hours before Elsie would be hungry, I could help my kids with their homework, Matt could bond with Elsie through feeding her himself and Elsie was happy and content between feeds. I absolutely take my hat off to women who can run their household and have a breastfed baby on their hip but it’s just not for me or my family. I know she will have received a lot of goodness from my milk but, at this moment in time, I shall be choosing formula for baby number four.